Saskatchewan-born soprano McKenzie Warriner is devoted to bringing music and text to life whether it’s high baroque or avant-garde. The 23/24 season sees McKenzie making her mainstage debut with Vancouver Opera as Papagena in The Magic Flute, touring across Canada with a recital of contemporary repertoire, and producing and performing in Slow Rise Music's third concert project Here Be Sirens. In fall 2023, she is especially excited for the release of Unfinished Business: an album of Tristan Zaba's piano and vocal works with performances by McKenzie and pianist Paul Williamson.
Winner of the 2023 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, McKenzie is one of Canada's rising stars in the field of contemporary music. As a Britten Pears Young Artist, McKenzie premiered orchestral works by Beatrice Ferreira and Marcus Rock at the 2023 Aldeburgh Festival, and performed a joint recital of contemporary works in Benjamin Britten's library. Other recent repertoire highlights include Abigail Richardson-Schulte’s Alligator Pie with the Regina Symphony Orchestra and Ana Sokolovic’s SATB song cycle dawn always begins in the bones in a joint initiative with the University of Manitoba and University of Toronto, with performances in both provinces. She is a proud co-founder of Slow Rise Music, a concert organization devoted to pushing boundaries and fostering creative collaboration within contemporary vocal music. More notable commissions/premieres include compositions by Isaac Zee, Tristan Zaba, Priam David, Anika-France Forget, and Kitty Xiao. Mostly recently, she premiered Keith Hamel's Breath, which she will be performing across Canada along with other repertoire during her Eckhardt-Gramatté Winner's tour with pianist Danielle Guina.
As a singing actor, McKenzie has performed a variety of opera roles, with highlights including Aurore in Le Portrait de Manon (Vancouver Opera), Madame Herz in Der Schauspieldirektor (Eastman Opera Theatre), Gretel in Hansel and Gretel (University of Manitoba Opera in Schools), La bergère Louis XV in L'enfant et les sortileges (Eastman Opera Theatre), and Novizie in Suor Angelica (Manitoba Underground Opera). During the pandemic, she sang her first virtual role as Bessie Brent in The Shop Girl in live Zoom performances with COSA Canada. As winner of the 2020 Gordon C. Wallis memorial opera competition, she was granted opportunities to sing with the Regina and Saskatoon Symphony Orchestras and funds for future artistic development.
Early Music and Ensemble Singing
Fascinated by Baroque repertoire, in 2022 McKenzie was thrilled to return to her home province to sing Messiah with the Saskatoon symphony. During her graduate studies, she sang the role of Venere in a concert version of Rossi’s L’Orfeo with the Eastman Collegium Musicum, performed Rameau's solo cantata Le Berger fidèle at the Rochester Early Music Festival, and was a frequent soloist with the Eastman Bach Cantata series. In addition to her solo work, McKenzie loves performing as a chorister. She has served as section lead for the Amadeus Choir and the Toronto Chamber Choir, also appearing as a soloist with each ensemble. As a former member of Winnipeg ensemble Dead of Winter, McKenzie sang several times at the renowned Winnipeg New Music Festival, most memorably as Queen Tye in excerpts from Phillip Glass’s Akhnaten, and in excerpts from Meredith Monk’s Book of Days workshopped with the composer.
An avid poetry fan, McKenzie is excited by the musical and dramatic possibilities offered by art song and has explored a wide range of recital repertoire. In 2018 she placed second and won the award for best song interpretation at the Canadian National Music Festival, and she won runner-up at the University of Manitoba 2016 Zita Bernstein Lieder Competition judged by Elly Ameling. She works as a duo with pianist Danielle Guina, with whom she has performed everything from Schubert to Saariaho.
McKenzie completed her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance and Literature at the Eastman School of Music with mezzo-soprano Kathryn Cowdrick, and her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Manitoba under the tutelage of Mel Braun. She also holds ARCT diplomas in both piano and vocal performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and has trained at Tafelmusik's Summer Baroque Intensive, Opera from Scratch, Opera NUOVA, Orford Musique, Against the Grain Theatre’s National Opera Intensive, and the Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble’s Dancing Voice/Singing Body workshop.
When she isn’t singing, McKenzie loves running, knitting, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. She is a pet mother to Marcie the dog and Blake the snake. She also bakes really delicious cakes, but isn't very good at decorating them.