What a would-be opera star did when ill-health killed her hopes

What a would-be opera star did when ill-health killed her hopes


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2013

Elizabeth Lewis Celeste was on track to make an international opera career when a series of strokes set her back. Looking around, she saw how tough it was for young singers to get into major companies. So she opened a starter company in Vancouver. Here’s her story:



Opera di Concertisti e Meraviglie is an independent opera company, artist run, producing opera in concert, and partially staged productions.
Elizabeth Lewis Celeste founded the company on Aug 29th, 2012, after noticing how little paid work was available to recent graduates, in fact most opportunities require singers to pay-to-perform.
The company focuses on giving singers a chance to perform a role for the first time in a supportive low-stress environment. All of the singers come from top music schools across the US and Canada, including McGill University, UBC, and Indiana University. Some are emerging and are recent graduates and others are returning, like myself, after a period of spending time away from music Many have performed with large companies such as the Vancouver Opera, and Pacific Opera Victoria, and with local companies such as Burnaby Lyric, and City Opera Vancouver, as well as orchestras across North America and Europe.
opera vancouver
Elizabeth, a student of Metropolitan Opera Star, Bill Neill and Indiana University’s Costanza Cuccaro had the typical young singer’s start, winning her regional competitions (NATS, CMC, awarded “Most Promising Young Singer” at the Eastern Washington MET Auditions, being selected for prestigious programs such as the Sutherland Masterclasses at Britten-Pears, and singing with orchestras across North America and the UK) before running into some serious health complications. “In 2005, I was told I would never work again and for several years I didn’t”. Though the reason at the time was still unknown, the doctors later found it to be a result of a double whammy of  small recurring strokes – TIA, caused by a hereditary heart condition, and diabetes, not the disease of choice for a young woman with a life long phobia of needles.
After working closely with her doctor, she went back to school for a year to refresh, before creating Opera di Concertisti. “Having been on a disability income, I knew first hand what it is like to not be able to attend events, or afford some of the necessary training programs that create contacts for classical musicians, which is the main reason I decided to structure my company the way I did”.
It has been a long path back to working again as a musician, and certainly it gives one a very different perspective on music. In 2013, Elizabeth was a Semi-Finalist at the New York Oratorio Competition, and now teaches part-time at Columbia College in Vancouver, in addition to running Opera di Concertisti. She recently sang as a soloist with the Handel Society in a pairing of Micheal Haydn’s Requiem in C minor, and J. Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.
In its first year Opera di Concertisti produced 7 shows; three operas in concert: Rigoletto, La Traviata, La Fille du Regiment, two concerts of opera excerpts, and two seasonal shows including a performance of the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes for Valentine’s Day. The company employed 13 singers, and two pianists.
For MOSTLY MOZART, a selection of excerpts from some of the great Mozart Opera, we are offering a Cinderella Ticket Program to people who can’t usually afford to attend arts events. To qualify need proof of either income assistance or govn’t disability assistance. We are kicking off this program by offering 100 Cinderella Tickets for free!For tickets call 1-800-838-3006 for Mostly Mozart Opera (Opera di Concertisti) 25/18 snacks and pop provided at intermissionEvent links: