Calgary opera star focuses on recovery after terrifying attack left her unable to sing

Kathleen Morrison should be singing opera in Berlin right now. Instead, she's serving beer at a Calgary karaoke bar, saving up for expensive vocal cord surgery.

Kathleen Morrison and boyfriend mugged near 17th avenue last summer

Kathleen Morrison is still recovering from a random attack that terrorized her and her boyfriend last summer. (Smoke Show Photography)

Kathleen Morrison should be singing opera in Berlin right now.

Instead, she's serving beer at a Calgary karaoke bar, saving up for expensive vocal cord surgery.

The soprano was mugged last summer in the Beltline and Morrison says she screamed so loud she partially tore one of her vocal cords. 

"I did a performance at the Calgary Zoo and afterwards, my boyfriend and I went out for a date night and it kind of ended a little bit ridiculous," Morrison told the Calgary Eyeopener.

The pair was walking in the area of 15th Avenue and 5th Street S.W., just behind National on 17th, when a man sprayed them both with bear spray. He shoved Morrison into a tree, stole her purse and ran off.

Morrison and her boyfriend were instantly blinded.

"I just started screaming for people to call paramedics or the police, anything," she recalled.

A man eventually came out of a nearby condo and tried to help them, spraying water from his garden hose to wash off the bear spray. 

"It's probably the most painful thing I've ever experienced," Morrison recalled.

But the lasting impact of the attack is much harder to see. 

Kathleen Morrison performing at The Chicago Chophouse in Calgary. The soprano had been building her career in Berlin before the attack. (

Morrison had been steadily building her career in Germany for the past four years, where she says the opportunities are much more abundant for young opera singers.

While she was screaming for help, she tore a small part of one of her vocal cords. As it healed, the scar tissue caused a vocal nodule on the other cord. 

"It caused me to have to cancel some very high profile performances last fall and this year — I've had to cancel everything to work on my recovery," Morrison said. 

To further complicate matters, she's still dealing with the fallout from the unknown man stealing her purse. She said he opened multiple credit cards and accounts in her name, and police haven't been able to find him. 

And so, Morrison is working at Ducky's Pub, saving up to travel to Berlin to meet with her doctors for the surgery.

"It's pretty tough. I've been seeing a counsellor ... just to deal with the fact that right now, I'm not a singer, and that's a really, really tough thing to deal with," she said, her voice breaking.

"You just don't know how long the rehab is going to be from the vocal surgery," Morrison said. "It could be a month, it could be six months, it could be a year, it could be never. It's a little bit of a terrifying prospect to think about."

But Morrison is certain of one thing if she does make a full recovery.

"It's going to be one heck of a comeback concert, I can tell you that."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener