Meet Omega Menkir! Pictured above in a 2007 production of Theseus and the Minotaur, Omega is a past participant of the Canadian Opera Company’s After School Opera Program (ASOP) and the third individual featured in the special blog series commemorating ASOP’s 15th anniversary celebration on June 13, 2013 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.
Omega joined the program when she was only eight during the 2005/2006 season. From 2005 to 2007, Omega participated in seven ASOP productions with her twin brother, Alpha (who, as you can probably tell by his name, was born first). Aside from spending time with her sibling, Omega’s fondest memory of ASOP was the opera Gold of the Elements, a prelude to Das Rheingold which was written by ASOP lead artist and composer, Dean Burry, to coincide with the monumental performance of Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle by the Canadian Opera Company for the opening of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
In Dean’s version, the elements of earth, wind, water, and fire had to come together to determine the fate of an all-powerful ring that could control the universe. Omega still remembers the line she was allowed to ad lib when she played the role of one of the water characters, who were bickering with the wind characters: “Wind, what have you done with your hair?” Not surprisingly, Gold of the Elements became her favourite ASOP opera!
For many participants, ASOP inspires a life-long passion for the arts. This is certainly true of Omega. Now a high school student, Omega realizes the impact ASOP had on her interest in opera and all art forms in general: “It kept me loving the arts, and kept me very involved, and formed some amazing memories for me.” Her affinity for the arts keeps her schedule packed with all things artistic at school including: wind ensemble, jazz band, madrigal choir and concert choir. With this kind of appetite and commitment to the arts, we may just catch Omega on the main stage some day!
Photo Credits: Omega Menkir in the COC ASOP production of Theseus and the Minotaur, 2007; (bottom) Omega Menkir, 2013. Photos by COC and Omega Menkir.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Education / comments (0) / permalink
By Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager
A singer never really goes on vacation. Yes, there’s time set aside for rest and relaxation, but always on the horizon is the need to get ready for what’s next. There’s always a performance to prepare for or some kind of private study in anticipation of a future role. That’s certainly the case for sopranos Sasha Djihanian and Claire de Sévigné, tenor Owen McCausland and baritone Cameron McPhail. Currently on break from the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, these four young artists will enjoy a mixture of business and pleasure this summer before they return to the company at the end of August.
Soprano Sasha Djihanian is looking forward to a summer of travelling to Italy, Greece and Turkey, but before she departs she’ll be making a special appearance with The National Ballet of Canada. She’s a featured vocalist, along with incoming Ensemble Studio mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan, in the NBoC production of Pur Ti Miro, in performance at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts from June 19 – 23, 2013. When back at the COC next season, Sasha is on the mainstage as Fiordiligi in the Ensemble Studio performance of Così fan tutte on February 7, 2014, and as Pedro in Don Quichotte, in addition to understudying the roles of Oscar in Un ballo in maschera, Fiordiligi for the mainstage production of Così and Iole in Hercules.
Soprano Claire de Sévigné starts off her summer holiday with a visit to Chicago to spend some time with her voice teacher Steven Smith. She’s then headed to Santa Barbara, California to work under the direction of celebrated mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne in the Music Academy of the West’s voice program. Hopefully she’ll be able to soak up some sun when not studying or rehearsing for her performance as the Queen of the Night in the Academy’s production of The Magic Flute in August. There’ll also be role study in her future this summer, learning the role of First Niece for Peter Grimes at the COC in October 2013 and Despina for the Ensemble Studio performance of Così fan tutte in February 2014. Claire also understudies the roles of Despina for the mainstage production and Pedro in Don Quichotte in May 2014.
Tenor Owen McCausland has no major plans this summer, that’s if you don’t count studying with his voice teacher Patrick Raftery, learning his roles for next season, visiting family, growing a vegetable garden and building a website! On the books for the 2013/2014 season at the COC, Owen is scheduled to sing Parpignol in La Bohème, Reverend Horace in Peter Grimes (while also understudying the role of Bob Boles), and the Servant in Un ballo in maschera. He also sings Ferrando in the Ensemble Studio performance of Così fan tutte (and understudies the same role for the mainstage production), understudies Hyllus in Hercules, and sings Lord Cecil in Roberto Devereux and Juan in Don Quichotte.
Baritone Cameron McPhail is looking forward to a summer with his wife Cat. Amidst the plans to relax and enjoy visiting family, though, there will be some intense study in preparation for next year’s roles. Upon returning to the COC for the 2013/2014 season, Cam goes straight into rehearsals for La Bohème for which he sings Schaunard for four of the 12 performances. He also understudies Ned Keene in Peter Grimes, Silvano in Un ballo in maschera, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte (which he’ll sing in the Ensemble Studio performance) and the Duke of Nottingham in Roberto Devereux.
