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B i o g r a p h y

Known for her rich quality of tone and the emotion that she brings to each role, Deena Nicklefork is a promising young dramatic soprano whose vocal prowess and dramatic interpretation are a force to be reckoned with.


A musician from a young age, Deena’s main focus growing up was classical piano. She soon worked her way towards the top levels of the Royal Academy of Music and performed in many festivals along the way, earning high accolades. While in high school, Ms Nicklefork was the first flutist in concert band, studied the oboe and was often asked to play difficult mallet percussion parts. She started voice lessons at the age of 12 and promptly started winning recognition at festivals in her native Alberta, Canada.


Though Ms. Nicklefork enjoyed singing, it wasn’t until a few wrist injuries in college derailed her piano dreams that she looked to it more seriously, and eventually fell head over heels in love. She graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music –Vocal Performance from Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, SK, studying under the tutelage of Dr. Ron de Jager. It was during these informative years with Dr. de Jager that her love for opera and classical vocal music were truly found.


During her time at college, Ms. Nicklefork had the opportunity to hone her acting skills by participating in many musical theater scenes (including scenes from The Secret Garden (Martha), Les Miserables (Eponine), Fiddler on the Roof (Golde)).  She also had the privilege of performing with the prominent Saskatchewan based company, RuBarb Productions (Fleure in Phantom, dancer/soloist in A Vaudeville Christmas, Mrs. Pye in Anne of Green Gables, Madame de la Grande Bouche in Beauty and the Beast). In 2011, Deena had the opportunity to return to Saskatchewan to cover the role of the Mother Abbess in the Sound of Music with the same company.


In 2007, Deena auditioned for and was accepted into the studio of renowned Toronto based pedagogue Jean MacPhail. She has resided in Toronto ever since. In 2008, Deena spent a month in Rome, immersing herself in the Italian language and studying under the late Giuseppina Dalle Molle, and her husband, Maestro Walter Cataldi Tassoni, (who has worked with the incomparable Maria Callas). That year, she was also the musical director for Compelled 2008, a benefit concert to raise funds and awareness for the HIV/AIDS crisis in Southern Africa. This concert took place in Toronto and was successful in raising over $60,000 for the cause. Ms. Nicklefork was also a featured soloist.


During the summers of 2010 and 2011, Ms. Nicklefork was invited to participate in the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival, in Casalmaggiore, Italy. While there, Deena had the honor of performing in one of the oldest known opera houses in the world, the Teatre all’antica, in the town of Sabbioneta. Deena was also asked to sing at various special masses and participated in a few private recitals.


Ms. Nicklefork made her operatic debut in November 2011, singing the main role of Annina in Menotti’s dark opera, The Saint of Bleecker St, with the company Opera By Request. The critiques from The Toronto Observer noted that Deena “provided high-frequency, seat-raising solos”. The following April, she was blessed to sing her very first Contessa in Mozarts Le Nozze di Figaro, with the same company.


In the summer of 2012, Deena had the privilege of studying in Périgueux, France, with the Franco-American Vocal Academy, working alongside renowned tenor William Lewis. While there, she was honored to work closely with Parisian composer, Isabelle Aboulker, while performing in her work, Leçons de Français aux étudiants Américains. She made her role debut in Offenbach’s Les Contes D’Hoffmann, bringing to life La Voix de la Mère. That fall, Ms. Nicklefork dived into her first Wagnerian role of Sieglinde in Die Walküre with Opera By Request and also performed in her first recital tour, Belle Nuit, an Evening of Duets and Arias with two Sopranos (with colleague Sangeetha Ekambaram).


Spring of 2013 brought a foray into Czech opera when Ms. Nicklefork was blessed to perform one of her dream roles, the title role in Rusalka by Dvořák, again with Opera By Request. The summer was busy, as Deena was accepted into the largest opera summer vocal program in Canada, Opera Nuova, which takes place over six weeks in Edmonton, Alberta. While there, Deena understudied Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, while singing in the chorus and also performed as Sister Clair in Poulenc’s tragic Dialogues des Carmélites (under the baton of Kathleen Lorenze Gable and direction of Fanny Gilbert-Collet). She had the opportunity to sing in many recitals as well, performing in a Broadway evening of show tunes, Strauss in a German Lied Soiree, selected Dvořák Biblical Songs in a Sacred Concert and the First Lady in Mozart’s Magic Flute in an evening of Opera Scenes. While in Edmonton, Deena was also blessed to be chosen to sing in a public master class with well known Sanford Sylvan and Michael McMahon. She studied under Joanne Kolomyjec, Judith Forst and John Fanning while participating in mini-masterclasses with Benjamin Butterfield, Elizabeth Turnbull and Laura Lowen. She received classes in Alexander Technique, dance, diction, took part in various seminars and also studied acting under opera directors Robert Herriot and Brian Deedrick. After this program ended, Ms. Nicklefork headed to Salzburg, Austria where she performed her first fully staged major role, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Franco-American Vocal Academy). Under the baton of David Brown (Assistant Conductor, Orchestra Santa Monica) and direction of Alan Hicks, Ms. Nicklefork flourished and the show was a rousing success.


2013/2014 has seen Ms. Nicklefork perform the title role in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, as well as make a return to the Contessa and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. She recently accepted the role of Cio-Cio San in Puccini's masterpiece, Madama Butterfly with the Summer Opera Lyric Theatre, based in Toronto.


“Deena is one of those rare talents that comes along only once every few years. With Opera by Request she's shown amazing versatility, exploring new languages, diverse repertoire, and living up to every challenge presented to her. From Mozart to Wagner and beyond, she continues to make her mark on the operatic stage.”


William Shookhoff

Founder and Musical Director, Opera By Request

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