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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company is making headlines in New York on the occasion of its recent tour to the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music. The COC’s theatrically transcendent production of Handel’s Semele, created by famed Chinese visual and performance artist Zhang Huan, was previewed in the early days of its New York residency by the Toronto Star as “looking like an opera we can be proud that Toronto brought to the Big Apple.” It went on to open on March 4 to popular and critical acclaim with Superconductor lauding the occasion as “a chance for this city to hear this excellent Toronto-based company in a rare American visit.”
The New York Times has nothing but praise for “this playful, colorful staging.” Maestro Christopher Moulds was singled out for conducting “the orchestra with winning vitality and feeling for the style,” and Canadian soprano Jane Archibald was admired for how she “brings a bright, technically agile and appealing voice to a demanding role.” Also applauded was “able, earnest” American countertenor Lawrence Zazzo as Athamus, American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen’s “vocally formidable Cadmus, the king of Thebes, the “dramatically resonant touch” of Welsh contralto Hilary Summers as Ino and Juno, “the sweet soprano” of Canadian Katherine Whyte as Iris, Juno’s willing messenger, and the “affecting” choice to eliminate the final chorus of the opera and hum “The Internationale.”
Zhang’s directorial vision and boldness has been equally hailed by critics. New York Classical Review says he “pushes Semele into a shape that is far more personal and unique than usually found on the stage, and his ambition is uneven yet fascinating” and “the production births a question, a rare and stimulating experience at the opera.” For New York Magazine’s Vulture, the COC’s presentation of Semele offers a “weird seductiveness,” and Out Magazine remarks how the production “is sure to raise a few eyebrows — and to command respect,” with Flavorpill Media noting that Zhang’s “Eastern embellishments transform this production into a balancing act between opera and performance art” and his Semele “is a true attempt at updating the age-old practice of opera into an innovative theatrical experience.”
The production’s musical achievements have been met with unabashed enthusiasm. In addition to the acclaim from the New York Times, Vulture says Archibald “sings the title role with insouciant glee, her voice shimmying up into the high register and scattering notes like confetti,” Summers has a “plush, iridescent alto,” and “conductor Christopher Moulds keeps all the opera’s wheels spinning and the pistons churning with aplomb….” Seen and Heard International was particularly taken with Canadian tenor Colin Ainsworth and found his “voice exceptionally warm and sweet, giving a positive spin to the role of Jupiter.” Bachtrack.com lauded Moulds for “an ideally paced, well played, energetic performance” and “the magnificent, vocally agile Jane Archibald in the title role, with her arias full of wild roulades, endless breaths and exciting (interpolated) high notes.” Ainsworth’s portrayal of the god Jupiter was called “smoothly sung,” Summers was complimented on her “marvelous, booming low notes, and cutting high ones,” Whyte described as “simply lovely” and Ketelsen called “excellent.”
Zhang Huan’s 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 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 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 is a co-production of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels and KT Wong Foundation. It had its North American premiere with the COC in spring 2012. Semele opened at BAM on March 4, 2015, and continues its engagement at the Howard Gilman Opera House through to March 10, 2015. For more information on this production and its U.S. premiere, visit coc.ca and bam.org.
The Canadian Opera Company thanks the following donors for their support of the COC’s tour to BAM: Walter M. and Lisa Balfour Bowen, Philip Deck and Kimberley Bozak, David and Kristin Ferguson, Jerry and Geraldine Heffernan, Peter M. Partridge, Colleen Sexsmith, Kristine Vikmanis and Denton Creighton, Jack Whiteside and one anonymous donor.
The tour of Semele is made possible, in part, by the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.
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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Toronto - The world premiere of a new Canadian work was one of the many operatic highlights revealed today at the public launch of the Canadian Opera Company’s 2015/2016 season at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The COC’s 65th season is once again comprised entirely of company productions, four of which are new to Toronto audiences, and features the COC’s first mainstage world premiere since 1999, COC premieres of opera rarities and the revival of classic masterpieces.
