Aviva Fortunata is a force to be reckoned with. The gifted soprano will be singing the role of the Countess in the upcoming COC Ensemble Studio performance of The Marriage of Figaro on February 22. She was also a finalist in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and received critical acclaim for her recent turn as Berta in the COC’s production of The Barber of Seville last year. We found out what it’s like to be an opera singer, and what she would be if she wasn’t (a lady detective).

SDTC: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

AF: I was born in Calgary in 198something. I loved to sing, dance, and go to school (nerd alert). A large part of my free time was spent memorizing statistical data of Broadway musicals, so if you ever want to know how many performances High Button Shoes had, I’m definitely your girl. Also, the answer is 727.

When did you first know you wanted to sing for a living?

Ever since watching Placido Flamingo (the opera-singing pink flamingo) on Sesame Street, I was hooked!

Can you walk me through a typical day?

One of the fun things about singing opera is that there are no typical days! On performance days, I absolutely love turning off the alarm clock and really sleeping in, but that’s about the only “tradition” I have.

Photo: Chris Hutcheson

Photo: Chris Hutcheson

What does it feel like to sing in front of an audience of hundreds?

The more the merrier! At the Four Seasons Centre, we get to sing for a couple thousand people each night and it is just a blast. I sang in a televised competition last year that went out to many thousands of people on the BBC, but it didn’t feel any different than singing for smaller crowds. Having that many people want to hear you sing is a such a phantasmagorical (seriously, I’m a nerd) feeling.

If you weren’t an opera singer, what would you be?

A lady detective.

Do you have any singing tips for the rest of us (to sound better at karaoke, ideally)?

The thing to keep in mind when singing karaoke is that the majority of your audience has been drinking, perhaps even heavily. Use this to your advantage and have fun without worrying about sounding good. Song suggestions include: “Kiss From A Rose,” “Gangster’s Paradise,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Bye Bye Bye” (but only if you can pull off the matching hand choreography), or really give everyone what they want and sing the full version of “American Pie.”

What has been your favourite role so far?

A friend once told me that characters who die in opera are always the most fun to play and get the most applause. I think this is true, but so far I’ve only died on stage as Desdemona from Othello. It was great!

Tell us about your role in Figaro – can you describe the opera for us in a few sentences?

Figaro is about the wedding of Figaro and Susanna. Unfortunately for my character, her husband is more interested in scheming his way into Susanna’s bed than anything else. Hijinks ensue, identities are mistaken, swapped, and ultimately revealed, culminating in a happy ending. At least for the time being!

What is your guilty music pleasure?

The Rocky IV soundtrack is audio gold start to finish. Any situation is immediately improved by adding that soundtrack. Every song is better than the last.

What is one aspect of being an opera singer that may surprise most people?

The cliche of the Viking helmet- and breastplate-bearing opera singer is well and truly dead. We look just like normal people and even act like it sometimes!

You can catch Aviva in The Marriage of Figaro next week. Buy tickets here.