An opera singer from Waverley, N.S., has won a major French prize in Paris.

Barbara Hannigan might not be a household name in her home province, but she was recently named Musical Personality of the Year in Europe.

The society of French music critics awards the prize to an artist who has had a profound impact on French music over the past year. In Hannigan's case, it specifically recognizes her groundbreaking performance of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu at arts venue La Monnaie in Brussels and her turn as Agnès in George Benjamin's opera Written on Skin, performed at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

Hannigan is the first Canadian to receive the honour, which has previously been awarded to music world figures such as conductors Seiji Ozawa and Kent Nagano and tenor Roberto Alagna.

Hannigan spoke to CBC from Amsterdam. Listen to her interview, including a segment of her singing Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler.

"I was pretty chuffed and surprised," Hannigan said.

Her "fantastic" music teachers in Waverley, and later Bedford, instilled a love of music in her. "I developed it as far as I could," she said.

Hannigan also explained how a girl from Waverley became an opera star in Europe, what life is like among the wild personalities of that world and why she comes home as often as she can.