The COC presents Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata in a new company production; the world premiere of Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe presented with the COC premieres of Claudio Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda; the continuation of the COC’s Ring operas with the revival of its acclaimed production of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried; a new COC production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro; the COC premiere of Gioachino Rossini’s Maometto II; and a revival of the COC production of Georges Bizet’s popular opera Carmen.
“With the 15/16 season we can explore with our patrons the vitality of opera through the centuries. The new season follows the evolution of opera, from its earliest beginnings with the Monteverdi pieces, to the world premiere of a 21st-century Canadian work,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “This season offers something for everyone while at the same time allowing us as a company to showcase the timelessness of opera as well as moving the art form forward.”
The COC continues to bring opera’s most exciting emerging and established artists to its stage. Among those making their mainstage debuts with the COC in the 15/16 season are singers Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Charles Castronovo, Leah Crocetto, Emily Fons, Clémentine Margaine, Luca Pisaroni, Christopher Purves, Helene Schneiderman, Ekaterina Siurina, Bruce Sledge, Stefan Vinke and Josef Wagner; directors Arin Arbus, Claus Guth and Joel Ivany; and designer Cait O’Connor.
The opera company also welcomes the return of a number of acclaimed Canadian and international artists including singers Phillip Addis, Jane Archibald, Russell Braun, Michael Colvin, Elizabeth DeShong, Joyce El-Khoury, Phillip Ens, Christine Goerke, Alan Held, Quinn Kelsey, Doug MacNaughton, Owen McCausland, Zachary Nelson, Simone Osborne, Robert Pomakov, David Pomeroy, Anita Rachvelishvili, Maria Radner, Krisztina Szabó, Russell Thomas, Christian Van Horn, Erin Wall and James Westman; directors Christopher Alden, David Alden and François Girard; designers Michael Levine, Paul Steinberg and Terese Wadden; and conductors Harry Bicket, Paolo Carignani and Marco Guidarini.
The COC’s 15/16 season opens with a new production of Verdi’s glorious masterpiece, La Traviata. In 1853, La Traviata scandalized Venetians with its unsentimental depiction of a courtesan in love, yet the character of Violetta has emerged as one of the most compelling and glamorous heroines in all of opera. Renowned New York theatre director Arin Arbus, hailed by the New York Times as “the most gifted new director to emerge” in 2009, sets this story of passion and sacrifice in glittering 1850s Paris, evoking the social realities, rhythms and debauchery of a rapidly changing world. Co-produced with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Houston Grand Opera, this La Traviata delighted audiences at its Chicago premiere in 2013 with a look and feel that is “both hyper-traditional and, in moments, saucily modern” (bachtrack.com). Costumes by noted visual artist and designer Cait O’Connor are both decadent and playful, and alongside the giant puppets, Marie-Antoinette-style wigs, gilded angel-wings and a matador, it all befits the excesses of the 19th-century Parisian nightlife that inspired the opera that Verdi would call “a subject of the times.” Cast as Violetta are two of the most exciting young sopranos on the opera scene today, Russian Ekaterina Siurina and Canadian Joyce El-Khoury (2013’s La Bohème), both praised internationally for their realization of the role’s demanding vocal pyrotechnics as well delivering the dramatic conviction that carries the character through a remarkable emotional arc. In the role of Violetta’s nobleman lover, Alfredo, is one of the finest lyric tenors of his generation, American Charles Castronovo, and rising Canadian tenor Andrew Haji from the COC’s Ensemble Studio. As Germont, Alfredo’s disapproving father, the COC welcomes the return of two internationally acclaimed baritones: American Quinn Kelsey (2014’s Don Quichotte, 2011’s Rigoletto) and Canadian James Westman (2012’s Die Fledermaus). Italian conductor Marco Guidarini, last with the COC for 2012’s Il Trovatore, returns to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus through an opera that features some of Verdi’s most popular and beautiful music. La Traviata is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM, and was last performed by the COC in 2007. It returns to the opera company’s mainstage for 11 performances on October 8, 13, 16, 17, 21, 24, 29, 30, November 1, 4, 6, 2015.
