Parlando: The COC Blog


In Memory: Joan Watson


We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our Principal Horn player, Joan Watson, on Thursday, March 12. Joan was a mainstay of the COC Orchestra for over 20 years, bringing her immense talent and indomitable spirit not only to the orchestra, but to the company as a whole. Her fortitude and strength was visible to the very end, even playing the first rehearsal for the company’s performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this month. Unfortunately, she was unable to participate in the tour. All of us at the COC offer our condolences to her husband, COC tuba player Scott Irvine, her family, and her many friends and colleagues. She will be greatly missed.

"Joan’s sudden passing is a great shock and loss for all of us. It is hard to imagine, that she won't be sitting in the Principal Horn chair any more - a chair she gave special distinction and authority to. She was a great force full of energy. Her passion for everything she was doing was exemplary. Interested in passing on her vast experience to the next generations, made her a highly estimated mentor and motivator for so many young musicians. It was her idea to bring our own COC Orchestra Academy into being. Until the very end of her life she was working on that project committedly. We hope that this project will further grow and blossom, giving us all an opportunity to keep her memory alive." — Johannes Debus, COC Music Director

Joan Watson (left) performs with artists of the COC Orchestra at the company’s 2015/2016 Season Announcement on January 14, 2015. 


Joan Watson and husband Scott Irvine perform in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2014. 


Joan Watson and COC Music Director Johannes Debus perform in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2014. 


Joan Watson performs in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2012.

Banner: Karen E. Reeves. Photos: Chris Hutcheson; Karen E. Reeves. 

Posted by Canadian Opera Company / in In Memory / comments (2) / permalink


March Break: Ideas for Family Fun


March Break is almost here! With the kids off from school for a week, it can be hard to find activities for the whole family to enjoy (while still maintaining a budget). Have no fear, the Canadian Opera Company is here to provide you with some fun, family-friendly options to help make this March Break a breathtaking one (without breaking the bank).

March 16

Registration opens for Youth Opera Lab: Vocal Health and Diction (The Barber of Seville)

Youth Opera Labs (YOL) are FREE events for teens and young adults ages 16 to 24, and no previous experience with opera is necessary! This YOL looks specifically at vocal health and diction, and features a vocal health Q&A with Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist Dr. Jennifer Anderson, an Italian diction workshop with Italian diction coach Francesco Pellegrino, and a viewing of a working rehearsal for the COC's The Barber of Seville. YOL participants are also given 2 tickets to watch the dress rehearsal for The Barber of Seville on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.!

Registration opens on March 16, with the YOL taking place on Saturday, April 11 from 12 to 4:30 p.m., but registration fills up quickly so be sure to register here ASAP!   

March 17

Free Concert Series: iPicante! (12 to 1 p.m.)

Spice up your March Break with Humber College’s Latin Jazz Ensemble, whose unique blend of Afro-Cuban and jazz sounds is guaranteed to get your salsa on. Percussive, melodic, zesty and always inspired, Humber College’s Latin Jazz Ensemble, led by Grammy and Juno Award-winner Hilario Durán, is a performance not to be missed at the Four Seasons Centre.

Free concert seats fill up quickly, so arrive early to ensure a seat! Doors open half an hour before the performance. Learn more about this performance and the Free Concert Series here.


March 19

Free Concert Series: Opera Interactive (12 to 1 p.m.)

Join opera comedienne Kyra Millan, collaborative pianist Christina Faye and COC Ensemble Studio bass-baritone Iain MacNeil in a lively interactive concert featuring favourite operatic arias and sing-along choruses. Audience members of all ages, including families with small children, can listen to, learn about and try their hand at the fascinating art of opera!

This free concert is an annual favorite, so arrive early to ensure a seat! Doors open half an hour before the performance. Learn more about this performance and the Free Concert Series here.

Artists of the COC Orchestra

Kyra Millan leads audience members in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Karen E. Reeves

March 22

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Building Tour (10:30 a.m.)

Discover why the acoustics of the R. Fraser Elliott Hall have been rated amongst the best in the world, visit private member lounges, and take in the architecture of the magnificent Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room. Then step behind the curtain of Canada’s first and only purpose-built opera house and walk in the footsteps of its greatest stars. With your backstage pass you will have the opportunity to see wardrobe and wig rooms, stars’ dressing rooms, the orchestra pit, green room, Karen Kain Dance Studio, and much more.

