Judith Forst | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Judith Forst

Judith (Doris) Forst (b Lumb). Mezzo-soprano, teacher, b New Westminster, near Vancouver, 7 Nov 1943; B MUS (British Columbia) 1966, honorary LLD (British Columbia) 1991, honorary D MUS (Victoria) 1995.

Judith Forst

Judith (Doris) Forst (b Lumb). Mezzo-soprano, teacher, b New Westminster, near Vancouver, 7 Nov 1943; B MUS (British Columbia) 1966, honorary LLD (British Columbia) 1991, honorary D MUS (Victoria) 1995. She studied piano as a child and voice later with French Tickner of the University of British Columbia, and was coached by Harold Brown. A participant 1966-8 in the Vancouver Opera Association training program, Forst won the 1967 western finals of the San Francisco Opera auditions and the 1968 CBC Talent Festival. A 1968 audition for the Metropolitan Opera led to a contract and her debut there that same year. Forst lived 1968-75 in New York, where she continued her studies with Hans Joachim Heinz while performing as a regular member of the Metropolitan Opera, singing mainly minor roles. In 1975 she returned to Vancouver, a city which has remained her home.

Forst sang Hansel in the CBC's 1970 TV production of Hansel and Gretel and made her Canadian Opera Company (COC) debut in 1972 as Olga in Eugene Onegin. She also sang the Secretary in The Consul (1973) and Polly Peachum in The Beggar's Opera (1976) at the Guelph Spring Festival, and made her San Francisco Opera debut in 1974 as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly. Other assignments with the COC included Maddalena in Rigoletto (1973), Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier (1978), the title roles in Carmen and Rossini's Cinderella (1979), Charlotte in Werther (1980), Preziosilla in La Forza del Destino (1987), the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos (1988), and Marie in Wozzeck (1990). She sang Jane Seymour in Donizetti's Anna Bolena with Joan Sutherland in the title role for the COC in 1984 and then for the San Francisco Opera and in concerts in Boston, Washington, DC, and in 1986 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, the last broadcast as part of the "Live from Lincoln Center" PBS series. Although a mezzo-soprano, Forst also sang traditional soprano roles such as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, which she performed in Calgary, Edmonton, Miami, and Ottawa. In 1985 she made her European debut in Paris in a concert performance of Les Contes d'Hoffmann and in 1988 made her debut in Munich in La Forza del Destino. Forst appeared with the Edmonton, Dallas, Fort Worth, Manitoba, Miami, New York City, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Seattle, Southern Alberta (Calgary), and Vancouver operas and in the operatic productions of Festival Ottawa and Opera Lyra Ottawa. She gave duet recitals with the soprano Riki Turofsky in 1974 in Toronto and at the 1976 CBC Vancouver Festival and sang in oratorio with the Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver symphony orchestras. In 1988 she sang in the premiere of Rudolf Komorous' opera No No Miya for the Vancouver New Music Society and in 1989 she premiered Malcolm Forsyth'sSun Songs with the Calgary Philharmonic.

For the COC in 1995, and also for the Vancouver, Montreal and Portland Opera companies, she performed the role of Kostelnicka in Janáček's Jenůfa. Among her many other COC roles, she created the part of Pamphilea for the 1999 world premiere of The Golden Ass (by Randolph Peters and Robertson Davies), and was Jocasta in Oedipus Rex in 1997. With the Metropolitan Opera Forst has appeared in more than 200 performances, in such roles as the Witch in Hansel and Gretel (2001), Madame de Croissy in Dialogues of the Carmelites (2002), Kabanicha in Janáček's Kát'a Kabanová (2004), and Kostelnicka in Janáček's Jenůfa (2007). She appeared often for San Francisco Opera, including in the world premieres of Conrad Susa's Dangerous Liaisons (1994) and André Previn's Streetcar Named Desire (1998), creating the roles of Madame de Volanges and Eunice respectively. In 2004 she appeared in the Pittsburgh Opera production of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. In 2006 Forst made important debuts at La Scala, in Kát'a Kabanová, and with the Chicago Lyric Opera, in Strauss's Salome. Despite her thriving international career, Forst continued to support Canadian opera, performing as Klytemnestra in the 2003 Vancouver premiere of Elektra, a role which she had sung in concert with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 2001; and appearing as Lady Sybil in the world premiere of Lloyd Burritt's The Dream Healer in 2008. She has also been a frequent guest instructor at the University of British Columbia.

Forst has been called "one of the few truly world class coloratura mezzo-sopranos on the operatic stage," with a voice that is "bright, sensuous, seamless through its range, full of secure, shining high notes" (COC Magazine Apr 1988). She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Order of British Columbia. In 1978 she was named Canadian Woman of the Year, and in 1992 the City of Port Moody, BC, granted her the freedom of the city. In recognition of her contributions to Canadian music, Forst was named an ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre in 2009.

Selected Discography

Carissimi - Rossini - Berlioz - Archer - Bissell. Barkin piano. 1968. CBC SM-79

The Diary of Anne Frank, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Bernardi conductor. 2000. SMCD 5191

Donizetti Anna Bolena: "Dio, che mi vedi in core... sul suo capo aggravi un dio." COC Orchestra and chorus, Bonynge conductor, Sutherland (Anna), Forst (Seymour). 1984. COC WRC1-4950

Forsyth Three Métis Songs of Saskatchewan - Ridout Folk Songs of Eastern Canada. CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Bernardi conductor. 1987. CBC SMCD-5081

French and Italian Opera Arias: Bizet - Gounod - Massenet - Berlioz - Bellini - Donizetti - Rossini. Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bernardi conductor. 1986. CBC SM-5063

Offenbach Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Almeida conductor, Forst (The Muse). 1980. 3-Historical Recording Enterprises HRE-330-3

Schafer. Garden of the Heart. Popescu mezzo, Brown soprano, NAC Orchestra, Bernardi conductor. 1997. SMCD 5173

Spirit of the Child. Vancouver Children's Choir. 1992. VCC1092 Peter Allen Associates


Mertens, Susan. '"The reluctant diva," COC Magazine, 2-23 Apr 1988

L'Écuyer, Sylvia. "Judith Forst: tout un registre pour séduire," Aria, vol 12, Summer 1989

Richardson, Bill. "Judith's choice," Opera Canada, vol 31, Fall 1990

Symcox, Peter. "Judith Forst off-stage," Opera Canada, fall 1994

Everett-Green, Robert. "The opera actress plays superwoman," Globe and Mail, 19 Oct 1995

So, Joseph. "Judith Forst: Evergreen," La Scena Musicale, vol 12, no 8, May 2007


Making Opera: The Creation of Giuseppe Verdi's La Forza del Destino. COC Orchestra and Chorus. 1992. VIEW Video 1420

A Streetcar Named Desire. San Francisco Opera Orchestra. 1998. 2077 Kultur International Films