Kimberly Barber, mezzo-soprano

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Performance Biography

Canadian mezzo-soprano Kimberly Barber is known for the expressive power, purity and refinement of her voice, her elegance of phrasing and musical gesture and the intelligence and intensity of her physical portrayals.  Her eclectic and varied career—of which she celebrates her 30th anniversary on the stage this season—  combines not only the standard repertoire sung on some of the great opera house and concert stages of the world, but also contemporary and baroque works with smaller, experimental companies. Kimberly Barber’s extraordinary artistic spirit defies categorization.  Her operatic repertoire encompasses more than 40 roles, many of them from twentieth century or lesser-known works, and her concert repertoire stems from every genre.

Ms. Barber’s most recent seasons held important role and company debuts: a first turn as Mrs. Patrick de Rocher (the first artist to make the jump to this role after performing Sister Helen previously) in Jake Heggie’s DEAD MAN WALKING for Opéra de Montreal, Caroline/Grandmother in the world premiere of John Burge’s THE AUCTION for Westben Festival, her first KINDERTOTENLIEDER with Quintet Pentaèdre at Barrie’s Colours of Music Festival, a major revival of John Beckwith’s CRAZY TO KILL (in the tour-de-force role of Agatha) for Toronto Masque Theatre and Cecilia March in LITTLE WOMEN at both Calgary and Utah Operas. A frequent guest of Toronto’s Tapestry New Opera, she created the role of Naomi in Jeffrey Ryan’s RUTH in workshop performances in Waterloo and Toronto in 2013 and reprised her world premiere performances with the Penderecki String Quartet of MIDAREGAMI/TANGLED HAIR at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute in 2015, further cementing her reputation as an advocate for the music of our time.

Ms Barber’s career has taken her to major opera houses throughout the world (Opéra de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Frankfurt Opera, New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Opéra de Marseille, ENO, Canadian Opera Company, to name a few), where she is recognized for the verisimilitude of her portrayals of the trouser roles of Mozart, Handel, Rossini and Strauss in addition to other standards and outliers from the 17th to 21st century pantheon of operatic heroines.  She is renowned for the intensity and depth of her interpretations of such roles as Strauss’s Composer, Handel’s Xerxes (for which she was nominated for Toronto’s Dora Award as Best Singing Actress), Ariodante and Nerone (AGRIPPINA), Cherubino and Annio (CLEMENZA DI TITO), as well as Samuel Barber’s Erika (VANESSA), and Ravel’s Concepciòn, among many others.   A champion of contemporary music, she has performed the title role in the Canadian premiere of Marc Blitzstein’s REGINA for Pacific Opera Victoria, Jessica in the world premiere of John Estacio’s FROBISHER, and a critically acclaimed Sister Helen in Jake Heggie’s DEAD MAN WALKING for Calgary Opera—all broadcast nationally on CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. She has collaborated with some of the world’s most innovative directors, including David Pountney, Christopher Alden, Tim Albery, Stephen Wadsworth, Peter Mussbach and Jonathan Miller; she has worked under the baton of such conductors as Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Marc Minkowski, Armin Jordan, Myung Whun Chung, Gerard Schwarz and Yves Abel.

On the concert stage she has performed with the London Symphony, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Mostly Mozart Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, the Minnesota Orchestra, Montréal’s I Musici, the Chicago, Montréal and Toronto Symphonies, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and New York’s Eos Orchestra in a wide repertoire ranging from Duruflé, Fauré and Mahler to Stravinsky, Argento and Bernstein.  Her frequent collaborations with pianist Steven Blier and the New York Festival of Song, with performances at Wigmore Hall in London, Weill Hall, and the 92nd Street Y in New York, have shaped her interest in presenting art song in an accessible format.  Her deep attention to text and musical interpretation are hallmarks of her performances as a recitalist.

Kimberly Barber’s discography is crowned by her performance of Concepciòn in Ravel’s L’HEURE ESPAGNOLE for Deutsche Grammophon under André Previn leading the London Symphony Orchestra. Recent releases include her cameo performance in Le petit elfe by Florent Schmitt with colleagues Leslie De’Ath and Anya Alexeyev (duo piano) for Dutton Classics (2011), and the critically acclaimed L’accordéoniste, an eclectic selection of cabaret repertoire with Mary-Lou Vetere and Peter Tiefenbach (2009).  She has also recorded for CBC Records: “Faustina Bordoni:  Portrait of a Prima Donna” with Ensemble Arion, and for Naxos Records: the title role of Handel’s RINALDO with the Aradia Ensemble under the direction of conductor Kevin Mallon.  She has been frequently heard in broadcast on CBC Radio, NPR, KING FM (Seattle), BBC Radio and SDR in Germany.

In addition to her busy performing schedule, Kimberly Barber is in demand as a guest lecturer, adjudicator, panellist and pedagogue. Now accredited as an Andover Educator®, she is licensed to teach the course What Every Musician Needs To Know About The Body and also teaches Body Mapping privately for musicians of all stripes. Her performance workshop "Finding your Individual Voice" was piloted at the University of Toronto’s Opera Division in March 2000 and has since been presented at professional schools and university programs across the country. She gives master classes for emerging artists internationally and has frequently been on faculty at Opera NUOVA, an elite program for emerging operatic artists in Edmonton, Alberta.  In the spring of 2005, Ms. Barber made her broadcasting debut for CBC Radio, as live colour commentator for the Montreal International Voice Competition. She now co-hosts a once-monthly feature with host Tom Quick on the show Women in Music for FM 98.5 CKWR, a local community radio station in the Waterloo Region. Kimberly Barber maintains a private voice studio and is Associate Professor of Voice at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, where she coordinates the Opera Program.            

January 2016

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