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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, welcomes four outstanding new artists for the 2012/2013 season.  Soprano Sasha Djihanian, soprano Claire de Sévigné, tenor Owen McCausland and baritone Cameron McPhail were among 10 finalists who competed for the highly coveted Ensemble Studio positions at the inaugural Ensemble Studio Competition in November 2011.  They now join an illustrious program that, since its inception in 1980, has launched the careers of over 150 Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors, including Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, David Pomeroy, Joseph Kaiser, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.


Prior to starting with the COC in the 12/13 season, the four new Ensemble Studio members are finishing major projects at home and abroad.  Montreal soprano Sasha Djihanian, first-place winner of the Ensemble Studio Competition, is currently performing Micaëla in Carmen at the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Italy, with Lorin Maazel conducting.  Second-place winner soprano Claire de Sévigné, also from Montreal, appears as Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare with Ottawa’s Thirteen Strings Orchestra in April 2012.  New Brunswick tenor Owen McCausland, who placed third in the competition, recently performed the role of Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy and is working on completing his bachelor of arts in music at Dalhousie University.  Manitoba baritone Cameron McPhail, who is currently completing his masters of arts in music at the Yale Opera Studio, will be making a role debut with Yale Opera as Tarquinius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia this spring.


The four singers join seven returning members of the Ensemble Studio for the 12/13 season: Mireille Asselin, Ambur Braid, Rihab Chaieb, Timothy Cheung, Neil Craighead, Jenna Douglas and Christopher Enns.


Sasha Djihanian was born in Montreal and is a graduate of the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal with honours of First Prize and Great Distinction.  She is a Jacqueline Desmarais Grant Holder, winner of the Third Prize at the Czech and Slovak International Competition, and Second Prize at the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition.  Ms Djihanian was a national finalist in the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a semi-finalist in the 2011 Queen Elisabeth Competition and a finalist in the 2011 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.  Upcoming performances include Haydn’s Die Schöpfung and Micaëla in Carmen at the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Italy, with Lorin Maazel conducting.


Soprano Claire de Sévigné, a native of Montreal, received her master’s degree in opera from the University of Toronto and a bachelor’s degree from McGill University, with additional training at the Aspen Opera Program, Tafelmusik Institute, the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy, Institut Canadien d’Art Vocal, Brevard Opera and Opera NUOVA.  Recent appearances include the title role in a workshop of The Enslavement and Liberation of Oksana G with Tapestry New Opera; Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, Flaminia in Il mondo della luna, and Cunegonde in Candide at UofT. This season she will perform the role of Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare with Thirteen Strings Orchestra.


Tenor Owen McCausland, born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, is a multi-year winner at the New Brunswick Competitive Festival of Music.  He is currently completing a bachelor of arts in music with Dalhousie University.  Mr. McCausland recently performed the role of Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy.  Other operatic credits include Don Juan in Don Quichotte (Opera Nova Scotia), Spoletta in Tosca (Maritime Concert Opera) as well as Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas and Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi (Dalhousie Opera).

Baritone Cameron McPhail was born in Brandon, Manitoba and is currently completing his masters of arts in music at the Yale Opera Studio.  He has performed such roles as Masetto and the title role in Don Giovanni, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Ford in Falstaff, the title role in Gianni Schicchi, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette, Escamillo in Carmen, Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème and The Postman in Hoiby’s The Scarf.  Upcoming projects include engagements with The Hartford Symphony and a role debut as Tarquinius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Yale Opera.



COC General Director Alexander Neef extends the company’s congratulations to baritone Adrian Kramer, sopranos Ileana Montalbetti, Simone Osborne and Jacqueline Woodley, and bass-baritone Philippe Sly, who graduate from the Ensemble Studio program at the end of the 2011/2012 season.  You can still hear these young artists at several performances in the 11/12 season before they graduate.


Join Ileana Montalbetti for a special farewell concert, Les Adieux, on Feb. 23, 2012 at 12 p.m., and Adrian Kramer for Les Adieux II on May 12, 2012 at 12 p.m., featuring programs of their favourite art songs and arias as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre


Also part of the Free Concert Series, From the Grammar of Dreams: Vocal Music of Kaija Saariaho on Feb. 2, 2012 at 12 p.m. features Jacqueline Woodley along with other young artists of the Ensemble Studio performing selections from the vocal works of Kaija Saariaho, composer of Love from Afar and one of the most important musical voices of our time, in a concert introduced by the composer herself.


On the COC mainstage, Simone Osborne will sing Lauretta in Puccini’s tour-de-force comedy Gianni Schicchi, part of a double bill with Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy, on April 26, May 2, 5, 12, 15, 18, 20 and 25, 2012 under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis and the direction of Catherine Malfitano.


Ensemble Studio members perform in two more recitals during the 11/12 Free Concert Series season.

On Feb. 7, 2012 at 12 p.m., artists of the 11/12 Ensemble Studio join forces with singers from Opéra de Montréal’s Atelier Lyrique in a program of operatic arias and ensembles, Collaborations.


On April 4, 2012 at 12 p.m., Ensemble Studio members present a program of rarities and popular gems from the German lied repertoire, including works by Alexander Zemlinsky and Johannes Brahms, in Songs of Brahms and Zemlinsky.


During the spring season, the 11/12 Ensemble Studio members understudy and rehearse with the mainstage cast of Handel’s Semele under the direction of conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini and director Zhang Huan.  On May 23, 2012, the young artists sing the lead roles in their own mainstage performance of Semele with the COC Orchestra and Chorus.  Tickets are accessibly priced at $22 and $55 per person.


New and returning artists of the Ensemble Studio open the 12/13 season of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with Meet the Young Artists in September 2012.  The series runs from September 2012 to June 2013 and will feature the members of the Ensemble Studio in several recitals of diverse repertoire.  Watch for complete details of the 12/13 Free Concert Series season to be announced later this year.


In November 2012, the Ensemble Studio members participate in the COC’s annual Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour, providing school-aged audiences throughout Ontario with an introduction to the world of opera.  The 12/13 school tour features Dean Burry’s The Brothers Grimm and a special adaptation of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.


The 12/13 Ensemble Studio members will also sing the lead roles in their own performance of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito on Feb. 6, 2013 with the COC Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of the same creative team as the mainstage cast: COC Music Director and conductor Johannes Debus and director Christopher Alden.


About the Ensemble Studio

The members of the Ensemble Studio are the COC’s resident artists and are important ambassadors for the company.  Since its inception in 1980, over 150 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio.  Former members include Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, David Pomeroy, Joseph Kaiser, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.


Members of the Ensemble Studio 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 Ensemble Studio is generously supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, ARIAS (formerly The Canadian Opera Volunteer Committee), In loving memory of Mr. George R. Bishop, from his family & friends, The John A. Cook Young Artist Development Fund, In honour of Earlaine Collins, In honour of Ninalee Craig, Estate of Horst Dantz and Don Quick, David and Ann Fund, Ethel Harris, The Audrey S. Hellyer Charitable Foundation, Peter & Hélène Hunt, Patrick & Barbara Keenan, The Hal Jackman Fund at the Ontario Arts Foundation, Jo Lander, Ruby Mercer Fund, George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, Roger D. Moore Ensemble Studio Endowment Fund, RBC Foundation, Katalin Schäfer, In honour of Colleen Sexsmith, The Slaight Family, the Stratton Trust, William & Phyllis Waters, and an anonymous donor.


The COC Ensemble Studio Competition is presented in part by:


RBC Foundation and Hal Jackman Foundation

Laurie & Fareed Ali; Earlaine Collins; Ninalee Craig; George & Kathy Dembroski; Jo Lander; Marjorie & Roy Linden; Sue Mortimer; Trina & Don McQueen; Colleen Sexsmith; Sandra L. Simpson; The Stratton Trust; Mr. Brian Wilks; Anonymous (1)


About the Canadian Opera Company

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the five largest in North America.  The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America.  The COC celebrates its 63rd anniversary during the 12/13 season.  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 and Schmitt Architects Inc., the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006, and is also the performance venue for The National Ballet of Canada.  For more information on the Canadian Opera Company, please visit its award-winning website,

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For more information, please contact Maria Lioutaia, Publicist tel: 416-306-2363, e-mail:

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