Parlando: The COC Blog


Meet the Ensemble Studio Competition Finalists: Nathan Keoughan

On November 26, 2013, for the first time, nine finalists in the Ensemble Studio Competition will now perform from the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre, accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus and hosted by Grammy-nominated and multi-Juno Award winner, singer-songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright. To watch the competition and see Canada's rising opera stars, visit our Centre Stage website and buy your tickets today! Over the next two weeks, follow along on Parlando as we introduce you to each of our finalists.

Nathan Keoughan, bass-baritone

Nathan was born and raised in Charlottetown, P.E.I., completed his bachelor of music at the University of Prince Edward Island and still finds it hard to pry himself away. But he’s managed to do so long enough to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he completed a master’s degree in Vocal Performance in 2012.

Before moving to Boston, Nathan says that his opera career “was not the original plan.” An accomplished theatre actor, Nathan portrayed Royal Gardner in Anne & Gilbert (Harbourfront Theatre) for three consecutive summers, and also played Edwin Simpson in Nine Lives, a musical about the life of L.M. Montgomery, for the Charlottetown Festival.

It was theatre that gave him a taste for performance, but opera that captured his imagination. “As my training continued at UPEI through the years, my amazing teachers, Stephen and Sung Ha Shin Bouey, introduced me into the world of opera, and with the help of YouTube I was soon a huge fanatic,” Nathan says. “What really draws me to opera is the culmination of such a focused singing technique while having the most dramatic of intentions and, on top of that, keeping up with the rich orchestral music underneath you.”

Nathan’s opera roles include Colline in La Bohème (Cowtown Opera, Highland Opera Studio), Sarastro in The Magic Flute (Highland Opera Studio), the Mayor in Dr. Miracle (New England Conservatory) and excerpts of Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, New England Conservatory). He says, “What I find the most enjoyable is becoming a completely different person than my everyday self. I'm really quite addicted.”

When he’s home on the Island with his friends, who are mostly rock musicians, Nathan goes to performances by local bands. He also enjoys playing around on YouTube, which he can do from anywhere.

Nathan doesn’t speak any languages other than English – yet – but looks forward to playing dramatic roles such as Wotan (Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen), and Scarpia (Puccini's Tosca). When asked why, he says, “The music is so rich and the characters are SO evil! I can't wait; give me 20 years and another 30 for Wotan.”

You can follow Nathan on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.

The Ensemble Studio competition is Tuesday, November 26, 2013. Tickets to the Ensemble Studio Competition and Centre Stage cocktail celebration are $100.For more information and to purchase tickets, visit  You can buy tickets here, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231 or go to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). You can also chat about the event with us on Twitter using #COCCentrestage.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink


Introducing Centre Stage, the Ensemble Studio Competition Gala

Centre Stage Ensemble Studio Competition

Join us on November 26, 2013 as we launch the Centre Stage fundraising gala, a magical evening dedicated to the discovery and celebration of the next generation of opera stars! An event unlike any other in Canada, Centre Stage features the competitive vocal showcase of the COC’s Ensemble Studio Competition with a twist that intensifies the already awe-inspiring display of operatic talent being fostered in this country. For the first time, finalists in the Ensemble Studio Competition now perform from the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre, accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus.

“I had been thinking of creating a gala fundraiser for the COC for some time already,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “Seeing how the Ensemble Studio Competition has engaged the community in past years, the timing was right to launch Centre Stage and make it the occasion to expand our audience with this much grander showcase of Canada’s rising opera talent.”

Centre Stage guests have the exclusive opportunity to experience live the vocal talent and artistry required to command a stage and captivate an audience. Whether one is new to opera or a longtime fan, you can’t help but want to support the operatic art form after having that kind of transformative moment unfold right in front of you,” adds Neef. “The young artists we will be seeing on November 26 may someday perform with all the great opera houses, including ours, and Centre Stage guests will be able to say, ‘I was there when….’”

All patrons who attend Centre Stage will enjoy a cocktail celebration in the Four Seasons Centre’s sparkling Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room when doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the competition begins at 6:30 p.m.


