Joyce El-Khoury

Joyce El-Khoury

Soprano

• Born ca1982

Biography

The Lebanese-born Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury is a rising star of bel canto opera, with a busy schedule of both well-known and novel repertory items. In addition to appearances in Canada, she has appeared with opera companies in the U.S. and as far afield as Korea.

El-Khoury was born into a Christian family in Lebanon around 1982. Her paternal grandfather was a fine singer who often performed in churches around her village. El-Khoury and her family moved to Canada when she was six; she spoke Arabic and French but no English, and she suffered bullying as a child. She began singing in school and in church, stopping temporarily after suffering an episode of severe stage fright, but she forced herself three years later to return to the stage. At that moment, she decided she wanted to be a singer and began taking voice lessons. El-Khoury enrolled at the University of Ottawa, planning to study medicine or nursing, but her parents encouraged her to pursue her love of singing, and she was admitted to the university's music school even though she did not know how to read music at the time. She went on to the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, studying with Bill Schuman, and then was admitted to the Lindemann Young Artists Development Program at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Another major breakthrough came in 2010 when she was hired at conductor Lorin Maazel's Castleton Festival in Virginia to perform the role of Lauretta in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi but stepped in as a substitute in the title role of Suor Angelica instead, on opening night. The impressed Maazel became an important mentor to the young singer, who had won first prize at the Mario Lanza Vocal Competition and several other awards.

El-Khoury began to find major roles at smaller houses, and smaller roles at major ones, including Frasquita in Bizet's Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera. She sang the role of Violetta in Verdi's La traviata at several different houses, including the Dutch National Opera, and she developed a repertory of early 19th century bel canto operas, including Donizetti's rare Les Martyrs, which she recorded for the Opera Rara label in 2015. She also issued Écho, a collection of little-known arias, for the same label in 2017. By the late 2010s, El-Khoury was appearing in major European houses; she sang Violetta at Britain's Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne Festival in 2017, and the 2018-2019 season saw her sing the role of Musetta at the Teatro Real de Madrid. In 2019, she appeared on an Audite-label recording of Liszt's unfinished opera Sardanapolo.

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