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Opera singer Emily D’Angelo.Dario Acosta/Handout

Few recitals feature programs that span roughly a millennium, but for Canadian opera singer Emily D’Angelo, it’s completely normal. The mezzo soprano’s appearance on Feb. 22 at Toronto’s Koerner Hall integrates old and new sounds in ways that reflect her ever-evolving artistry.

A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, D’Angelo has performed on some of the world’s most famous opera stages, including New York, London, Paris and Berlin. Her debut album enargeia (Deutsche Grammophon), released in 2021, features a mix of works (by medieval polymath Hildegard of Bingen and contemporary U.S. composers Missy Mazzoli and Sarah Kirkland-Snider), with many of the pieces first presented live with pianist Sophia Munoz in New York last autumn. As D’Angelo explains, the coming program is less about imparting a message than about celebrating artistic curiosity and the various places it might lead.

How did you plan this recital?

It’s like an album: There’s a set amount of time where you’re bringing listeners through an hour of music and storytelling. I’ve been working with the same pianist for three years and we’ve performed various versions of this recital over that time. The repertoire often changes but we keep a sort of set core of pieces based on experiences of what worked, and what could change.

What constitutes that “core?”

Composers who have been deceased for a long time and composers who are writing and creating new things. The specifics within that are ever-evolving, and [Sophia and I] are very open to adding new and old pieces. There aren’t limits as to what could work or what I would consider adding.

The program features the music of many female composers, including Rebecca Clarke, Florence Price and Cecilia Livingston. What was the motivation behind their inclusion?

Seal Man by Rebecca Clarke was the first piece I’d ever heard of hers, and the first piece by her that I sang; I was totally captivated and had to know more. I have the same approach with every other composer. What else have they written? What’s the story with them? It just takes one thing to grab my attention and be fascinated and commit to learning more. For me it’s all about being curious and not thinking of one piece as the end of the road.

How does the interspersing of music by Clarke and Aaron Copland illuminate more famous pieces by Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann?

The order in which we sing the Coplands, the Clarkes and Mendelssohn has evolved over time. We had them in this exact order last autumn at a recital in New York and we liked it. It’s fascinating to hear how each song informs each other and makes your ears open up to the other pieces.

Is the inclusion of the music of Randy Newman part of that “opening ears” approach?

Sarah Kirkland-Snider’s Penelope songs reference The Odyssey and are sung from the character’s point of view – she’s waiting for her husband to come home. The Randy Newman song, Wandering Boy, is from the point of view of a parent wondering about his boy and where he is and how he’s doing. The subject matter and the structure [for both] just really work. It isn’t about trying to prove anything or having an agenda, but more a case of recognizing things that go together. I’m a huge fan of Newman’s work. His compositions have such a scope, the same as works by classical composers. I don’t see why his music wouldn’t fit within a recital.

Speaking of different sounds, you’ll be doing a lot of Handel this year. Do Handel and Randy Newman have much in common?

Absolutely. Everything we do informs other things, and by having variety it not only broadens your imagination and your understanding of all the repertoire you’re singing, it also shows you how they are so similar. At the core of everything we do is communication and storytelling. It’s not that you’re putting on an operatic voice to sing Handel and another to sing Randy Newman. It’s all coming from the same instrument, so it’s about recognizing creative overlap and how we can perform things as effectively, and as genuinely, as possible. That’s what music is all about.

This interview has been condensed and edited.