Nancy Argenta – voice

Nancy Argenta (b Herbison), born in Nelson, BC, 17 Jan 1957; B MUS (Western Ontario) 1980. She spent most of her childhood in Argenta, a small settlement north of Nelson, where her mother taught piano and her father taught at the (Quaker) Friends’ School. She studied voice in Vancouver with Jacob Hamm and at the University of Western Ontario with Martin Chambers.

In 1980 Nancy won the S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition and received the first of three Canada Council grants to study in Europe, initially in Düsseldorf with Jacqueline Richard (1980-81), then in London (1981-3), where her principal mentor was Vera Rosza. While studying in London she adopted the surname Argenta to avoid being mistaken for another Canadian soprano, Nancy Hermiston.

Argenta’s first major international engagement was at Aix-en-Provence, France, in 1983, in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie directed by John Eliot Gardiner, with the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir. Since then she concertized, recorded, and broadcast extensively throughout Europe, drawing praise for the clarity, lightness, and agility of her voice. In November 1989 she made her Wigmore Hall recital debut. She also performed in the Middle East and Japan.

Argenta was associated particularly with the period instrument movement, and worked with virtually all of the leading ensembles and conductors in the field. Argenta’s success came largely through her interpretations of baroque repertoire, but she did not consider herself a specialist; she had a substantial 19th- and 20th-century repertoire.

Although she moved to London, England, in 1981, she continued to perform regularly in Canada with Tafelmusik and also with orchestras, Her US appearances included Lincoln Center, NY (with The English Concert, 1989), Atlanta (with Robert Shaw), St Paul (1989), and a California tour with Tafelmusik (1990), followed by later appearances in Chicago, Ann Arbor, and other cities.

In 1990, Argenta won the Canada Council’s Virginia P. Moore Prize; a 1992 recording with Tafelmusik (Handel, Excerpts from ’Floridante’) won a Juno award. Her 1995 recording of Purcell songs (O Solitude, EMI) received a Classic CD award. She gave master classes at London’s Guildhall School of Music, and regularly at Nelson Summer Song Fest. Urjo Kareda reported (Globe and Mail, 18 Jan 1997) that, “Argenta’s voice possesses a bell-like clarity, but the tone has a natural, unforced lyricism … Feeling is released with simplicity, and no undue archness or artifice interferes with her appealing directness of manner.

She has earned a place in music history and we are proud to be able to name Nancy Argenta as a former student of CYMC.