"Le baryton Peter McGillivray a du coffre dans la peau du docteur Bartolo et il livre de bons moments vocaux dans cette scène où il suspecte Rosina d’avoir écrit une lettre au comte Almaviva"
- Yves Leclerc, Le Journal de Québec
"Peter McGillivray est tout à fait comique en Dr Bartolo"
- Josianne Desloges, Le Soleil
"McGillivray as the boorish stepfather always threatened to go over the top without actually doing so, in a very comic performance."
-Mark Morris, Edmonton Journal
"Don Magnifico (Peter McGillivray) is great as a bumbling idiot who respects food and wine more than he respects people"
-Kevin Pennyfeather, Vue Weekly
"Peter McGillivray's Don Magnifico, a brusque inebriate with an eye on improving his financial situation by marrying off one of his two self indulgent daughters - Clorinda (Caitlin Wood) and Tisbe (Sylvia Szadovszki) - to Prince Ramiro (John Tessier), was marvelously obnoxious and obsequious by turns. In his first scene, dressed in boxers, sleeveless undershirt and inflate ring housecoat, he was every bit the self-regarding boor, chomping on plates of food and gluttonously guzzling wine. McGillivray clearly relished the assignment."
-Bill Rankin, Opera Canada
"Peter McGillivray and Keith Klassen, both with a decade or so of experience behind them, were terrific as Bassett the gardener and Uncle Oscar respectively."
- Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail
"As Bassett, baritone Peter McGillivray gave us another of his animated performances that keeps you drawn in without pulling the focus - it's a tough balance to master as the comprimario in a show, but he does it with aplomb. His full baritone voice added a paternal quality to his character that leads you to believe that he really does have Paul's best interest at heart. It's not until the very end when you see him get steamrolled by Oscar's desire for wealth that you realize he's not as strong a personality in the household as he (and you) maybe thought he was."
- Gregory Finney, Schmopera.com
"Peter McGillivray with his resonant baritone brings out the suspicious kindliness of Bassett."
- Christopher Hoile, Opera News
"Baritone Peter McGillivray is Bassett, rough hewn, rock steady, his rustic-inflected recits betraying a character bound by class, plainspoken, fundamentally honest despite a singularly insatiable appetite for making a quick buck."
- Ian Ritchie, Opera Going Toronto
“There’s some strong singing, particularly from baritone Peter McGillivray as Dr. Bartolo… McGillivray received the most vocal applause at curtain. He’s a fine singer, particularly impressive during A un dottor della mia sorte, when a jealous Bartolo interrogates and lectures Rosina. McGillivray is also a gifted comic actor, one of those performers able to project humour and whimsy with a gesture or a look. His turns were among the most enjoyable of the evening.”
-Adrian Chamberlain, Victoria Times-Colonist
"Peter McGillivray as the buffoonish baritone Dr. Bartolo embraced the silliness...He owns this opera. He's so funny and a great singer and he was rewarded at final curtain as the audience applauded him."
- David Lennam, CBC Radio One
"Two stars rose high above the rest in Pacific Opera Victoria's staging of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia - the spun-sugar set of designer Ken MacDonald and the convincingly conniving Dr. Bartolo of baritone Peter McGillivray...Barbiere is a boisterous tale about love, lust and greed, but perhaps under the influence of the set's refined beauty, this one didn't really romp--except when McGillivray was let loose in Act 1, Scene II. He's a fine singer and an even finer comic actor who gave the production a vitality... the production improved vastly as McGillivray took over, ably assisted by bass Giles Tompkins as music teacher Don Basilio and the clear-voiced mezzo Sylvia Szadovszki as the love interest, Rosina. With McGillivray in command...POV's Barbieri turned into a charmer of a show in the end."
- Robin J. Miller, Opera Canada
"High praise is owed to baritone Peter McGillivray for his virtuoso performance as Bartolo. McGillivray channelled Daffy Duck’s spluttering rages, but for all of his physical comedy and over-the-top bluster the role never got away from him vocally."
- Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen
"Les deux barytons en particulier, Joshua Hopkins et Peter McGillivray, se montent très à leur aise dans la surenchère comique: le premier dans le coloré costume de Figaro, adorable fanfaron, aussi gesticulateur et fantasque que peut l'être Arlequino; le second n'économisant pas les grimaces dans le rôle de l'odieux Bartolo, ce riche barbon autoritaire que le trium virat composé de Figaro-Rosine-Alamaviva fera tourner en bourrique."
-Yves Bergeras, Le Droit
"Peter McGillivray delivers a bravissimo performance as Bartolo the bumbling bully, playing up the role with spluttering fits of rage, explosive tantrums and lots of physical humour with consistently strong vocals throughout."
-Chrissy Steinbock, Apt613.com
"Also extremely important was Peter McGillivray (Bass-Baritone) as Bartolo who projected the extraordinary richness of his voice whether he was whispering, grumbling, snorting or grunting with jealousy, even plotting revenge, until he finally blossomed into beautiful tones in his aria in Act I scene II where he defends his dignity as Un Dottor della mia sorte. Act II during his hysterical patter with Almaviva disguised as Don Alonso (tenor Isiah Bell), the substitute music teacher was also an electrifying moment. McGillivray especially generally carried the vocal performances and brought the opera up several notches."
- Alvina Ruprecht, CapitalCriticsCircle.com
"As the American consul, Sharpless, Prince Albert’s Peter McGillivray was impressive with great warmth in his vocal and acting performance."
-Heather Persson, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
"The Saskatchewan-born Peter McGillivray gave us a perfect Sharpless, kind but ineffectual as his name suggests. His rich baritone was full and distinct, while he warmly portrayed the 'nice man' in Butterfly's exploding life."
"Vocally, the evening belonged to the three baritone leads [including] Peter McGillivray (Dr. Bartolo). McGillivray’s Bartolo was impressive, less boorish and a little more menacing than most."
-Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen
"Peter McGillivray was his usual talented self, singing perfectly as Bartolo while having several sparkling comic moments."
