Portrait Sydney Frodsham, contralto

Mode de vie


June 16, 2023

sydney frodsham, contraltO

Text : Véronique Gauthier

Photos : Marianne Charland

Originally from Texas, contralto Sydney Frodsham came to Montreal to begin her adventure with the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal in 2020, amid the pandemic. Three years later, she has emerged as a confident artist, well-grounded in her adopted city, and poised to take flight in her career.

What challenges did this born singer encounter on her journey, and what did she discover within the opera family she built for herself over the past few years? We look back with her on her stint in the caring and accommodating setting of the Opéra de Montréal.

Predestined to sing

Though born in Texas 26 years ago, both of Sydney’s non-musician parents are originally Canadian, and had at the time, had settled among our neighbours to the south for work. It wasn’t long before little Syndey’s musical talent began to assert itself.  

“My mother says I started singing at 18 months old. I would sing all the time, everywhere, in all circumstances. During a routine checkup, the doctor heard me and told my mother that she believed I had perfect pitch. So, my mother enrolled me very young in music induction classes. I learned piano, harp, and then I began singing lessons at age 8. I haven’t stopped since!”

Seeing their daughter joyfully and comfortably immersed in music, her parents urged her to follow the path that seemed marked out for her: to develop her passion for singing into a career. They paid for her lessons and her mother egged her on in her moments of self-doubt. For even though singing was her favourite thing in the world, she was not spared certain misgivings. “My mother has always been by my side, and she always believed in me.”


From Texas to Montreal

After completing a bachelor’s in voice at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a master’s at Brigham Young University in Utah, Sydney signed up to audition for young artist programs. As a dual citizen, both American and Canadian programs were open for her to apply.

That’s when Montreal, quite literally, came across her screen. “I never thought I’d one day live here. But as I was doing my research and consulting the Atelier lyrique’s website, I was immediately inspired by what I read and what it gave off. I had this sense that I’d be happy there. And there’s no better way to learn a new language than immersion!”

An instant connection

Her hunch was confirmed during the national auditions held over a few days in Montreal. “I loved the atmosphere, everyone was kind and caring, and I thought, ‘it would be wonderful if I could get in here!’”

The day after the auditions, just as the young artist was disembarking from the flight home, her phone rang. “It was Chantal [Lambert] telling me that she would like me to join the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. I didn’t even hesitate, I immediately accepted and cancelled all my other auditions for programs that I had scheduled!”

New culture, new language, new voice type: working through challenges

Upon moving to Quebec’s metropolis, Sydney had to adapt to a whole new culture, a new country, and a new language that she had never spoken a word of before. It was quite a challenge, especially since sanitary measures at the time prohibited any contact, which certainly didn’t make things easy.

Preparing the role of the Mother for the premiere of Le Flambeau de la nuit was an important keystone in her early training with the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, as much for the role as for the story, requiring her to work in French.

“The opera was performed in my second year, but I studied the role in my first year. With each coaching session, I felt I was not mastering the language well enough to hear all the subtleties I needed to. To my ears, there was no difference between the right sounds to be produced and those that didn’t work!”

It was also at the Atelier lyrique, through the instruction of singing teacher Ariane Girard, that this former mezzo-soprano shifted tessituras and became a contralto. “I felt, working with Ariane, that I truly learned how to sing. My development with her over the past three years has made me the singer I am today, and I could never conceivably be where I am now without her guidance and teaching.” 


A beneficial model of a young artists program

Sydney has only good things to say when describing her experience at the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.

“I was hoping to find a place that could empower me and help me grow as a musician, and that’s exactly what I found. The Atelier is accommodating, encouraging, and considers the whole human being. It is a nourishing and nurturing space that supports and guides artists in their development by appreciating each one’s unique musical trajectory. I got to know myself during my years here; I know more about who I am as an artist, and I am more confident in myself.”

For this young woman, it was a blessing to have evolved in a program like the Atelier lyrique. “When I think about what a program for young artists should be, I think about a place where you can learn and grow while allowing yourself to be vulnerable and giving yourself the right to make mistakes. I’s okay to try and get it wrong, without needing to impress everyone. And that’s exactly what you get with the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.”

Opera, competitions, and teaching

What lies ahead for this young contralto? “I have entered a few international competitions, and since I’m not a competitive gal by nature, it takes a lot out of me! I will also be part of the cast of The Coronation of Poppea presented next year by the Atelier lyrique, I have a concert planned with Christopher Gaudreault, and also some projects that I can’t yet announce. I will also continue to teach.”

This singer, whose voice marries beautifully with the music of Saint-Saëns (she very much enjoys embodying Dalilah) also dreams of performing the part of Lorca in Golijov’s Ainadamar, a role she worked on as an understudy last season with the Opéra de Montréal. “I think it fits my voice perfectly right now. I also love singing Baroque, and English and American art songs.”

Now that her home is in Montreal, the singer plans to remain in the city for at least the next year. “I was toying with the project of going to Europe, but I don’t feel it’s the right time yet. I’m happy to stay! I came here not knowing anyone. Now I have friends, the Montreal community is truly wonderful, and this city will always have a very special place in my heart.”