A Calgary opera singer who lost her voice during a robbery two years ago is making a comeback.
In June 2016, Kathleen Morrison was walking with her boyfriend in the area of 15 Avenue and 5 Street SW when they were attacked by a man with bear spray.
The pair were blinded and Morrison was robbed of her purse. But the worst part of the terrifying incident for Morrison was being robbed of her voice. While she was screaming for help, she tore part of her vocal cords.
“It was absolutely crushing,” said Morrison, who was born and raised in Calgary.
“I felt like everything I had worked for was just taken from me by someone who just wanted a tank of gas and $50 for my purse.”
Morrison’s vocal cords healed but with scar tissue. She had surgery followed by a month locked in a silent world where she could not speak. It was a lonely time filled with despair over her uncertain career.
“If I am not a singer than what I am I? Are people going to care? Are they going to want to be my friend and will people want to have me around if I can’t sing?”
“I didn’t want to go out because I didn’t want people to see me in that state. I didn’t want people to give me that face of, ‘poor singer.’
“This is everything I had worked for and everything I had sacrificed for — that I moved to a different country for — to build up my career, was gone.”
With the help of friends, doctors and coaches, Morrison has now regained her voice. Gone, however, are the extreme soprano roles she once sang in Europe.
Before the bear spray attack in 2016, Morrison was based in Berlin, singing in opera houses in Vienna and Munich.
But instead of mourning the loss of her old voice, colleagues say Morrison has embraced the new opera roles that her voice is capable of singing.
“It’s very moving,” said Carlos Foggin, music director with the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra.
“She’s found a way to come back. Most would just decide to go to a different job but Kathleen has found a way.
“Yes, her voice did change and for most that would be a sense of despair and sorrow and of loss but moving on to heavier, dramatic roles with a new voice is a luxury that most singers never get. And to have a change you can either begrudge the universe or you can have your moment and get on with it and learn the roles that come with your amazing new voice,” Foggin said.
Saturday marks Morrison’s first time singing with a full orchestra again at the Calgary Concert Opera Company‘s performance of La Traviata where she performs the role of Violetta.
“Every soprano wants to sing her so for me to be coming back with this unanticipated comeback and to be doing with Violetta is just mind-blowing and it makes me so happy, just bursting.”
While Morrison starts over again, rebuilding her career in Calgary, she doesn’t dwell on the unknown future of the injured vocal cords.
“I would rather just live in the drama and live in the music and do what I love and do what I’m good at.
“Not singing for so long makes you realize that you miss it and you have to do this,” Morrison said.
The concert will be held at the First Baptist Church in Calgary on Sept. 15.