jean stilwell: mezzo soprano


Jean Stilwell

The Tattoos

             Scroll down for Jean’s traditional bio.


Jean is often asked about her tattoos. They are a visual biography, a map of a work in progress. These are some of tattoos and their stories.

Picasso’s Dove

This tattoo was done in

Columbus, Ohio. 

In it are broken flowers

which symbolize so many things

to each of us, and a depiction of Picasso’s Dove of Peace.

A later addition was made to the tattoo that incorporated artwork

by my good friend, artist

Kate Hollett.

The Carmen Tattoo

I have a large and very colourful tattoo on my right leg that pays homage to Carmen because it is she who has been a constant through many of the seminal moments in my life: falling in love, getting married, having a baby, and losing my mother.  

The tattoo itself is a gypsy because it was started in Tucson, Arizona, made a short stop in Toronto and was finished in Victoria, British Columbia.  

There are symbols in it that have meaning for me: a Spanish fan; a butterfly to remind me that life is metamorphosis; a red gardenia, which is the flower that Carmen wears in her hair; and, at its very centre there is the initial 'F' for my son Freddy who was just two weeks old when I performed Carmen at the New York City Opera.

Goddess Tara

The writer-director Morris Panych suggested this tattoo when I was playing the character of Jenny in a production of Three Penny Opera that he was directing.

The tattoo was done in Vancouver and is a depiction of the Earth Goddess, Tara.

The Songbird, the Cardinal

Traditional Artist Bio

Click here for a text-only version of Jean’s traditional bio.

Jean Stilwell is famous for her twenty-five blisteringly sexy Carmens in Canada, the US, Britain and Japan. In addition to acting as a co-host on Toronto's The New Classical 96.3fm morning show, Jean Stilwell continues to perform on the opera and concert stages as well as in five cabaret shows with pianist-writer Patti Loach: "Love and Life", "Carmen UnZipped", "Here's To You", "Not Exactly Paris", and "What Was I Saying?"

Always her own woman, Jean did not follow a conventional path to reach the stature that she enjoys today in the world of opera, concerts, art song recitals and cabaret. She was awarded grants that encouraged her to customize her own education as befitted the daughter of two musicians from whom she had already learned a great deal, from playing the piano to singing in professional choirs. 

Jean was the grateful recipient of scholarships and grants from the following arts organizations:

  1. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

  2. The Women's Art Association

  3. The Chalmers Foundation

  4. Two grants from the Canada Council

  5. Three Scholarships from the Banff School of Fine Arts

Her talent and her art are the direct result of her innate musicality, and the supreme dedication of a seasoned performed who has chosen a life "on the boards". A career that began in choirs and operetta quickly evolved into a career in opera that has included performances around the world, and twenty-five blisteringly sexy Carmens.

Ms Stilwell spent three seasons at the Stratford Festival singing in Gilbert and Sullivan productions.  Availing herself of all the acting and moving classes made her realize the importance of becoming a good singer/actor.  Words and the music became equally important when telling a story. 

Musicians who have worked with Jean speak of her performances with enormous respect for her talent as well as with an appreciation for her terrific laugh.


  1. Berio Folksongs—CBC Records 1994

  2. Harry Somers/Celebration “Five Songs for Dark Voice”, The Esprit Orchestra — CBC 2000

  3. Les Chemin de l’Amour with Robert Kortgaard, Pianist and Ensemble—CBC 2000

  4. Millenium New Year’s 2000 Opera Gala recorded live at Roy Thomson Hall—CBC Records 2001

  5. Harry Somers: Songs From The Heart of Somers (2 CDs) with John Hess, Pianist—CMC 2003

  6. Louis Spohr: Sechs Lieder with The Amici Ensemble — CBC Records 2003

  7. German Cabaret Songs with Robert Kortgaard, Pianist and Ensemble — CBC Records 2003

  8. Carmen UnZipped, with Patti Loach, Pianist 2006


"You touched us, each one of us, with depth of sorrow, humour, hope and despair, riveting and heartrending. I will never, ever forget the magic of your evening. Never!!!"  Veronica Tennant

Please visit Jean's classical and cabaret sites for more information.


People often ask...

People often ask Jean, “What kind of music do you like to listen to?”  

She is an iPad addict and, if you checked, you would find  music as varied as Peter Gabriel, Gustav Mahler, Kurt Elling, Coldplay, Anne Sofie Von Otter, Dmitri Shostakovich, Dave Matthews and Arvo Part on on her “Top 25 List”.  

Jean’s other addictions include good coffee, old  Cheddar, and belly laughs. 


Jean’s mom, Margaret Stilwell, died of ALS in 1988. In Carmen UnZipped, Jean sings a song by Maltby and Shire called “If I Sing … You Are the Music”. It is a moving tribute to Jean’s mother - and indeed to all of our mothers - that will leave few dry eyes in the house.

For more information...

For more information about Jean, please click here to see the article in Opera Today where she speaks very candidly about her childhood, with Mary-Lou Vetere.

Listen to Jean....

Listen to Jean, weekdays from 5 a.m. - 10 a.m. live, at

“You touched us, each one of us, with depth of sorrow, humour, hope and despair - riveting and heartrending - I will never ever forget the magic of your evening. Never!!!” Veronica Tennant