"Alicia in the Sky with Diamonds"
Tom Murray, See Magazine
Edmonton June 8 - June 14, 2006

Opera singer aims for pop crossover
"Alicia Guilder is like any other young singer excited at a burgeoning career.

"I’m also a little panicky at the moment," admits the 26-year-old Fort McMurray native, just in from battling traffic after a long day at work. That’s understandable–everything is happening at once. The night before she performed a set at NextFest, and now she’s preparing for her official CD release at Four Rooms this Sunday.

Yup, sounds like your standard struggling young vocalist makes good story–except that it isn’t.

That’s because Guilder is a professional opera singer–her chorus roles at the Edmonton Opera include such productions as
Turandot, Madama Butterfly, South Pacific, Lakmé, Porgy & Bess, Filumena, and La Bohème.

"I love opera," she says simply. "But I’m also open to doing other things–and that’s kind of how this album came to be."

The album in question is her self-titled debut, an independent production that features the local soprano in a number of different musical settings. That was by design–rather than constraining herself to the world of opera, Guilder decided to take a few chances. There aren’t a lot of self-financed records coming out from opera singers, and even less that feature the mix of opera, pop, light classical and Sicilian folk that Guilder flirts with.

"I wasn’t even thinking about doing it that way," she admits, "but then an acquaintance from Fort McMurray made some suggestions about what I record."

To say it’s an oddly programmed record would be an understatement–three tracks from Puccini operas, two from Mozart, a Sicilian folk song, Gershwin’s "Summertime," and... "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"?

That’s not the only pop tune on the album–she also tries her hand at Amanda Marshall’s "If I Didn’t Have You" and Shirley Bassey’s "Never, Never, Never" as well. They work well together, even if there is a slight jolt of bemusement when the lush orchestration of Puccini’s
Nessun Dorma (from Turandot), turns to the jaunty, accordion propelled "Mamma" (also a favorite of Pavarotti).

She has alternating string quartets on the classical pieces, with a crack band of session musicians (including long time k.d. lang associate Teddy Borowiecki) popping up for the pop tunes.

"We did the opera songs over two days, and then brought in the other musicians," she says. "The change from opera to pop was kind of tough, but it’s something that I’m getting used to."

Guilder understands that people might find her musical choices somewhat schizophrenic.

"I guess the main reason I’m doing it is to try and broaden perspectives," she says. "I enjoy doing both types of music–I kind of have Sarah Brightman as an idol when it comes to this kind of thing."

Brightman came from the opposite side of the equation–first a disco singer and musical theatre performer, she eventually achieved success by presenting a hybrid opera-pop formula that piled on the vocal dramatics while toning down musical complexity.

From a very young age there was never any doubt that Guilder would be singing opera–she received private vocal training in her pre-teens and teens, eventually moving on to a Bachelor of Music at the University of Lethbridge in 2002. Her orchestral debut as a guest soloist came with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, and she represented Fort McMurray at the provincial/national competition in Edmonton the next year, picking up an award for distinction and a recommendation as alternate for the national competition in Nova Scotia that year.

This is only the start of her career, however–Guilder has the ambition to take it as far as she can.

"I want to take this a lot further," she says frankly. "And I’d like to have the choice to be able to perform both types of music, though," she stresses, "I have to say that opera will always be my first choice. It’s my career choice, and what I love the most."
   
   
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