by Mike Telin
As a young girl growing up in the Caribbean, soprano Jeanine De Bique had no idea that it was possible to make a living as an opera singer. “I come from Trinidad and Tobago, where you are surrounded by music all day long. Whether it’s classical music, calypso, soca, or chutney, it’s always around you,” De Bique said during a Skype conversation from Barbados.
“When I finished high school at 18, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought about being a lawyer or physiologist, but my voice teacher asked me if I wanted to pursue music. I had no clue that you could have a career in opera. When a country doesn’t have any means for you to see an opera — where people are doing that as their job — you have no idea that those jobs exist.”
On Wednesday, March 16 beginning at 7:30 pm at the HUB 55 Complex, 1361 E. 55th Street in Cleveland, Jeanine De Bique will join CityMusic Cleveland for the first of five area concerts that will feature arias by Grieg, Bizet, and Puccini. Guest conductor Joaquin Valdepeñas will also lead the orchestra in performances of Beethoven’s Overture to Prometheus and Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral.” See our Concert Listings page for additional times and locations.
De Bique, who will make her Cleveland debut at these concerts, said that
“Solveig’s Song” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt reminds her of an art song. “It’s very beautiful, and very easy singing — there’s nothing stressful. It’s about a girl who’s longing to see her partner again. I found this song years ago when I was on tour with the North Netherlands Orchestra, but I got laryngitis and never got to sing it. So this will be my first time singing it with any orchestra.” The song requires her to sing in Norwegian. “I’m lucky to have friends who know the language. They were able to help me with the text and proper pronunciation, which was nice.”
The soprano said that it is physically taxing to sing “Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante” from Bizet’s Carmen. “You have to have a lot of stamina to sing it. You think it’s about to finish, then it goes on for another verse, but I do like singing it.”
De Bique will conclude her portion of the program with “Quando m’en vo’ soletta” from Puccini’s La Bohème. “I’m performing the role of Musetta with the Scottish Opera on a tour later in the year. It’s a role that is challenging for me, so I’m happy to be able to sing this aria in Cleveland. I never liked the character of Mimi very much, but every girl can relate to Musetta at some point in their life. The part is very small, but you get those five minutes of fame with this aria. That’s where the pressure lies for me in singing that role. You’ve got to sing your face off and everybody goes crazy, then everything moves on. But you want everybody to remember it when they leave the theater. I like taking on that challenge.”
Although she may not have grown up knowing that it was possible to make a living as an opera singer, Jeanine De Bique did grown up studying classical music. “My mom was a musician at one time, and she put my sisters and me through piano lessons. We were also in the school choir. Our instructor would hold auditions to see who would sing the solos, and I always won.”
It was during secondary school that De Bique’s talent for singing caught the attention of a voice teacher who had studied at London’s Royal College of Music. “She asked me if I wanted to take lessons together with a couple other girls, which I did. Then I started to take private lessons with her when I was sixteen.”
After finishing high school and deciding that she did want to pursue music as a career, De Bique began looking at conservatories in Europe as well as North America. “My teachers were well traveled, mostly in Europe, and they told me, ‘Yes, you can make a living singing classical music.’ They also told me to go to America to get the technique. I wanted to go to the Manhattan School of Music, so I auditioned and I got in.”
Published on ClevelandClassical.com March 14, 2016.
Click here for a printable copy of this article