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Notes: A Conversation with Soprano Miriam Khalil

COC Staff | Canadian Opera Company

In the leadup to tonight’s opening, we asked AtG Founding Member and Ensemble Studio graduate Miriam Khalil to share her thoughts on the challenging process of creating art that responds to contemporary realities of persecution, oppression, and asylum...

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Music To Express Human Condition With Ayre

Globe and Mail | Robert Harris

Against the Grain is one of Toronto’s – if not the country’s – most innovative opera/theatre companies, producing on a shoestring exciting evenings of musical theatre. They’re known for their reworking of Mozart operas to fit contemporary settings, but they’ve also experimented with many other ideas, both here and at their annual residency at the Banff Centre...

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A Sopranos Story Part One: Miriam Khalil

Ottawa Citizen | Peter Robb

Before the move the young girl, with the music moving her, could go to church with her father and sing in the choir. Today, it would not happen. While she prays for friends who are left behind in the brutal war engulfing her birth country, her family, which is Lebanese, is not there. They are in Canada or in Lebanon.
“When we moved here, I didn’t speak English so I naturally joined a choir because that is what I knew how to do.
“The first song I learned and connected to was The Greatest Love of...

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Miriam Khalil An Artist In Focus

La Scena Musicale | Joseph So

They say that the first love is the sweetest, to quote lyrics by hiphop artist Drake. This is certainly true with soprano Miriam Khalil.
No, it's not a comment on her romantic life but rather her artistic life. It seems that Khalil's very first live opera experience was La boheme and she fell instantly in love with the heroine Mimi. "The music took me to another world. I can easily relate to her character. She is not complicated at all and so makes her that much more approachable as a person. Her music has these moments of soaring beauty," explains Khalil in a recent conversation. By all accounts, her Mimi for...

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In a Word... Soprano Miriam Khalil

The Charlebois Post | Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Praised for her alluring stage presence and distinctive vocal tone, Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil is described as being “a lush lyric with spinto overtones” (Opera Canada) and “on the road to future greatness” (Classical 96.3 FM)...

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Mozart Ladies

Schmopera | Jenna Douglas

In 2014, they put up #UncleJohn (based on Don Giovanni), featuring soprano Miriam Khalil as Donna Elvira; Khalil has since reprised Elvira in #UncleJohn for two subsequent productions, in at Toronto's The Theatre Centre and at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival….

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Music Review Soprano Miriam Khalil

Ottawa Citizen | Natasha Gauthier

Young Lebanese-Canadian lyric soprano Miriam Khalil has started to make a name for herself on Canadian opera and concert stages. The University of Ottawa alumna will be appearing at Chamberfest this summer, as Elvira in #UncleJohn…

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O Canada in Other Languages

The Huffington Post Canada | Jesse Ferreras

One of Canada's best gifts for its upcoming 148th birthday came from the Canadian Arab Institute.The non-profit posted a lovely video to Youtube last week that showed opera soprano Miriam Khalil singing "O Canada" in Arabic. It was one of the finest version…

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The Moment... Miriam Khalil

The Charlebois Post

I will talk about Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni or her new incarnation in #UncleJohn as just Elvira.The moment is Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata- the big second act aria that is very often cut because it can seem like an add-on and somewhat out of nowhere. In this new English trans-adaptation…

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This is What O Canada Sounds Like in Arabic

“When you hear something that is being said in your mother tongue, it has more emotional impact, and makes you pay more attention,” Raja Khouri, president of the institute, told Metro News Toronto…

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Toronto Singer Records First Arabic "O, Canada"

Toronto Metro News

From far and wide, it’s O Canada like you’ve never heard before.
Toronto opera singer Miriam Khalil has been recruited to make the first Arabic recording of our national anthem — an effort led by the Canadian Arab Institute just in time for the country’s 148th birthday…

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Donna Elvira/Elvira in Don Giovanni/#UncleJohn

“Miriam Khalil wheedles, begs, suffers and rages as Elvira, the jilted lover, making her fine soprano express every emotion with exactness and feeling.”

Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail

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“Miriam Khalil is Elvira, dark, dangerous and alluring, her fiery sound ablaze with passion. A skilled, versatile artist, Khalil’s voice entrances, a kaleidoscope of tumbled emotion.”

