Dynamic and versatile mezzo-soprano Ramona Carmelly has captivated audiences in more than a dozen languages, in concerts and in roles from the sublime to the ridiculous. Equally at home on the opera stage, in music theatre, jazz and cabaret, she is in demand as a performer and a performance coach, winning accolades from audiences and critics alike. Wayne Gooding of Opera Canada wrote:
“special mention for Ramona Carmelly… Her performance was a lesson in how deft acting can overcome the limitations of opera on the concert stage.”
Ramona made her Koerner Hall debut in March 2010 in a successful run of Massenet’s opera Cendrillon in the role of Madame de la Haltière, as a guest artist with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, under the baton of Uri Mayer and the direction of Graham Cozzubbo. She has sung an impressive list of opera and music theatre roles, including La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro, Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw, Filipievna and Olga in Eugene Onegin, Meg Page and Dame Quickly in Falstaff, Dido and the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, the Mother and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, Mercedes in Carmen, Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana, Maddalena in Rigoletto, the Mother in The Tales of Hoffmann, Ottavia in The Coronation of Poppea, Mère Marie de l’incarnation in The Dialogues of the Carmelites, Katisha in The Mikado, Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, and Miss Hannigan in Annie. Ramona sang the Foreign Woman in The Consul, Mrs. Nolan in The Medium, Bianca in The Rape of Lucretia with Opera Anonymous, and she moonlighted as stage director for OA’s hilarious double bill of Susanna's Secret and L'heure Espagnole.

Trained as an operatic mezzo soprano (then as a lyric soprano, then as a mezzo, then as a dramatic soprano, then as a mezzo), Ramona obtained her graduate Artist Diploma in Voice Performance from the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music in 2003. In her final year, Ramona won third place in the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards. That year, she was engaged as understudy for Dame Quickly in Falstaff with Des Moines Metro Opera’s prestigious Apprentice Artist program, an opportunity she regretfully had to decline due to an immigration snafu at the border.

As a concert soloist, Ramona has appeared with choirs and orchestras in the Toronto and Ottawa regions, in programs of opera highlights and oratorio, including the masses of Dvorak, Haydn, and Mozart, Vivaldi's Gloria, the Fauré and Rutter Requiems, and was the featured vocal soloist in Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with conductor Richard Bradshaw and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra at North York’s Toronto Centre for the Arts in 2002. She debuted with Toronto's Opera in Concert in 1999 as Albine in Thais, returning soon thereafter to critical praise as Mrs. McLean in Susannah.

An avid collaborator with contemporary composers, she performed the Farmer’s Wife in the 2009 North American premiere of Israeli composer Ella Milch-Sherriff’s Holocaust-themed opera And the Rat Laughed, and created the role of Alora in the The Last Wife by Howard Alexander and Deborah Dunleavey in 2002. Ramona developed the title role in the one-woman chamber opera Emily, the Way You Are. This lyrical portrait of the boldly nonconformist and visionary Canadian artist/writer Emily Carr, was written for Ramona by composer Jana Skarecky and poet Di Brandt, and previewed in 2008 under the auspices of the CMC’s New Music in New Places program at the McMichael Canadian Collection gallery, with members of the Talisker Players conducted by Gary Kulesha. Most recently, Ramona participated in a workshop performance of Christiaan Venter and Anusree Roy's opera in development, Noor over Afghan, at the Canadian Stage Company's Festival of Ideas and Creation.

Recent seasons have seen a number of eclectic performances: In 2010, Ramona sang local composer Chad Martin’s song cycle i will open petal by petal myself in John Oswald's Intimate Music project at the Canadian Music Centre for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, contemporary arias from the operas Cassandra and Mother of Kings by Ian McAndrew and Gordon Portman of Amphion Opera at the Lyric Canada Conference showcase at the Shaw Festival, and Wagner’s Brunnhilde for The 50 Minute Ring by Myra Davies and Chris Willes at the Music Gallery’s X-avant Festival. Highlights from 2011-12 included Jana Skarecky and Di Brandt’s Emily, the Way You Are, at Conrad Grebel College and in Maureen Forrester Hall at Wilfrid Laurier University in Kitchener-Waterloo, as well as at the Heliconian Hall in Toronto, Maurice Ravel’s Chansons Madécasses at Wilfrid Laurier and also for The Neapolitan Connection at both The Assembly Hall the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 with eight cellos in the finale of Cellobration! at The Assembly Hall, and a gala performance at On the Park with renowned Canadian collaborative pianist Evelyn Greenberg.

As the sole live performer at the Centre for Cultural Renewal's multi-disciplinary arts symposium, Leap to Meaning 2 in 2002, Ramona sang local composer Helen Greenberg's Kaddish, and reprised the work in one of the first world-wide concerts sponsored by PEN Canada in memory of Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl. Ramona made her TV debut in 2004 in an episode of the comedy/mystery series Zoe Busiek: Wildcard (Global Television, Canada, and Lifetime Television, U.S.), as the oblivious diva amid murder and mayhem. As a soloist with the Ardeleana chamber trio from 2005 to 2007, Ramona was featured on their CD single Mother Gaia's Song (released for the 2006 UN climate change conference in Montreal), and performed extensively as both a singer and as an actor at the inaugural Blue Bridge Festival in June 2007. In 2009, Ramona was invited to perform in company with such luminaries as Susan Hoeppner and Jacques Israelievitch at the Glick Society’s Tribute to Srul Irving Glick at the Al Green Theatre.

Ramona regularly lends her talent to a wide range of social causes, including V-day Toronto, Hospice Thornhill, Holocaust Education Week, 160 Girls: The Equality Effect (on behalf of legal action for victims of rape and violence in Kenya), and Spring into action for the Canadian Diabetes Association. She performed at the Canadian Athletes Fund See You in Torino 2005 gala fundraiser in support of Canada’s participants in the 2006 Olympic Games and in 2007 at last PGI plays the Red Barn, part of the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament for Literacy.

Ramona is a founding member of Quintimacy, Toronto’s chamber collective dedicated to rebuilding a personally engaged relationship between composer, performer and audience, through a return to a more intimate and interactive salon-style of music presentation with dialogue, proximity and artistic immediacy. Formed in 2008, Ramona’s highlights with Quintimacy include performances of Wagner’s Wesendonck lieder, Mompou’s Cancons Becquerianas, and the premiere of song cycles by local composer Chad Martin. Ramona is currently compiling materials for a new CD project, recording compositions by some of Canada’s finest untapped talent.
“special mention for Ramona Carmelly… Her performance was a lesson in how deft acting can overcome the limitations of opera on the concert stage.” - Wayne Gooding, Opera Canada
“Ramona Carmelly, with her plush mezzo, was outstanding as the jealously domineering Mrs. McLean.” - David Lasker, The Globe & Mail
“…Alora, played marvelously by Ramona Joy Carmelly.” - Peter Bevan-Baker - The Recorder & Times
“The gifted mezzo soprano … [gave] a soaring, gorgeous interpretation of Jewish-Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick's Time Cycle, a jewel from his much admired Yiddish Suite No. 2.” - Jordana Divon - The Canadian Jewish News
“It is not often that a composer finds a performer who will prepare a work with such care and excellent musicianship ... a top-notch performance.” - Composer Mary Gardiner
“As Madame de la Haltière, Ramona Carmelly had the right comic flair and rich tone.” - Joseph So, La Scena Musicale
This biography was most recently edited by...
quintimacy - 9 May 2013