JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, what would you say?
AMBUR BRAID: Ambur Braid, Torontonian, Humanitarian, Dinner Party Enthusiast, Sommelier, Painter, Therapist, Opera Singer.
JS: What important beliefs do you express in your work?
AB: I just try to embody a role and communicate an intention.
JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.
AB: David Bowie has always been my hero. His looks, his values, his inspirations. He’s just my favourite. I also admire Leonard Bernstein. Nobody has ever been able to conduct with their eyebrows quite like he could.
JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?
AB: As a horribly shy and gangly child, I wasn’t awesome at a lot of things. When I first started working in the arts I felt like I belonged there. It was a natural fit and I’m so pleased that my parents saw that I needed that outlet and that they nurtured it so much.
JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?
AB: Being too sensitive.
JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.
AB: Moving to Athens to live and work with Marina Krilovici. We did things the old school way (two lessons a day) and worked on new, bigger repertoire for my voice.
JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?
AB: That it’s not a hobby, it’s a calling.
JS How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?
AB: It’s what I’m meant to do. I’ve tried to run from it and it always pulls me back in.
JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?
AB: I’ve never been confident or content with my work, so it would be nice to do something that I can be proud of!
Next season will be the first one where I am singing roles that actually “fit” my voice – the bigger Verdi and Donizetti. I’ve been waiting my whole singing life for this!
JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?
AB: Happy dinner guests.
JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?
AB: Just do you.
JS: Of what value are critics?
AB: Educating potential audience members is always a good thing.
JS: What do you ask of your audience?
AB: Turn your phone off and be present. Please. Even at intermission. Live-tweeting is my nemesis.
JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world?
AB: SO much. Let’s have a glass of wine and discuss homelessness, race and equality some time.
JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?
AB: This isn’t really a business that condones reminiscing. Sure, there were some great moments, but the stakes are getting higher and things are getting more and more exciting for each contract.
JS: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?
AB: Being a figure in the media has only made me more reclusive, in a way. I’m not the type of person who strategizes how I would like people to perceive me, so I would rather just spend time with my family and friends and be the weirdo that I am.
JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why
AB: I do believe that it is time to return to Sicily! What a gorgeous place. Anywhere that has fabulous wine, food and beaches is ideal. Crete is on my hit list this year as well. I’ve spent a lot of time in Athens over the past three years, but have not seen most of the islands.
JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us
AB: Learning Tosca and doing a world premiere of a Canadian work in the Spring about sex slavery. My parents will be so proud.
These matter to me because it’s important to challenge yourself and push the boundaries of what you think capable, in this case, singing about a relevant subject matter accompanied by challenging music, in Ukrainian!