Parlando: The COC Blog


Catching up with Ensemble Studio member Danielle MacMillan

By Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager

Mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan is one of the new members of the Ensemble Studio for the 2013/2014 season. In fact, she just officially started with the company last week, as the Ensemble Studio artists began their schedule of rehearsals, vocal coachings, language and diction lessons and masterclasses. We wanted to find out what Danielle had been up to over the summer as she spent some time in bella Italia – Sulmona, Italy to be exact – studying at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy.

What is the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy? What do you in this program?

The COSI Opera Ensemble program is tailored to select, advanced undergraduate and graduate singers, and emerging artists ready to build upon their existing performance résumé. Successful applicants come prepared to stage and perform assigned opera roles in an elite setting and with an international performance training team, designed to prepare the emerging artist for the professional opera stage.

In addition to Italian language classes taught by certified instructors from the English School of International Languages, each of us receives a series of one-on-one coaching sessions, voice lessons and Pilates bodywork. Additionally, the singers have masterclasses and forums twice a week. We also perform in various aria concerts in historical Sulmona, and in courtyard concerts in the Abruzzo region of Italy.

What was your favourite role or piece to perform so far?

Definitely playing the role of Annio in La clemenza di Tito. The whole opera is very human and therefore relatable.

Who were you most excited to meet or work with in Italy?

Coach and accompanist Nathalie Doucet-Lalkens. Five years have passed since I last saw her at York University, so I was really looking forward to working with her again, but mostly catching up! She’s a beautiful person and incredibly talented.

So what was your summer jam? Everyone always wants to know what music opera singers listen to.

A variety of genres. My choices in Italy were Michael Bublé’s new album, some Mumford and Sons, and some teenybopper music for the beach, like Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber.

You were in Italy for part of summer. Please say you had a chance to do some exploring!

I didn’t have much free time to head out of town. As I’ve traveled to Italy before, I wasn’t too worried about seeing everything, but I thoroughly enjoyed talking the train to Pescara to swim and sunbathe a couple of times.

Living out of a suitcase is part of the life of an opera singer. Having been away from home for a big part of the summer, what are your travel tips, especially when you’re going to a place like Italy?

Pack light! Opera can take you around the globe and expose you to new cultures, food, clothing, accessories… you’ll need some extra space in your bag for bottles of good olive oil, cheese, leather bags, shoes, scarves and vacuum-sealed meats.

You can catch Danielle performing with all of this year’s Ensemble Studio members in our Meet the Young Artists Free Concert Series performance on September 26, and alongside fellow member Claire de Sévigné, as one of Auntie’s Nieces in Peter Grimes.

Photos: (top) Danielle MacMillan at the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Competition, 2012; (middle) A courtyard concert in Goriano Sicoli; (bottom) A weekly market in Sulmona. Photo credits: (top) Christopher Hutcheson; (middle, bottom) Danielle MacMillan.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (1) / permalink


Artist Basics: Ferruccio Furlanetto

What he's doing with us: Italian Ferruccio Furlanetto, one of the world's most famous basses, makes his COC debut in the title role of our spring production of Massenet's Don Quichotte.

Where you might have seen him: A starring artist at the Metropolitan Opera for over 30 years, Ferruccio Furlanetto may be most recognizable for his performance as Philip II in the Met's 2010 production of Don Carlos, which was broadcast on Met Live in HD. But he has dozens of recordings and DVDs under his belt, and opera aficionados may be most familiar with recordings of his performances with the Royal Opera House and the Vienna State Opera.

His background: Ferruccio started at the top and never looked back. His professional debut was in 1974, and by 1979 he was on stage at La Scala in Verdi's Macbeth, and made his debuts at the Glyndebourne Festival and the Metropolitan Opera the next year. While he's performed at all the major opera houses worldwide, his North American appearances have primarily been at the San Diego Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, so Toronto audiences are in for a treat this spring when he makes his first Canadian appearance!

Interviews and profiles:  Musical Criticism spoke to Ferruccio about his performance in Verdi's Attila and his time working with current Don Quichotte co-star Quinn Kelsey, ConcertoNet recently spoke with Ferruccio about his most famous role as Philip in Don Carlos, and Opera Now dedicated a three-page spread to Ferruccio's history and career.

What's next for Ferruccio: A world-famous bass never rests! Ferruccio spends this fall performing in Don Carlos and Simon Boccanegra at the Vienna State Opera, in Aida at Teatro di San Carlo, and as the title character in three different productions of Boris Godunov in the winter before he joins the COC for Don Quichotte.

You can find more interviews, videos and audio clips of Ferruccio on his official website.

Watch Ferruccio in the video below, singing the famous "Catalog Aria" from Don Giovanni.

Photos: (top) Ferruccio Furlanetto. Photo by Igor Sakharov.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Don Quichotte / comments (0) / permalink


Artist Basics: Sondra Radvanovsky

What she's doing with us: American soprano (and now, Toronto resident!) Sondra Radvanovsky returns to the COC in her role debut as Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux. She puts on her final crown in Donizetti's "Tudor Trilogy," having already tackled the title roles of Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda.

Where you might have seen her: While Toronto audiences may recognize Sondra from her role and COC debut in our 2010 production of Aida, Sondra is a globally recognized artist, well-known for Verdi roles, who has sung in all the major opera houses in the world. Closer to home, Met Live in HD audiences may recognize her for such roles as Leonora in Il Trovatore and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, and also as a Met Live in HD host!  

Her background: Born just outside Chicago, Sondra moved to Richmond, Indiana when she was 11, and sang her first full opera there when she was 21. She studied theatre and voice at University of Southern California and at UCLA, and took advanced studies at the Tanglewood Music Center and at the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music. She then went on to win the 1995 Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions and joined the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

Interviews and profiles: She was featured in the New York Times about her position as one of the Metropolitan Opera's top Verdi sopranos, she spoke with Opera Chic about her role in Il Trovatore, the Opera Tattler caught the soprano in a fun interview just before she sang Ernani at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and she shares a hilarious interview with close friend, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in New York Magazine

What's next for Sondra: Before she arrives at the COC next spring, Sondra appears at the Metropolitan opera as the title role in Norma, as Amelia in Un ballo in maschera at Vienna State Opera, and performs in Tosca at both the Metropolitan Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu.

You can follow Sondra as she shares some great performance photos on Facebook, or on her website.

Watch as Sondra performs in her role debut as the title character in Anna Bolena at the Washington National Opera in 2012.

Photos: (top) Sondra Radvanovsky; (middle) Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Aida, 2010. Photo credits: (top) Pavel Antonov; (middle) Michael Cooper.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Roberto Devereux / comments (0) / permalink

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