Sharon Azrieli is a soprano singer, and cantor from Montreal, Quebec. Azrieli performs classical, operatic, and musical theatre works, playing parts such as Juliette in Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Mimi in La Bohème, and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. Azrieli attended the Juilliard and has performed along with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, and the Canadian Opera Company.
Sharon Azrieli was born in Montreal, Quebec, to a Canadian architect, philanthropist, and Holocaust survivor, David Azrieli. Azrieli would go on to move to New York City after attending Vassar College, where she graduated with a degree in Art History, and an Associate Degree in Illustration from the Parsons School of Design. While studying illustration, she earned a Diploma in Vocal Performance Under Ellen Faull at the Juilliard School. Her mentors included Joan Dornemann, Principal Prompter at the Metropolitan Opera, and the late Herbert Breslin. Joan Dornemann would invite her to attend her Vocal Arts Institute in Israel over three successive summers where she performed multiple leading roles, such as Norina in Donn Pasquale and Musetta in La Boheme. By 2006, Azrieli obtained a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the Université de Montréal. In 2011, she also earned a Doctorate in Music from the same university.
The Canadian Opera Company’s artistic director, the late Richard Bradshaw, scouted Azrieli, skyrocketing her career as a professional opera singer. Bradshaw hired her as an understudy for the part of Juliet in the production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as well as Mimi in a small stage production of Puccini’s La Bohème. Artist manager Matthew Laifer would see one of Azrieli’s performances and invited her to join his roster. Under Laifer’s management, she performed with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and the Haifa Symphony Orchestra in their production of Rossini’s Stabat Mater, as well as Beethoven’s Mass in C Minor.
Other works she was a part of included a concert of Puccini arias and Leonard Berstein’s Songfest. She also worked with Alexander Brott of McGill Chamber Orchestra, and understudied for Mirella Freni as Adrienne Lecouvreur with ‘Opéra de Paris. A significant event in Azrieli’s career would come when she played the part of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro at the Sarasota opera.
However, Azrieli would put her opera career on hold after the birth of her two sons. In order to support her family, she enrolled in the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York and began her first job as a Cantor for Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor. Azrieli and her sons moved back to Montreal in 2000, where she became a full-time cantor at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom between 2001 and 2003. While completing her D. Mus. at the Université de Montréal in 2011, she wrote her thesis on ethnomusicological links between the music of Giuseppe Verdi and ancient Jewish scales/modes.
After her sons grew up, Azrieli returned to the opera. She became a student of Bill Schuman, a vocal coach who had previously worked with Celine Dion, and Aprile Millo, and teaches at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. With the help of Schuman, Azrieli primed her voice for Verdian soprano roles. Azrieli performed Leonora in II trovatore and Aida. She also performed the roles of the prioress in Dialogues des carmélites and Leonora in La forza del destino with One World Symphony Orchestra. She sang the role of Mimi in La Boheme with the New Jersey Association of Verismo opera company as well as the La Gioconda in La Gioconda. She has performed at several major festivals, such as the Brott Music Festival in Hamilton, Ontario, and the Festival Sefarad in Montreal. In 2017, Azrieli formed at Carnegie Hall, in 2018 at the Metropolitan Opera as Sister Dolcina in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, and in 2019, at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, singing Marcellina in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro under conductor Alexander Shelley.
Azrieli performs regularly in her hometown of Montreal with L’Orchestre Classique de Montréal under conductor Boris Brott. And in 2016, with L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under Kent Nagano as the Soprano soloist in Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder. 2019, she performed with L’Orchestre Métropolitain as part of the Violins of Hope concert, which featured restored violins previously owned by Holocaust victims and survivors.
In 2019, Azrieli was named Chevalière of the National Order of Quebec for her artistic achievements and philanthropic efforts. In October 2021, she performed the compositions of the late composer, Pierre Mercure, as a soloist along with the New York-based Talea Ensemble at the DiMenna Centre for Classical Music. Of Azrieli’s excerpt, Noémie Chemali from BlogCritics wrote:
“Dissidence by the late Canadian composer Pierre Mercure was next on the program with Sharon Azrieli as soprano soloist. I must say, this piece was a perfectly packaged little gem, short yet so full of contrasting emotions, keeping me on the edge of my chair throughout. This composition could not have been executed so perfectly without the poise of such an accomplished performer as Ms. Azrieli and the virtuosity of all of the players in the Talea Ensemble.”
Azrieli sits on the boards of directors for the National Arts Centre (NAC), McCord Museum, Canadian Vocal Arts Institute (CVAI), and the Azrieli Foundation.
Azrieli created the Foundation’s $150,000 composition and commission competition called the Azrieli Music Prize, which promotes new Jewish and Canadian music.
She serves as President Emeritus for the Orchestre Classique de Montréal.