Also in the fall is a presentation of COC premieres in a new company production that unites two early Baroque opera classics with a new Canadian opera: Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna (1608) and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (1624) and the world premiere of Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe (2010). Monteverdi’s two works were composed just as opera was emerging as an art form and, as with most early operas, their subjects are drawn from mythology and history. Lamento d’Arianna tells the tale of Ariadne abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos, while Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda is the story of the Christian knight Tancredi and the Saracen warrior-maiden Clorinda, and how their tragic fates are determined on the battlefields of the Crusades. Canadian composer Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe is also based on a classic myth, with the tragic tale of the ill-fated lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, most famously adapted by Shakespeare in his Romeo and Juliet. Leading a compelling team of singer-actors assembled for this production is an artist who exemplifies today’s modern singer with her vocal versatility and stage prowess: Krisztina Szabó. The Canadian mezzo-soprano and COC Ensemble Studio alumna follows up her virtuosa turn in the COC’s 2012’s Love from Afar and her highly anticipated performance in the COC’s upcoming Erwartung to play Monteverdi’s Arianna and Clorinda, and Monk Feldman’s Thisbe. Canadian baritone Phillip Addis (Marcello/Schaunard in 2013’s La Bohème) returns as Pyramus and recent Ensemble Studio graduate, tenor Owen McCausland, is Testo, the narrator of Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. Weaving the three operas together is the ever-probing eye of acclaimed director Christopher Alden (2013’s La clemenza di Tito, 2012’s Die Fledermaus, 2011’s Rigoletto) who, with set designer Paul Steinberg (2014’s Falstaff) and costume designer Terese Wadden (2012’s A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi , 2013’s La clemenza di Tito), has conceived of a production aesthetic inspired by the works of American painter Mark Rothko. COC Music Director Johannes Debus leads the COC Orchestra through a bold program of music that brings together operas composed 400 years apart while illustrating the beauty of the human voice and the magic of musical storytelling over the passage of time. Pyramus and Thisbe with Lamento d’Arianna and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda is sung in English and Italian with English SURTITLESTM, and runs for seven performances on October 20, 23, 25, 28, November 5, 7 (two performances), 2015.
Wagner’s Siegfried returns to the COC mainstage for the 15/16 season with the company’s critically acclaimed production by renowned Canadian director François Girard. First presented by the COC in 2005, and then in 2006 as part of the COC’s full Ring Cycle, this Siegfried has been hailed as “a fascinating thing to witness and gorgeous to hear” (Globe and Mail) as well as “psychologically rich and mysterious music theatre” (NOW). It’s an evocative production, in which Girard and Toronto-born designer Michael Levine have created a staging that mirrors the emotional landscape found in Wagner’s complex and stirring score. In the third instalment of Wagner’s epic Ring, Siegfried, the product of Siegmund and Sieglinde’s union at the end of Die Walküre, embarks on a heroic journey that reveals the minds of gods and mortals in a story of greed, fear and self-discovery. German tenor Stefan Vinke, one of the finest Siegfrieds in the world, makes his Canadian debut in the title role. Described as “huge of voice, unflagging of stamina, imaginative and energetic on the stage” (Seattle Times), Vinke is equally matched by the powerhouse American soprano Christine Goerke, heralded for her “multi-hued miracle of gale-force power and pinpoint control (Musical America), who returns to the COC as the mighty Valkyrie Brünnhilde after her company debut in 2015’s Die Walküre. Austrian Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, considered one of the most sought after and important character tenors on the operatic world stage, makes his Canadian debut as the sly Nibelung-dwarf Mime who raised Siegfried from birth and plans to use the young hero to secure the famed ring for himself. Acclaimed British baritone Christopher Purves makes his COC debut as Mime’s brother Alberich, whose theft of the Rinegold set in motion the Ring Cycle’s epic chain of events. German Maria Radner (2009’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables) one of the most exciting contraltos of her generation, returns to the COC as the Earth Goddess, Erda. Acclaimed American bass-baritone Alan Held (2013’s Peter Grimes, Salome, Tristan und Isolde, 2012’s Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi), one of the finest singer-actors on the stage today, is Wotan/The Wanderer. Canadian bass Phillip Ens (2011’s Rigoletto) reprises the role as Fafner the dragon, the current possessor of the Rhinegold, which he sang for the COC in 2005 and 2006. COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts his first Siegfried, leading the COC Orchestra through an electrifying while still deeply intimate score that features some of the greatest music in the whole Ring Cycle. Siegfried is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM and runs for seven performances on January 23, 27, 30, February 2, 5, 11, 14, 2016.
