soprano is bright and agile, and she uses vibrato and ornamentation
vividly to extract telling nuances from words and music." (Gramophone)
"One of Toronto's classical treasures, soprano Shannon Mercer...shapes long, arching melodies with the unforced ease of someone sipping their second Long Island iced tea. This is a pool of song one wants to swim around in for hours." (Toronto Star)
"I was immediately captivated by Mercer's singing and could not stop listening or write a single word of comment until the entire cycle was finished. Yes, she's that good... Every phrase is caressed so lovingly, the music emerging from her throat with a pearl-like shimmer and the dynamic changes so tastefully and subtly applied, that she makes each song a special event...You keep waiting for the spell to break, but it never does. This is the work of a master artist." (Fanfare)
Recognized for the luminosity and effortless agility of her voice, as well as her commanding stage presence and profound acting ability, Canadian soprano Shannon Mercer enthusiastically embraces a range of repertoire from early to contemporary music, from Francesca Caccini and Monteverdi to John Beckwith and Ana Sokolovic. Shannon maintains a busy and challenging performance calendar of opera, concert, and recital engagements throughout North America and Europe while also sustaining an active recording presence, capturing some rarely performed works.
One of the highlights of Shannon’s 2016-2017 season is an extended run with Necessary Angel Theatre Company and Canadian Stage in a new production All But Gone: A Beckett Rhapsody following the critical success of Beckett: Feck It!. Presented at Toronto’s Berkeley Theatre throughout October and November the new work is a musical exploration of the absurd and evocative imagery of Samuel Beckett directed by Jennifer Tarver and with musical direction by Dáirine NÍ Mheadhra. The season also sees Shannon perform in the Canadian premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici as part of the University of Toronto’s New Music Festival and return to Pax Christi Chorale for a concert featuring Parry’s Ode on the Nativity and Palestrina’s Hodie Christus Natus Est.
Recent seasons have seen saw Shannon return to her acclaimed role of Pamina in the Calgary Opera production of Die Zauberflöte andin both Monteverdi’s Orfeo (as Messagiera) and l’Incoronazione di Poppea (as Ottavia) at the Boston Early Music Festival. In concert, Shannon appeared on tour with Ensemble Caprice to Montreal, Washington D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, with the Naples Philharmonic in Florida, Handel’s Messiah with the Oregon Symphony, Dean Burry’s The Mummers’ Masque with the Toronto Masque Theatre, in concert with Catacoustic Consort in Cincinnati, in Berg’s Seven Early Songs and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the East Texas Symphony, Bach’s Mass in B minor with the Bach Sinfonia in Washington D.C., “American Dream” with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra. Sacred music performances include Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine and Tremblay’s Les Vêpres de la Vierge presented by Soundstreams, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major with the Calgary Philharmonic, Handel’s Messiah with the Newfoundland Symphony, Bach Cantatas with Les Violons du Roy, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the St. Lawrence Choir and Montréal Bach Festival Orchestra.
Other recent highlights include both European and Canadian tours of Ana Sokolovic’s Svadba - Wedding with Queen of Puddings Musical Theatre which took her to Paris, Belgrade, Orléans and Dublin as well as throughout Western Canada and to Philadelphia, an educational tour to Sault Ste-Marie and Sudbury with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, performances with Ensemble Caprice of their highly acclaimed recording collaboration Salsa Baroque in Ottawa, Tel Aviv and Stockstadt, Germany, a US West-Coast tour with Les Voix Baroques and Early Handel Cantatas with Tragicomedia conducted by Stephen Stubbs in Boston and New York. She also debuted in Mexico City in Bach's Mass in B-minor with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico and Carlos Miguel Prieto. Shannon has appeared in Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Stephen Stubbs presented by Pacific MusicWorks, Handel’s Solomon with Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Québec, and Mozart’s Requiem with the Vancouver Chamber Choir.
Fostering a deep commitment to performances of contemporary opera, Shannon has appeared with The Queen of Puddings Music Theatre in a number of works by Canadian composer Ana Sokolovic: Svadba - The Wedding, Love Songs, a one-woman virtuosic tour-de-force in performances across Canada and at the 2010 Holland Festival, and a production of The Midnight Court in London (UK). She has also participated in world premieres of James Rolfe’s Inês, John Beckwith’s Crazy to Kill, and Andrew Hamilton’s Beckett: Feck It!
Acclaimed for her interpretation of Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Lyra Ottawa, Opera Hamilton, and with Pacific Opera in both Victoria and London, Shannon has also appeared as Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with the Canadian Opera Company, and has made her much-lauded French debut in the title role of Marin Marais's Sémélé which was recorded with the renowned Hérve Niquet/Le Concert Spirituel on Glossa: “Mercer’s Semele seduces” (BBC Music Magazine).
Shannon has performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall with Les Violons du Roy, Roy Thomson Hall with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in Luc Beausejour’s Clavecin en Concert, in Houston with Mercury Baroque and Les Voix Baroques, and at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in an all-Mozart recital featuring renowned American soprano Barbara Bonney.
CDs & DVDs
Illustrating Shannon’s breadth of musical interests and exceptional vocal talent, her award-winning discography ranges from baroque to contemporary, from traditional Welsh folk music to Christmas songs. Her latest releases include Trobairitz with La Nef and Sean Dagher containing songs by female troubadours in the South of France (Analekta) and the 2014 Juno-Award-nominated disc of Berlioz’s Les Nuits d'été and Palej's The Poet and the War with Toronto’s group of twenty-seven (g27) (Centaur) and A Traditional Christmas with John McDermott and Virginia Hatfield. Shannon has also recently released two versions of Bach’s St. John Passion, one with Les Voix Baroques and Arion Baroque Orchestra (ATMA) and one with Portland Baroque Orchestra conducted by Monica Huggett (AVIE). Other recordings include ▪ Vivaldi: The Return of the Angels ▪ the JUNO Award winning ▪ Gloria! Vivaldi's Angels, both on Analekta, ▪ the JUNO-nominated Salsa Baroque with Ensemble Caprice (Analekta) and ▪the Prix Opus-nominated O Viva Rosa (Analekta), one of the first recordings entirely devoted to Francesca Caccini. Shannon’s other recordings include ▪ Wales ~ The Land of Song, ▪ the JUNO-nominated Bach and the Liturgical Year ▪ Mondonville, ▪ English Fancy (Analekta) and ▪ Marin Marais’s Sémélé (Glossa). Shortly to be released on the Analekta label are Trobairitz featuring songs composed by Sean Dagher based on texts from 12th and 13th century women troubadours from the Occitan region of France and Adagio with Ensemble Caprice.
Shannon can be heard in two of renowned Canadian composer Alexina Louie’s comic operas: in the DVD of Gemini-nominated Burnt Toast, an 8-vignette series directed by Larry Weinstein and as Minister Blais Grenier in Mulroney: The Opera which premiered in movie theatres across Canada in April 2011. A hit in movie theatres across Europe and now available on DVD, Shannon also stars as Judith in the film version of Monty Python funny-man Eric Idle’s Not the Messiah, a role she debuted in the world premiere at Toronto’s 2007 Luminato Festival and at the Caramoor Festival and subsequently reprised on a US tour to Houston, Washington, and Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl and at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.
An alumnus of San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera Summer Program, Shannon began her operatic career as a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Program. A Career Development Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and winner of the 2004 Bernard Diamant Prize, allowed Shannon to spend an extended period of time in Vienna where she studied German operatic repertoire with renowned voice coach Margaret Singer. She also received the Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Women's Musical Club of Toronto Career Development Award.
A native of Ottawa, Shannon Mercer now resides in Toronto.