Parlando: The COC Blog


See the Ensemble Studio for FREE this spring!

16/17 Ensemble Studio

Is there a better time of year than spring to experience the freshest voices and brightest rising stars of Canadian opera? This April and May, there are plenty of opportunities to hear the young artists of the COC Ensemble Studio in performance, as well as one of its notable graduates, as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

April 18, 2017

Toronto-based Collectìf, co-founded by Ensemble Studio soprano Danika Lorèn, is dedicated to exploring and expanding the world of art song performance by presenting innovative, song-based theatre. In a newly-compiled pastiche, entitled Fête, Collectìf presents staged vignettes of art song based on Verlaine’s iconic poetry cycle, Fêtes galantes.

April 25, 2017

A Woman's Life and Love

COC Ensemble Studio artists, mezzo-soprano Lauren Eberwein and soprano Danika Lorèn, explore themes of life, love and sensuality from a woman’s perspective in a program that includes Schumann’s beloved Frauenliebe und –leben. They are accompanied by pianists Stéphane Mayer and Hyejin Kwon.

April 27, 2017


In this annual tradition, 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.

May 9, 2017

Women on the Edge

Canadian mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy (Julie Riel in the COC’s Louis Riel), and graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio, teams up with pianist Rachel Andrist in a concert about women “on the edge.” The program includes Schumann’s Poèmes de la reine Marie d’Ecosse, and Zemlinsky’s Six Songs after Poems by Maeterlinck.

May 10, 2017


COC Ensemble Studio tenor Aaron Sheppard, accompanied by pianist Stéphane Mayer, reflects on the brevity of life in Finzi’s A Young Man’s Exhortation, based on the poetry of Thomas Hardy. The concert also features performances by soprano Samantha Pickett and mezzo-soprano Megan Quick.

May 11, 2017

Bach Cantatas

COC Ensemble Studio mezzo-soprano Lauren Eberwein joins members of the COC Orchestra and pianist Hyejin Kwon in a special program featuring two of J.S. Bach’s best-loved cantatas: Ich habe genug, BWV 82, and Vergnügte Ruh, BWV 170.

May 17, 2017

Dawn Always Begins in the Bones


Multi-award-winning Canadian composer Ana Sokolović premieres her Canadian Art Song Project-commissioned cycle, Dawn Always Begins in the Bones. She has earned international acclaim for her orchestral, vocal, chamber, operatic and theatrical pieces. COC Ensemble Studio artists, with pianist Liz Upchurch, will perform songs and ensembles based on texts from across Canada, celebrating our country and the richness of its artistic traditions.

May 18, 2017
Les Adieux: Die schöne Müllerin

Tenor Charles Sy and pianist Hyejin Kwon bid farewell to the COC Ensemble Studio in a performance of one of the greatest song cycles ever composed: Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin.

All performances are FREE to the public and begin at 12 p.m., but line up early to make sure you get a seat! Doors open 11:30 a.m. and late admission is not possible. There is capacity for 230 patrons. 

For more information and the complete listings of all 2016/2017 Free Concert Series performances, click here.

Photo credit: Artists of the 2016/2017 Ensemble Studio, photo: Bronwen Sharp

Posted by COC Staff / in Free Concert Series / comments (0) / permalink


Get to Know Adrianne Pieczonka

Get to know Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka with this article from our spring program! Curious to know more? Be sure to check out our Rapidfire video with Adrianne here.

What is your go-to song for karaoke? 
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

What is the best advice you’ve been given?
“Slow and steady wins the race.” I’m soon approaching my 30-year anniversary on stage so this is fitting. I like to pass this advice on to young singers.

If you weren’t an opera singer, you would be?
A high school music teacher who would also direct the yearly school musical production.

What is your dream operatic role, regardless of voice type?
Rodrigo Marquis de Posa in Verdi’s Don Carlo. He gets the most beautiful arias and duets and dies a noble, heartbreaking death.

What book have you read again and again?
Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to go to Australia... maybe I’d catch the Australian Open tennis tournament while I was there.

If you were in a girl band, what would the band’s name be?
“Nasty Women”

Who are three people, alive or dead or fictional, that you would like to have dinner with?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein and Meryl Streep

Who is your favourite artist of all time, from any art form?
Franz Schubert

What is the first thing you do when you arrive in a new city?
Make sure the Wi-Fi is working in my apartment or hotel. The internet and Skype are the lifeline to my family and I feel lost without it.

What is the first thing you do when you arrive back home?
Hug my wife and daughter and then cuddle our two cats.

Above: Adrianne Pieczonka (right) with her wife Laura Tucker (left) and their daughter Grace.

You can only watch one movie/TV show for the rest of your life. What would that be?
The film Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. The imagery of the English countryside itself is exquisite, not to mention this brilliant adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel.

If you had to be locked up in a building overnight, what building would you most like to be locked in?
What an intriguing question! Being locked up in a spa would be pretty nice. I love swimming, saunas and steam rooms, and I could easily spend a night doing all three.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m an introvert.

