Photo: Highlands Opera Studio

Selena James, one of the most respected names in Canadian opera, has passed away in Victoria at the age of 96.

Born in 1922, the Canmore, Alberta native arrived in Victoria in 1973 after time spent in Vancouver, Europe and New York City, where she both performed and earned a Masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music.

James spent many years with the Victoria Conservatory of Music, training many of the of most famous Opera singers in the country.

“A radiant and highly accomplished coloratura soprano in her early years, becoming one of the greatest vocal pedagogues of the 20th century,” reads a tribute from the Highlands Opera Studio.

One of her star pupils is Victoria-born tenor Richard Margison, the Artistic Director of the Highlands Opera Studio.

“Selena was the one who believed in me from our very first meeting in 1975,” he writes.

“She guided me through the transition from baritone to tenor and gave me all the technical skills that have served me well on every major operatic stage in the world.”

“I consider myself lucky to have had her support and wisdom in defining my career. She was indeed a member of our family and we will miss her always,” he adds.

Victoria native Eve-Lyn de la Haye is also one of James’ most noted students.

“Her lessons were the hardest I have ever taken, but also the most fun,”   de la Haye told Robin J. Miller of the Opera Times in 2013.

“She built my voice over seven years and became not only my greatest teacher and mentor, but also a dear friend.”






Ben O'Hara