-Leslie Barcza, BarczaBlog.com
"The height of interaction with the audience came during the air of Damon, sung by Jonathan MacArthur, “Would you gain the tender creature” to Peter McGillivray as the Cyclops Polyphemus in an attempt to teach the giant how to woo a lady. Under Damon’s tutelage, Polyphemus forces himself to reign in his cannibalistic urges and went from woman to woman in the audience practicing kissing their hands though he occasionally would bare his teeth before he remembered that the hand is for kissing, not munching.
Peter McGillivray has a large but nimble baritone and gave a rousing account of “I rage – I melt – I burn” as well as a jaunty “O ruddier than the cherry”. His claw-waving and teeth-gnashing provided the main source of comedy in the piece, but he was able to win some sympathy for the unloved giant in his air “Cease to beauty to be suing.”
-Christopher Hoile, Stage-Door.com
“[The cast] made the most of the opportunities such a setting affords, particularly McGillivray, in an accomplished and effective piece of acting/singing.”
-Mark Morris, Edmonton Journal
“The cast is strong in this production. Peter McGillivray is excellent from first note to last as Thomas, the overprotective father.”
-Stephen Bonfield, Calgary Herald
"Standout roles include... the rich, commanding vocal range of Baritone Peter McGillivray as Mr. Gedge (the vicar)"
-Ariane Colenbrander, Vancouverscape.com
“Peter McGillivray campe un Sharpless impeccable sur les plans vocal et scénique”
-Louis Bilodeau, L’Avant-scène Opéra
“Peter McGillivray, en Sharpless, a fait bonne impression par la belle prestance de [son] voix.”
-Daniel Turp, Blog lyrique
"Baritone Peter McGillivray seemed to relish both the music and the roles he played as well. In a duet with Segal (‘J'ai gravi la montagne’ from “Samson et Dalila”), he was particularly contemptible & snide as the High Priest of Dagon, conveying the essence of the character through his acting as well as his voice. His mellifluous tones and powerful vocal chords filled the room. McGillivray had an opportunity to shine in his aria ‘Di provenza il mar’ from “Traviata”. He sang it beautifully; tenderly, and with lovely sensitivity."
-Eyal Bitton, Ontario Arts Review
“Peter McGillivray was both mellifluous and unctuous, as the vicar”
-Elizabeth Paterson, Review Vancouver
“Peter McGillivray was a robust and energetic Noye, as competent a carpenter and sailor as one might wish to see. His strong, rich baritone which never faltered and confident acting provided a rock-steady base for the excellent but less experienced cast to work with.”
-Elizabeth Paterson, Review Vancouver
“In the main roles, Peter McGillivray was even more impressive as Noye than he had been the evening before as Vicar Gedge”
-Bernard Jacobsen, MusicWeb International
“Falke, the mastermind behind the grand practical joke on Gabriel, was admirably sung with warm, round tone by Peter McGillivray”
-The Hamilton Spectator
“Baritone Peter McGillivray, one of Canada’s finer young singers, made the most of the role of de Brétigny, Manon’s rich lover.”
-The Calgary Herald
“All [the performers] were strong, but special mention must be made of Peter McGillivray’s Raoul/Hernando, which was nothing short of magnificent… He held us in the palm of his hand for most of the time he was on stage.”
-The Toronto Star
“Among a very fine ensemble of singers, pride of place must go to baritone Peter McGillivray as Raoul/Hernando. His central role bears the biggest burden, and he negotiated the difficult and taxing score with great musical skill and all the dramatic chops to create a strong, pivotal character”
“Peter McGillivray delivers as Raoul, being as haughty or harried as needed”
“Peter McGillivray used his rich, resonant baritone to create an immediately engaging portrait of the tragicomic Raoul.”
“Peter McGillivray [last-minute replacement on opening night] goes all out in the too-brief role of Schaunard."
“Former Ensemble member Peter McGillivray nearly stole the show as a lively and big-voiced Schaunard.”
-Joseph So, La Scena Musicale
"McGillivray carries the pompous, self-centered role of the sergeant with aplomb; he’s funny, but convincing as competition for the pining Nemorino."
-Joannne Paulson, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
"The various Gypsy roles were nicely cast too…The two gypsy men, Peter McGillivray as Dancairo and James McLennan as Remendado, provided comic relief and together with the ladies sang an excellent version of the famous quintet in the second act."
-Kenneth DeLong, Calgary Herald
"In the smaller role of Valentin’s soldier friend Wagner, baritone Peter McGillivray also sang well."
-Ken Winters, Globe and Mail
"Une très jolie voix…McGillivray a heureusement eu l’occasion de montrer sa réelle qualité d’acteur dès l’air suivant, celui où Leporello décline la list des maîtresses de Don Juan. Très a l’aise, l’interprète a bien fait rire quand il a sorti de sa poche un agenda électronique… L’extrait du Thaïs de Massenet, servi vers la fin de la première partie, est sans doute celui où le baryton a le mieux montré la qualité de son étoffe, à la fois ronde, brillante et riche… Un autre bon moment que celui où McGillivray a chanté l’air d’Onéguine, tendrement, en russe et, comme l’ensemble de son programme, de mémoire."
-Richard Boisvert, Le Soleil (Québec)
"Things perked up enormously with the arrival of the excellent trio of singers cast as Sid (Peter McGillivray), Nancy (Cerys Jones) and Albert (Allan Clayton): when all three were together, the stage crackled with sexual energy, fuelled both by the expressions of evidently love of butcher boy and baker’s girl, and unwillingly virginal Albert’s mounting frustration."
-Graeme Kay, Opera Magazine
“A uniformly strong cast was led by baritone Peter McGillivray in the title role. Making a welcome return to Canada from his current program of studies in Germany, McGillivray is clearly still on track for the important career that his success in competitions over the past couple of years has promised. The voice is full and strong, and he uses it with a great feel for cadence and line. He’s frankly a bit young to carry this role off convincingly, but that’s picky in the face of such musicality and commitment. His performance was extraordinarily rewarding to the audience.”
-Wayne Gooding, Opera Canada
“Two other Ensemble members, baritone Peter McGillivray as Schaunard, the musician, and bass-baritone Robert Gleadow as Colline, the philosopher, did themselves more than proud. Both sang outstandingly well, both took their lion’s share of the comedy with panache and (in the absence of girlfriends for them in the libretto) with a legitimate touch of camp.”
