Tracy Smith Bessette
Voice Instructor , Early Music Ensembles Co-Coordinator
B.Mus. (University of Calgary), Art. Dip. (University of Toronto), M.Mus. and D.Mus. (McGill University)
Praised for “her poise, wealth of expressive nuance and fine projection” (Opera News), Canadian soprano Tracy Smith Bessette has inspired audiences throughout North America and Europe. Celebrated for her radiant warmth and clarity of expression, Ms. Smith Bessette is sought after for both the concert and the opera stages and has worked with eminent conductors including Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Bernard Labadie, Hervé Niquet, Marc Minkowski, Christophvon Dohnanyi, John Nelson, Sylvain Cambreling, Pinchas Steinberg and Andrew Parrott.
Ms. Smith Bessette’s expertise spans the gamut of musical eras and styles. Her rich and varied repertoire includesart song, oratorio, chamber music and opera with an added specialization in Early Music, particularly of the late Baroque. She holds a Doctorate of Music from McGill University where she studied with the renowned Sanford Sylvan. Her doctoral research covered the fields of “Handel Ornamentation,” “Breath Management,” and “Bel Canto Performance Practice” culminating in a final thesis entitled “Making sense of the “vibrato wars”: Exploration and application of varying vibrato in Handel’s opera seria arias.” She holds a deep passion for teaching and is honoured and excited to be the newest member of the voice faculty at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music.
Educated at the University of Calgary, the University of Toronto, and McGill University, Ms. Smith Bessette also studied at the prestigious Tanglewood Festival and the Music Academy of the West. After completing a two-year program with the Opéra de Montréal’s Atelier Lyrique, she continued her operatic training at the Opéra National de Paris with a two-year engagement at the Centre de formation lyrique where she brought to life Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Tytania (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Zdenka (Arabella). The following season brought her main-stage debuts with the Opéra National de Paris on both the Opera Bastille and the Palais Garnier stages, singing FünfteMagd (Elektra) under Christoph von Dohnanyi and Feklusha (Katya Kabanova) under Sylvain Cambreling. She alsounderstudied several roles at the Opéra National de Paris, including Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Echo (Ariadne auf Naxos) and Morgana (Alcina).
A great deal of Ms. Smith Bessette’s career has been focused around Early Music in the realms of oratorio, opera and chamber music. Performance highlights include St. John’s Passion and Israel in Egypt with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Charpentier’s Messe du Minuit, Israel in Egypt and a concert of Rameau arias under Bernard Labadie, Handel's Messiah in France and Spain with Le Concert Spirituel and Hervé Niquet, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Sacred Cantatas under Kevin Mallon, and Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Requiem with the Choeur et Orchestre des Grandes Écoles in Paris.
With Toronto’s Aradia Ensemble, she has recorded two volumes of Christmas Motets by Charpentier, and one volume of Vivaldi’s sacred music, all on the Naxos label. The latter received considerable critical acclaim, and BBC Music Magazine’s George Pratt said
“Tracy Smith Bessette is a glorious soprano. Her fluent passage-work is a particular delight, enhanced by exciting ornaments stretching her to Baroque-pitch top D. [Her voice is] gloriously fresh and uncomplicated, whether in the vitality of Vivaldi’s concerto-like allegros or in her heavenly sound in slow movements.”
Ms. Smith Bessette has made three short films (Forsaken, The Sorcerer, Love Song) with director Laura Taler based on lieder by Hugo Wolf, W.A. Mozart and Gustav Mahler for the arts channel BRAVO! She has also filmed two television shows for BRAVO! entitled “Shakespeare in Words and Music” where she interpreted Ophelia and “German Cabaret” where she sang Schönberg’s Brettl Lieder.