The Canada Council for the Arts announced on June 19 that soprano Layla Claire is the recipient of the 2013 Virginia Parker Prize. CBC Classical reached Claire by email; you can read our interview below.

The Virginia Parker Prize, valued at $25,000, is awarded annually to a Canadian classical musician, instrumentalist or conductor, under the age of 32, who demonstrates outstanding talent and musicianship.

“Layla’s career is already off to a brilliant start and is certain to shine even brighter thanks to the Virginia Parker Prize,” said Robert Sirman, director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Claire is a 2012 graduate of the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Program. While there, she made her Met debut as Tebaldo in Verdi’s Don Carlo conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who won the Virginia Parker Prize himself in 2000. She also created the role of Helena in the Met’s baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island conducted by William Christie, available on Virgin Classics DVD.

Mozart roles have been central to Claire's career so far. She has sung Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro) at Palm Beach Opera, and Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte) and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) under James Levina at the Tanglewood Festival. For the latter role, Boston Globe music critic Keith Powers praised her as "a top-of-the-range soprano who sang the most challenging passages with ease.”

Claire responded to our questions by email:

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Isabel Bayrakdarian. These are some of the past recipients of the Virginia Parker Prize. How does it feel to be joining this list?

Not a bad crowd!
How does winning this prize help the advancement of your career?

Where do I begin? It definitely takes off a lot of pressure. Singing is a lifetime journey and coachings and lessons are a crucial part of the path. This prize will definitely help me to study more and dig deeper.

Who are some of the people who have helped you reach this milestone?

I have been really fortunate to have had great teachers along the way, from my hometown in Penticton, B.C., as a teenager, to the terrific faculties at l'Université de Montréal and the Curtis Institute, headed by Mikael Eliasen, and of course James Levine and the amazing coaches and teacher I had at the Tanglewood Music Festival and the Met's Lindemann Young Artist's Development Program.

What upcoming performances are you most looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to my Canadian Opera Company debut as Fiordiligi in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte in Toronto this winter!

You mention James Levine, whom you've worked with on many occasions. Is that experience as wonderful as everyone says it is?

Yes and more! He is a gift to me and many young singers. 

Watch Layla Claire Rehearses with James Levine on PBS. See more from American Masters.


Canadian Opera Company's 2012-13 season

posted by Robert Rowat on Jun 20, 2013