-Ken Winters, The Globe and Mail
“The finest singing of the evening came from baritone Peter McGillivray, as Albert’s friend Sid. He caught the colour and nuance of every word in his lines and delivered them with a round, cultivated tone that perfectly reflected his character’s self-satisfied suavity.”
-Christopher Hoile, Opera News
“Among the current crop of Ensemble members, baritone Peter McGillivray remains a stand-out. As Mr. Gedge the Vicar, he played with his rich voice to turn lyrics into conversation.”
-Paula Citron, Classical 96.3 FM
“standouts are Peter McGillivray and Michèle Bogdanowicz as Sid and Nancy whose splendid duet showed their emotions and sensuality”
-John Kaplan, NOW magazine
"Bass-baritone Peter McGillivray, was like a thunderbolt from the heavens as he trumpeted the words of the old testament God with dramatic vocal authority. One could almost feel the shaking of “the earth, the sea and the dry land”. The aria “The people that walked in darkness…” displayed his wonderfully expressive singing throughout his wide vocal range."
- David Richards, Toronto Concert Review
“Prior to the waltzes we heard Schoenberg’s reduction of Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with Peter McGillivray in the title role. This bright-sounding baritone projected Mahler’s texts on a personal level, bringing expression to individual words with no disruption of musical line. The many colours McGillivray discovered in the repetitions of “O Weh!” (in Ich hab’ein glühend Messer) can be taken as representative of his approach.”
-Arthur Kaptainis, National Post
"Baritone Peter McGillivray (on crutches because of a recent onstage opera accident) was a sonorous Jesus."
Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette
“McGillivray showed flashes of brass, but was mostly a gently honey coloured baritone, dripping with legato. This was a thoughtful reading, nicely contextualized by Talisker’s inward looking framework for the concert. His second set of songs was a set which I am delighted to have discovered, Finzi's setting of Thomas Hardy poems Footpath and Stile. McGillivray's masterful reading easily blended with the transparent play of the Talisker Quartet. While Hardy sometimes points to darkness, Finzi's folk-inspired idiom is never so dark that we can't see the British landscape underneath."
-Leslie Barcza, barczablog.com
“The guest vocalists — soprano Carla Huhtanen and baritone Peter McGillivray — were exemplary in a concert that revolved around departure and distance…Peter McGillivray’s golden moment was in By Footpath and Stile, a cycle of poems by Thomas Hardy set by British composer Gerald Finzi (1901-1956) when he was in his early 20s. Another substantial effort, this set of songs gave McGillivray an opportunity to express his full range, from rueful to triumphant. McGillivray’s voice continues to grow in richness as well as intensity, and it was a treat to hear the current state of his art. This concert was a wonderful opportunity to be reminded how he and Huhtanen are two of the finest younger singers we have in our midst.”
-John Terauds, MusicalToronto.org
McGILLIVRAY, FRIENDS BRING THE NOISE
“An opera singer’s love of poetic lyricism was apparent during Monday afternoon’s concert at Hi-Way Pentecostal Church when Barrie’s ninth Colours of Music presented Peter McGillivray and Friends, with violinist Brian Lewis and the Ames Piano Quartet.
Mr. McGillivray, an accomplished and seasoned vocalist, chose an array of song cycles set to centuries-old poetry to showcase his rich baritone voice to the delight of the enchanted audience.
From the romantic wanderings of Gerald Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring, set to the prose of Shakespeare, to the melancholy pathos of Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach, a haunting musical rendition of the 1867 Matthew Arnold poem, Mr. McGillivray delivered a beautifully executed and subtly nuanced performance.”
-Marilyn Reesor, Barrie Examiner
“Handel’s soaring music continues to stir, especially when performed by a wonderful ensemble that included … Peter McGillivray… Emerging talent McGillivray’s more introspective delivery grew stronger as the evening progressed, hitting its stride in The trumpet shall sound”
-Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press
“McGillivray’s rich, colourful voice is a natural for this music, and he and Zarankin were wonderfully matched in the intensity they brought to the young man’s wanderings.”
-Catherine Belyea, The Toronto Star
Ottawa Chamber Music Festival
-Handel Aria Concert with Theatre of Early Music
“Peter McGillivray is a young Canadian baritone, born in Saskatchewan and raised in Ontario, the winner of numerous awards and altogether a rising star in the vocal world. McGillivray’s voice is strong and flexible, dark enough to suit most of the material without sounding ponderous. This as particularly appropriate to the second and third of three songs by the American iconoclast, Charles Ives. These songs can be trashed by too arty a presentation, but yesterday’s performances had just the right feeling.”
“Baritone Peter McGillivray sang 'Where’ere you walk' from Semele with great authority and in splendid voice.”
-Richard Todd, The Ottawa Citizen
"Baritone Peter McGillivray sang with force and conviction"
-Richard Todd, Ottawa Citizen
“Deuxième prix au Concours international de Montréal l’an dernier, le baryton Peter McGillivray fut magnifique dans les deux oeuvres: timbre riche, conduite vocale impeccable, intelligence du texte, présence imposante. Il montra ces mêmes qualités- dignes du premier prix- dans un lied tiré d’un recueil de Korngold qui annonçait le Quintette pour piano et cordes du célèbre compositeur de musique de film.”
-Claude Gingras, La Presse (Montreal)
“The music… represents the pinnacle of British songcraft. These are works that sound deceptively easy when performed right, as they were yesterday. But underneath all the pulse, shimmer and motion is a lot of hard work demanding great artistic subtlety. Fortunately, everyone present was up to the task. Particularly engaging was McGillivray, whose warm voice continues to develop, and who can convey a wide range of moods with just a few gestures and inflections. He had the luck to sing one of the wittiest works of the art-song repertoire, Britten’s “Tell Me the Truth About Love,” from a poem by W.H. Auden. Where else, in all of Western music, does anyone ask if love might sneak up on them while they are picking their nose?”
