Internationally renowned operatic tenor Lance Ryan named 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

Douglas College awarded Lance Ryan, a classic operatic heldentenor, with the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his international success, as well as for his contributions to young singers who aspire to a career in the performing arts.

Ryan came to Douglas in 1989 to pursue the University Transfer Music program, with a focus in classic guitar, before completing his degree at University of British Columbia. In his final year at Douglas College, Ryan realized his passion for vocal performance and began training with local voice coaches.    

Ryan is known for his principal roles and performances in Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello and Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, among many others. Ryan’s career has taken him to some of the most highly regarded international operatic stages, including London’s Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Vienna’s Wiener Staatsoper.

“I have been fortunate to have worked and performed with Lance Ryan for over 25 years,” said David Boothroyd, one of Ryan’s first opera coaches, and the former Music Director of the Burnaby Lyric Opera and Coach of the UBC Opera Ensemble, in Ryan’s nomination for the award. “In a time when theatre is struggling, Lance’s impressive career and skill reminds us of the power and value of live performance. Douglas College should certainly be extremely proud to count Lance among its alumni.” 

After relocating from his hometown of White Rock to further his vocal training and career in Italy, Ryan trained under the tutelage of celebrated operatic tenors Gianni Raimondi and Carlo Bergonzi, among others. In 2002, Ryan won the Associazione Lirica e Concertistica Italiana (AsLiCo), a European competition for young singers in the opera, before moving to Germany in 2005, where he became a principal artist of the Badisches Staatstheatre in Karlsruhe.

In addition to the success of his professional work, Ryan has performed at many benefit concerts for organizations such as Critter Care Wildlife Society, the Peninsula Arts Foundation, PETA and the Douglas College Alumni Association. The funds raised from the latter were used to create the Lance Ryan Vocal Award of Distinction, an annual award that recognizes and rewards Douglas College graduates who show great promise and intend to continue their vocal studies. Ryan also frequently speaks to young singers about careers in the performing arts.

“Having a successful career singing was always a dream and not something I necessarily thought I could actually achieve,” said Ryan. “I’d received financial help and mentorship from others in my early career, so it feels right to give back.”

For those grads who want to pursue music or live performance, Ryan says the most important thing is to pursue the career because you love it.

“Theatres are struggling right now and no one really knows what will happen next, and the future probably won’t look the same as what we’re used to,” Ryan said. “But theatre and performance has always evolved and adapted throughout history. It’s a difficult industry that requires a lot of innovation, tenacity and perseverance. Do it because you love it and because it’s something that really fulfils you.”

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes the quality of Douglas College alumni and their contributions to their community. Historically, this award has been presented during the graduation ceremony of the alum’s program of study. This year, the Douglas College graduation ceremonies will be conducted virtually.        

Douglas College is the largest degree-granting college in B.C., combining the academic foundations of a university and the employer-ready skills of a college to graduate resilient global citizens who adapt, innovate and lead in a changing world.

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Carly Whetter
Communications Officer, Douglas College

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