This tour is 90 minutes long and tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Tickets for public tours can be purchased in advance online or at the FSC Box Office, 145 Queen St. W., Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets will also be available on the morning of the tour starting at 10 a.m. at the welcome desk located in the main lobby. Learn more about the building tour here.


Photo Credit (Title Image): Amy McConnell & William Sperandei Quartet performing as part of the Free Concert Series. Photo: Kevin Lloyd.  

Posted by Kiersten Hay / in Education / comments (0) / permalink


#TBT: From Participant to Performer


The Canadian Opera Company’s Education and Outreach team has had the honour and pleasure of collaborating and connecting with thousands of young people through its opera programs for students, children, youth, and their families. There is no greater moment of pride than hearing about the positive impact a COC program had on a former participant. 

A few weeks ago the COC Education team received a heartwarming update from a parent of a former participant of the COC’s After School Opera Program (ASOP) that her son Nassir had landed the lead role in his school’s upcoming production of High School Musical. Today we take a look back at how Nassir’s experience in the After School Opera Program helped him make the leap from a COC rehearsal room to the school stage. 

Nassir’s mother, Miriam, signed him up for the After School Opera Program back in 2010: “I signed Nassir up for the program because I wanted him to occupy his time doing something fun. I also thought it would help him with public speaking.” Little did Miriam know that her attempt to help Nassir gain confidence speaking in public would ultimately spark his interest in the performing arts. “I realized I had an interest in the performing arts after my first performance at the After School Opera Program,” says Nassir. “I had such a good time putting on that specific performance.” The opera was called Otherworldly (appropriately titled for its Halloween theme) and was written specifically for children by lead artist and composer, Dean Burry. Nassir excelled in character creation and acting, incorporating different voices, postures, gestures, and movements that suited his ghostly character. Musically, he never shied away from singing when asked to take on small solos or be a part of the chorus.

He credits his positive experience to Dean: “Dean made it very memorable by his whole approach towards our learning. He was extremely positive and supportive, even when we messed up.” With Dean’s encouragement and guidance, Nassir was able to explore his artistic abilities through a variety of characters including a Bumble Bee in The Bee Opera, a Royal Guard in The Tragedy of Icarus, a clown doctor in Clownin’ Around, and a young soldier in A Bucket Brigade, which was inspired by the war of 1812. 

The biggest surprise would come in 2012, after Nassir graduated from the After School Opera Program, when he applied, auditioned, and was accepted into St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School’s Centre for the Arts, Media and Technologies arts program. “ASOP [After School Opera Program] impacted me by adding to my personality. I was always an outgoing person, but ASOP has made me more social and charismatic. I’m more confident speaking in large groups of people and enjoy performing for class assignments rather than reading from a PowerPoint.”

Thanks to the support of his teachers Ms. Cossaro, Mr. Mayne, Mr. Sousa and Ms. Gaudette, Nassir’s enjoyment and appreciation of the arts lives on. In 2014, Nassir landed the supporting role of Roger in the school’s performance of Grease and tomorrow he has his big role debut in St. Patrick Secondary School’s production of High School Musical. Dean and the Education staff at the COC couldn’t be prouder. And Nassir’s mom? “I’m most looking forward to seeing Nassir hold his own in his first lead role. He can sometimes doubt himself. I want to see him put on the best performance ever! And let this experience teach him that if he works hard, he can accomplish just about anything!”

The COC wishes Nassir and his fellow classmates and teachers a successful run of High School Musical!

The COC’s After School Opera Program operates out of five community centres in Toronto. Registration for the spring term opens on March 7. Find more information on the arts program at St. Patrick Secondary School at the Toronto Catholic District School Board here.  

Photo Credits (top down): Nassir (left) as a Guard in the After School Opera Program production of The Tragedy of Icarus. Photo: COC, 2011; Nassir at school; Nassir (centre) as a Young Soldier in the After School Opera Program production of The Bucket Brigade. Photo: Mark Harris, 2012.

Program Sponsor:

Program Supporters:
The McLean Foundation 
The Lloyd Carr-Harris Foundation
The Chawkers Foundation


Posted by Katherine Semcesen / in Education / 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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