The finalists for the 2013 Ensemble Studio competition are:

  • soprano Karine Boucher (Quebec City, QC)
  • mezzo-soprano Emma Char (Kitchener, Ont.)
  • mezzo-soprano Francesca Corrado (Vancouver, B.C.)
  • tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure (Kitchener, Ont.)
  • bass Nathan Keoughan (Charlottetown, P.E.I.)
  • baritone Iain MacNeil (Brockville, Ont.) 
  • tenor Jean-Michel Richer (Montreal, QC)
  • soprano Lara Secord-Haid (Winnipeg, Man.)
  • mezzo-soprano Rachel Wood (London, Ont.)
Follow along on Parlando for the next two weeks as we feature daily blog posts about each of our finalists.

To Purchase Tickets

Tickets to the Ensemble Studio Competition and Centre Stage cocktail celebration are $100. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit, buy tickets online, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231 or go to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). Chat about the event on Twitter with #COCCentrestage.

Photos: (middle, l-r) Owen McCausland, Claire de Sévigné, Alexander Neef, Lindsay Barrett and Sasha Djihanian at the COC's 2011 Ensemble Studio Competition.  (bottom, l-r) Gordon Bintner, Charlotte Burrage and Andrew Haji at the COC's 2012 Ensemble Studio Competition. All photos by Chris Hutcheson.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink


Free Concert Series Highlights for November

Dharma Santi's 2008 performance in the Free Concert Series.

This November, the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre is all about opening yourself up to new sounds and performance experiences. Explore the musical and dance traditions from cultures around the world, or challenge yourself with original contemporary compositions and innovative arrangements. But don't worry if you're feeling a little less adventurous, we'll still be featuring classic compositions and virtuoso performances too!

Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 12 p.m. - Amstel Quartet- Transatlantic Sax

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear Holland's hottest new chamber group, the Amstel Quartet, on their first Canadian tour. Old music, new music, world music, classical music - the award-winning saxophone ensemble plays it all and presents it in unexpected and innovative ways. Hear their version of Michael Nyman's Song for Tony in the video below.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 12 p.m. - Simone Osborne and Anne Larlee - Songs of Life and Love

Winner of the inaugural Maureen Forrester Prize, soprano Simone Osborne teams up with pianist Anne Larlee to pay homage to the legendary Canadian contralto in a compelling program featuring beloved classics by Schumann, Strauss, Hahn and Bellini, as well as the Toronto premiere of two newly commissioned songs by Canadian composer Brian Current.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 5:30 p.m. - Shirantha Beddage Quartet- Identity

One of the most compelling new voices on the Canadian jazz scene today, baritone saxophonist Shirantha Beddage presents a high-octane hour of original music from his JUNO Award-nominated album, Identity.  Shirantha infuses gospel and blues into modern hard bop, drawing inspiration from jazz legends ranging from John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins to Bill Evans, Thelonius Monk and Chick Corea. Watch Shirantha Beddage's Quartet perform at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2013 in the video below.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 12 p.m. - Dharma Santi and guests - Balinese Music and Dance: Templte, Court and Village Traditions

University of Toronto’s vibrant Balinese Gamelan Dharma Santi unites with Balinese gendèr wayang (keyed metallophone quartet) Seka Rat Nadi and UofT World Music Artists in Residence Vaughan Hatch and Putu Evie Suyadnyani, two of Bali’s most distinguished performing artists. This program of music and dance celebrates the rituals, ceremonies and rich artistic traditions of Indonesia’s most colourful island. Want to give this beautiful art form a try yourself? Check out this tutorial from Putu Evie!

Thursday, November 28, 2013 - 12 p.m. - Shargi Persian Percussion Ensemble - Unbound

Naghmeh Farahmand, internationally acclaimed percussionist and daughter of one of Iran’s leading percussion masters, Mahmoud Farahmand, leads an inspiring all-female group of percussionists in a program of traditional music from Persia and the Middle East. See Naghmeh perform with the Sarv Ensemble in the video below.

Which concerts are you most looking forward to this November? Let us know in the comments!

Photos: (top) Dharma Santi performing in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2008. Photo by A. Chandra; (middle) Simone Osborne and Anne Larlee.

Posted by Kristin McKinnon / in Free Concert Series / comments (0) / permalink

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