Paired with Siegfried is one of the most beautiful and convincing operas about the fluid enchantments, maze-like confusions and bouts of sheer blindness brought on by love: Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. This new-to-Toronto COC production was originally built by the Salzburg Festival as the centrepiece of its celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Hailed as a “masterpiece” (Bloomberg News) and the hit of the 2006 Salzburg Festival–revived repeatedly in years since–this staging is by Claus Guth. The acclaimed German director has become renowned for his innovative productions of classic operas and for this Figaro he draws visual and thematic inspiration from the films of Ingmar Bergman and the plays of Ibsen and Strindberg, while fusing stylized gesture and choreography with Mozart’s score to deliver a “shattering, unforgettable” (The Guardian) account of the elemental forces of human nature at play in this opera. COC Music Director Johannes Debus is at the helm of the orchestra pit for the COC’s entire winter season as he conducts The Marriage of Figaro (in addition to Siegfried), leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score described as a testament to Mozart’s genius. A sparkling cast has been assembled for this magnificent, witty farce that finds Figaro and Susanna’s wedding in jeopardy due to the wandering eye of their employer, the Count, with intrigue and mistaken identities ensnaring everyone in a web of erotic passions. Austrian bass-baritone Josef Wagner, who has his Canadian debut with Calgary Opera in January 2015, makes his COC debut in the title role. His love, Susanna, is internationally acclaimed Canadian soprano Jane Archibald (2015’s Don Giovanni, 2012’s Semele, 2011’s Ariadne auf Naxos). The Countess is sung by renowned Canadian soprano Erin Wall (2012’s Love from Afar, The Tales of Hoffmann), and the role of the Count is sung by acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun, who once more graces the COC mainstage after recent star turns in the company’s Don Giovanni, Falstaff, Il Trovatore and Love from Afar. American mezzo-soprano Emily Fons makes her COC debut as Cherubino and acclaimed Canadian tenor Michael Colvin (2014’s Falstaff) is Basilio. Canadian bass Robert Pomakov is Bartolo, American mezzo-soprano Helene Schneiderman makes her COC debut as Marcellina and Canadian baritone Doug MacNaughton is Antonio. The Marriage of Figaro is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM. Last performed by the COC in 2007, The Marriage of Figaro returns for 11 performances on February 4, 7, 9, 13, 17, 19, 21, 22*, 23, 25, 27, 2016.
*ENSEMBLE STUDIO PERFORMANCE OF THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO ON FEBRUARY 22, 2016
The young singers of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio perform Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on February 22, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.on the mainstage. This special performance stars Ensemble Studio members with the full COC Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Marriage of Figaro conductor Johannes Debus and director Claus Guth. For casting, please visit the COC website at coc.ca. Tickets are accessibly priced at $25 and $55 per person.
One of the world’s most famous operas returns to the COC in spring 2016 with Bizet’s Carmen. Bringing a fresh look to this masterpiece of lyric theatre is young Canadian director Joel Ivany, of Toronto’s cutting-edge theatre collective Against the Grain Theatre, in his COC mainstage debut. Ivany revives the COC’s production, and his new staging has already been hailed as a “visceral treat” (Vancouver Sun) offering “a fresh, human take that engages and entertains as much as it provokes” (Vancouver Straight) when Vancouver Opera presented the COC production with Ivany at its helm in fall 2014. The COC’s production is set against the colourful, sunbaked landscape of 1940s Latin America. It follows the tragic love affair between an irresistible seductress and the young soldier who, in the thrall of consuming jealousy, attempts to tame her. Internationally renowned Italian conductor Paolo Carignani (2012’s Tosca) returns to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus and an exciting cast through the driving passion of Bizet’s score. Two mezzo-sopranos making a specialty of the lead role bring Carmen to life at the COC. Georgian Anita Rachvelishvili (2014’s Don Quichotte, 2010’s Carmen) has been hailed for her “smoldering, earthy sexuality” (New York Times) in the role at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and Deutsche Oper Berlin; and French mezzo Clémentine Margaine brings a “passion and menace” (Opera News) to the role that has made her Carmen a hit in Rome and Berlin. As Carmen’s jealous lover, Don José, the COC welcomes the return of two tenors: American Russell Thomas (2012’s The Tales of Hoffmann), one of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene, and Canadian David Pomeroy (2012’s Die Fledermaus, 2009’s Madama Butterfly), internationally acclaimed for his rich voice. Heard in the role of the toreador Escamillo are the powerful voices of American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn (2013’s La Bohème, 2012’s Tosca) and American baritone Zachary Nelson (2015’s Don Giovanni). Sharing the role of the peasant girl Micaëla is Canadian soprano, and COC Ensemble Studio alumna, Simone Osborne and emerging opera talent, Ensemble Studio soprano Karine Boucher. Carmen is sung in French with English SURTITLESTM and was last performed by the COC in 2010. Carmen returns to the company’s mainstage for 13 performances on April 12, 17, 20, 23, 28, 30, May 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 2016.
Closing the 15/16 season is the COC premiere of Rossini’s rarely performed grand bel canto opera Maometto II, featuring superstar Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni in his highly anticipated COC debut. Rossini unleashes his full arsenal of vocal fireworks in the historical tale of the great Turkish Sultan, Maometto, and his quest to conquer the Holy Roman Empire. Maometto II disappeared in its original 1820 Naples form until its triumphant return at Santa Fe Opera in 2012. There, it was lauded as a “thrilling [piece of] experiential theatre” (Opera News) and now comes to the COC in the same production by acclaimed American director David Alden (2013’s Lucia di Lammermoor). Alden, along with sets and costumes by award-winning British designer Jon Morrell, has brought the opera’s action forward from its historical 15th-century origins to the time of its creation in 1820. Strikingly-coloured, Napoleonic era, First Empire gowns glow jewel-like against a neoclassical marble colonnade and surprising coups de théâtre are peppered throughout the production, including the sudden emergence of a statue of three galloping horses on which Maometto makes a dramatic exit. Mastering Rossini’s fearsome vocal demands is Luca Pisaroni as “a chilling and complex Maometto. His dashing stage presence and virile voice exude menacing authority” (New York Times). American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong (2014’s Madama Butterfly, 2011’s La Cenerentola) is a COC favourite and returns as the Venetian noble Calbo, one of bel canto’s great, heroic pants roles. Rising star American soprano Leah Crocetto makes her COC debut as Maometto’s forbidden love, Anna. In the role of the Venetian Governor Erisso is American Bruce Sledge, one of the world’s most in-demand tenori di grazia. Renowned as an opera and concert conductor, Harry Bicket is especially noted for his interpretation of baroque and classical repertoire. Last with the COC for 2014’s Hercules, Bicket makes a welcome return to the podium to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus in the company premiere of this exciting operatic rarity. Maometto II is sung in with English SURTITLESTM and runs for seven performances on April 29, May 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 14, 2016.
