Parlando: The COC Blog


Artist Basics: Patricia Racette

Patricia Racette


This fall, two singers make their Canadian Opera Company debuts in the role of a teenage girl whose passion, heartbreak and sorrow requires the power and emotions of a rich soprano. Singing six of these performances is a woman who has built her career upon this role and made it her own: Patricia Racette!

What she's doing with us: American soprano Patricia Racette makes her COC debut as the tragic Cio-Cio San in one of the best-loved operas of all time, Puccini's Madama Butterfly. 

Where you might have seen her: Patricia has performed at many of the world's great opera houses including Covent Garden; English National Opera; Teatro alla Scala, Opéra national de Paris, Wiener Staatsoper and Gran Teatre del Liceu, and you might have seen her in the Met HD broadcast of Anthony Minghella's Madama Butterfly in 2009.

In addition to regular appearances with the Metropolitan Opera, she frequently performs with the San Francisco Opera, the company that helped launch her career. Patricia recently saved the day for San Francisco Opera's world premiere of Dolores Claiborne when she stepped into the title role at the very last minute after the original singer left the production.

After singing Cio-Cio San with the COC, she takes the role to Bueños Aires for her debut with Teatro Colón.

Interviews and profiles:  She earned rave reviews for a recent San Francisco Opera Butterfly production; chats with Curve Magazine about Madama Butterfly and her decision to publicly come out as a lesbian; and talks to the Wall Street Journal and Contra Costa Times about performing Dolores Claiborne on very short notice.

Sneak peek: See Patricia perform her signature role in the Met's 2009 production of Madama Butterfly, directed by Anthony Minghella. (Watch closely for Dwayne Croft as Sharpless, who will reunite with Patricia in the COC's production!)


You can follow Patricia Racette on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and learn more about her on her website.


Madama Butterfly runs from October 10 to 31, 2014 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and Patricia Racette performs Oct. 10, 15, 18, 21, 24 and 30. Learn more at


Photos: (top) Patricia Racette; Photo by Gary Mulcahey


Posted by Kristin McKinnon / in Madama Butterfly / comments (0) / permalink


#UncleJohn live at Banff!

by Gianmarco Segato
Adult Programs Manager

The COC's Adult Programs Manager Gianmarco Segato was lucky enough to see Against the Grain's #UncleJohn in Banff a few weeks ago! He shares some of his experiences below. 


On Saturday August 2, I made the trek to Banff to see Against the Grain Theatre’s latest production, #UncleJohn, produced in collaboration with The Banff Centre and the Canadian Opera Company as part of the centre’s new program, Open Space: Opera in the 21st Century.  The program hosted eight young opera professionals for a four-week intensive residency which resulted in the creation of #Uncle John, a modern interpretation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The adaptation featured a new English libretto written by Against the Grain Theatre's artistic director Joel Ivany. The creative process was extensively documented with blog posts and behind-the-scenes videos on Schmopera courtesy of none other than former COC Ensemble member and erstwhile Big COC Podcast guest, Jenna Douglas.

The setting for this unique production was the Cave and Basin, a National Historical Site within Banff National Park — the geographical birthplace of Canada’s National Park system. 


I visited the site in the afternoon, a beautiful 20 minute walk from Banff town centre. You can enter the cave where three railway workers discovered warm water springs above what would become the town of Banff, which led to the establishment of a reserve around the hot springs in 1885. Two years later the Canadian government made the area a national park – the country’s first. The cave was hot, steamy and, due to the sulphurous odours, stinky! There’s also an outdoor hot pool where you can see the healing waters bubbling up from below.

AtG performed #UncleJohn outdoors although on the night I attended they were rained out and had to quickly improvise the staging in an indoor space. The cast did an amazing job adjusting their blocking in the moment, adding an extra frisson of excitement to the proceedings! The new English text was witty and completely of our times – texting and cellphone calls were integral to the concept. #UncleJohn was another success for AtG in its continuing quest to present opera in fresh ways, in unusual spaces, to new audiences. After the show I caught up with three of the cast members, all of them former COC Ensemble members: Betty Waynne Allison, Cameron McPhail and Miriam Khalil, as well as director Joel Ivany (you’ll hear them speak in that order in the audio clip below). Listen as we talk about the significance of performing at this unique venue, what it’s like to sing a new English version of Don Giovanni, and hear their individual takes on Anna, Uncle John and Elvira!

Posted by Meighan Szigeti / in Against the Grain / comments (0) / permalink


Summer Catch-up with the Ensemble Studio

Artists of the 2013/2014 COC Ensemble Studio
Artists of the 2013/2014 COC Ensemble Studio. Photo: Karen Reeves

This week we welcome the young artists of the COC Ensemble Studio back from their summer vacation! We caught up with a few of them recently to find out what they've been up to during their time off. Between cruising in Cyprus, touring Tel Aviv and boot-stomping in Bowmanville, their combined travels have taken them to three continents! Safe to say, our Ensemble Studio members have kept themselves very busy!

Andrew Haji and Clarence Frazer

Clarence Frazer and Andrew Haji

Sulmona, Italy is always a popular summer destination for our Ensemble Studio members and alumni. Not only is it a beautiful and historic town in the Abruzzi region, it is also the location of the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI). This summer, tenor Andrew Haji and baritone Clarence Frazer spent part of June and July there, working on a production of La Bohème. Andrew sang the role of Rodolfo, while Clarence took on the role of Marcello.

Clarence Frazer in La Boheme at COSI
Clarence Frazer sings the role of Marcello in La Bohème at COSI.

