COC Media Releases

11/10/2014

SEVEN CANADIAN SINGERS TAKE CENTRE STAGE IN COC VOCAL SHOWCASE COMPETITION

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Toronto – Out of a pool of 175 aspiring opera singers from across the country, the Canadian Opera Company has selected seven to compete at Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition Gala on November 25, 2014 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. This year hosted by world renowned Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, Centre Stage is the COC’s annual fundraising gala dedicated to the discovery and celebration of the next generation of opera stars. The Ensemble Studio Competition is the gala’s feature event and an exhilarating vocal showcase with the singers, selected from nationwide auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio – Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals – vying for cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 to $5,000.

The young singers featured in the 2014 vocal competition are: mezzo-soprano Zoe Band (Toronto); soprano Eliza Johnson (Stratford, Ont.); baritone Dimitri Katotakis (Toronto); baritone Nathan Keoughan (Charlottetown); tenor Aaron Sheppard (St. John’s, N.L.); mezzo-soprano Michelle Siemens (Calgary); and tenor Charles Sy (Toronto).

This year’s seven finalists were chosen following preliminary auditions in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and New York City. At Centre Stage on November 25, each finalist will give a performance showcasing their vocal technique and range before an audience and panel of judges. First, second and third prizes, worth $5,000, $3,000 and $1,500, are awarded, in addition to an Audience Choice Award, selected by audience vote, worth $1,500. Select finalists are also invited to join the COC’s 2015/2016 Ensemble Studio, to be announced at a later date.

“Through Centre Stage, the Canadian Opera Company is able to offer a special preview of the future of opera in Canada. The young artists we invite to participate in Centre Stage are some of the best and most promising operatic voices from across the country,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “We see exceptional talent over the course of our annual auditions for the Ensemble Studio and wanted to find a way to share these young artists with a wider audience, which is why we created a public competition component to the process a few years ago. Now, Centre Stage is one of the most anticipated events in the COC season.”

Ben Heppner, one of the world’s most distinguished dramatic tenors and a graduate of the COC’s Ensemble Studio, hosts the festivities on November 25, when the seven singers perform from the mainstage of Canada’s first purpose-built opera house before an anticipated audience of 1,000 people and accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. Also anticipated is a surprise musical guest joined in performance by the COC Orchestra led by Maestro Debus. Centre Stage culminates in an announcement of the competition’s winners and an exclusive gala dinner on the stage of the Four Seasons Centre.

COC General Director Alexander Neef heads the jury for the vocal competition portion of the evening. He is joined by COC Artistic Administrator Roberto Mauro, COC Music Administrator Sandra Gavinchuk and Head of the COC Ensemble Studio Liz Upchurch, as well as Canadian soprano and Ensemble Studio Head Vocal Consultant Wendy Nielsen, who is also a graduate of the COC’s program. The judging panel deliberates on location and announces the competition winners at the event’s conclusion.

In addition to winning the evening’s cash prizes, finalists are hopeful of also earning a place in the COC’s Ensemble Studio, which can be the these singers’ first steps towards an international career. The Centre Stage audience will be hearing the singers selected to follow in the footsteps of such renowned Ensemble Studio alumni as Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, David Pomeroy, Joseph Kaiser, Allyson McHardy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.

Centre Stage takes place at 6:30 p.m. in R. Fraser Elliott Hall at the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W.). Centre Stage Competition tickets are $100 and include a pre-competition cocktail celebration in the Four Seasons Centre’s sparkling Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room. Specially priced $35 tickets are also available for patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 through Opera Under 30 sponsored by TD Bank Group.

Following the competition, Centre Stage Gala Dinner guests go on to enjoy an elegant formal dinner from the privileged vantage point of the Four Seasons Centre stage, joined by competition finalists and winners, notable COC artists and key supporters of the opera company. Guests are also treated to a culinary experience by critically acclaimed chef David Lee, a rare opportunity to enjoy his gastronomic creations outside of dining at Nota Bene where Lee is the executive chef. Centre Stage Gala tickets, encompassing the competitive vocal showcase and an exclusive black-tie dinner, are $1,500, with a limited number available for purchase.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit COCCentreStage.ca, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231 or the Four Seasons Centre Box Office (145 Queen St. W.).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Competition Supporters: RBC Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, Peter M. Deeb

Platinum Sponsor: Mercedes-Benz Canada

Opera Under 30 Sponsor: TD Bank Group

Gala Reception Sponsor: Maison Birks

Artist Sponsors: Earlaine Collins, Ninalee Craig, Patrick Hodgson Family Foundation, June Shaw and the late Dr. Ralph Shaw, Jack Whiteside

Prize Sponsors: First Prize – Colleen Sexsmith; Second Prize – ARIAS: Canadian Opera Student Development Fund; Third Prize – Tom C. Logan; Audience Choice Award – Classical 96.3 FM

Voting Technology Sponsor: Classical 96.3 FM and Turning Technologies

About the 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. 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.

With the creation of Centre Stage, the COC opened the Ensemble Studio Competition to an audience of over 1,000 opera lovers and interested guests as it moved from the intimate setting of the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre to R. Fraser Elliott Hall. In 2013, the competition finalists were showcased as never before as they performed with an orchestra led by a world-renowned conductor from the mainstage of the COC’s opera house.

The annual Ensemble Studio audition process, open only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, takes COC artistic staff across Canada and into the U.S. for preliminary auditions in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and New York, followed by a final callback audition at the COC’s Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto. It’s from this pool of singers that finalists are selected for the Ensemble Studio Competition.

About the COC Ensemble Studio
The COC Ensemble Studio is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. Since the inception of the program in 1980, over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio. Former members include Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.

The members of the Ensemble Studio are the COC’s resident artists and important ambassadors for the company. They receive a blend of advanced study and practical experience through an individually tailored, multi-year program, involving understudying and performing mainstage roles, intensive vocal coaching, language and acting studies, and career skills development, as well as participation in masterclasses with internationally renowned opera professionals.

The COC Ensemble Studio, underwritten in part by Peter M. Deeb and The Slaight Family Foundation, is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals and provides advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and career development opportunities. The Ensemble Studio is also supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, RBC Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, W. Garfield Weston Foundation and other generous donors.

About the Canadian Opera Company
Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006. For more information on the Canadian Opera Company, please visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

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For more information or to request photography, please contact:

Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: jenniferp@coc.ca
Kristin McKinnon, Assistant Publicist, tel: 416-306-2383, e-mail: kmckinnon@coc.ca

or

Amy Burstyn-Fritz, Knot PR, Director, tel: 416-532-9035, e-mail: abf@knotpr.com
Nicole Martin, Knot PR, Account Executive, tel: 416-532-9035, e-mail:nam@knotpr.com

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10/29/2014

COC MAKES RETURN VISIT THIS SPRING TO PRESTIGIOUS BROOKLYN ACADEMY OF MUSIC WITH SEMELE

Read the PDF version here.

Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company is proud to be invited to present the U.S. premiere of Zhang Huan’s theatrically transcendent production of Handel’s Semele at the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music in March 2015. The COC’s presentation of Semele at BAM is directed by Zhang with distinguished British conductor and Baroque opera expert Christopher Moulds leading the critically acclaimed COC Orchestra and COC Chorus. Semele is scheduled at the Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY) for four performances only – March 4, 6, 8 and 10, 2015.

“We’re very proud to be invited to bring this production of Semele to BAM. It represented new territory for the company on multiple levels: the opera had never before been performed by the COC, and the production itself asked us to push the artistic boundaries of the art form and show its infinite possibilities,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “It’s an honour to be asked to present this work on the global stage that BAM represents, especially when it comes so soon after our last visit in 2011 with our production of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables.”

The COC’s 2015 tour to BAM marks the opera company’s third visit to the illustrious multi-arts centre that, for more than 150 years, has been a home for adventurous artists, audiences and ideas – engaging both global and local communities. The COC’s prior invitations to BAM were also to perform two equally ground-breaking productions: in 2011 with The Nightingale and Other Short Fables and, in 1993, with a double bill of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, both directed by Canadian visionary Robert Lepage.

This production of Semele offers up a provocatively playful staging directed by famed Chinese visual and performance artist Zhang Huan. His daring East-meets-West production blends the Greek myth of Semele with the contemporary true story of an ill-fated Chinese love triangle – all set within the walls of an actual 450-year-old Ming Dynasty temple, which weighs 17 tons and is transformed into an altar, a palace, a crematory, and heaven. With appearances by debaucherous Buddhist monks, a giant inflatable puppet and an overtly aroused donkey, Zhang layers cultural taboos and ribald humour with classical compositions, creating a bold and contemporary fable.

The story, of what is Handel’s most sensuous opera, focuses on Semele, a princess and mistress of the god Jupiter, who wishes her lover to grant her immortality. Semele’s ambition and vanity, however, ultimately lead to her undoing.

Internationally renowned Canadian singer Jane Archibald reprises the role of Semele, which she sang with the COC in 2012, for this production’s U.S. premiere. Both abroad and at home, Archibald has dazzled audiences and critics alike with her vocal dexterity and dramatic presence. Her 2012 performance was met with overwhelming praise. The Globe and Mail described her as “possibly the best coloratura soprano of her generation” and the Toronto Star proclaimed “Jane Archibald is alone worth the price of a ticket. She is spectacular in the title role.”

Archibald leads an esteemed cast of new and familiar faces to the COC. Canadian tenor Colin Ainsworth is the god Jupiter, and Welsh contralto Hilary Summers makes her COC debut portraying both Jupiter’s jealous wife, Juno, and Ino, Semele’s sister. Canadian soprano Katherine Whyte returns to reprise the role of Juno’s messenger, Iris. American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen portrays Semele’s father, Cadmus, and the god of sleep, Somnus. American countertenor Lawrence Zazzo is Semele’s jilted suitor, Athamas.

Han Feng, sought-after for her fashion as well as costume and exhibition designs, plays with Zhang’s concept to create a fusion of Chinese theatre and European Baroque in the costumes enhanced by the magical lighting design originally conceived by Wolfgang Göbbel, and recreated by Willem Laarman.

Christopher Moulds makes his COC debut conducting Handel’s Baroque masterpiece. An experienced and versatile conductor, Moulds is considered an expert in classical and Baroque operas and appears with the premier houses and orchestras of Europe.

This production of Semele had its North American premiere with the COC in spring 2012. It was the first opportunity for audiences to experience Zhang’s production outside Brussels, Belgium, where it premiered in 2009, and Beijing, where in 2010 it was China’s first major staging of a Baroque opera.

TICKET INFORMATION

Single tickets for Semele and BAM’s 2015 Winter/Spring season engagements go on sale December 8, 2014 (December 1, 2014 for Friends of BAM). To purchase tickets online visit BAM.org or contact BAM Ticket Services at 718-636-4100.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The tour of Semele is made possible, in part, by the Ontario Arts Council.

The COC’s Semele is a co-production of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels and KT Wong Foundation.

 

About the Canadian Opera Company
Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006. For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

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For more information or to request production photographs, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: jenniferp@coc.ca

Posted by Public Relations / in Press Releases / comments (0) / permalink

10/28/2014

CELEBRATED CANADIAN TENOR BEN HEPPNER TO HOST SECOND ANNUAL CENTRE STAGE: ENSEMBLE STUDIO COMPETITION GALA

Read the PDF version here.

Canada’s Next Opera Stars Compete on the World Stage of the Four Seasons Centre

TORONTO, ON October 28, 2014 — On November 25, 2014, the Canadian Opera Company presents its annual Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition Gala at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts after its wildly successful inauguration in 2013. Hosting the highly anticipated vocal competition is Canadian Ben Heppner, recognized internationally as one of the finest dramatic tenors in the world and one of this country’s distinguished operatic talents. Heppner helms an evening dedicated to discovering and celebrating the best of Canada’s up-and-coming opera stars, with the awarding of cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 to $5,000. The festivities conclude with an exclusive gala dinner on the stage of R. Fraser Elliott Hall.

Competitors for this exciting annual vocal showcase are selected from nationwide auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. Since the program’s inception in 1980, over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio. Former members include this year’s Centre Stage host Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó. The 2014 preliminary audition s are currently underway in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and New York City.

Centre Stage takes place on the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre, with the young singers accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. Each finalist performs an aria showcasing their vocal technique and range before an audience and panel of judges. In addition to vying for first, second and third place prizes, worth $5,000, $3,000, and $1,500, respectively, one competitor will also receive the Audience Choice Award valued at $1,500. In addition, select finalists will be invited to join the COC’s 2015/2016 Ensemble Studio, to be announced at a later date.

