Portrait Martina Myskohlid, mezzo-soprano

Mode de vie


July 19, 2023


Text : Véronique Gauthier

Photos : Marianne Charland

Escorted by her canine sidekick Lucy, mezzo-soprano Martina Myskohlid welcomed us into her sunny apartment fitted with large windows. As her adventure with the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal draws to a close, she will soon be packing it all up in boxes and heading to the Old World, to begin a new chapter of her life in opera.

We look back on the path charted by this spontaneous, charismatic, determined, and enterprising young woman!

From classical music to musical theatre … to classical music

Originally from Toronto, Martina grew up with non-musician parents. “Both my parents sing terribly out of tune!” she told us with a chuckle. “My father is Ukrainian-Austrian, and music is important in his culture, but he never made any professionally.” It was at age 8 that singing became part of her life. “My teacher told my parents that I sang in tune and showed a certain keenness for music. So, my parents enrolled me in classical choir, very strict, where we rehearsed four hours per week.”

At age 12, she resolved that it was all too serious and declared she no longer enjoyed classical music. “I realize today that it was the best musical education I could have had! But at the time, all that interested me was musicals.” Fulfilling her likings, she ended up in the classrooms (and on the stage) of the Etobicoke School of Arts, a high-calibre arts high school.

“Every singing teacher I came across told me it was important to have a basis in classical singing to develop one’s voice. So, I compromised: fine, I’ll do a bit of classical, but I know what I want, and that’s to focus on musical theatre.” Except that, after a few years of exploring the genre, what was obvious became a glaring fact: to be a musical theatre performer, not only do you have to sing well, but you also have to dance well. Martina was not a dancer.

In the wake of this realization, young Martina was asked to explore another vocal avenue as a school project. She opted to perform Schubert’s Ave Maria. “Right away, my teacher said to me, ‘But Martina, your voice is made for this kind of music!’ She asked me to listen to some opera arias to see if one might interest me. I did some digging and realized that opera could be sexy, outrageous, and fun! The costumes, the staging, it was huge! And it felt so good to sing that way. Singing musicals took a lot more effort, but now the music fitted so naturally with my voice.”


Rediscovering her voice

Soon, this new convert to classical singing was practising her arias for auditions and entered the University of Toronto’s voice program as a soprano. “My four years there went very well, but I wasn’t given much of a chance to sing in productions. I thought maybe I needed to change my repertoire, so I began to explore other arias for soprano, but also ones for mezzo-soprano. I immediately felt more comfortable singing mezzo arias.”

Since this change of Fach came about in the last year of her bachelor’s, Martina gave herself a one-year break after graduating and used it to learn a whole lot of mezzo arias. “It was like trying on a dress that fits like a glove! And doors suddenly started opening.” After being accepted to do her master’s at her dream school, Yale University, the young singer left Toronto to live in the USA for two years. Amid the pandemic, she auditioned for the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.

“I had always wanted to live in Montreal, and I felt that it would be a good program for me.” Once again, “open sesame” worked its charm and the institution’s doors were open to her. In autumn 2021, Martina became a resident young artist of the Atelier lyrique.

Family, a support structure, opportunities: the Atelier lyrique’s recipe for success

Once in Montreal, Martina stepped into an environment that for her, struck the perfect balance between guidance and freedom. A space where she could write her own story while making meaningful connections. “In a competitive industry like ours, a place like the Atelier lyrique, which is devoid of competition, where we are supported and part of a big family—that’s truly precious. All artists who are part of the program are, of course, good singers, but they’re also good people. And it’s a privilege to work with good people on a daily basis. We are very fortunate to be here!” 

Singing with the Orchestre de l’Agora was for Martina an amazing opportunity. “We work with piano a lot, but it’s important to gain experience with an orchestra too. It’s even necessary! It’s a good thing such a collaboration exists between these two organizations.”

Technically, the singer made great strides working with Ariane Girard. “This was the first time I had the opportunity of working with a teacher who is also a mezzo-soprano. Exploring the voice with Ariane was truly special because she’s an incredible technician, but that’s not all. She feels things. A big part of my progress here was because of her.”

With Sieger Roorda, she deepened her mental preparation, essential to performing. “As classical singers, we are athletes. It’s so great that the program recognizes that. From what I have experienced, that isn’t something that’s available in many places in our field.”


En route to a new adventure in Europe

What does the near future have in store for this young artist? “I’m going to be joining the Dutch National Opera Studio in August, in Amsterdam. It’s unbelievable how that came together for me! A friend knew that I was going to Europe in the spring and told me, ‘You should go sing for them.’ He sent me an email address, I wrote to them, sending them some videos and my CV, and they invited me to come meet them, even though auditions had already passed. An hour after my audition, they offered me a place in the program! That’s what I call being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to dive in and create opportunities.”

For Martina, daring and taking concrete action is a big part of the profession. “It’s a tough industry, I work hard, and I try to plan as well as I can. When I realized I absolutely wanted to pursue a career in opera, I told myself, ‘if I decide to take on this difficult career, I’m going about it in the best possible way. I will do what is best.’ I went to Yale. I came to the Atelier lyrique. And now, I’m moving to Europe. I truly think we can do everything we want if we learn how the process works. If I want something, then how can I achieve it? What can I do to prepare? Who can help me? But I also know I am lucky. I call it organized luck!”

Will she keep in touch with the Atelier lyrique? “For sure! It’s a relationship I feel great in, where it’s easy. It’s like a big family!”