On Friday I drove up to Haliburton for two days with the Highlands Opera Studio. Started a few years ago by the great Canadian tenor Richard Margison and his wife Valerie Kuinka, the Studio is a summer training program for emerging Canadian opera singers. They are carefully selected in a nation-wide audition process and over the month of August work on staged productions of two operas, give recitals and work with internationally acclaimed teachers and coaches like John Fischer (the former Head of Music at the Met and now General Director of Welsh National Opera in Cardiff), Tim Noble (who also teaches the members of the COC's Ensemble Studio), Canadian baritone John Fanning, the General Director of Hamilton Opera David Speers and many more. The Studio has established a remarkable connection with the local community, using the high school (including its theatre) as a teaching and performance facility, a church as recital hall and providing free lodging for the participants. Also, because of the support of a few generous donors, the program is tuition-free for all participating singers.
This year, there is a group of 18 singers from all over Canada. I spent half an hour with each of them, listening to (and commenting on) their audition repertoire. I was extremely impressed with the group, not only with the high level of singing, but also with the high level of artistry and commitment from every single participant. I will certainly be back next year.
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