When Clarence attended COSI last summer, he had this to say about the program:

“The COSI experience is rich in operatic training and performances, with immersion in Italian life and Italian language classes. Internationally renowned faculty in operatic performance, voice and piano teaching and coaching, dramatic coaching, bodywork, and lyric Italian converge with advanced singers and pianists to create wonderful performances in beautiful Italian venues.”

While there, they bumped into some familiar faces: pianists and recent Ensemble Studio grads Anne Larlee and Michael Shannon!

Andrew Haji, Michael Shannon, Clarence Frazer and Anne Larlee at COSI
(l-r) Andrew Haji, Michael Shannon, Clarence Frazer and Anne Larlee at COSI

Andrew and Clarence return to the Ensemble Studio for a second season this fall. Catch Clarence in the COC’s production of Madama Butterfly, and both singers in the Ensemble Studio performance of The Barber of Seville next May.

Iain MacNeil


New Ensemble Studio member, bass-baritone Iain MacNeil, kicked off a busy, jet setting summer by competing in the Stella Maris International Vocal Competition, a seaborne vocal competition for rising young opera stars. Aboard the M.S. Europa cruise ship, he travelled from Larnaca, Cyprus to Venice, Italy, with stops in Turkey, Greece and Croatia along the way. “It was the experience of a lifetime,” says Iain.

View of the Mediterranean coastline in Turkey from the M.S. Europa. Photo: Iain MacNeil
View of the Mediterranean coastline in Turkey from the M.S. Europa. Photo: Iain MacNeil

Following a visit with friends in Suloma, Italy and a return to Toronto, Iain flew back to Europe to participate in Barocktage Stift Melk, a baroque festival in Melk, Austria. (Fun fact: Its artistic director is acclaimed Canadian tenor and COC favourite Michael Schade!). Melk is known for its beautiful Baroque abbey where Iain had a chance to perform. Following his European travels, Iain headed back to Canada for the St. Andrews Arts Council Opera Workshop in St. Andrews by-the-sea, New Brunswick.

But it wasn’t all work and no play for Iain this summer. He hit the road on his motorcycle for Halifax, making stops in Lake Placid, New York; Conway, New Hampshire; and Bangor, Maine. There was one unexpected stop, however. “A stray nail on the highway landed me in Moncton for a night while the tire on my motorcycle was replaced, but here I discovered that Moncton has a wealth of live music to offer - even on a Monday night.” But Iain’s highlight of the summer was seeing folk icon James Taylor perform live in Maine. “At 66 years old, he's still got it all, apart from the hair.”

The White Mountains in New Hampshire. Photo: Iain MacNeil
The White Mountains in New Hampshire. Photo: Iain MacNeil

So what is Iain looking forward to for the rest of the summer? “I must say that I'm looking forward to finally crossing the Causeway into Cape Breton - after living in Halifax for four years, it's been a long time coming - and exploring the Cabot Trail on the motorcycle. Above all, however, I'm anxiously awaiting the beginning of the season at the COC!”

You can see Iain in the COC’s upcoming productions of Madama Butterfly and The Barber of Seville.

Jennifer Szeto

Jennifer Szeto

It’s certainly an eventful time to be visiting Israel but that hasn’t stopped pianist Jennifer Szeto from having an amazing experience in Tel Aviv. She is a staff pianist for the International Vocal Arts Institute’s production of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. “The program has been a phenomenal experience so far - one could not ask for a more dedicated community of faculty, administrators and opera lovers,” says Jennifer.

When she’s not busy with the production, Jennifer has been soaking up everything Tel Aviv has to offer. “One couldn't describe the beauty and vibrancy of Tel Aviv in just a few words. The city is a paradise for foodies - everything is fresh and flavorful here,” says Jennifer. “I could spend a lifetime (and all subsequent pay cheques) navigating its endless cafés and restaurants!”

As for the rest of the summer, Jennifer looks forward to some time off in Montreal before settling into Toronto. As the Ensemble Studio’s new intern coach, she’ll serve as a rehearsal pianist for Madama Butterfly, Die Walküre and The Barber of Seville.

Owen McCausland

Owen McCausland

Third year Ensemble Studio tenor Owen McCausland spent seven weeks of his summer attending the Chautauqua Institution Voice Department, an intensive training program for young singers in Upstate New York. While there, he performed the title role in a production of Massenet’s Werther on July 17. He also worked on some COC assignments while he was there, in preparation for the fall.

When he’s not singing, Owen can be found road biking or playing beach volleyball. The native New Brunswicker is also taking time to visit friends and family on the East Coast. 

Owen can be seen in the COC’s Ensemble Studio performance of The Barber of Seville next May.

Charlotte Burrage

Charlotte Burrage

When returning mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage isn’t busy learning five roles for the COC’s upcoming season, she’s been taking time to connect with friends and family. In addition to pool parties at her family’s home in Sweaburg, Ontario, Charlotte is looking forward to visiting the Creemore Springs brewery this August for her dad’s birthday. “We’re a Creemore-loving family!” says Charlotte.

Charlotte (left) and her sister Alana walking the red carpet at the Pants Off for Prostate Cancer event in June.

Over the August long weekend, the entire Burrage family broke out their cowboy hats for the Boots and Hearts Music Festival in Bowmanville, Ontario. The popular country music festival boasted a line-up of superstars like Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Blake Shelton and more. “My sister and I are going shopping at Madam Vintage to get our cute ‘80s cowboy-chic outfits for the weekend! Should be an adventure!”

When Charlotte returns to the COC this fall, you can spot her in our productions of Die Walküre and The Barber of Seville (Ensemble Studio performance)

Don’t miss the Ensemble Studio in the first concert of the 2014/2015 season of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. They’ll introduce themselves by singing their favourite arias on Tuesday, September 23 at 12 p.m.

Posted by Kristin McKinnon / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink

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

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