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, Ramona was most recently heard as Venus in Tannhäuser with the Chatham Camerata. Recent years' highlights include Amneris in Verdi's Aida with Toronto's Opera by Request and The Angel (and Narrator) in the premiere of David Warrack's multi-faith oratorio Abraham.
Ramona made her Koerner Hall debut in the role of Mme de la Haltière in Massenet's Cendrillon as a guest artist with the Royal Conservatory Opera program. Her previous roles include Marcellina (The Marriage of Figaro), Meg Page and Dame Quickly (Falstaff), Fricka (Die Walküre), Waltraute (Götterdämmerung), Mère Marie de l’incarnation (Dialogues of the Carmelites), Mrs. Grose (Turn of the Screw), La Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi), Filipievna and Olga (Eugene Onegin), Dido and the Sorceress (Dido and Aeneas), Mother and the Witch (Hansel and Gretel), Mercedes (Carmen), Lola (Cavalleria Rusticana), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Antonia's Mother (The Tales of Hoffmann), Ottavia (The Coronation of Poppea), Katisha (The Mikado), Golde (Fiddler on the Roof), and Miss Hannigan (Annie).
Trained as an operatic mezzo soprano (then as a lyric soprano, then a mezzo, then a dramatic soprano, then a mezzo!), Ramona obtained her graduate Artist Diploma in Voice Performance from the Glenn Gould School in 2003. In her final year, she was featured as the Alto soloist in Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with conductor Richard Bradshaw and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra at Toronto Centre for the Arts, was engaged as understudy for Dame Quickly in Falstaff with Des Moines Metro Opera’s Apprentice Artist program, and won third place in the prestigious Christina and Louis Quilico Awards.
Ramona has appeared with choirs and orchestras in the Toronto and Ottawa regions, in programs of opera highlights and oratorio, including the masses of Dvořak, Haydn, and Mozart, Vivaldi's Gloria, and the Fauré and Rutter Requiems. She debuted with Toronto's Opera in Concert in 1999 as Albine in Thais, and returned that season to critical praise as Mrs. McLean in Susannah. She sang the Foreign Woman in The Consul, Mrs. Nolan in The Medium, Bianca in The Rape of Lucretia with Opera Anonymous, and moonlighted as stage director for their double bill of Susanna's Secret and L'heure Espagnole. She made her TV debut as the oblivious diva amid murder and mayhem in the comedy-mystery series Zoe Busiek: Wildcard.
An avid collaborator with contemporary composers, Ramona created the title role in Emily, the Way You Are about artist Emily Carr, as well as Alora in the The Last Wife, and performed the Farmer’s Wife in the 2009 North American premiere of And the Rat Laughed, and participated in a workshop 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 eclectic performances. In 2010, Ramona sang 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, arias from the operas Cassandra and Mother of Kings by Amphion Opera for the Lyric Canada Conference at Shaw, and Brünnhilde from Wagner's Siegfried in The 50 Minute Ring by Myra Davies and Chris Willes for the Music Gallery’s X-avant Festival. In 2009, she was invited to perform among such luminaries as Susan Hoeppner and Jacques Israelievitch at the Glick Society’s Tribute to Srul Irving Glick. Concerts and recitals have included Wagner’s Wesendonck lieder and Mompou’s Cançons Becquerianas, Ravel’s Scheherazade, Ravel's Chansons madécasses and Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No.5.
Ramona sang Helen Greenberg's Kaddish in the first concert sponsored by PEN Canada in memory of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. She regularly lends her talent to a range of social causes, including V-day Toronto, Holocaust Education Week, 160 Girls: The Equality Effect on behalf of legal action for victims of rape and violence in Kenya, Hospice Thornhill, Spring into Action for the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Canadian Athletes Fund's See You in Torino gala in support of participants in the 2006 Olympic Games, and PGI plays the Red Barn, the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament for Literacy.
Ramona looks forward to reprising the role of iconic artist Emily Carr on a Canadian tour of Emily, the Way you Are, as well as a new one-woman project in development about the great Mama Cass, and a CD recording featuring compositions by some of Canada’s finest untapped talent.
“Ramona Carmelly was every inch the diva princess as Amneris, in a thoughtful performance that held nothing back, especially in her big scene in Act IV. This is a voice that could develop in several directions, as she has the top and low notes, and sang a huge role in a bluesy style a few months ago in the premiere of David Warrack’s Abraham.” -- Leslie Barcza, Barczablog
“Ramona Carmelly as the Spoken Voice and the Angel really surprised me. I'm already a fan of her full-throated Wagnerian mezzo, but I got to hear a different kind of singing from her. A more contemporary musical theatre sound with - wait for it - some DAMN FINE BELTING!” -- Gregory Finney, Schmopera
“As Madame de la Haltiere, Ramona Carmelly had the right comic flair and rich tone.” -- Joseph So, La Scena Musicale
“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 a composer finds a performer who will prepare a work with such care and excellent musicianship... a top-notch performance.” -- Mary Gardiner, composer