Parlando: The COC Blog


Meet the Finalists: Claire de Sévigné

Our introduction to the 10 Ensemble Studio Competition finalists continues today with Montreal soprano Claire de Sévigné!

Claire 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 and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor at UofT. This season she will perform the role of Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare with Thirteen Strings Orchestra. 

We asked Claire what drove her decision to become an opera singer, and here's how she responded: 

"Why opera? Why not? I just tried it one day and have been in a love affair with opera ever since! I started singing and writing my own songs when I was in grade three. I told my parents that I wanted to enter into my elementary school talent show, and they asked me, “Whose song do you want to sing?” I said “My own!” And I’ve been singing ever since. I was never asked or told to sing by anyone. It was just something I did naturally. I was involved in a few choirs, rock bands, concert and jazz bands (on bass-clarinet and saxophone) piano lessons and musical theatre shows in high school. When it came time to apply for CEGEP (the Quebec schooling system between high school and university) I had to choose which program I wanted to go into. I knew that it would be a music program; I just didn’t know which instrument I would focus on. I decided that singing was my favourite, so I studied privately for a year and was accepted into Marianopolis College. It was there, when I was 17 years old, that I saw my first opera in Montreal, Norma by Bellini, and I fell in love.

After that I started renting and watching operas from the school library and began to ask my teacher which arias I could start working on. After doing my bachelor's and master's degrees, among many other operatic summer training programs, I can’t see myself doing anything else but singing opera. I am deeply drawn to the stories and traditions of the art form and find myself endlessly enchanted with the complex characters and amazing musical writings that the opera world and its composers have to offer. I love immersing myself into the world of these characters through some of the most beautiful music ever written, because when I do it feels like I’ve engaged in something that is important and meaningful. I sing because it never ceases to inspire me. A day without inspiration is a day I must have forgotten to practice."

We also asked her about her side projects:

"One of my greatest side interests is teaching. I love working with children and getting them interested in music. They can have so much perspective on what I’m teaching and it’s really refreshing to learn with them. From an early age I have loved the water and most aquatic sports and activities. I also enjoy having coffee with friends at new shops around the city as well as cooking and throwing dinner parties."

Posted by Cecily Carver / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink


Meet the Finalists: Lindsay Barrett

On Nov. 28, exactly two weeks from today, 10 young singers will compete for places in our Ensemble Studio training program for emerging artists. Each day between now and Monday, we'll introduce you to one of the finalists. Today, we have soprano Lindsay Barrett, from Sudbury, Ontario.

Lindsay graduated from the University of Toronto’s Opera School receiving the Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Scholarship. She is currently appearing in Isis and the Seven Scorpions with the COC’s Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour. Other credits include Tatyana in Eugene Onegin with Off Centre Music and Violetta in La Traviata with Saskatoon Opera.

You can follow Lindsay on twitter at @LinzBarrett!

Lindsay answered a few of our questions over e-mail:

Q: How did you decide to become an opera singer?

A: I grew up performing in musical and straight theatre productions. I studied piano and dance, and my grandmother was a classically trained singer - so I was always interested in music and the stage. When I was 18, my voice teacher brought me to the COC's production of Verdi's Il Trovatore, and I was immediately enamoured with this art form. I remember sitting in the very last row on the highest balcony at the Hummingbird Centre, and I was fascinated with the production, the orchestra, the singers! I knew then that I had to be a part of this world; which, for a girl growing up on a farm in northern Ontario, seemed an impossible dream. In any case, I returned home and informed my parents that I wanted to move to Toronto to become an opera singer! I was accepted into the Performance program with the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music the following year, and went on to study at UofT's Opera School. It's been a long journey, but I consider myself very fortunate to have found this unique and rewarding career.

Q: What do you find compelling about opera?

A: I'm currently participating in the Xstrata School Tour of Dean Burry's Isis and the Seven Scorpions. I've never performed for such young audiences before (at least, not in this concentration!). I'm learning so much about myself as an artist, and why what we do is so important. Children are a very honest reflection of how successful you are at communicating. If you don't commit 150% to your character, to the moment you're in and the integrity of the story (and music), you've lost that audience and the opportunity to reveal something. It's instantaneous, and I realize that it's that principle which compels me to be a performer. It's a true privilege to be able to capture someone's interest and share your artistry with them – be it in a brightly lit gymnasium full of children, or a dark opera house where I can't see the faces I'm performing to. Either way, I get to tell you a story, and that's a pretty great job to have!

Posted by Cecily Carver / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink


Hansel and Gretel: It's All About the Glitter

[This is a guest post by Ensemble Studio member Jenna Douglas, a pianist and coach. Jenna Douglas is the music director of Hansel and Gretel, currently touring with the Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour. Follow Jenna on twitter at @jennamariepiano!] 

The Hansel and Gretel school tour has been clicking along nicely. My ears are getting used to the sound of hysterical shrieks from the kids; sometimes the shrieks are accompanied by shouts of warning to Lisa and Rihab (our Gretel and Hansel). More surprisingly was a calm, assured applause that rippled through the family audience during a public performance just as the Witch is hurled into her own oven. Some kids really do take this opera business seriously, even daring to shush the odd deviant child who dared to speak over the performance. One little girl, warming my heart, asked us how we came up with this version of Hansel and Gretel, as opposed to the original Grimm story. I am forever thankful to parents who read to their kids.

Popular questions from the kids continue to be about the origins of our gingerbread-woman, and why Rihab is trying to pass herself off as a boy. During one Q&A, one teacher asked Michael to change out of his Narrator costume, back into the Witch, "so the kids can sleep at night." Obligingly, Michael showed the crowd of excited boys and girls how he grows a hairy, bulbous nose and a set of scary red claws on each hand. It seemed to offer the kids a bit of relief.

Other tidbits: we set an amazing set-up record of nine minutes after getting caught in rush-hour traffic. We managed to grab a moment of nostalgia at one school when we were given access to the gym equipment room to change. Hula hoops, scooters, tricycles, oh my. Glitter-hungry children continue to save us the effort of sweeping up the Sandman's confetti post-show.

Photo: Ambur Braid and Michael Barrett take advantage of the "special equipment" in the warm-up room at one of the schools on the Hansel and Gretel tour. Photo © Jenna Douglas 2011.

Posted by Jenna Douglas / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (1) / permalink

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



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