Ian Ritchie, Opera Going Toronto

“And Miriam Khalil was the ideal Elvira. Vengeful, torn by her love for John, and downright upset in every scene, she handled every virtuoso aspect of the role with no problem. Thanks to her, (and Joel Ivany’s great writing) the opera bounds along with narrative briskness. In Elvira’s world, she’s a constant party crasher of John’s plans, and for that reason she is perfectly cast – in the act one quartet (Anna, Elvira, Ottavio, John) the balance is very good in spite of singers being spread out across a distance of more than ten metres, and in the open air acoustic. I enjoyed the transladaptation of this scene, and Miriam Khalil in particular, not just here but throughout.”

Stephan Bonfield, Calgary Herald

“Miriam Khalil as Donna Elvira masters a difficult love-hate aria with a tragic urgency.”

-Andrew Meacham, Tampa Bay Times


Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande

“Singing the role of Mélisande, soprano Miriam Khalil gently floats her clear, buoyant voice on the ebb and flow of Debussy’s wistful music, lovingly capturing the vulnerability and grace of the ethereal princess. Her rendition of Mélisande’s enchanting semi a cappella air Mes longs cheveux descendent (“My long hair falls down”), one of the few aria-flavoured solos in an opera built almost entirely on speech-inflected recitative, is exquisitely beautiful.”

Ian Ritchie, Opera Going Toronto

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“The love triangle played between Étienne Dupuis, Gregory Dahl, and Miriam Khalil was also a slam dunk. In particular Dupuis, who absolutely lived in the role of Pelléas, and Miriam Khalil, who seemed as if she had stepped right out of Monet’s Garden at Sainte-Adresse as Mélisande incarnate. Her signature warm lyrical voice countered the lower male voices to great effect.”

Michael Vincent, Musical Toronto

“Similarly Miriam Khalil’s was a very poised Mélisande, inscrutably beautiful, vocally secure…Dahl & Khalil managed to make one of the hardest scenes in all opera –the scene where the jealous husband drags his wife by the hair—totally convincing in that tight space, where you could see ever facial expression and movement.”

Leslie Barcza,

“Miriam Khalil is a lovely Mélisande.  Dressed by designer Ming Wong in a gown like an ancient women’s chiton with her long dark hair in ringlets, Khalil looked like she has stepped out of a painting by Edward Burne-Jones.  Her crystal-clear soprano with its hint of darkness perfectly suited the mysteriously withdrawn young woman.  Khalil is not as fragile a Mélisande as some but fully communicated her character’s sense of oppression that even she does not fully understand.”

Christopher Hoile, Stage Door


Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro

“Khalil has a lovely and rich soprano, combined with a lively, expressive face that leaps across the footlights.”

Robin J. Miller, Opera Canada

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“Soprano Miriam Khalil, an especially adroit and polished comedienne, is bright and spunky as Susanna, though the richness of her sound hints that there are hidden depths to this soubrette.”

Kevin Bazzana, Victoria Times Colonist

“The performers are fine singer/actors...the expressive Khalil a cooler-chugging, sometimes fiery, always enchanting Susanna.”

Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine

“The singers are excellent, in voice as well as acting.  Miriam Khalil delivers the right mix of innocence and wile as Susanna.”

John Terauds, The Toronto Star


Mimi in La bohème

“The triumph of the evening went to Miriam Khalil’s Mimi. Singing with ease and conviction, her dusky tone voice easily dominated the theatre even with a whisper. She was also a consummate actress with great diction.”

Axel Van Chee, Charlebois Post

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“Miriam Khalil's Mimi, a role debut for the Syrian-born, Lebanese-Canadian soprano, was sensitively and effectively sung and heartwarmingly acted.  She even added a purposefully rough attack to the words 'sono andati'.  Consumptive operatic heroines can't always be singing like angels.”

Leonard Turnevicius, Opera Canada

“As Mimi, Miriam Khalil utilized her considerable artistry, impressive dynamic range and excellent projection to captivate the audience.”

James Wegg, JWR

“To follow such an impacting aria is certainly a challenge but Miriam Khalil’s ‘mi chiamano Mimi’ garnered vociferous applause and cries of ‘brava’!”

Danny Gaisin, Ontario Arts Review


Governess in The Turn of the Screw

“The terrific cast, led by Miriam Khalil, whose warm soprano and sympathetic stage persona made her a near-perfect Governess.  Becomingly costumed, her outward composure barely concealed an inner angst.”

Joseph So, Opera Canada

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“The singers were excellent.  Soprano Khalil proved as good an actor (especially expressive eyes to register fear) as she is a singer, with a full, rich-toned voice.”

Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

“Miriam Khalil was a carefully characterised Governess.  She managed all the nuances of the role; the optimism, the creeping fear, the resolution and the self doubt.  It was a huge advantage here to be in such a  small space because she used small gestures and facial expressions, that might easily have been missed in a larger house, to great effect.  She has the right voice for the part too.”

John Gilks, Opera Ramblings

“Already a multiaward winner, Miriam Khalil (the Governess) has a lush lyric with spinto overtones. Her voice is ravishing, with its soaring arc and gorgeous, full-throated middle register.”

Paula Citron, Opera Canada


Musetta in La bohème

“The doomed couple stood a bit of competition from their opposites, the battling Musetta (Miriam Khalil) and Marcello (Etienne Dupuis), both high spirited and mercurial, with such larger-than-life characters and voices that they often steal scenes…Even if he hadn’t, Khalil would still own the stage during Musetta’s Waltz, which was wonderfully performed by the ESO and conductor Steven Osgood.”

Tom Murray, Edmonton Journal

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”Miriam Khalil's Musetta...stole the cafe Momus act.”

Bill Rankin, Opera Canada


Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare

“Miriam Khalil expressed all of Cleo’s anguish and attraction in her excerpt from Handel’s Julius Caesar. Her breath control and modulation make her singing look easy.”

Danny Gaisin, Ontario Arts Review


Pamina in The Magic Flute

“There was a little moment last night where Miriam Khalil sang the word “joy” in such a way that it produced joy in one’s heart.”

Andrew Porter – Whole Note Magazine

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“Also ones to watch were soprano Miriam Khalil (Pamina), baritone Jason Nedecky (the Speaker) and tenor Peter Collins, who performed several roles. Khalil is capable of power and passion, with a hint of spinto, yet her voice is pure in color.”

Paula Citron, Opera Canada


Ayre by Osvaldo Golijov

“Most of all, the evening belonged to Miriam Khalil, the singer in Ayres, described as a soprano in the program, but that’s sort of like calling Niagara Falls a water feature. She had a range in notes, and expressive scope far beyond the usual soprano, a sense of drama and motion in her voice, in her whole body that was utterly captivating. It was nearly a one-woman show, a cycle of politics, love, folklore, tragedy and ecstasy.”

Arthur Smith, A Few Reasonable Words

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“...the Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil fearlessly embodied the parade of characters represented in these songs, spinning out tales of ancient battles with an urgency and charisma that made them feel like yesterday’s news.”

Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe

“I think the power, beyond the work itself, comes from Miriam’s intensity and grasp of the various idioms involved.”

John Gilks, Opera Ramblings

“Her performance on this album shows her to be more than a singer: she is an elemental force. There are no missteps here as each song is performed with dramatic depth, a nuanced understanding of the range of emotions and tones required by poetry and music.”

Freddy Dominguez, Opera Wire

“And soprano Khalil, who sings, intones, wails, coos and caresses the texts in Ayre, is a mesmerizing, gorgeous presence in the piece. Khalil’s voice is operatically trained, but emanates from a Christian Arab soul, so all the various elements of Ayre’s wild range find a home somewhere in her emotional and cultural makeup. Her lullabies are heartbreaking in the work, her violent outbursts frightening, her recitation of Arab texts engaging, her range of emotional compass overwhelming. And the colours in her voice find perfect counterparts in the 11 instruments that accompany her, from a klezmer-sounding clarinet, to a powerful accordion, French horn, string section, even a laptop playing electronic sounds. Khalil matched them all in both timbre and emotional content.”

Robert Harris, Globe and Mail

“Ottawa soprano Miriam Khalil plants her flag on its soil and claims it boldly as her own. The play of deep shadow and creamy light in Khalil’s voice evoked the latticed courtyards of the Alhambra palace.”

Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen

”it might as well have been Khalil’s all along. In fact, this was the best I’ve ever heard it. Khalil carried the melodies to an entirely new place that tied together the amalgam, and the troupe became a band — the kind that you might imagine would roam the streets of Cairo with the best of them.”

Michael Vincent, Musical Toronto

“Throughout the piece Khalil's dark rich tone was always in the forefront, but what really impressed me is the focus on the drama of all these songs. This wasn't just "Miriam sings beautifully," she brought us in and told us stories of life, danger, heartbreak, violence, and love. Miriam is - and always was - a flawless singer, but her acting in this show was unparalleled. Sensitive, candid, visceral, and dedicated to truth... Khalil used every colour, effect, and tool available to her vocally over the course of this production. I have to say, it's one of the highlights of my season to finally have heard Miriam sing in Arabic. It provided a perspective that brought you to understand where the beauty of her sound comes from. There were times when her voice was looped and she sang in canon with herself creating a mystical apogee through which the piece travelled - the fact that this part of the show was sung in her native Arabic was also part of the thrill of it all. So much truth and passion enveloped every syllable she uttered.”

Greg Finney, Schmopera

“As the lone singer actor in the spotlight, soprano Miriam Khalil is spellbinding, embodying an infinity of meaning in a quick fleeting gesture, a snap of the head, a ferocious curl of the lip, her voice at turns lustrous and radiant, savage and snarling. The two take us on a breath-taking ride.”

Ian Ritchie, Opera Going Toronto

“The performance, by Miriam Khalil and band with Jeremy Flower on electronics was extraordinary. It was that rare thing that raises the hairs on the back of one’s neck... The third “movement”; Tancas serradas a muru (Walls are encircling the land) sets a Sardinian poem in which the peasants threaten to overthrow the over greedy land owners. Here Miriam prowled the stage like a dangerous beast making the most extraordinary sounds, well beyond the normal compass of an operatic soprano. brilliant stuff. I also really liked Kun li-guitari wataran ayyuha al-maa’ (Be a string, water, to my guitar) a setting of a text by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish where Miriam sang accompanied by electronic echoes of herself from speakers around the auditorium. But really, these were just two highlights in a brilliant and intense fifty minutes of great music.”

John Gilks, Opera Ramblings


Mamah Cheney in Daron Hagen's Shining Brow

“Highest praise goes to soprano Miriam Khalil, whose sinewy vocal strength and dark-hued tone brought out the sultry side of the potentially unsympathetic character of Mamah, the unfaithful wife. In the letter scene (“Frank, how much longer must I endure”) at the end of the second act, Khalil’s suavely soft tone and stage presence communicated some of the enthralling power of the woman over the architect.”

Charles T. Downey – Washington Classical Review

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“...Miriam Khalil’s Mameh Cheney, who exudes a charming allure to match a voice of equally lush timbre. Khalil’s aria “Even Now I Hear An Echo” stops the show with its stunning melodic moments and sense of genuine desperation.”

Erin Ridge, MD Theatre Guide

“I especially liked the sultry Miriam Khalil as Mamah Cheney ...Khalil showed a remarkable ability to modulate the soprano lines, and her soft vocalizes especially delighted me...”

Susan Galbraith, DC Theatre Scene

“In 'Frank, how much longer must I endure…?', Khalil’s powerful voice shake even herself into a true realization of what kind of a man Lloyd Wright is.”

Em Skow, DC Metro Theatre Arts


Noor Haddad in Against the Grain Theatre's BOUND

"Noor Haddad (soprano Miriam Khalil) is a journalist detained for refusing to remove her hijab. Khalil has absolutely gorgeous vocal articulation and control, which she uses to animate convictions suited to her profession: “I believe the truth is stronger.” Even when her defiance gives way to loneliness, she draws strength from knowing there are others facing the same struggle."

Dylan Schoenmakers, Opera Canada

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“Playing the journalist Noor Haddad, soprano Miriam Khalil sang with a fire and clarity that rattled the bricks. Delicately manoeuvring through her range and expressing a myriad of complex emotions.”

Greg Finney, Schmopera

"Soprano Miriam Khalil was Noor Haddad, a woman wrapped in grace, her hijab a reflection of her dignity and strength. Dramatically centered, vocally lustrous shading to pianissimo in times of deep reflection, Khalil held us spellbound. The compact, self-contained Middle Eastern-flavoured coda that so electrified when first heard months ago — the shimmering conclusion to her poignant solo, Ah! My soul is trembling with fear — spoke perhaps even more abundantly now of limitless human pain."

Ian Ritchie, Opera Going Toronto

“Khalil flaunts her ravishing soprano in Alcina’s “Ah mio cor!” The new, English text connects the soulful aria to a contemporary perspective, allowing the shift to the B section to deliver an even heavier emotional impact. As the aria returned to the A section, Mokrzewski and Khalil manipulated the tonal structure, leaning into an Eastern-inspired sound. Khalil’s focused pianissimo in this section was despairingly breathtaking.”

Taylor Long – Opera Canada

“This reinterpretation of “Ah! Mio Cor” from Alcina dissolves the boundaries between the West, characterized by heavily ornamented Handel, and the East, symbolised with melismatic improvisation. Khalil overcame the aria’s high tessitura with her dark soprano voice to deliver an untraditional, but evocative, interpretation. Most memorable was her stillness of at the beginning of the aria as she released a piano to fortecrescendo that left the audience wondering which character was singing.”

