Barbara Fris is a Canadian soprano who performs both as an opera singer and concert artist. She specializes in opera and classical symphonic works for voice, having performed across Canada, in Europe and the United States where she also has sung a wide range of works that also include operettas, musical theatre, light classics, lieder and art songs.
Fris was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and began her musical studies at the Nova Scotia Teacher's College (Truro), where she obtained an Associate of Education degree and Licentiate as an Early Childhood Specialist (1977). She later graduated from Dalhousie University, Faculty of Music (1980) with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (Honours) and the University of Toronto Opera Division (1983), where she obtained a Diploma in Opera Performance (Honours) as a scholarship student of the noted Dutch baritone, Bernard Diamant and with the support of the Nova Scotia Talent Trust and Canada Council. Ms. Fris completed further post-graduate work at the Accademia dei Rozzi, (Siena Italy) under Maestro Walter Baracchi, former principal coach and conductor at Teatro alla Scala di Milano. Subsequent musical studies led her to New York City where she studied privately with Rita Patané of the Manhattan and Juilliard Schools of Music in Patané’s Carnegie Hall studio.
Mimi in La Bohéme marked the singer’s opera début at the Courtney Summer Music Festival (1982). Her professional career and main-stage opera début was launched in 1984 with her portrayal of Clorinda (La Cenerentola) with the Calgary Opera. Re-engagements with the Calgary Opera and guest appearances with the Manitoba Opera and Edmonton Opera followed.
Fris first attracted national attention when she won the International Bel Canto Foundation Voice Competition (Chicago, Illinois) in 1988. In that same year, she was also a Canadian winner and international finalist in the 3rd Annual International Luciano Pavarotti Voice Competition, resulting in engagements for U.S. audiences in Chicago, Illinois, Philadelphia, and New York City. Her Italian début as Amelia (Simon Boccanegra) at the Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy and re-engagements at the Luino Italia Summer Music Festival as Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) followed. In 1990, Fris performed the world-premiere of Patricia Blomfield Holt's "A Song of Darkness and Light". Since then, she has gone on to become one of Canada's most versatile lyrico-spinto sopranos active today, captivating audiences with her evocative portrayals of opera heroines, her concert performances and recitals.
Fris has appeared on many of the major opera stages throughout Canada, including the Canadian Opera Company, Calgary Opera, Edmonton Opera, Opera Theatre of Alberta, and Manitoba Opera. As soloist, she has performed with orchestras across Canada in a wide array of oratorio and concert repertoire.
Roles she has also played include Liù in Turandot, Norina in Don Pasquale, Zerlina and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, Angelica in Suor Angelica, Violetta in La Traviata, Marguerite in Faust, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Marenka in The Bartered Bride, The Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Mimi and Musetta in La bohème. Her vast opera repertoire also includes Nedda in Pagliacci, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Despina in Così fan tutte, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Micaëla in Carmen, Antonia in Les contes d'Hoffmann, and Desdemona in Otello. Fris is also known for her portrayals of Angelina in Trial by Jury, Mabel in Pirates of Penzance, the title role in Guiditta and Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, always to critical and audience acclaim.
Barbara Fris has been praised by the Edmonton Journal “…sings with a sensuous warmth, great reserves of power and emotional expressiveness.” Ms. Fris possesses a gorgeous vocal instrument with illuminating beauty of tone … "a songstress that marries her expressive lyricism with exemplary diction and compelling acting.” Chronicle Herald (Halifax). “Ms. Fris’ voice is full of vocal colours well matched to intensely subjective moods -- evocative and breath-taking. Halifax Mailstar
The CBC has broadcast Ms Fris’ performances in concerts, with festivals and regional orchestras across Canada, nationally in radio and television. Her other television credits include appearances on CTV, CITY and Global networks in their nationally broadcast news features. Most of her recorded works are found in the archives of the various companies she has performed with that, unfortunately, pre-date the now widely used digital recording format. While her discography is limited, some of her more recent live performances have emerged on CD.
In 2008 Fris was declared "one of Toronto’s most artistic, creative and inspiring women” by the Luminato Festival and joined the ranks of other luminaries and well-known faces such as former Governor-General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson, actor Cynthia Dale and journalist Valerie Pringle. Since her professional opera debut in 1984, her personal charisma and vocal beauty continue to endear her to audiences. Barbara Fris makes her home in Toronto, Canada. In addition to her performing activities, she maintains a large, private voice studio and is in demand as a vocal clinician, performance coach and for her Masterclasses.
She was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1988 International Bel Canto Voice Competition in Chicago and has been a prizewinner at other competitions including the Luciano Pavarotti Competition in Philadelphia, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Great Lakes District) in Toronto and the MacAllister Voice Competition in Indianapolis. She is also a recipient of several prestigious Canada Council and Nova Scotia Talent Trust Awards and the Arnold Walter and Canadian Opera Company Women's Guild Scholarships.