-John Terauds, The Toronto Star
BARITONE LIKELY SET FOR STARDOM
“A little Mahler often goes a long way. Imagine a little Mahler not going long enough? The difference comes with the right voice. Prince Albert-born baritone Peter McGillivray joined the Regina Symphony Orchestra for Saturday evenings concert at the Centre for the Arts. He sang only Gustav Mahler’s song cycle, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), and it seemed to be over too soon. The cycle is a rather self-pitying aggregation of young Mahler’s own verses on lost love. What elevated the listening here was the range of McGillivray’s voice. He has the delicacy, he has the power; he has a most enviable low register, and he is capable of rising beautifully to tenor heights. One should expect to see McGillivray rise to international operatic stardom.”
-David Green, Regina Leader-Post
“The second half was devoted to three groups of songs sung by baritone Peter McGillivray. Also a CBC competition winner… McGillivray is a first-class recitalist. Blessed with a voice of considerable amplitude with a ringing top and a strong lower register, McGillivray showed his interpretive flexibility in exquisite performances of songs by the Canadian composer Derek Holman, Francis Poulenc, and Jean Sibelius. While all three sets were excellent sung, the Poulenc and Sibelius groups were especially fine, the character of the modern French songs beautifully interpreted, and the intense romanticism of the early Sibelius songs warmly presented.”
-Kenneth DeLong, Calgary Herald
"Peter McGillivray opened the program with Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe, 16 harrowing songs composed in one week during the 30-year-old composer’s remarkable “year of song”, 1840... [A] marvelously integrated performance of the fraught Heine/Schumann monodrama. He certainly deserves further opportunities to present his gripping rendition of this great work."
"the total identification with the songs, we got from Mr. McGillivray"
-Michael Johnson, ConcertoNet.com
“The theme of this collection of songs by British, American, German and French composers is the glorious season of summer — especially enticing as I write this on a cold February day. Originally from Saskatchewan, raised in Ontario, baritone Peter McGillivray chimes in here with his first solo CD, no doubt a labour of love that he put together himself, since neither the disc not artwork indicate a label name or catalogue number. Nevertheless, he went about it in first-class fashion in a recording made last summer at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. With veteran former CBC Radio producer Keith Horner at the helm and the equally esteemed recording engineer David Burnham at the controls, the result is beautifully clean and transparent, with ideal balance of voice and Liz Upchurch’s piano (she plays stylishly throughout).
McGillivray’s rich and blooming baritone is, of course, the star attraction. His voice is always keenly focused, rock steady, with nary a wobble, and his enunciation is impeccable at every turn. The featured composers include Quilter, Brahms, Vaughan Williams, Warlock, Ives, Debussy, Chausson, Butterworth and Britten, virtually all settings of texts by inspired, top-tier poets espousing the charms and delights of everyone’s favourite season. McGillivray conjures a magical stillness in Brahm’s “Feldeinsamkeit,” his is gorgeously evocative in Vaughan Williams’ “Silent Noon,” suitably folksy in Ivor Gurney’s lilting “I Will Go With My Father A-Ploughing,” joyous in Warlock’s “In an Arbour Green,” thoroughly tasteful in Debussy’s “Le son du cor s’afflige vers les bois” and delightfully fun-filled in the crazy rhythms and jarring changes of mood and tempo that characterize Ives’ “The Circus Band.” Full texts and (where required) English translations are included.”
-Rick MacMillan, Opera Canada
"Young Toronto baritone Peter McGillivray has teamed up with Canadian Opera Company pianist-coach Liz Upchurch to weave a rich art-song tapestry of summer-themed enchantments. We open our ears to the brash “Daybreak” of Roger Quilter and close with a wistful walk through Benjamin Britten's “Sally Gardens.” In between are treats both boisterous and sweet by a who's who of late-19th century and early-20th century composers from England (Gerald Finzi, Ivor Gurney, Peter Warlock, George Butterworth and Ralph Vaughan Williams), France (Claude Debussy and Ernest Chausson), Germany (Johannes Brahms) and New England (Charles Ives). McGillivray's rich, flexible and strong voice manages to find the right tone and timbre for each text, while he uses his growing operatic experience to tease out the drama from the verse. Upchurch's fluid, colourful accompaniments add lustre to an already glowing musical outing."
-John Terauds, Toronto Star
"Soprano Jacqueline Woodley, mezzo Michele Bogdanowicz, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and bass-baritone Peter McGillivray do a remarkable job of bringing these new (all written in the past five years) works to life in compelling ways, expertly accompanied by pianist Steven Philcox...
It all starts with the Three Norwegian Songs, where McGillivray launches from quasi-spoken narrative into a flight of falsetto rhapsodizing in the short and sweet “With a Rose.” The bass-baritone gets to dig deeply in the third of these songs, a compelling setting of Henrik Ibsen’s “Moonlight Stroll After a Ball.”
-John Terauds, MusicalToronto.org
"The first tracks of Cloud Light are Three Norwegian Songs, performed by Peter McGillivray and Steven Philcox. The two expert musicians create a nebulous sound that feels primordial; McGillivray is well-suited to the composer's chant-like immediacy of the set text, and Philcox finds ringing overtones in the undulating piano part. It's difficult to describe the qualities that come with Scandinavian art song, almost as difficut as describing a sound that is clearly Canadian; yet these qualities are all clear in the Norwegian Songs. Like much of the music featured on Cloud Light, Palej uses open octaves and fifths, and a free, parlando-style delivery of the text; the effect is an ancient sound, free from geography or period of time."
-Jenna Douglas, Schmopera.com
"The song or chanson or lied died with Benjamin Britten – or that is the impression you might have gotten by visiting your neighbourhood record store or any concert hall. While Brahms, Strauss, Schubert and Mahler song cycles are everywhere, very little in that genre seems to have originated since the middle of the 20th century. It is more that the song itself has changed, rather than disappeared. Pianist Steven Philcox and tenor Lawrence Wiliford, directors of the Canadian Art Song Project, summed it up succinctly in the liner notes to this recording: “…the experimentation of the 20th century avant-garde rejected the intimacy that is inherent to the genre…”
Enter Norbert Palej, a Polish-born composer, still in his 30s, currently teaching at the University of Toronto. He restores to the song what for centuries was its golden measure: the intricate relationship between poetry and music, the latter being an emotional outgrowth of the former. All cycles included on this disc evoke an earlier era, with respect for the text and an intimacy of interpretation. Cloud Light, not written for any specific voice, invites comparisons with les nuits d’été by Berlioz. Most surprisingly, despite being an homage to the 19th- and early 20th-century tradition of song, the work sounds utterly contemporary and modern. It is as if after 50 years in the wilderness, the genre is coming back into its own. A welcome return!"
