Being the music. This is how Canadian-born soprano and now conductor Barbara Hannigan describes her approach to performing. Two questions come to mind: How does one do this? And what are the ingredients needed to so completely embody the music as to become it? George Meredith’s words from his poem The Lark Ascending that inspired Ralph Vaughan Williams’ work of the same name suggest one answer: “The song seraphically free, Of taint of personality, So pure that it salutes the suns.” Hannigan herself gives a hint when she states: “I’m happy with my performance when I know I’ve made the connection between breath and sound, when the whole body is singing.”
Fourteen years ago the then Toronto-based Hannigan appeared on the cover of The WholeNote magazine. At the time she was performing the lead role in the operetta The Merry Widow and her European career was beginning to take off. Now living in Amsterdam, with bookings four to five years in advance, she is returning to Toronto as the featured performer at this years’ New Creations Festival presented by the Toronto Symphony. In three concerts scheduled between February 28 and March 7, Hannigan will be performing both Canadian and North American premieres of works by British composer George Benjamin and Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen.