COC Media Releases

7/19/2016

BEN HEPPNER RETURNS TO HOST CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY’S ANNUAL CENTRE STAGE GALA

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Toronto – When this year’s aspiring opera stars take to the stage of Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts to compete in the Ensemble Studio Competition at the Canadian Opera Company’s annual Centre Stage gala, they’ll do so with legendary Canadian tenor and CBC Radio personality Ben Heppner in attendance. One of the finest dramatic tenors in the world, Heppner returns on November 3, 2016 to host Centre Stage for the second time since the gala launched in 2013. The grand event is the COC’s premier fundraiser and an inspiring night to discover and celebrate the next generation of Canadian opera stars.

Centre Stage delivers a unique glimpse into the early days of a young opera singer’s professional journey. The gala’s featured event, the Ensemble Studio Competition, is an exhilarating vocal showcase of young Canadian singers selected from nationwide auditions, vying for cash prizes and a highly coveted invitation to join the COC’s young artist program, the Ensemble Studio, a launching pad to a future international career.

“Ben Heppner is one of the Ensemble Studio’s most illustrious graduates and one of Canada’s greatest artists. It is an honour to have him back as the host of Centre Stage,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “The singers of our vocal competition are following in his footsteps. He’s an inspiration to them and to the Centre Stage audience as to where promising talent can lead.”

“Watching the finalists perform in the vocal competition is the best thing about being a host for Centre Stage. I can’t tell you how inspiring it is to see these singers go out there and have their moment singing on the stage of a major opera house and move an audience with their voice,” says Ben Heppner, a graduate of the COC’s Ensemble Studio program. “When I was in the Ensemble, back in the early ‘80s, I didn’t have any experience at all. So this was a time I could gain experience on stage, first in a small kind of way, and then moving on to larger roles. It all starts with that first important audition, though, to set you on your path.”

Centre Stage kicks off with a black-tie cocktail reception in the Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room of the Four Seasons Centre followed by the Ensemble Studio Competition in R. Fraser Elliott Hall where the finalists perform accompanied by the acclaimed COC Orchestra led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. Following the competition, Centre Stage gala attendees enjoy an elegant formal dinner, specially prepared by acclaimed Nota Bene Executive Chef David Lee, from the privileged vantage point of the Four Seasons Centre stage. They will be joined by competition finalists and notable COC artists, as well as key supporters of the company, comprising Canada’s business and philanthropic leaders.

Tickets to Centre Stage are $100 for the cocktail reception and competition. Gala dinner tickets are $1,500. 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. All proceeds from Centre Stage support the COC’s Ensemble Studio.

Tickets are now 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.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Platinum Supporters: Mercedes-Benz Canada, RBC Capital Markets
Opera Under 30 Sponsor: TD Bank Group

The COC Ensemble Studio, underwritten in part by Peter M. Deeb, RBC Foundation 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, the Hal Jackman Foundation and other generous donors.

About Ben Heppner
Ben Heppner is renowned worldwide for his portrayals in the dramatic tenor repertoire. He is a graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio and appeared with the COC on multiple occasions, most notably in Tristan und Isolde and in his final professional opera performance in the title role of Peter Grimes in 2013. Heppner’s illustrious career has taken him to opera stages and concert halls around the world. He is acclaimed for the beauty of his voice, incisive musicianship, and his generosity with his audience. His performances on the opera stage, in concert with the world's leading orchestras, in the most prestigious recital venues, and in recordings have set new standards in his demanding repertoire.

Heppner studied music at the University of British Columbia. He first gained national attention in 1979 as the winner of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Talent Festival. In December 1998, CBC Television's Something Special featured Ben Heppner in an hour-long portrait of the artist. He was a 1988 winner of the Metropolitan Opera auditions and received Grammy® Awards in 1998 for his recording of Die Meistersinger on London/Decca records and in 2001 for his recording of Les Troyens with the London Symphony Orchestra on LSOLive. Heppner now brings his voice to the airwaves of CBC Radio as host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, featuring the finest opera productions and recordings from around the world, as well as Backstage with Ben Heppner, where he shares stories from behind the magic curtain and his passion for great classical music. Heppner is a Companion of the Order of Canada.

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 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 for preliminary auditions, 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 215 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.

