Opera diva Jean Stilwell is best known for her role as a blisteringly seductive Carmen. She has built a career on the opera stage singing Bizet to Verdi, and in concert halls performing Mahler, Beethoven, Schumann and Strauss with orchestras around the world.
Her flare for high – and sometimes outrageous – fashion is hidden behind the microphone while performing her role as a morning co-host on Toronto’s classical music station, 96.3FM. But, whether she is performing for thousands at the Hollywood Bowl in Eric Idle’s Not The Messiah, or for a smaller audience singing cabaret songs by Kurt Weill and John Bucchino, Jean brings to the audience a special blend of vulnerability and strength; formidable range and vocal color, immediacy and timelessness, and always, a wicked sense of humor.
Jean is at the forefront of her generation’s mezzo-sopranos. Since first assuming the role of Carmen in Vancouver, Bizet’s fascinating gypsy has opened many doors for Ms. Stilwell and she has appeared with the Buxton Festival, New York City Opera, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera, Opera Zuid of Holland, Connecticut Opera, Pittsburgh Opera and all the opera companies of Canada.
Ms. Stilwell has welcomed the opportunities to expand her repertoire and she has appeared for Vancouver Opera as Amneris in Aida, Marie in Wozzeck for Pacific Opera Victoria and the premiere of Facing South with Tapestry New Opera Works. For the Festival of the Sound, she sang Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and was Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande for Festival Vancouver. Recent seasons have also included Katisha in The Mikado (Arizona Opera), the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd (Calgary Opera), Jenny in The Threepenny Opera (Vancouver Opera) and Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana (Manitoba Opera).
She also appeared in the world premiere of Transit of Venus by Victor Davies for Manitoba Opera, and in 2008–2009, sang the role of Peronskaya in Prokofiev’s War and Peace with the Canadian Opera Company. Her hit show Carmen Unzipped tours Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in February 2010.
Ms. Stilwell appeared as Serena Joy in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of The Handmaid’s Tale and was at the Calgary Opera for Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins. In concert, she was in Budapest for an International Gala Opera evening, in Halifax for Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody with Symphony Nova Scotia and in Hamilton, Ontario for Opera Ontario’s Popera. For Hawaii Opera, she debuted as Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, and took on the dual roles of Mother and the Witch in Hänsel und Gretel and Jenny in The Threepenny Opera for Opera Columbus. Past credits include concerts in Winnipeg, recitals in Vancouver for Music in the Morning, Maddalena in Rigoletto for Pacific Opera Victoria and Orchestra London, Carmen la gitana with Rex Harrington, Brad Hampton’s cabaret show in Montreal, Elizabeth’s Concert of Hope for the Regina ALS Society, and a Festival of the Sound concert with Mary Lou Fallis. Further engagements included Symphony Nova Scotia’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen, her debut with Toronto Operetta Theatre as The Old Lady in Bernstein’s Candide and Tapestry New Opera Works’ Three Divas with Teresa Tova and Patricia O’Callaghan. She lectured and performed for the Vancouver Opera Club and launched a new compact disc, Carmen Unzipped, with pianist Patti Loach, which became the basis for a popular touring cabaret.
Ms. Stilwell is internationally renowned for the variety of her repertoire with engagements ranging from Dialogue des Carmélites for Calgary Opera to Die Fledermaus for Kentucky Opera and Opera Saskatchewan. Selected career highlights include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Toronto Symphony, Zigeunerbaron at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Dido in Dido and Aeneas with Opera Atelier in Singapore and the Berio Folk Songs at the Avanti Festival in Finland conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Ms. Stilwell has also performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Edmonton and Vancouver and Schafer’s Adieu, Robert Schumann for L’Orchestre Symphonique de Québec.
She has been engaged by the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York (Trevor Pinnock) and the symphonies of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. In Canada, her conductors have included Andrew Davis, Mario Bernardi, Bramwell Tovey, Gunther Herbig, Jukka Pekka Saraste and Sergiu Comissiona. In Japan Ms. Stilwell appeared for Sony Music Communications, and she was artist-in-residence at the Takefu Festival. She is frequently heard on CBC broadcasts and her discography includes the music of Berio, Weill, Poulenc, Somers and Spohr on the CBC and CMC labels.