-Robert Tomas, The Whole Note
"I get mine by singing," says baritone Peter McGillivray. "I love making eye contactwith people."
The Saskatchewan-born singer is one of Canada's most versatile artists, taking on everything from La bohème to Silent Night, from large scale concert work to any of his ongoing recital projects. "I think that's what I do most for fun, is come up with wacky programs. I waste an inordinate amount of time on the Internet researching different connections to make between pieces, other than just the musical ones."
He calls them "set pieces," those recitals packed with songs, but devoid of the story that McGillivray insists should be present. His own recital projects come with great titles like The Singin' Cowboy Cabaret and Rascals, Rogues & Rapscallions, and they attest to his time spent searching for connective arcs with lots of points of entry for listeners. "I want to be able to talk to the audience, I think that's really important. All of my recitals are, I wouldn't call them lowest common denominator, but I want to find fun ways of getting people into the repertoire."
BUFFO ROLES AND SINGING WELL
McGillivray is currently between productions of Il barbiere di Siviglia (including Opera Lyra Ottawa's ultimate production), in what he calls the "Year of the Living Bartolo". He's no stranger to buffo roles, which he takes seriously despite all the fun. "The key to doing a buffo role is making every note beautiful," he says. "The sort of buffo that only sort of shouts and blusters, is uncompelling to me."
Roles like Bartolo, in any opera, are appealing to McGillivray, who loves to pair his singing with great acting and comic timing. "I didn't miss not being Figaro at all." He also spends time with characters like Sharpless in Madama Butterfly and Schaunard in La bohème. They're not quite in the buffo camp, but roles like these present their own potential traps, and McGillivray has learned how to spot them. "Actually the person who told me this was Paul Plishka at the Met. He said, 'you got a great voice kid, but make sure you don't stay Schaunard forever. Make sure you got some Marcellos in ya.' Which I took to mean that I was maybe going for character and the things that I find fun, maybe I was overemphasizing that and not focusing on the voice enough."
The really is a fine line between paying attention to vocal technique and sacrificing the drama. "I think we can all agree that, except for certain cases, a beautiful voice is not an effortful voice. It's an effortless voice," which for McGillivray comes from a more improvisatory approach to parts of his craft. "There are some beautiful voices out there that have a lot to say, and they've thought about every movement. I'm much more improvisational. I think anybody who sees what I do onstage knows that," he laughs. "I'm not a Xerox machine as a singer. I have to go with how I feel in the moment, I have to go with how my voice feels in the moment."
He puts it really well, and really simply: "I'm not in search of the perfect, I'm in search of the true."
OPERATIC TRAINING, THEN AND NOW
"I came to opera a little bit later," says McGillivray, who studied English, history, and Political Science before turning his attention to singing. "I think it was helpful for me to have to make the conscious decision to study this, because in the end you do decide that it's the only thing you can do." Many young musicians pursue post-secondary music education sort of by default, which isn't bad, but isn't always thoughtful, either. "It's not that you can't be a great singer going straight from high school to being an artist. But I think that you do need to do a little growing up to do these grown-up characters and make them relatable and make them real."
McGillivray has seen the education and apprenticeship opportunities grow and expand since his own years in university. "I mean, there are so many summer programs. Everybody's got a week-long song program, and it costs this, and you can go to Italy, and you can go to France or Austria. You can go speak German in New Hampshire for three weeks." Is that always a great thing, though? "I think it's a big problem," he agrees. "There are so many artists for less and less work." It's a problem not limited to young artists anymore; young nurses and teachers too find that their degree no longer guarantees them a job in their field. "The difference," he argues, "is that in those cases, or at least with nurses or teachers, the opportunities are expanding, where ours are actively in retreat. Which is a tough pill to swallow."
Summer programs and short-term training opportunities are only the tip of the iceberg. Universities and conservatories continue to increase their music faculty class sizes, sending graduates, often burdened with student loans payments, into a professional environment that is shrinking. McGillivray says that he doesn't know where he would be today if he hadn't won the CBC Young Performers Competition a month after graduating from university. "I won it, and I paid off all of my university debts from eight years the next week." He undoubtedly worked hard for his competition win, but it's not something that artists can count on to pay their regular bills.
"There's not enough work for them," concurs McGillivray, "and they can't all become successful vocal teachers either. So there's all this training and all these opportunities for people to pay money to sing; when does that become an issue of malpractice on the teachers' parts?" McGillivray has started to teach students himself, and he admits, "it's my retirement plan, too, so I can't criticize it forever."
THE STUFF OF GOOD OPERA
Live concerts are a hard sell for audiences today, and classical musicians notoriously feel the pressure. "We as artists, as classical musicians, are just as subject to the distractions that are killing live performance everywhere," says McGillivray. He sees classical musicians with a certain advantage, though, compared to pop music performers today. "They're starting to have to make the adjustment that classical musicians had to make 20-30 years ago, which is the fact that recordings are not going to sell, so you'd better have a good live show, and adjust your business model accordingly."
That question of the business model, in operatic terms, is now synonymous with a call for funding of new works and for artistic directors who think outside the box. McGillivray has substantial experience of his own in contemporary opera. He sang the world premieres of Juliet Palmer's Shelter (Tapestry Opera, Edmonton Opera) and Omar Daniel's The Shadow (Tapestry Opera), and the Canadian premieres of Heggie's Moby Dick and Kevin Putz's Silent Night, both with Calgary Opera. Contemporary opera can sound like a lot of different things, but McGillivray wants to know what a piece has to say.
"I think I have a less abstract sensibility than a lot of people, who work in contemporary music more than I do. It's important, it's valuable work, we can all agree on that. That's where the creative aspect of our art is really at its highest, in terms of pushing the boundaries." A narrative story, though, what speaks most clearly to him. The answers to questions about opera's relevance and accessibilty lie "in those stories that are clear and have a narrative quality to them, subject matter that is compelling. I do think those have a future."