All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions and casting are subject to change without notice. For more complete casting and creative team information, please see the production pages at coc.ca.
Now on sale, subscriptions to the six mainstage productions for the COC’s 15/16 season range from $199 to $2,086, and may be purchased online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, 145 Queen St. W., Toronto. Special value pricing is available on most levels of the Four Seasons Centre, including the Orchestra, Grand Ring box, and Ring 3 levels. Prices include HST. Special pricing is also available for seniors and children in all subscription series.
Single tickets to all of the COC’s 15/16 season productions are available to the public as of August 24, 2015. Single tickets prices range from $47 to $355 (includes applicable taxes). Tickets are available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, located at 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.
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 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.
For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: email@example.com
Kristin McKinnon, Assistant Publicist, tel: 416-306-2383, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Toronto - The Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, welcomes three talented new Canadian artists for the 2015/2016 season. Tenors Charles Sy and Aaron Sheppard were among the seven finalists featured in the fourth annual Ensemble Studio Competition in November 2014. Sy and Sheppard were top prize winners at the competitive vocal showcase which was the feature event of the COC’s Ensemble Studio Competition Gala, Centre Stage, an evening dedicated to the discovery and celebration of the next generation of opera stars. In addition to the two opera singers, the 15/16 Ensemble Studio also welcomes pianist Hyejin Kwon.
The three artists will join the Ensemble Studio in August 2015 and become part of an illustrious program that, since its inception in 1980, has launched the careers of over 180 Canadian singers, opera coaches, mainstage directors and conductors, including Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Wendy Nielsen, David Pomeroy, Krisztina Szabó, Simone Osborne, Allyson McHardy, John Fanning, Joseph Kaiser, and Lauren Segal.
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. In addition, they appear in principal roles in a special Ensemble Studio performance of a COC mainstage production, give several concert performances through the COC’s Free Concert Series and perform in the COC’s annual Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour.
The new and returning artists of the Ensemble Studio open the 15/16 season of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with Meet the Young Artists in September 2015. The series features the members of the Ensemble Studio in several recitals of diverse repertoire over the course of the season. Complete details of the 15/16 Free Concert Series season will be announced later this year.
In November 2015, Ensemble Studio members participate in the COC’s annual Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour, providing school-aged audiences throughout Ontario with an introduction to the world of opera. Complete details of the 2015 Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour will be announced in the fall of 2015.
The 15/16 Ensemble Studio members also sing lead roles in their own performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on February 22, 2016, 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 Claus Guth. All tickets for this production are accessibly priced at $25 and $55.
ABOUT THE NEW MEMBERS
Charles Sy – Tenor Charles Sy is the first prize and audience choice award-winner of the COC’s 2014 Ensemble Studio Competition. A Toronto native, Sy currently studies at the University of Toronto (UofT), earning a master of music in opera performance. His UofT credits include Mr. Owen in Postcard from Morocco, Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore, Mayor Upfold in Albert Herring, Alamão in Pedro Malazarte, and covering the title role in Rob Ford: The Opera. Additional credits include Remendado in Carmen (Opera by Request); Lechmere in Owen Wingrave (Banff Centre); Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (Opera NUOVA); Paolo in The Wings of a Dove (The COSI Connection); and Basilio and Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro (Toronto Summer Opera Workshop). In 2015, he will sing the role of Adolfo in La Rondine with Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
