This week's Adler Profile features 24 year-old bass-baritone Philippe Sly
who hails from Ottawa, Canada. Philippe is a first-year Adler Fellow and is 2011 Grand Prize Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He was a 2011 participant in the Merola Opera Program where he played Dr. Bartolo in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia
and was a member of the Ensemble Studio at the Canadian Opera Company from 2010-2012. He is a graduate of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University where he performed the roles of Marcello in Puccini's La Bohème
and Nick Shadow in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress
. Philippe made his SFO Debut as Archibald Craven in the world-premiere production of Nolan Gasser's The Secret Garden
this spring and will make his mainstage debut in the leading role of Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan tutte
this summer season. Philippe was the First Place Winner of the Montreal International Music Competition in 2012 and is an exclusive recording artist with Analekta. Philippe will perform a solo recital as part of the Schwabacher Debut Recital Series on Sunday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m.
at the Temple Emanu-el along fellow Adler Fellow pianist Sunny Yoon.
What was your earliest exposure to classical music? When did you begin to perform and at what point did you decide to pursue it as a career?
My parents had just moved back to Canada from Germany when I was born and my father had brought with him a newly formed collection of classical music recordings on vinyl - there was a lot of Karajan in the house - that and Simon & Garfunkel! My parents had me attend a choir concert and I immediately wanted to join. The choirmaster insisted I take voice lessons - I was eight years old - and I haven't looked back since!
Who are some of your greatest musical influences?
Michael Jackson; Glenn Gould; Simon & Garfunkel; Bryn Terfel; Teresa Stratas; José Van Dam; to name a few.
(Above: Philippe Sly with San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald. Photo by Scott Wall.)
You've taken the opera world by storm since winning the Met Competition in 2011 - how did winning change the outlook for your career?
Though winning the Met Competition was obviously an important step for me, I only really began to understand the career after going through the Merola Opera Program here. The Met generated interest and Merola sort of pushed me out the door. After Merola I began to understand what I was really getting into and what it took to have an operatic career. I'm still learning that now.
What role has your family played in your career? Your brother is a filmmaker who has collaborated with you on a number of projects; what are some of those projects and how have you enjoyed working with him to bridge your two art forms?
I have had unwavering support from my parents. Think of it, private voice lessons every week during the entire school year since I was eight - I'm now 24, so that adds up! My brother has been a great inspiration to me. We are very close in age and have done everything together. He is always so full of new ideas and I'm grateful to be his artistic guinea pig. Our collaborations together only just started and I'm excited to see what we come up with in the future. So far, Mat has made short films about my solo albums on Analetka but soon our partnership will move into the realm of opera as he is a key player in a new opera production we are producing...
We're looking forward to your Schwabacher Debut Recital this weekend - what are you most looking forward to on the program and what has been the biggest challenge in preparing for this recital?
In this recital Sunny and I will be performing French & German music. I'm very excited about sharing the rarely heard music of Ropartz and find it challenging too. There are very few recordings and no real performance traditions of his particular style. It also gives us incredible freedom of expression!
(Above: Sarah Shafer as Mary Lennox and Philippe Sly as Archibald Craven in Nolan Gasser's The Secret Garden. Photo by Peter Dasilva.)
How does San Francisco compare to living in Montréal where you studied?
I find San Francisco to be the west coast version of Montréal. Both are intensely cultural and artistic. Both have a great restaurant scene (however there is so much more variety here in San Francisco). When in San Francisco I miss the French and when I'm in Montréal I miss all the local produce.
What are some of your favorite places in San Francisco or outside the city?
I haven't had time to do much exploring yet, however, I'm going on a five-hour hike up Mount Tam next week culminating in a beer tasting in Marin!