LIFE OUTSIDE OF SINGING
What would you do if you didn't sing for a living? It's often a question that singers don't like to answer, but McGillivray had no qualms. "My problem has always been that I've got many plans," he says. "I sort of do what I'm interested at the time - I was into history, got a history degree. Joined a bunch of choirs, because that's the best way to meet chicks." He put off law school when he started to take his singing seriously, and going back is one of the many "Plan B" options he has in the back burner. Radio personality, professional reader of books, and artistic direction are a few more.
"I've never been myopic about singing. I just always go where my curiosity leads me. Maybe that's why I have an unduly optimistic view of life, because I know I could be happy doing lots of other things as well."
Peter McGillivray heads west in 2016, to sing Dr. Bartolo in Pacific Opera Victoria's February production of Il barbiere di Siviglia, opposite baritone Clarence Frazer in the title role. For details and ticket information, follow the box office links below.
-Jenna Douglas, Schmopera.com (Dec 7, 2015)
On Tuesday, April 8th well-known opera baritone Peter McGillivray suffered a terrible fall from a chair on stage during a production of Puccini’s La Bohème by Manitoba Opera. He was taken to the hospital for immediate medical attention.
Writing from Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre this morning, he said, “It was… an eventful performance of La Boheme last night. Standing on top of a table after beating Giles near senseless with a baguette, I stepped down onto a rickety chair which promptly shattered and I fell with my full weight on my knee. Helped off the stage by our lovely ASM, Kathryn, my dazzling colleagues were still able to finish the show with poise & inspired improvisation.”
McGillivray is currently playing the role of Schaunard, the musician of the group, who arrives in Act I with a hand full of food, booze and cigars. Apparently he had fallen just as Mimi makes her final entrance. “It’s Schaunard who traditionally is the one who discovers that Mimi is dead. But the cast made it work without me with some excellent on the fly improvisations that I think even Signor Puccini would have approved of considering the situation.” He adds, “Maestro Lipton kept the orchestra rolling along even though I heard more than a few audible gasps from the pit. That’s showbiz!”
Now on standby for surgery, he is hoping to be released later this afternoon, pending the results of the surgery. McGillivray quips, “Please send good thoughts, prayers & whisky [clear fluids, amiright? (sic)].”
There is no word on who a possible replacement will be as yet, but after speaking with him this morning, he’s yearning to, “…hobble around and sing the last show. But I know Larry Desrochers is probably trying to fly a backup plan as we speak.”
Let’s hope for a speedy recovery.
Things did not go as planned at last night's performance of Puccini's La Bohème at Manitoba Opera. A mishap onstage during Act 4 resulted in serious injury to baritone Peter McGillivray, who was singing the role of Schaunard.
McGillivray updated his Facebook page this morning from Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, summarizing the incident:
It was ... an eventful performance of La Bohème last night. Standing on top of a table after beating Giles [Tomkins, playing Colline] near senseless with a baguette, I stepped down onto a rickety chair which promptly shattered and I fell with my full weight on my knee.
McGillivray was helped offstage by assistant stage manager Kathryn Ball. Amazingly, the conductor, orchestra and remaining soloists carried on without interruption, and completed the performance, improvising McGillivray's part along the way.
The young baritone will undergo orthopedic surgery today to reattach his tendon to his kneecap.
McGillivray added on Facebook:
Thanks to everyone at Manitoba Opera for taking care of me both before and after getting to hospital. Now I'm on standby for surgery, and am hoping to walk out of here later today if all goes well.
Manitoba Opera's Darlene Ronald told CBC Music they're concerned about McGillivray, adding they were thrilled how the rest of the musicians pulled together under the circumstances.
-Article posted by Robert Rowat
[This is a guest post by baritone Peter McGillivray. McGillivray will be performing Wednesday March 2 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre as part of our Free Concert Series presented by National Bank. The concert is part of the New Creations Festival, and features the vocal writing of composer John Adams. Adams himself will introduce and discuss the program.]
There are few greater thrills for a singer than to have an opportunity to present the music of one of the world’s most acclaimed contemporary composers before an appreciative audience. Conversely, there are few greater sources of potential anxiety for a singer than to have to perform said music in the physical presence of said composer (we’ll set the audience aside for a moment). Such is the anxious thrill of rehearsing an extremely provocative program of operatic extracts from the monumental stage works of John Adams, often referred to as America’s greatest living composer. Adams, soprano Betty Waynne Allison, pianist Anne Larlee and I are currently in the midst of rehearsing scenes from Adams’ operas, Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, and Doctor Atomic for a concert next Wednesday, March 2, at 12 p.m. The performance is part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre presented by National Bank, and is part of the Toronto Symphony’s New Creations Festival.
This is complex and challenging work: rhythmically, vocally and thematically, as anyone who has been able to take in the COC’s current production of Adams’ Nixon in China can attest. Though I’m quite used to working in the world of new opera through my frequent collaborations with Toronto’s very own Tapestry New Opera, I can honestly say that this is some of the most difficult and yet most rewarding music I’ve ever had to prepare. This is truly the kind of repertoire that tests whether a singer was paying attention in undergraduate music theory class or not (I can say that I . . . mostly did).
Adams’ so-called minimalist music is a unique and instantly recognizable language. Rhythmically complex, it employs both extensive repetition and variation. Very approachable tonally-speaking, it can sound mechanical at times yet undeniably human and full of passion. In other words, this is music that is meant both to be understood and to be unsettling. I do not mean this in a negative way. The themes of Adams’ operas are unsettling in themselves—the clash of two 20th-century titans and ideologies, the search for meaning out of senseless violence, and the development of the first nuclear bomb. Weighty stuff. But the music also transports both performer and audience into strangely familiar yet disconcerting territory, as if you magically had the ability to understand a complex conversation in a language you yourself didn’t speak.
Additionally, Adams does not shy away from stretching the limits of vocal production. Unlike many modern composers who tend to favour extended technique, he approaches writing for the extreme ranges of the voice from a truly lyrical perspective. In other words, you need to approach this music much in the same way you would look at the music of Puccini, Verdi, or Mozart—the singing needs to be just as expressive and just as beautiful. All the same, this concert is a showpiece for singing in the highest ranges of the baritone tessitura. I’ll likely be singing more High-Gs (the baritone version of the tenor’s High-C) just in this concert than I would have to shell out even for most of the great high baritone roles such as Rigoletto, Figaro, or even Pelléas.
