Opera Singer Amelia Daigle
Soars to the Heights of Her Voice
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by Heather Taylor
The late American writer, Kurt Vonnegut, once said that the only proof he needed for the existence of God was music. Even for people not versed in classical music, listening to Carmen, an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet, it is apparent that strands of the work are from another world.
Many of the composers of such music are from another century. The performers of such music, at a glance, seem to be from another dimension. The fact is human beings are capable of such heights of ecstatic beauty.
One of them lives right here in Windsor. Her name is Amelia Daigle.
“I grew up in Windsor, and attended the French Immersion program at Bellewood Public School,” Amelia explains. “After that, I went to Herman high school. It was out of my district, but I was really athletic, playing soccer and doing long distance running.”
She split her time between Herman and Walkerville, where she studied visual art.
“I painted, but always loved music,” Amelia says. “When I began singing, I was heavily influenced by Kate Bush and Aretha Franklin. I didn’t get into opera until later. It was my voice teacher who asked me: ‘Have you ever considered singing classical music?’ It wasn’t something I listened to all that much, at that time.”
Once she opened herself to opera, it didn’t take long for Amelia to fall in love with it.
“I get to sing in different languages, wear these amazing costumes,” she says. “As it happens, my voice is suited to opera. I have the right timbre.”
Following high school, Amelia majored in music performance, with a minor in French, at the University of Windsor. After graduation, she pursued her master’s degree in vocal performance and literature at Western University.
“It was an amazing experience,” she recalls. “The degree required me to perform full-time. We did two full operas with full orchestra. For one show, costumes were rented from Stratford. I looked like Marie Antoinette. The costume change for Act II was so stressful, the dress had so many layers… it was so delicate.”
During that time, Amelia experienced the realities of life as a professional musician. By the second year of the program, other students decided they did not want to do it anymore.
“It’s not as romantic as people think—you have to hustle,” Amelia says. “You have to be your own promoter, do your own make-up, costuming, website, scheduling. You have to do it all. I never stopped loving it.”
Amelia also performed in music competitions, advancing to the provincial level. In 2015, however, she was invited to sing at the National Music Festival.
“They flew us out to Edmonton where we did a big concert,” she remembers. “I was competing against the best singers in Canada. I thought: ‘Even if I don’t win, I’m still among the best singers in Canada.’”
Amid the excitement was stress, and not just the usual stage nerves.
“I was congested during the provincial competition,” she explains. “Also, at nationals, I had a bad neck injury. Because our instruments are inside of us, singers have a whole other level of things to worry about.”
Amelia pushed through, focused on the music, put everything she had into her performances. Her experience and passion paid off. She won first place in the vocal category.
“When I won, I was shocked, it brought me a lot of confidence,” she says. “I knew this is the path I’m supposed to be on.”
The musicians who placed first in each instrumental group were then brought together for a grand performance of Canada’s best at the Francis Winspear Center.
“All of the singers in the competition were technically amazing,” Amelia says, “but not everyone can tell a story. An adjudicator said that my ability to tell a story with my performance is what separated those who can move an audience.”
In the intervening years, Amelia has performed in (among many other productions): In 2018 as Sorella Cercatrice in “Suor Angelica” for Opera Niagara, directed by Aprile Millo, music by Adolfo De Santis. In 2020 as Giulietta in “I Capuleti e I Montecchi” for Opera Niagara, directed by Aprile Millo, music by Maria Vetere. In 2022 as Esmeralda in “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” for Cardinal Music, directed by Joe Cardinal, music directed by Bayleigh Cardinal.
Amelia’s love of music made teaching voice a natural progression. Mentoring music students moved her to seek ways to make opera more accessible to more people.
“That is why I wrote my one woman show, Carmen’s Dream, and performed it at the Windsor Fringe Festival,” Amelia says. “Operas can run between two and four hours in length. My show was forty-five minutes, and I sought to capture the essence of the story, focusing on the most beautiful moments. The response I received was very positive, particularly from people who didn’t ordinarily appreciate opera.”
Another group interested in making opera accessible is Windsor’s own Abridged Opera, with whom Amelia has performed. Once again, there is a focus on highlights, working in a shorter format.
“We did Cinderella at Willistead in 2019,” Amelia says. “We had an orchestra on the main floor. Some young singers were dressed as butlers, escorting the audience from room to room for each scene. The feedback from audience members was very positive.”
When Amelia performed Hansel and Gretel at a grade school, the students watched in rapt silence. Teachers later remarked: “I can’t get my students to sit quietly for anything!”
What is a good jumping-off point for someone who wants to give opera a try?
Full performances of Carmen and La Bohème are available on YouTube.
“Carmen is my favourite opera of all-time,” Amelia says. “It’s such an amazing story about a bohemian woman who is feisty, independent, powerful. You don’t often see that in operatic heroines. Her music is also some of the most beautiful music in opera. It’s so recognizable.”
Amelia is teaching private voice and piano lessons at Montessori Mozarts in Tecumseh. montessorimozarts.com
For more information about Amelia’s performance schedule, visit ameliadaigle.com.
To learn more about Abridged Opera, check out abridgedopera.com.