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, Publicist and Publications Co-ordinator, tel: 416-306-2383, e-mail: kmckinnon@coc.ca

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3/29/2016

CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY LAUNCHES OPERA ACCESS FOR NEW CANADIANS

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COC JOINS INSTITUTE FOR CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP’S CULTURAL ACCESS PASS

Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company is proud to announce the creation of Opera Access for New Canadians, a community outreach and engagement initiative to make the COC’s BMO Financial Group Student Dress Rehearsals and select performances accessible to new Canadian citizens and newcomers to Canada, including immigrants and refugees. The first phase of Opera Access for New Canadians begins this spring with the COC joining the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass (CAP) program, which offers new Canadian citizens one year of complimentary admission to more than 1,200 cultural attractions across the country.

“We are proud of providing a cultural space in this country where people are free to gather, create art and express opinions–freedoms not granted in many places around the world,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “The Opera Access program is a celebration of that freedom and a way for us at the COC to welcome new Canadians to our community and introduce them to our art form.”

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, founder of the ICC, says “this new partnership with the COC provides a unique behind-the-scenes look into Canada’s premiere opera company. We are delighted.” Charlie Foran, CEO of the ICC, explains, “Our Cultural Access Pass has now grown to the point where we can offer CAP members experiences in the performing arts, as well as in cultural institutions and federal and provincial parks.”

The ICC will work with the COC to allocate and distribute dress rehearsal tickets to its CAP membership. A maximum of 40 free tickets will be set aside to every COC dress rehearsal as part of the opera company’s enrollment in the ICC’s CAP program. In addition to attending a dress rehearsal, participants will sit-in on one of the COC’s BMO Financial Group Pre-Performance Opera Chats and receive an informal tour of the COC’s opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The first COC productions to be accessed through the opera company’s involvement in CAP will be Carmen and Maometto II, in performance at the Four Seasons Centre in April and May 2016.

New citizens who have received their Canadian citizenship within the past year can register for a Cultural Access Pass. The pass is valid for one year from the date of obtaining citizenship. For more information and eligibility requirements, visit www.icc-icc.ca, e-mail cap@icc-icc.ca or call 1-888-359-6998.

The creation of Opera Access for New Canadians is the formal implementation of a COC initiative first mentioned by COC General Director Alexander Neef from the stage of the Four Seasons Centre on opening night of the company’s presentation of The Marriage of Figaro in February 2016. The COC subsequently hosted small groups of Syrian and Ethiopian refugees at performances of The Marriage of Figaro, facilitated by the ICC, Lifeline Syria and The Ripple Refugee Project. As Opera Access for New Canadians develops, additional partnerships will be announced that allow for increased accessibility to opera dress rehearsals and select performances for newcomers to Canada, including immigrants and refugees.

About the Institute for Canadian Citizenship
The ICC was founded in 2006 by the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul to welcome new Canadian citizens and foster active citizenship for all Canadians. For more information, visit icc-icc.ca.

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, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: jenniferp@coc.ca

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3/7/2016

A SEDUCTIVE SPRING AT CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY WITH BIZET’S WORLD FAMOUS OPERA, CARMEN

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Toronto – Returning to the Canadian Opera Company stage this spring is one of the world’s most famous operas, Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Canadian director Joel Ivany, of Toronto’s cutting-edge collective Against the Grain Theatre, brings a fresh look to this masterpiece of lyric theatre when it comes to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Italian conductor Paolo Carignani is at the helm of Bizet’s passionate score. Carmen was last presented by the COC in 2010 and returns to the Four Seasons Centre for 13 performances on April 12, 17, 20, 23, 28, 30, May 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 2016. Carmen is sung in French with English SURTITLESTM.

Carmen is a highly charged melodrama about an irresistible gypsy, Carmen, and her seduction of a young soldier. At the time of the opera’s premiere in Paris in 1875, it was condemned in the press as too immoral to be staged; Carmen marked the first time in opera that a female character could flout morality and still remain the heroine of the work. It is now consistently ranked as one of the most produced operas in the world.

Internationally renowned conductor Paolo Carignani, last in the COC’s orchestra pit for Tosca in 2012, returns to lead the COC Orchestra, Chorus and an exciting cast through a tantalizing score of popular melodies. From Carmen’s alluring teasing in “Habanera” and the swaggering machismo of Escamillo’s “Toreador Song” to the desperate pleading of Don José’s “Flower Song” and Micaëla’s innocence and quiet strength in the aria “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante,” the music drives the drama and action of Carmen forward and lays bare the deep well of emotions at play between Bizet’s characters. The end result leaves no question as to the opera’s universal appeal.