Photo Credits: <(top, l – r)> Owen McCausland and Cameron McPhail in the COC’s Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour production of The Brothers Grimm, 2012; (middle) Sasha Djihanian at the 2013 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards; (middle) Claire de Sévigné on May 2, 2013 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre; (middle) Owen McCausland on January 8, 2013 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre; (bottom) Cameron McPhail at the 2013 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards. All photos by Chris Hutcheson.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink
Peter Deeb, Ensemble Studio member Claire de Sévigné and General Director Alexander Neef during intermission at the opera.
Peter Deeb is a success story by any measure. As the founder and Chairman of Hampton Securities, one of Canada’s leading investment firms, he has been an active member of Canada’s financial services community for over 20 years, having built a long career on Bay Street. A merchant banker by profession, Peter became well known for proprietary investments in energy, finance, shipping, and mining that over the years grew to become a major industrial portfolio. Peter also became a key figure in the regulatory development of Canada’s investment industry, serving as a past Chairman of the Ontario District Counsel and National Advisory Board of the Investment Industry Regulatory Association of Canada (IIROC).
As successful as Peter Deeb is professionally, it’s his interest in the future of music that really endears him to us. When the music lover and Royal Conservatory alumnus wanted to assist as many young artists as possible, he turned his attention to the Canadian Opera Company, because, as he says, “the COC has become the cultural epicentre of the city.”
Peter has been a generous supporter of the COC since 2008 but last year, he wanted to express his commitment more personally. In 2012/2013 Peter committed a remarkable $1 million for the express purpose of helping to fund the COC’s training program for young opera professionals, the Ensemble Studio.
The 2012/2013 Ensemble Studio members.
As Peter says, “It’s a great honour to participate in a program that offers the chance for aspiring singers to understudy and perform roles, gain intensive vocal, language and acting training, and the chance to be part of master classes taught by famed opera professionals from around the world.”
Each year, the COC accepts only a handful of young artists into the program, starting with a nationwide search every October. Approximately 150 hopefuls participate from across the country. The audition process ends in late November at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts when about 10 finalists perform in front of a public audience and panel of judges at the Ensemble Studio Vocal Competition. Up for grabs are prizes of $1500, $3000 and $5000, as well as coveted invitations to join the Ensemble Studio, a first step toward an international career in opera. Those chosen to join the program begin their journey the following fall.
Winners of the 2012 Ensemble Studio Vocal Competition.
In addition to the extensive individual training available to each participant, each season the company devotes one performance of a mainstage production to Ensemble members who take on the lead roles. Coached by the same director and conductor as the mainstage cast, this mainstage opportunity is vital to their onstage experience and professional development.
In the 2012/2013 season, Ensemble members performed Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, (see left) and will perform the composer’s Così fan tutte in the 2013/2014 season. Not only do they learn these roles, but they also serve as understudies for the mainstage cast, and are even occasionally called on to step onstage in place of ailing singers. Masterpieces like these are a musical feast for young opera singers to sink their teeth into!
“I hope the efforts of the COC in providing this outstanding opportunity to young singers here in our home city will be recognized as an empowering vote of confidence for Canadian artists. The COC has gone above and beyond its mandate with the Ensemble Studio and probably does more than any other company today to ensure the art form has a future,” says Peter, who makes a point of regularly attending all of the company’s performances and often rehearsals as well.
More than 150 young singers, directors, conductors and coaches have passed through the COC’s Ensemble Studio since its establishment in 1980. Beyond the training and practical experience, these young professionals become ambassadors for the COC, and more globally, ambassadors of Canadian talent around the world. Graduates of the Ensemble Studio commend the program for helping them dream bigger than they imagined possible. Many have gone on to successful careers and credit the training they received at the Ensemble Studio for making that happen.
“Every time I attend a performance, it makes me wish I had taken my piano lessons more seriously as a boy. I hope my mother reads this!” says Peter.
The Canadian Opera Company is grateful for the support of underwriter and Major Supporter Peter Deeb. His generous gift directly supports the country’s next generation of Canadian belle voci!
Follow Peter Deeb’s example and explore all the ways there are to support the Canadian Opera Company. Every gift counts.
Photo Credits: (top) (l – r): Peter Deeb, Ensemble Studio member Claire de Sévigné and COC General Director Alexander Neef; (middle) Back row (l – r): Neil Craighead, Jenna Douglas, Mireille Asselin, Claire de Sévigné, Owen McCausland. Front row (l – r): Rihab Chaieb, Timothy Cheung, Ambur Braid, Cameron McPhail, Sasha Djihanian (absent: Christopher Enns). Photo: Chris Hutcheson; (middle) (l – r) Gordon Bintner, Charlotte Burrage, COC General Director Alexander Neef and Andrew Haji at the COC's Ensemble Studio Competition on November 29, 2012 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Chris Hutcheson; (bottom) Owen McCausland (front) as Tito and Neil Craighead as Publio in the Ensemble Studio Performance of the COC’s production of La clemenza di Tito, 2013. Photo: Michael Cooper
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Behind the Scenes / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001