That said, I am really looking forward to confronting this challenging music head-on along with my extremely talented colleagues at Tuesday’s concert. I hope people will come out and explore this provocative music with us, seizing this unique opportunity to meet and hear from John Adams himself speak about his fascinating art.
Take it from Peter McGillivray: It's more nerve-wracking to sing The Star Spangled Banner at the Air Canada Centre than it is to audition for New York City's Metropolitan Opera Company...
“I’ve sung on the stage at Covent Garden, the Met and Wigmore Hall, yet I’ve never been so nervous as having to hopefully remember the words to the American anthem at a Leafs game. There were 20,000 people there and they were just roaring, ready to go,” McGillivray says of his early-April moment in the sporting spotlight.
“It was really special because it was my Dad’s 70th birthday and he hadn’t ever been to a game at the Air Canada Centre. He came and I had a whole bunch of friends buy scalped tickets,” he says, chuckling.
“Oh man, what a thrill.”
Since then, the talented baritone, who turned 30 a few weeks ago, has also had a chance to sing at Toronto’s new opera house. Currently studying the language and honing his craft in Germany, McGillivray returned to town to sing in the Canadian Opera Company’s opening concerts at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
Now he has crossed the pond again for a series of summer-concert dates, including two performances at the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound tonight and tomorrow morning.
On his blog (at www.petermcgillivray.com), the baritone describes his opera house-opening experience as “electrifying.” He sang the famed duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers with tenor Michael Colvin, as well as the sextet from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
He has high praise for the building’s acoustics and doesn’t care what it looks like architecturally. “Yes, the Sydney Opera house is a world-famous icon, but the acoustics are crap,” he writes. “I’d be happier singing in a shoebox if the acoustics were the good”
The singer will be back on the opera house stage in January, playing Wagner in the company’s production of Gounod’s Faust, which will be conducted by Yannick Nézét-Séguin.
For his Festival of the Sound engagements, McGillivray turns to the art-song repertoire. Tonight he shares the stage with baritone Russell Braun and pianist Carolyn Maule in Schuberts’s Schwanengesang cycle…
Tomorrow morning, McGillivray and Maule collaborate on a collection of pastoral art songs from Germany and England.
But despite the flurry of Canadian engagements, Mcgillivray is still focused on his German ambitions.
Borrowing a phrase from Black Adder, he says, “My cunning plan – is that I’d like to get a job in Germany and work in a smaller or medium-sized theatre for a year and build my experience, build up a repertoire, so that I can be one of those guys that when someone asks ‘Do you know this part?’ I can jump in and say ‘Yes!’ “
McGillivray is an inveterate competition-enterer who is building his career on offers that come from artistic directors and booking agents who have used these forums to hear his performances. Anyone who has seen him perform live can attest to his charisma, as well as the beauty of his burnished, flexible voice.
Among his most recent prizes are second-place showins at Norway’s Queen Sonja International Singing competition and the Montreal International Music Competition, both in 2005.
“People just come up to me afterwards – I’ve got work for the whole year,” he says of the fruits amassing from his competition efforts…
Although he considers Toronto to be home, McGillivray grew up in Newmarket, the son of a Presbyterian church minister. He was born in Prince Albert, Sask., “the hometown of (retired tenor) Jon Vickers,” he adds.
Originally, McGillivray thought he might become a lawyer or doctor, but one night, while an undergraduate at University of Toronto, he took stock.
"I was singing in six choirs as well as other places, and I was getting paid for most of it," McGillivray recalls. "I was paying my way through school, so I thought, maybe I'd better take some lessons."
"Once I started singing those sweet songs for baritone, I started to sail, got more power without so much effort."
He told himself that he could always return to school to become a lawyer but would regret it forever if he didn't give professional singing a chance. He enrolled at University of Toronto's Opera School, then spent two years with the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio.
Ironically, McGillivray admits that before enrolling in the Opera School, "I had never been to an opera. I felt I had so much to catch up on."
He hasn't wasted any time.
-John Terauds, Classical Music Critic, Toronto Star
PETER MCGILLIVRAY WAS IN A SOMEWHAT GIDDY MOOD when I reached him by telephone in Graz, where he and Australian-born pianist Stacey Bartsch had just won second prize in the competition whose German name translates as Franz Schubert and the Music of Modern Times.
"The competition aims to juxtapose traditional classical and modern music," he explains, "to show traditional music in a new light. One-third of a candidate's program must be Schubert, another third must be modern works from a supplied list of composers and the final third is the candidate's choice among modern works."
Currently based in Heidelberg (where, conveniently, his sister lives), the baritone from Newmarket, Ont., plans to spend part of his winnings by continuing his studies in German at the Goethe Institute. "I'm now starting to feel confident enough [with the language] that I can audition for agents in houses over here," he says. "My goal in the immediate future is to get a few last-minute guest contracts in smaller opera houses. I'd like to build my career now in a house in a festspiele kind of position, where you go for the whole year and you learn all the baritone roles. That would be really useful for me."
Winning competitions is becoming a bit of a habit for the Saskatchewan-born singer. Last year, he took the second grand prize and the Chalmers Prize for best Canadian performance in the Montreal International Music Competition, as well as second prize in the Queen Sonja International Music Competition in Oslo. And he captured first prize in the vocal category, along with the People's Choice award, in the 2003 CBC/Radio-Canada Young Performers Competition in Calgary.
Lauded for his rich, round tone, McGillivray is a graduate of the University of Toronto's Opera Division and a former member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio. "It was absolutely invaluable," he says of the latter experience. "Here in Europe, they ask you for the greatest hits: Papageno, Guglielmo, Figaro, Marcello and so on. At the Ensemble Studio, I got to understudy a few roles and be part of the rehearsal process with a major company. I needed the time to really discover my operatic voice, to grow as an opera singer, to fill the larger houses with sound over a large orchestra."
