COC Ensemble Studio

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The COC Ensemble Studio — founded in 1980 with a generous continuing grant from Imperial Oil Limited and with assistance from the Government of Canada — is Canada's premier training program for young opera professionals.

It provides advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and the practical career development skills necessary to succeed as a self-employed artist in a highly competitive international environment.

The Ensemble is chosen through a national audition process. Members of the Ensemble Studio receive a blend of advanced study and practical experience. In this one-to-three-year program, singers receive vocal, theatrical and practical career development instruction.

Their practical experience includes understudying major roles, the annual Glencore Ensemble School tour, special Ensemble Studio chamber productions and a special Ensemble Studio performance of a COC mainstage production as well as roles in COC mainstage productions.

Apprentice stage directors, conductors and vocal coaches participate in the preparation of the company's mainstage productions, as well as School Tour performances and Ensemble Studio productions.

Ensemble Studio Competition

On November 25, 2014, the Canadian Opera Company’s fundraising gala Centre Stage takes place at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, featuring the competitive vocal showcase of the COC’s Ensemble Studio Competition. The Ensemble Studio Competition features singers from the final round of auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, competing for cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 – $5,000. 

Competing before a public audience, finalists in the Ensemble Studio Competition perform from the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre, accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. 

The competition was launched in 2011 by COC General Director Alexander Neef to showcase the opera talent the COC had scouted from across the country and create a public platform for celebrating the future of opera in Canada. For more information about the finalists and winners of Centre Stage, please visit our competition page


Since its inception, more than 180 young Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first professional operatic experience through this program.

Graduates include such well known singers as Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Robert Gleadow, Ben Heppner, Joseph Kaiser, Allyson McHardy, Jessica Muirhead, Wendy Neilsen, Gidon Saks and Krisztina Szabó.

Successful stage directors include Brian Deedrick, Tom Diamond, Roman Hurko and Maer Powell.

At the inaugural Centre Stage Ensemble Studio Competition in 2013, three singers – Karine Boucher, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and Iain MacNeil – were selected out of the finalists to join the 2014/2015 Ensemble Studio. They will be joined by pianist Jennifer Szeto.

To Apply

The Ensemble Studio program is designed to serve as a bridge between academic programs and the professional world of opera. Applicants must display exceptional talent, have extensive operatic training and a thorough musical education.

Auditions take place every fall in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and New York. The final stage of the audition process is the Ensemble Studio Competition on November 25, 2014.

For more information contact the COC's Ensemble Studio Administrator at 416-363-6671 or send an e-mail.

Members of the 2014/2015 COC Ensemble Studio. (l-r) tenor Owen McCausland, bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, intern coach and pianist Jennifer Szeto, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, bass-baritone Iain MacNeil, soprano Karine Boucher, tenor Andrew Haji, soprano Aviva Fortunata, baritone Clarence Frazer and mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage. Photo: Chris Hutcheson

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