Parlando: The COC Blog


The Big COC Podcast: Episode 17

By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager


For Episode 17, the “Please, no more old, tired opera clichés” edition, we welcome back opera journalists Joseph So and Paula Citron; Western Canadian opera presenter and journalist Stephan Bonfield, and opera blogger John Gilks. Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager, is your host.

Several opera stories have gone “viral” recently – here’s our contribution to the lively conversation:

Are you out there listening? What would you like us to talk about next time? Let us know by sending us your ideas/comments by commenting here, on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail (

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Catching up with Ensemble Studio member Clarence Frazer

By Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager

Clarence Frazer (Publio) and Emily D'Angelo (Annio) posing before their COSI performance of La clemenza di Tito.

The COC welcomed new Ensemble Studio member baritone Clarence Frazer last week as the training program started up for the 2013/2014 season. He, like fellow Ensemble Studio newcomer Danielle MacMillan, spent part of June and much of July in Sulmona, Italy, attending the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI), before heading out to the family cottage in Muskoka, ON. Since fall is so close at hand, we wanted to get one more dose of summer by hearing about Clarence’s time away.

Danielle shared with us a little bit of what COSI is and what one does when attending the program. How would you describe it?

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.

The piazza in Sulmona, Italy, just outside the theatre in which the COSI students were performing.

What was your routine like? What kind of training did you receive? 

I sang the role of Publio in La clemenza di Tito with conductor Jonathan Berman and director Timothy Nelson. I also participated in two masterclasses: one with Wendy Nielsen and the other with Giuseppe Finzi and sang in the chorus for COSI’s performances of Vivaldi’s Gloria and in concerts in and around Sulmona. I was given vocal lessons with the voice faculty, made up of Darryl Edwards, Wendy Nielsen and Kathleen Brett, coachings with Kathryn Tremills, Mai’kai Nash, Rachel Andrist, Nathalie Doucet-Lalkens, Liz Upchurch and Giuseppe Finzi, and did Pilates bodywork with Jennifer Swan.

What was your favourite part of the experience?

Definitely performing Publio in La clemenza di Tito. For me, being on stage is the most exciting, fulfilling and exhilarating part of the job. Being in Italy was okay as well, ha ha.

Who were you most excited to meet or work with at COSI?

Everyone has been equally exciting to work with. It was a real pleasure and very humbling to work with this world-class faculty every day.

You were in Italy for the summer. All work and no play... or did you get to explore the land of love, music, beauty, fashion, history, art, culture and gastronomy?

This time I did not get to experience Italy as much as in the past. Aside from a few trips to the beach in Pescara, my time was spent in Sulmona.

It sounds like you were pretty focused on your studies while in Italy. What kind of music were you listening to in your off time?

I usually don’t listen to classical or opera music in my personal time. I have all types of music on my iPod and listen to almost anything.

Italy would be the dream travel destination for a lot of people, but since you were there to focus on your opera training, what would be your dream travel destination?

It has to be the South Pacific, to places like Bora Bora or Tahiti. So exotic, warm and secluded. Seems perfect to me.

You can catch Clarence performing with all of this year’s Ensemble Studio members in our Meet the Young Artists Free Concert Series performance on September 26, and as Customs House Sergeant in this fall's La Bohème.

Photos: (top) Clarence Frazer as Publio and Emily D'Angelo as Annio for the COSI performance of La clemenza di Tito, 2013; (middle) A cathedral in Sulmona, Italy; (bottom) The main piazza in Sulmona, Italy. Photos provided by Clarence Frazer

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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.

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