Janis Taylor

Janis (Janice Kathleen) Taylor (b Schuster). Mezzo-soprano, b Westfield, NY, 10 Mar 1946, naturalized Canadian 1972. Initially trained as a pianist and a clarinetist, she was persuaded to study voice by a fellow music student, Robert Taylor, who subsequently became her husband and manager.

Taylor, Janis

Janis (Janice Kathleen) Taylor (b Schuster). Mezzo-soprano, b Westfield, NY, 10 Mar 1946, naturalized Canadian 1972. Initially trained as a pianist and a clarinetist, she was persuaded to study voice by a fellow music student, Robert Taylor, who subsequently became her husband and manager. After moving to Montreal in 1967, Taylor began studying voice with Bernard Diamant and made her recital debut with John Newmark at the Montreal Musée des Beaux Arts in 1971. She has also studied with Lina and Antonio Narducci, Stevenson Barrett, Gérard Souzay, and Danielle Valin.

In the early stages of her career, Taylor concentrated on recital, oratorio, and orchestral repertoire rather than opera; she has sung with most major Canadian orchestras. She made her orchestral debuts in Canada (1973), the USA (1979), and Europe (1980) singing Messiah with the TS, the National SO in Washington, DC, and with the RAI orchestra in Milan, Italy, which performance earned her a standing ovation. She made her Paris debut in 1986 performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with l'Orchestre national de France, and her London debut occurred in 1989 in Verdi's Requiem with the London SO.

Taylor has made a specialty of the music of Mahler, having performed his Kindertotenlieder Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Das Lied von der Erde, and the Rückert Lieder, and in all of his symphonies scored for voice (No. 2, 3, 4, and 8).

Taylor began singing opera in 1975 with the role of the Queen in Harry Somers'The Fool at the Stratford Festival. She sang Pauline in Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame at the NAC in 1976. She has subsequently sung with most Canadian opera companies, with US companies such as the Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Opera Theatre St Louis, and in 1985 she appeared in the title role in a concert version of Handel's Alessandro at Carnegie Hall. In 1979 she made her European staged opera debut in Spoleto, Italy in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtensk. In 1990 she performed Schoenberg's one-woman opera Erwartung at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam. Her repertoire of operatic roles also includes Queen Hippolyta (Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream), Waltraute (Die Walküre), Vitellia (La Clemenza di Tito) and the title role in Massenet's Herodiade.

Taylor is a mezzo soprano with a particularly powerful lower extension to her range which has prompted some reviewers to perceive her as a contralto. Her voice is rich and large, also allowing her to venture into some dramatic soprano repertoire. In order to avoid a vocal classification which might limit her choice of repertoire, she has not pursued a primarily operatic career but has concentrated on concert repertoire where wider vocal and linguistic range of expression is allowed. According to a Montreal review 'her voice is projected with ease throughout its range, with a particularly seductive top octave, dramatic lower notes, and the power of an Anderson in her middle range' (Montreal Gazette, 24 Mar 1986). She has been broadcast on CBC radio and TV. In 1980 she made New York her base while retaining her Canadian citizenship.


Further Reading

  • Coletti, Al. 'This mezzo likes to go with the flow,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 12 Jan 1980

    Colgrass, Ulla. 'The ascending voice of Janice Taylor,' Music, vol 6, Sep-Oct 1983

    Lawson, Shelly. 'Sultry mezzo set to show off full range of vocal prowess,' London Free Press, 23 Mar 1990