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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 Studio School tour, art song recitals, and a special Ensemble Studio performance of a COC mainstage production, as well as roles in COC mainstage productions.
Vocal coaches participate in the preparation of the company's mainstage productions, as well as art song recitals, school tour performances and Ensemble Studio performances.
On November 3, 2015, 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 Nielsen, Gidon Saks and Krisztina Szabó, as well as vocal coaches including Sandra Horst, Steven Philcox, Kinza Tyrell and Christopher Mokrzewski.
Stage directors whose careers were launched at the COC include Brian Deedrick, Tom Diamond, Roman Hurko and Maer Powell.
At the Centre Stage Ensemble Studio Competition in 2014, two singers – Charles Sy and Aaron Sheppard – were selected out of the finalists to join the 2015/2016 Ensemble Studio. They will be joined by pianist Hyejin Kwon.
Information about application for the 2017/2018 Ensemble Studio will be available in early 2016.
To learn more about the application process and requirements, click here.
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