Praised by fans as a performer with a “luminous vocal quality”, “rapturous voice”, this mezzo-soprano has studied music at the Vancouver Academy of Music. She has performed with Opera Appassionata, the title role of HANSEL, in Hansel and Gretel and RAMIRO, in La Finta Giardiniera. Her other roles include MAGDALENA, in Opera Pro Cantanti’s production of Rigoletto and MERCEDES, in Vancouver Island Opera production of Carmen.
Her latest vocal project is the creation of Lullabies, a CD geared to children and adults alike. Inspired by the birth of her niece, Lullabies is a compilation of popular and unknown lullabies from classical to contemporary composers, set against the soothing sounds of harp, viola and piano.
Lullaby albums are traditionally the domain of doting mothers and sensitive dads. However, Appollonia Vanova’s new Lullabies CD successfully side steps such usual expectations for this much-stereotyped genre. It stands out from the pack by being as much about art, as it is soothing sounds for sleepless little ones.
For starters, Vanova is by no means your average children’s music artist. She was born in the former Czechoslovakia, and is most famous for her increasingly successful acting career, which includes the role of Silhouette in the film Watchmen, the role of Natasha in the hit TV show Insecurity. In addition to singing and acting, Vanova is also an accomplished sculptor.
Lullabies is filled with both familiar and relatively unknown lullabies, which are set to largely classical instrumentation, including viola, harp and piano accompaniment. The album is striking sonically, largely because of Vanova’s eclectic musical tastes. “I love and have been influenced by a variety of different types of music,” she explains, “ranging from the virtuosic complexities of Baroque music, to passionate compositions of Beethoven, to the rhythms of rock and roll, jazz and blues.” In addition to Vanova’s many classical influences, she also counts singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, rapper Eminem, rocker Led Zeppelin and country icon Johnny Cash as inspirations. “Great music can transport me into a different mood in an instant,” Vanova adds. With so many wildly-differing favorites, it’s not difficult to understand why the sky is seemingly the limit when it comes to Vanova’s truly expansive artistic range.
Much like many other adult performers, Vanova started learning music as a small child. “My interest in music was nourished from a very early age,” she relays, “with piano lessons and also with singing performances during festivals, holidays and special events starting in public school.”
With all her talent, Vanova has the artistic means to go just about anywhere she pleases, creatively. This is why you might say Lullabies came together relatively unexpectedly.
“I never had a dream of producing a lullaby album,” Vanova admits. “I chose to create this album because it was the right thing for me to do; it was the right medium at this time in my life to create with. The songs chosen, the mood evoked and the cover art have deep meaning to my art as a whole.”
The result is one highly personal album, straight from Vanova’s heart. Each and every song was chosen with great care. “Some came from my childhood, and when I sang them in the studio for the first time, the nostalgia caused me to burst into tears,” she confesses. “I did not choose them because they are popular and that is what the audience would want to hear. I recorded this album at one of the most vulnerable times in my life and I think that vulnerability comes across in the voice. A new baby was born into our family and there was great joy. But at the same time, my pet (who was like my baby) was dying and I had to let him go. So this album is about unconditional love. The softness and magic that comes from having a baby or unconditional love, is contrasted with the underlying anxiety of protecting the innocence, knowing the trials and tribulations of life.”
Any time an album can touch upon life, death and the full range of human emotion, it’s truly something special. When an album comprised of lullabies achieves such lofty goals, however, it’s a rare find and a true treasure. Lullabies is just such a special album; one that only someone as uniquely talented as Appollonia Vanova could create.