By Joseph So, SPRING 2014 ISSUE, purchase the digital magazine here.
This past winter found Canadian-born, New York based soprano Leslie Ann Bradley busier than ever, making her debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as soloist in Mozart’s Coronation Mass
Born and raised in Port Perry, Ontario, Bradley’s father is a farmer and her mother a fashion stylist; “I received a good education—from Coco Chanel to John Deere,” she quips in a newpromotional video she made in the U.K. last year. While her music loving parents recognized her talents, an organist-grandmother inspired the young Leslie Ann to a life in music. One of her earliest memories is of standing on a piano bench as a five-year-old singing through the hymn book with her grandmother at the keyboard. “Apparently, I told my Grade 9 typing teacher that I was going to bean opera singer,” she says, even though she hadn’t gone to an opera at that point. “I saw this thing on TV, which turned out to be La traviata, and I knew right then and there that’s what I wanted to do.” Bradley learned from some of the best voice teachers in Canada and abroad. She speaks fondly of her first teacher at University of Toronto, Mary Morrison: “She was terrific. I was hungry to learn and she fed me as much as I could absorb, music of all kinds from Baroque to new music.” Her lyric soprano has always had an upper extension with excellent coloratura, so her first professional engagement was as the Queen of the Night for Saskatoon Opera at age 20. “Instead of saying no, Mary was encouraging. She taught me not to be afraid.” As the voice matured, it settled lower in the range, and Montreal teacher Marie Daveluy, who also taught Karina Gauvin, honed Bradley into a true Mozartian. Her natural affinity for the French repertoire was a result of studying with Françoise Pollet at the Academie International de musique Maurice Ravel in France. Currently, Bradley works with Wendy Nielsen, mentor to many young Canadian artists.
Currently, Bradley is completely captivated by the voice and artistry of the late Austrian soprano, Lisa Della Casa, perhaps themost aristocratic Arabella of all. Perhaps not so likely a role model is the late American mezzo, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, whose artistry and spiritual quality Bradley greatly admires: “She has been a huge inspiration. I got to know people who knew her well and what her impact had been on them. And then I started listening to her—the soul of that woman, and how directly she communicates!”
Given her vocal gifts, Bradley’s future seems bright. Equally important is her musical intelligence, her strong sense of self and her ability to stay focused in her career: “The best advice I’ve ever received was from Dawn Upshaw, who I met at Tanglewood in 2011. She said that we singers must choose the kind of career we want. As young singers, we often want to please people and get caught up in asking permission without asking ourselves if what we are doing is true to ourselves. I was so inspired because she is fearless about who she is as an artist and what she wants to achieve. Right then and there I adopted her motto, and I try to make my choices as courageously as she has made hers.” —Joseph So