Aaron Sheppard – Tenor Aaron Sheppard took third place at the COC’s 2014 Ensemble Studio Competition. A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Sheppard is currently a member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal (OdM). His OdM credits include Hadji in Lakmé, Pong in Turandot, First Philistine in Samson et Dalila, Kronprinz in Silent Night and Joe’s Brother in Dead Man Walking. Additional roles include Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Bonario in Volpone (Opera McGill); Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte (Salzburg Festival Young Singers Project); Ferrando in Così fan tutte (Jeunesses Musicales du Canada); the title role in Albert Herring and Prince in Rusalka (Opera NUOVA); and Brooklyn Boy in Lillian Alling (Banff Centre). Sheppard is also a recent winner of the Western Canada Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Hyejin Kwon – Praised as a “fine stand-in for an orchestra” by the Washington Post, pianist Hyejin Kwon, hails from Seoul, South Korea. Kwon began studying piano at age four, made her first public debut at age seven and her orchestra debut at age 11. She moved to the United States at age 15 to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She won the MTNA Concerto competition in 2004 and was also featured on Interlochen Public Radio. Kwon graduated from the Peabody Institute of Music of the Johns Hopkins University in 2009, with her Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance, and in 2011, with her Master’s degree in Vocal Accompanying. She also served as the pianist for the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute Choral Society from 2008 to 2011, then as their musical director from 2011 to 2012, before joining Lyric Opera Baltimore as their répétiteur and the Repertory Theater of Washington as the music director. Kwon moved to Canada in the fall of 2012, and has been actively working as a pianist, coach, répétiteur, and a music instructor. She is currently completing an operatic répétiteur diploma program with University of Toronto Opera.
2014/2015 ENSEMBLE STUDIO GRADUATES
COC General Director Alexander Neef extends the company’s congratulations to mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage, baritone Clarence Frazer and tenor Owen McCausland, who graduate from the Ensemble Studio program at the end of the 2014/2015 season. Before leaving the program, these young artists can be heard in several performances during the remainder of the 14/15 season.
On the COC mainstage, Charlotte Burrage sings the role of Grimgerde in Die Walküre and Clarence Frazer is an Officer in The Barber of Seville. The Ensemble Studio performance of the COC’s mainstage production of The Barber of Seville takes place on May 15, 2015. In this special presentation of Rossini’s delightful comedy, Charlotte Burrage is Rosina and Clarence Frazer is Figaro.
The graduating artists can also be heard in performance through the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. On March 26, 2015 at 12 p.m., Burrage and McCausland perform Janáček’s intensely dramatic song cycle, The Diary of One who Disappeared. On May 20, 2015 at 12 p.m., Burrage, Frazer and McCausland come together for a special farewell performance, Les Adieux.
OTHER 2014/2015 ENSEMBLE STUDIO PERFORMANCES
The spotlight shines on the rising stars of the COC Ensemble Studio when they take to the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre on May 15, 2015, in a presentation of their own special performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus and directed by the production team of Els Comediants. Tickets are accessibly priced at $25 and $55, and available online at coc.ca, by calling COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, located at 145 Queen St. W.
Ensemble Studio members also perform in six more recitals during the 14/15 Free Concert Series season in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
• January 22, 2015 at 12 p.m.: Songs of Love and War – Artists of the Ensemble Studio present a program of music commemorating both world wars and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
• February 9, 2015, from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.: In this special presentation, artists of the Ensemble Studio compete in the 6th edition of the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards, which will be presented at the end of the evening.
• February 19, 2015 at 12 p.m.: Collaborations – singers from the young artist programs of the Canadian Opera Company and l’Opéra de Montréal join forces in a program of arias and ensembles.
• March 19, 2015 at 12 p.m.: Opera Interactive – a lively interactive March Break concert featuring favourite operatic arias and sing-along choruses.
• April 9, 2015 at 12 p.m.: Poetic Love – Ensemble Studio tenor Andrew Haji and bass-baritone Gordon Bintner tackle two of the towering masterpieces of the German Lied repertoire: Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Schubert’s Schwanengesang.
• April 28, 2015, 12 p.m.: The Futile Precaution – The young artists of the Ensemble Studio present highlights from one of the most beloved and sparkling work in the operatic repertoire: The Barber of Seville.
The Ensemble Studio performance of The Barber of Seville is generously underwritten by Roy and Marjorie Linden.
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. For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.
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