Wednesday, November 17, 2010

40 after 40: Lance Ryan

Lance Ryan in his debut as Bacchus in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Metropolitan Opera, New York 2010. Photo by Marty Sohl,

White Rock native Lance Ryan’s transformation from guitar hero to heroic tenor sounds like a libretto from one of the Wagnerian operas he performs: a young student goes on a quest to please his mother, only to find hidden talents which will take him on a journey beyond his wildest dreams.

Ryan's journey to center stage in the great European opera houses started at the back of a lecture hall in Douglas College in fall 1989. He was 18, straight out of high school and enrolled as a guitar major in the Music program. But he was required to take choir - something that struck a sour note with him and his guitar classmates.

"All we guitar fret-board fiends sat in the last row of the choir group, begrudgingly fulfilling our required ensemble credits," says Ryan. "My enthusiasm was not at an all time high when it came to choir participation."

The lack of enthusiasm resulted in a poor grade, even though his instructor noted Ryan had some vocal talent. The low mark prompted Ryan's mother, Gloria Clinker, to suggest some private singing lessons.

The voice lessons started Ryan thinking seriously about a singing career. He started combing the College's recording collection, listening to other singers and using the practice rooms. After he earned his Bachelor of Music degree at UBC, his interest turned into a passion.


Today, Lance is one of the most in-demand Wagnerian heldentenors (heroic tenors) in Europe, praised for his extraordinary stamina and powerful stage presence. He has sung leading roles at major opera houses in Rome, Florence, Vienna, London, Frankfurt, Dresden, and Valencia, among others.

Early in his career, Marilyn Horne tagged him a Siegfried—the hero of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelungs cycle, a role in which he debuted in 2007. When Lance replaced Canadian heldentenor Ben Heppner at the 2009 Salzburg Festival, the London Telegraph hailed his Siegfried as a "triumph."

In February 2010 he made his New York Metropolitan Opera debut as Bacchus in a broadcast performance of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. This past summer Lance became the first Canadian ever to sing the role of Siegfried at the prestigious Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. The audience response was exceptional. Lance was awarded a rare extended solo ovation.

In September Lance went on to sing Siegfried in the Cologne Opera production of the Ring in Shanghai as part of the World’s Fair, the first time that Wagner’s cycle has been presented there. In early November he appeared for the first time at the La Scala Opera House in Milan in Bizet’s Carmen under conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The great Russian conductor Valery Gergiev personally selected Lance to sing the central role of Aeneas in Berlioz’s Les Troyens, which is soon to be released on DVD.

Local opera enthusiasts can see Lance this December as he performs in a special benefit concert at Douglas College on Monday, December 13 as part of the College’s 40th Anniversary celebrations.

40 after 40 is a series showcasing our amazing grads and employees in celebration of our 40th anniversary. Check back every Wednesday and Friday for another inspiring story.  See more about our 40th on our Anniversary page.