Glendon Campus
York University
2275 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4N 3M6
Opera Singer ‘Found’ in Translation


Music and languages are well known to be close relatives, and a good ear is an excellent asset for both. But it is not every day that a successful opera singer decides to broaden his skills set by enrolling in a translation degree.

Yet that is exactly what tenor James McLennan (pictured below) decided to do last fall, by enrolling in Glendon’s School of Translation, working towards a Special Honours B.A. in Translation.

“I love learning different languages - which is partly why I sing opera - and I thought the translation degree at Glendon would be an excellent way for me to perfect my French”, says McLennan, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Although his family’s background is Scottish and Ukrainian, his parents recognized very early the advantage that knowing French would provide to their children. Going through French immersion from kindergarten on, James and his brother became fluently bilingual by the time they completed elementary school. And the proximity of a large Francophone community in Saint Boniface allowed them many opportunities to use French outside the classroom. “Every year, my school would go to see French plays at Le Cercle Molière [Canada's longest-running French language theatre]; we also took part in Le Festival du Voyageur. I came to feel very much at home with French culture.”

McLennan’s opera career is clearly soaring. His list of credits includes important performances across Canada with such prestigious groups as the Vancouver Opera, the Banff Festival, the Toronto Bach Consort and Tapestry New Opera Works, to name just a few. He is a recipient of a Chalmers Award and a Canada Council grant. McLennan is also an alumnus of L’Atelier Lyrique de L’Opéra de Montréal, where he performed Ferrando in
Cosí fan tutte, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, and Tonio in La fille du régiment. Last December, he performed to great acclaim in the title role of Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece, Candide, in a production by Toronto Operetta Theatre.

McLennan is pursuing his translation degree for the love of learning, and to enhance his liberal arts background. Although his opera career is his main focus, he likes the idea that he might be able to do some part time freelance translation work, when he is not busy singing. “I think the discipline of translation offers a lot of opportunities and benefits and I look forward to the challenge of exploring these”, says McLennan.

McLennan chose Glendon for a number of reasons, including its convenient location to downtown and to most other places where he is working. He also finds the small classes and the interesting program choices very attractive. Says McLennan, “Glendon, in my opinion, has its students’ best interests at heart. The programs offered here are academically strong, but they are also very relevant to the outside world and it's my impression that they do well in preparing graduates for the current job market. The student body is diverse, and all the professors I have encountered are very dedicated and enthusiastic about their subjects. I'm having a great time.”

Mature students, such as James McLennan, not only profit from Glendon’s high-level, multidisciplinary offerings. They also add significantly to the diversity of the student body and bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to benefit the entire university community.

This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on January 22, 2007