Saturday, September 10, 2016

I want to preface this by saying this is NOT a plea for sympathy in the comments (or anywhere). I'm asking for something else entirely.

I'm going to ask a favour. A big one. It's important. And I'll go first. But I totally understand if you don't choose to participate.

Can we talk about depression and suicide without shame?

They are still in many ways part of a silent epidemic. Revealing such things can be terrifying, especially if you work in an industry where image is important - and these days that's just about every field.

Fear of being judged is why so many people do not reach out for help and spiral into a state in which we can consider ending our lives preferable to going on. Some of us feel desperately alone. Some of us know we are loved, we have people around us who would be devastated if we acted on those impulses. But all have one thing in common: we reach a state where the despair feels intolerable and ending our life looks like the only way out.

Were you paying attention to the pronouns? I am one of those people.

I have suffered through periodic bouts of depression, combinations of my own biochemistry and baggage. Sometimes they are triggered by events in my life, some of them seem to come out of nowhere, when things are going very well

There was a time I considered ending my life. Oddly, the time I did have suicidal thoughts was not when I was in the depths of despair, it was at a point when I felt myself on the verge of falling into another episode and I just didn't believe I could go through that again. I did not act on the impulse, but it was powerful. I reached out for help and I got it.

The details are not important right now. Suffice it to say that I've gone through periods when I was one of the walking wounded or struggling to keep my head above water, and periods when I thrived and felt pretty terrific.

Full disclosure: lately, I'm wrestling with a great deal but I am not depressed. I am at times sad or angry and I can't see my way through clearly, but I am not hopeless and I'm NOT suicidal. Really. I promise.

About a dozen years ago, I lost a friend to suicide. He chose to end his life and though I wish with all my heart that he had not, I will not judge him for it. Nobody can know the depths of another person's pain.

I am also privileged to have another friend who very recently reached out to me when he felt that depth of despair and after some struggle I am very glad that he chose life.

So that favour I'm here to ask...? If you are willing to participate, I want your help to end the stigma.

If you have ever been depressed, please speak up. It needn't be a source of shame.

If you have ever felt the urge to end your life, please speak up. It's not a dirty secret.

If you meet/speak with/read about someone who discloses these things, please refrain from judgment. If you meet one of us when we are in the throes of that condition, please let us know we are not alone and help us to get help.

I'm a survivor of depression. I am very lucky and very grateful to be here to say that.

We are not weak. Quite the opposite. We are survivors who contend with an illness that can at times be overwhelming. It is just one part of what makes up our lives. It does not define us.

Let's work together to end the shame by shining a light on the dark places.

If even one life is saved, or if even one person feels just a little less desperate for not having to hide, it's worth it.

Whatever you choose, thank you for reading this.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Performance Biography *

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 The Angel in the premiere of David Warrack's multi-faith oratorio Abraham and as Amneris in Verdi's Aida with Toronto's Opera by Request. 

Ramona made her Koerner Hall debut as Madame de la Haltière in Massenet's Cendrillon as a guest artist with the Royal Conservatory Opera program. Her previous roles include Fricka (Die Walküre), Waltraute (Götterdämmerung), Marcellina (The Marriage of Figaro), Meg Page and Dame Quickly (Falstaff), 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 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).
She made her TV debut as the oblivious diva amid murder and mayhem in the comedy-mystery series Zoe Busiek: Wildcard.

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 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 prestigious Apprentice Artist program, and won third place in the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards.
Ramona has appeared with choirs and orchestras in the Toronto and Ottawa regions in programs of opera highlights and in 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 critic l 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.

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. More recently, Ramona 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 Xavant 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 Emily on a Canadian tour of Emily, the Way you Are, as well as a new project in development about "Mama" Cass Elliot, 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
June 2016