Portrait Mishael Eusebio, tenor

Mode de vie


June 26, 2023

MIShael eusebio, TEnor

Text : Véronique Gauthier

Photos : Marianne Charland

We met with Mishael Eusebio at the Filipino grocery store P’lengke, where you can also enjoy dishes prepared in-house. It was here, at this precise location, that the tenor made his first connections with Montreal’s Filipino community, after moving here in 2021 to join the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.

We look back on the trajectory of this bright and versatile young artist with an infectious smile!

From the Philippines to Canada

Young tenor Mishael lived in the Philippines until the age of 8, where he was raised entirely in English. “Since the colonial period, the English language is everywhere throughout the country. My grandparents’ teachers were white Americans,” he explained. “That drove me to a lot of questioning and inner conflict about my identity, because even while I was born in the Philippines, I was a bit like a foreigner over there.”

After emigrating to Toronto with his family, the young boy certainly felt more at home. “It was truly like a glove fit. I attended school with many second-generation immigrants and felt connected to them. Multiculturalism was a very important concept, both socially and at home. My father would cook dishes from all over the world; for me, when I think of comfort food, I think Jamaican patties!”

An education at major American institutions

How did his interest in opera arise? “It’s fairly typical of my generation: on YouTube!” First, there was his discovery of the iconic Pavarotti singing La donna è mobile, which he attempted to mimic at just 9 years old, then at 12, he would listen on repeat to the Mad Scene from Lucia de Lammermoor performed by Maria Callas. “I was obsessed! Around midnight, I would open my windows because I knew my neighbours were outside. In my total innocence, I wanted them to be able to hear it too, because it was so beautiful!” recalled the singer with a chuckle.

After attending an arts-concentration high school, where he got a taste of theatre and musical theatre, the tenor was admitted to The Juilliard School on a full scholarship and departed for New York at the age of 18. “After my bachelor’s at Juilliard, I went to do my master’s in voice at the CCM in Cincinnati, one of the best schools in the country, also on a full scholarship. I am incredibly grateful to have ended up in such inspiring environments.”

Throughout his education, Mishael found himself face-to-face with the sensitive issue of identity. “For Americans, I am Canadian, but I am also Filipino. Walking around in New

York’s Filipinotown was such a joy because I looked like everyone else, even if I didn’t speak their language. I would try to play it quiet so I could savour, for as long as I could, those precious moments when I felt a sense of belonging. As soon as I would open my mouth to order something, I went back to being an outsider. At first, it affected me and made me insecure, but I came to realize that it is part of who I am to be several things at once. I know who I am. So, why not make art with it?”

The adventure was launched!


Head over heels for Montreal

After 6 years among our neighbours to the south, Mishael felt the call to return north of the border. His chosen destination: Montreal.

“I had always dreamed of living in Montreal! French and music are my two passions. Had I not become an opera singer, I would have done my bachelor’s in French. I took a French conversation class while studying in the US and I also hired a private tutor. It’s a language and grammar that I find very rich.” This is certainly reflected in this young Francophile’s command of the language, breadth of expressions, and precise vocabulary as he speaks with surprising agility.

The singer quite appropriately auditioned for the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, drawn to the city, but also by the emphasis the company places on new works. “That’s why I love it here: despite being an established company, they’re always looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve and remain current. That really got me. I would love to eventually specialize in contemporary opera!”

Growing as an artist

What will he carry with him from his two years in the program with the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal? “My time here matured my love of opera. Opera is by no means always butterflies, rainbows, and all-you-can-eat ice cream. It’s tough, it requires musical precision, and it demands that you give a lot of yourself. My approach to music has changed and I solidified my learning process. The Atelier lyrique is an ideal environment to work in, everyone treats us with dignity and respect while exacting a high standard when it comes to our art. It’s the kind of environment I wanted to develop, where I feel supported and know I am allowed to make mistakes. It has truly been a blessing to be here!”


Pivotal encounters

An encounter that had a profound impact on Mishael was that with Johnathan McCullough and Christopher Allen, artists and creators at the height of their careers. “It was inspiring to hear them because they are in their mid-thirties, so we are all fairly close in age. They gave us advice on career-life balance, while broaching the question, ‘What does it mean to be at the height of one’s art?’ It was an experience that will stay with me for a long time.”

All the talks and lectures given over the past year have provided the young artist with a wealth of tools. “With Teiya Kasahara, we talked about re-examining our identity as an artist. It’s so easy to simply say yes to all contracts because we want to work, but we shouldn’t lose sight of who we are. It was very refreshing and encouraging!”

Building a career in his own image

Emboldened by what he learned with the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, this tenor now looks toward the future very openly, bearing in mind that if opportunities don’t immediately arise, it’s up to him to create them. “I don’t only see myself as a performer. I long to collaborate, to connect with other artists, to reflect, brainstorm, to take part in developing projects.”

While opera undeniably beckons this tenor to the stage, his range of interests is far broader. “Sure, I’m an opera singer, but I also have considerable experience in musical theatre, in more classical theatre, in experimental theatre, and with all kinds of artistic creation. I don’t want to limit myself to just one art form. What matters most for me is telling stories. That, and the community with which I can share these stories.”

Montreal: his beloved adopted city

The tenor’s calendar for the coming months includes a return in November to the Opéra de Montréal stage for The Coronation of Poppea, a performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the concert Pulcinella with the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, and a new opera project to potentially materialize in the summer of 2024.

“I decided to stay in Montreal. It is truly my dream city, with its perfect blend of North American and European sensibilities. I know that an opera singer’s life is nomadic, but I would really like to maintain my foothold here!”