Matthew Timmermans, Ludwig Van Toronto

“Soprano Miriam Khalil is Noor Haddad, simultaneously vulnerable and proud, reflective and defiant. Her haunting air, Ah! My soul is trembling with fear, memorably set to Ah! Mio cor, schernito sei! from Alcina glows with lustrous expression. Wrapping the piece in an extraordinary melismatic Middle Eastern-tinted coda, Khalil entrances.”

Ian Ritchie, Opera Going Toronto

“Her singing, as always, was brilliant. Taking a cue from her amazing work in last years Ayre, Khalil added a "cadenza" of sorts to the end of her aria featuring Middle-Eastern/Arabic melodic turns added a world-conscious touch that was breathtaking.”

Greg Finney, Schmopera


Concert, Oratorio, Galas and Other roles

“Khalil has one of the most attractively-coloured sopranos I’ve heard in some time. The voice is lustrous and velvety, big without being strident, and remarkably even throughout its range. Top notes are plush, but it’s her port-wine, beautifully supported low register that stands out. There’s something in her beguiling, sensual timbre and even her countenance — expressive dark eyes in a heart-shaped face — that brings to mind a young Victoria de los Angeles.”

Ottawa Citizen, Natasha Gauthier

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“The voice that really stole the show was the rich, melodious and plummy tones from Miriam Khalil as Adriana. Right from her first entrance, she sang with the ease and grace of a seasoned pro.”

-Jessica Lane, Schmopera/p>

“Miriam Khalil brings full-bodied warmth and ardour to the role of Adriana, whose part can be best described as Puccinian.”

-Michael Johnson Concerto.netp>

 ”Soprano Miriam Khalil has a voice as unusual as it is gorgeous since it emerges with brightness of a soprano but with the timbre of an alto.  This combination plus her gift for phrasing brings out the profundity of all her music, especially the famous air “I know that my Redeemer liveth”.”

Stage Door, Christopher Hoile

”Toronto’s own, soprano Miriam Khalil sings with gorgeous elegance and poise, a velvet sheen to her voice, supple and burnished. Animated, stylish, enchanting, the frequent AtG principal artist lends bold, bright colour to this reverberant Messiah, turning in an irresistible Rejoice greatly, vibrant and glowing.”

Opera Going Toronto, Ian Ritchie

”I was stoked to hear Ms. Khalil again, now in Golijev’s work of exquisite melismatic meanderings, set for soprano, clarinet and string quartet...Ms. Khalil easily filled the hall with the rainbow intensity of her voice... The culmination point, Ms. Khalil’s high C, pivoting off G below it, was a beautiful moment in both concerts, and richly rewarding to hear in both acoustics, entirely appropriate to the composer’s appeal for peace at the end of a period of musical darkness.”

Stephan Bonfield, Calgary Herald

“Khalil has gorgeous vocal tones, particularly in her lower register. She has the capacity to soar above the waves of music as well as ground us in the quieter passages.”

Michael Sobota, Chronicle Journal

“Miriam Khalil brought the piece to life... The vocal part is demanding covering spoken text, melodic passages and declamation (also tambourine playing!). She vocalized equally adeptly in all the registers of her voice and with evenness of colour. Dr. Daniel wrote long passages that demand dramatic singing and Khalil sang them with controlled intensity. They closed with an arrangement of Mahler's Rückert-Lieder...Khalil acted the songs with her voice and expression, as one must do in interpreting art song. In the last song, Mitternacht, she sang out the final heroic stanzas, hinting at what her voice might become over time.”

David S. Fawcett

“Miriam Khalil also convincingly demonstrated her range dexterity in Handel's ever-popular “Piangerò” “Highlights included …Khalil's reverently thoughtful “Song to the moon.”

James Wegg, JWR

“Khalil's single movement -- No. 5, Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit -- is perhaps the most moving of the seven movements.”

Ted Shaw, The Windsor Star

“Khalil is a raven-haired beauty of Lebanese descent who mesmerized the judges, singing three arias… Her diction in all three languages, Italian, English and French was impeccable and her tone exquisite”

OperaBuffs News

“Miriam Khalil, provided a wonderful afternoon of French art songs and operatic arias, as well as two well-received encores following a standing ovation from our large, enthusiastic audience”

OperaBuffs News, Western New York

“Khalil has a gorgeous, romantic, arching sound that immediately commands the ear. Hers is truly a beautiful and distinctive voice."

Paula Citron, Opera Canada