The genial baritone made his professional debut in 2003 as Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and as Schlendrian in a staged production of Bach's Coffee Cantata. During the 2004-05 season, he appeared as Sid and as the Vicar in the COC's production of Britten's Albert Herring, and as Schaunard in that company's remount of La boheme. Also in 2004, he took on the role of Demetrius in the acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Tanglewood Festival, directed by David Kneuss.
But singing was not always part of his grand plan. "To be honest, I never considered it when I was a teenager at all," he says. "I was dead set on being a doctor or a lawyer or something like that. Other than playing trombone or tuba in bands, I wasn't really doing much music. In university, I studied history at first, and literature and politics. The whole time I was doing that, I was singing in choirs and then suddenly I got hired to do that, and got most of my yearly income from singing. That's when I first went to Lynn Blaser at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music, whom I knew from the Ontario Youth Choirm, where she was a vocal coach. Things started to click and the voice grew, so I decided that, instead of going to law school, I was going to go to the opera school. Luckily, I've been really blessed with success over the last few years, and that's confirmed that I made the right decision."
A break from the European milieu came up recently, when McGillivray returned home to sing the title role in Opera in Concert's performance of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa (Mar. 26) in Toronto. Raisa Nakhmanovich served as music director and pianist for the performance, which also featured bass Nikolay Cherkasov, Ukrainian-born soprano Katerina Tchoubar and a special guest, Ukrainian mezzo-soprano Emilia Boteva. It was McGillivray's first complete role in Russian.
Before the concert, he jokingly wondered if his Russian would be "up to snuff," since he was surrounded by native Slavs. "Nikolay and I were both in the chorus for the COC production of Boris Godunov a couple of years ago, and I know Katerina a little from opera school. I don't think Mazeppa is the kind of role I would want to do in a staged situation, where you're singing it and rehearsing it every day for months, especially because he is an older character. That would be something for later in my career, but it was nice to try it on for size."
Based on a poem by Pushkin, the opera, which had its premiere in 1884 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, details the quest for Ukrainian independence from Russia in the early 18th century, ending in the defeat of the ambitious Cossack leader, Mazeppa, and his cohort in the grand scheme, Charles XII of Sweden, by Peter the Great at Poltava. There's also a romantic entanglement between the elderly Mazeppa and his own goddaughter, Mariya. It's a supremely melodramatic story, with a love triangle, a dungeon scene, a battle (depicted in a symphonic tableau) and a mad scene. It has failed to find a place in the repertoire, but its music has been widely praised.
Singing a concert performance as opposed to a staged production has its own challenges and rewards, McGillivray says. "It allows you, in a sense, to concentrate more on the singing. When it's not staged, you have to create emotionally what you would otherwise be doing dramatically. You don't have that immediate contact with your fellow cast members, so you have to play off each other in other ways, which comes through during the rehearsal process. And it's a challenge not having a director there to impose his or her vision of the character on you."
McGillivray recently participated in the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Chorus and Orchestra performance of St. Matthew Passion. On April 20, he performs (with the SuperNova Quartet) in Barber's Dover Beach and Finzi's Let Us Garlands Bring as part of the CBC/McGill concert series in Montreal, and in October, he sings a program of arias with L'Orchestre symphonique de Quebec. Meanwhile, in September in Europe, he makes his U.K. debut in a Royal Liverpool Philharmonic performance of Rossini's Stabat Mater.
Apart from a joint performance of Schubert's Schwanengesang with baritone Russell Braun and pianist Carolyn Maule at this year's Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ont., McGillivray plans to take a break during the summer. "I decided at the outset of this year that I wanted to take time off to concentrate on studying my languages and learning, with good coaching, the roles I'm going to need for my career," he says. "There are some teachers and coaches I want to work with here in Europe." And Heidelberg is not a bad place to be based. "It's nice having family and a place to dump your junk, and a dog to take for a run up the mountain every once in a while."
-Rick McMillan, Opera Canada
“La prestation de vendredi placerait nettement McGillivray à la place de la Coréenne qui, entrant après lui, a paru complètement écrasée. La voix large et sonore du baryton, grand et bien droit, s’est superbement déployée dans une Romance à l’étoile (de Tannhäuser)… Mais le difficile air de Ford, de Falstaff, allait ensuite révéler un mécanisme vocal d’une rare clarté.”
-Claude Gingras, La Presse
“McGillivray has been singularly successful in competitions lately, and his performance tonight clearly demonstrated why. He is without a doubt a major talent, well on his way to a significant career. From the time I first heard him about five years ago when he was just finishing up his studies at University of Toronto to now, he has made stunning progress. Along the way, he has developed a rich, beautiful baritone, backed by a solid technique that allowed him to sing the top notes with assurance, not to speak of exemplary musicality and intelligence. There is a sincerity and directness of communication to his singing that is striking — this is a singer with something to say to his audience. To my ears, on this particular night, McGillivray really outdid himself. He sang an extremely demanding program, from Mozart to Verdi to Wagner, with the obligatory French piece, and an English oratorio thrown in for good measure. He matched [the other baritone’s] formidable expressive powers — especially in the Ford aria, but never descending into hamming it up. His top voice tonight was better than I had ever heard from him. His diction in the Gerontius was terrific. Only in a few low notes did he have less than true support. The Wolfram aria was sung with a lovely cantabile that made Wagner sounding almost bel canto. I have to say he won hands down this evening and his performance is now the one to beat.”
-Joseph So, La Scena Musicale
“With some agonizing, I reduce a long list of 15 candidates to three to fit my allotted space…[As] a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, Peter McGillivray has a rich, suave baritone and the kind of stage presence that has won him a number of prizes recently, including the CBC/Radio-Canada Vocal competition, (etc)…”
-Wayne Gooding, Opera Now
“His mastery of technique, the radiant timbre and even tone of his voice and his salient intelligence throughout, give Canada a truly great singer.”
-Jean-Jacques van Vlasslaer, Le Droit (Ottawa)
“As his big, rolling, manly voice strengthens, the natural warm tone is being revealed, as well as his ability to summon different colors and emotional levels, adding an extra bite or easing up for a romantic sound as needed. McGillivray is also blessed with good instincts and he is an excellent actor”
-Paula Citron, Opera Canada