What’s the best thing about being an opera singer?
Singing is good for the soul and studies have shown that singing also has other health benefits too. One takes it for granted when one is younger, but the older I am, the more grateful I am that I can earn my living as an opera singer. It’s a privilege!

What’s something that you have always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?
Parachuting. I’m still too scared! When I turned 30, I actually booked a parachute jump in Austria but I chickened out and canceled it! I’m still too scared.

What would be the title of your autobiography?
An die Musik

What is one piece of advice for Tosca?
Make sure you judge the distance between you and Scarpia carefully when you rush in to stab him in Act II. If not it can look very awkward indeed! And good luck for the final jump of course.


Adrianne Pieczonka performs the title role in our production of Tosca. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Photo credits: Adrianne Pieczonka and Carlo Ventre in ​Tosca ​(COC, 2012), photos by Michael Cooper

Posted by Tanner Davies / in Tosca / comments (0) / permalink


Dialogue on Use of Indigenous Songs in Canadian Compositions

On April 19, 2017, the Canadian Opera Company is hosting a closed meeting at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, organized by Dr. Dylan Robinson of Queen’s University, to discuss First Nations song protocol and the use of Indigenous songs in Canadian compositions, such as Harry Somers’ Louis Riel.

Those who have been invited to the April 19 gathering are members of the Nisg̱a’a, Métis and other First Nations arts and music communities, members of the 2017 Louis Riel production, representatives from the Canadian Opera Company, National Arts Centre, Canadian Music Centre, and Canada Council for the Arts, as well as advisors and executors to the estates of Louis Riel’s composer Harry Somers and librettist Mavor Moore.

“One intention of the gathering is to begin the process of developing policy related to Indigenous protocol for new music involving Indigenous participants, and music that misuses Indigenous song,” says Dr. Dylan Robinson, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts. “This work of creative repatriation is essential in the ongoing process of reconciliation.”

The score of Somers’ Louis Riel includes the “Kuyas” aria, which opens Act III and is sung in Cree by the artist in the role of Marguerite Riel, Louis Riel’s wife. The music for the “Kuyas” aria was based on a Nisg̱a’a mourning song called “Song of Skateen” that was recorded by Marius Barbeau and transcribed by Sir Ernest MacMillan on the Nass River in 1927.

“The COC is in a unique position to use its presentation of Louis Riel to discuss the issues arising from a longer history of colonialization and appropriation,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “These are complicated issues and we hope it leads to a future that takes into consideration the aesthetic, spiritual, cultural and educational ways forward.”

The “Song of Skateen” is one of hundreds of First Nations songs collected by ethnographers during the early 20th century, shared with the understanding that it was to keep them safe for future generations. Many agreed to have their songs recorded believing that the Indian Act’s censorship of performing their songs and dances would result in their eventual loss, unaware that these materials may one day be used in contemporary compositions without their consent. The “Song of Skateen”, a Nisg̱a’a mourning song, was used by Harry Somers without knowledge of Nisg̱a’a protocol that dictates that such songs must only be sung at the appropriate times, and only by those who hold the hereditary rights to sing such songs. To sing mourning songs in other contexts is a legal offence for Nisg̱a’a people and can also have negative spiritual impacts upon the lives of singers and listeners.

“Given that this particular song was made available through ethnographic recording/transcription currently held within a museum collection, it is also our hope that we may think about new possibilities and creative projects for music organizations to support the work of reconnecting Indigenous songs with Indigenous artists,” adds Robinson.

With respect to both the Nisg̱a’a and Métis peoples and in recognition of how the songs of one nation are not the same as another’s, the COC and NAC co-production of Louis Riel acknowledges the current holder of the hereditary rights to this song: Sim'oogit Sg̱at'iin, hereditary chief Isaac Gonu, Gisḵ'ansnaat (Grizzly Bear Clan), Gitlax̱t'aamiks, B.C.

In recognition of the Nisg̱a’a people and to correct the attribution of “Song of Skateen,” the COC’s opening night performance of Louis Riel on April 20 will begin with an oratory and musical address from G̱oothl Ts'imilx Mike Dangeli and Wal’aks Keane Tait of the Nisg̱a’a First Nation with the Git Hayetsk and Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisg̱a'a Dancers, two internationally renowned dance groups from Vancouver, B.C.

The purpose of the April 19 consultation event is not to reach a conclusive decision, but to open a dialogue between relevant parties and organizations that will clarify these issues in the future.

About Dylan Robinson

Professor Dylan Robinson is a scholar of Stó:lō descent who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts at Queen’s University, located on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples. His research has been supported by national and international fellowships at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, in the Canadian Studies Program at the University of California Berkeley, the Indigeneity in the Contemporary World project at Royal Holloway University of London, and a Banting Postdoctoral fellowship in the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. His most recent book, the edited collection Arts of Engagement (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2016) examines the role that the arts and Indigenous cultural practices played in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the Indian Residential Schools. His forthcoming book, Hungry Listening, focuses on collaboration between Indigenous performers, composers and artists and classical music ensembles.

Posted by Tanner Davies / in Louis Riel / 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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