Joel Ivany makes his COC mainstage directing debut in this revival of the COC’s production of Carmen, which premiered in 2005 and was last presented in 2010. He brings to the work a fresh new staging already hailed as a “visceral treat” (Vancouver Sun) offering a “human take that engages and entertains as much as it provokes” (Vancouver Straight) when Vancouver Opera presented the COC production in fall 2014 with Ivany directing. His staging is set against the colourful, sunbaked landscape of 1940s Latin America with sets and costumes designed by Michael Yeargan and François St-Aubin, respectively. New to the production’s 2016 revival are two up-and-coming, innovative Toronto-based artists who frequently collaborate with Ivany: lighting designer Jason Hand and set and costume design co-ordinator Camellia Koo, making their COC mainstage debuts.

Two mezzo-sopranos making a specialty of the lead role bring Carmen to life at the COC: Georgian Anita Rachvelishvili (April 12, 17, 23, 30, May 4, 6, 13) and France’s Clémentine Margaine (April 20, 28, May 8, 10, 12, 15). Rachvelishvili returns to the COC after 2014’s Don Quichotte and 2010’s Carmen to bring her “smoldering, earthy sexuality” (New York Times) once more to the Four Seasons Centre. Internationally renowned, she has sung Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera and Royal Opera House Covent Garden, among others. Margaine has been hailed “a dream voice for the passionate but mercurial Gypsy” (Dallas Morning News), singing Carmen with Dallas Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and Washington National Opera. After her Canadian debut with the COC, she goes on to sing Carmen in future seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Opera Bastille in Paris.

As Carmen’s jealous lover, Don José, the COC welcomes the return of two tenors: American Russell Thomas and Ensemble Studio graduate David Pomeroy. One of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene, described as “nothing short of sensational” (The Telegraph), Thomas follows up his star turn in the COC’s 2012 production of The Tales of Hoffmann with a role debut performance as the young soldier who attempts to tame Carmen. Pomeroy returns to the COC after recent performances in 2012’s Die Fledermaus and 2009’s Madama Butterfly. He’s been called a “magnetic” Don José by Belgian Operaguide, his voice “fresh…with a particularly gratifying bloom” (Philadelphia Inquirer), reaching “the demanding high notes with smooth ease...totally compelling as a ruined man” (Winnipeg Free Press).

In the role of the toreador Escamillo are the powerful voices of American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn and American baritone Zachary Nelson. They make welcome returns to the COC after recent company outings: Van Horn for his performances in 2013’s La Bohème and 2012’s Tosca, and Nelson for 2015’s Don Giovanni.

Sharing the role of the peasant girl Micaëla are two standout Canadian sopranos. COC Ensemble Studio graduate Simone Osborne returns to the COC, after 2014’s Falstaff, on the heels of a 14-city U.S. concert tour with the Metropolitan Opera's Rising Stars Concert Series. Osborne is joined by emerging opera talent, Ensemble Studio soprano Karine Boucher, whose “gorgeous, womanly voice” (Schmopera) recently sang Susanna in the Ensemble Studio performance of The Marriage of Figaro.

Rounding out the cast are former and current members of the COC Ensemble Studio. Bass Alain Coulombe is Zuniga, Don José’s captain, and baritone Peter Barrett sings the role of Moralès, an officer under Zuniga’s command. Mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage and soprano Sasha Djihanian are Carmen’s gypsy friends Mercédès and Frasquita. Ensemble Studio baritone Iain MacNeil and Ensemble Studio tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure are the smugglers, Le Dancaïre and Le Remendado.

TICKET INFORMATION
Single tickets for Carmen range from $50 – $435 and are available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
KPMG: Production Sponsor
BMO Financial Group: Title Sponsor of Pre-Performance Opera Chats and Student Dress Rehearsals
Sun Life Financial: Presenting Sponsor of SURTITLES™
Mercedes-Benz Canada: Official Automotive Sponsor of the COC at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
TD Bank Group: Presenting Sponsor Opera Under 30 and Operanation
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege*: Preferred Credit Card

The COC Ensemble Studio, underwritten in part by Peter M. Deeb, RBC Foundation 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, the Hal Jackman 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 COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

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For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: jenniferp

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

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