“We’re very honoured to have Ben Heppner join us as the host of Centre Stage this year. Ben has had a legendary career as one of Canada’s most important and internationally celebrated opera singers and, given his personal connection to the Ensemble Studio as one of its early graduates, he is the ideal ambassador to help introduce to our Centre Stage patrons some of the best new opera talent from across the country,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “The voices we showcase at Centre Stage are ones we can expect to hear great things from. It’s a thrilling moment for everyone in the audience, including the judges, to experience what happens when these young artists step on to the stage and hear their voices fill the opera house, supported by the COC’s magnificent orchestra and our own Johannes Debus.”

Ben Heppner is recognized worldwide as one of the finest dramatic tenors of his generation. Over the course of his career, he excelled in the most challenging roles, from Wagner’s Tristan and Lohengrin to Verdi’s Otello and Berlioz’ Aeneas. He’s been acclaimed in music capitals around the world for his beautiful voice, intelligent musicianship and sparkling dramatic sense. His performances on the opera stage, in concert with the world’s leading orchestras, in the most prestigious recital venues, and in recordings set new standards in his demanding repertoire. He most recently appeared with the COC to critical and popular acclaim in the title roles of Tristan und Isolde and Peter Grimes , the latter of which marked his last professional operatic engagement before announcing his retirement as an opera and concert singer in April 2014. He is currently host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, and the upcoming Mirvish production of Titanic marks his return to the stage.

The competition is followed by a gala dinner with guests treated to a rare culinary experience by David Lee, the critically acclaimed Nota Bene Executive Chef. Among those in attendance are the Centre Stage finalists and winners, notable COC artists and key supporters of the opera company.

Once again, the Canadian Opera Company will be partnering with Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) to outfit the Ensemble Studio Competition finalists for their onstage debut at Centre Stage . As part of this generous sponsorship, the finalists are gifted with their HBC gowns and suits for use in future performances as they embark on their professional opera careers.

Tickets to Centre Stage are $100 for the cocktail reception and competition. Gala dinner tickets are $1,500. Tickets are available online at COCCentreStage.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office, located at 145 Queen St. W., Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit COCCentreStage.ca for more information. Specially priced $35 tickets are also available for patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 through Opera Under 30 sponsored by TD Bank Group.

Acknowledgements

Artists of the COC Orchestra in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

Competition Supporters: RBC Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, Peter M. Deeb
Platinum Sponsor: Mercedes-Benz Canada
Opera Under 30 Sponsor: TD Bank Group
Gala Reception Sponsor: Maison Birks
Artist Sponsors: Earlaine Collins, Ninalee Craig, June Shaw and the late Dr. Ralph Shaw
Prize Sponsors: First Prize – Colleen Sexsmith; Second Prize – ARIAS: Canadian Opera Student Development Fund; Third Prize – Tom C. Logan; Audience Choice Award – Classical 96.3 FM
Voting Technology Sponsor: Classical 96.3 FM and Turning Technologies

ABOUT the 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. 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.

With the creation of Centre Stage in 2013, the COC introduced the Ensemble Studio Competition to an audience of over 1,000 opera lovers and interested guests. The competition showcases finalists like never before as they perform from the mainstage of the COC’s world-renowned opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, accompanied by the acclaimed COC Orchestra led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus.

The annual Ensemble Studio audition process, open only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, takes COC artistic staff across Canada and into the U.S. for preliminary auditions in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and New York, followed by a final callback audition at the COC’s Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto. It’s from this pool of singers that finalists are selected for the Ensemble Studio Competition.

ABOUT the COC Ensemble Studio
The COC Ensemble Studio is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. Since the inception of the program in 1980, over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio. Former members include Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó. The members of the Ensemble Studio are the COC’s resident artists and important ambassadors for the company. Th ey receive a blend of advanced study and practical experience through an individually tailored, multi-year program, involving understudying and performing mainstage roles, intensive vocal coaching, language and acting studies, and career skills development, as well as participation in masterclasses with internationally renowned opera professionals.

ABOUT the Canadian Opera Company
Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006. For more information on the Canadian Opera Company, please visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

Media Contact:

Nicole Martin
Knot PR
(416) 532 9035
nam@knotpr.com
knotpr.com

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