Parlando: The COC Blog


Free Concert Series in December

Nancy Walker and Kirk MacDonald in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2013. Photo by Chris Hutcheson
Nancy Walker and Kirk MacDonald in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2013.

Escape the chilly winter weather and cozy up to some warm tunes in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre this December. The days may be short and the nights may be cold, but the mix of jazz, classical and new music in the Free Concert Series this month will help put you in a festive winter mood!

Composer/trombonist Scott Good

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 12 p.m. - The Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble - Power Chords
Under the direction of Brian Current, the talented young musicians of The Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble present an inventive program for chamber orchestra and small ensembles. This powerful performance features the world premiere of a newly commissioned work by Canadian composer and trombonist Scott Good, along with works by John Rea and Martin Bresnick.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 5:30 p.m. - Elizabeth Shepherd - Rewind
Since bursting onto the international scene in 2006, vocalist/pianist Elizabeth Shepherd has established herself as one of the most alluring and imaginative artists on the scene today. This globetrotting soul-jazz innovator and three-time Juno nominee breathes new life – and soul – into songs both familiar and forgotten in a performance of highlights from her latest album, Rewind. Check out her rendition of "Feeling Good" in the recording below.

 Ensemble Made in Canada. Photo by Bo Huang.

Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 12 p.m. - Ensemble Made in Canada - French Impressions
Rapidly gaining recognition as Canada’s premier piano quartet, the dynamic all-female Ensemble Made in Canada showcases the elegance, energy and intensity of their remarkable ensemble playing in two masterpieces of the French chamber music repertoire: Debussy’s Violin Sonata in G Minor (his final work) and Faure's Piano Quartet in C Minor.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 12 p.m. - Stefan Chaplikov - Hammerklavier
Still in his 20s, Bulgarian rising star Stefan Chaplikov fearlessly scales Beethoven’s monumental Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106, the “Hammerklavier.” While this demanding work daunts pianists twice his age, Stefan embraces its challenges and rewards with a fierce passion and authority belying his years. Listen to Sokolov's recording of this Mount Everest of piano sonatas below.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 5:30 p.m. - Eliana Cuevas Quintet - Espejo
Canada’s award-winning Latin jazz queen, flanked by some of the country’s top jazz musicians (George Koller, Jeremy Ledbetter, Mark Kelso and Daniel Stone), performs highlights from her highly anticipated and much lauded new recording, Espejo. With the distinctive purity, versatility and dexterity of Eliana's vocals now deeper and more nuanced than ever, this sophisticated and deeply personal oeuvre showcases her vastly expanded range as a composer and performer, taking the audience on an intense and passionate journey of the soul. Preview a song from the album below.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 12 p.m. - Cadence- Cool Yule
Famous for their infectious energy and uncanny verve, Canada’s premier a cappella vocal ensemble will put you in the holiday spirit with this festive program. Whether performing seasonal songs, classics by Joni Mitchell or Louis Prima, bebop standards or cheeky arrangement of 1980s hits, their hypnotic blend of complex harmonies, intricate arrangements, vocal dexterity and on-stage antics are simply irresistible! Hear a preview from their album, Cool Yule, below.

Let us know which December concert you're most looking forward to in the comments below!

The Free Concert Series will break after the concert on December 17 and return on Tuesday, January 7 with pianist Mehdi Ghazi and The Colours of Passion. Have a great holiday and we look forward to seeing you in the new year! 


Photo: (top) Nancy Walker and Kirk MacDonald in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2013. Photo by Karen Reeves; (middle) Composer/trombonist Scott Good; (bottom) Ensemble Made in Canada. Photo by Bo Huang.

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


Canada's Great Diva: Adrianne Pieczonka

By Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager

 (centre) Adrianne Pieczonka as Elisabeth de Valois and the COC Chorus in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Don Carlos, 2007. Photo Michael Cooper

In recent years, the Canadian Opera Company has lured Canada’s internationally acclaimed soprano Adrianne Pieczonka from the world’s stages of New York, London, Paris, Milan, Berlin, Vienna, Bayreuth and Salzburg to the Four Seasons Centre for one riveting performance after another. This winter, COC audiences are the first to witness Pieczonka in a role she calls “more dramatic than any other Verdi role I have sung to date” – Amelia in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.

“I have sung more lyric Verdi parts in the past, such as Alice Ford, Desdemona, Elisabetta and Amelia in Simon Boccanegra. For a time, I considered singing Aida and Elvira, but I realized that these roles didn’t fit me quite right, vocally. Amelia in Ballo fits better as it lies in a slight lower tessitura where my voice feels more comfortable,” she says.

Adrianne Pieczonka as Elisabeth in Verdi's Don Carlos.

It’s also a role that requires a singer who can mine vast reserves of musical power and sensitivity. “Personally, I find that singing Verdi is more technically demanding than singing Wagner or Strauss. In Verdi, the voice is the main focus. In Wagner and Strauss, the voice can sometimes hide a bit in the thick orchestrations,” shares Pieczonka. “[In Verdi], the art of bel canto is required, the ability to spin long legato lines and imbue phrases with many vocal colours. Verdi operas challenge singers technically, but they are so highly rewarding and thrilling to perform.”

“Amelia appeals to me because she is a mature woman – she is married and she is a mother, both of which I can relate to,” shares Pieczonka. “Amelia sings a heartbreaking aria begging her husband that, before she is killed, she be allowed to say goodbye to her young son. It’s this kind of emotion which really affects me deeply.”

Learn more about Adrianne's career from her COC debut in 1988 to more recent moments in this world-renowned soprano’s career abroad and here at home in our current winter issue of Prelude magazine. Sign up here to receive a digital copy. 

You can follow Adrianne on Twitter and learn more about her on her website.

Photos: (top) Carlo Ventre as Cavaradossi and Adrianne Pieczonka as Tosca in the Canadian Opera Company production of Tosca, 2012. Photo by Michael Cooper; (middle) Adrianne Pieczonka. Photo by Johannes Ifkovits; (bottom) Adrianne Pieczonka as Elisabeth de Valois and the COC Chorus in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Don Carlos, 2007. Photo by Michael Cooper.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in A Masked Ball / comments (0) / permalink


Meet the Ensemble Studio Competition Finalists: Rachel Wood

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.

Rachel Wood, mezzo-soprano

The life of an opera singer can mean a lot of time spent living out of a suitcase and that’s certainly true for London, Ontario native Rachel Wood. 

In the last few years, Rachel's career has taken her across Europe and the United States. She spent last year in Amsterdam as an ensemble member of Opera Studio Nederland, has studied at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy and the Accademia Europea dell’Opera, and is currently continuing her vocal studies at Indiana University. And while she’s not fluent, along the way, she’s picked up bits of Italian, French, German and even Dutch! According to Rachel, taking Italian lessons in Amsterdam alongside native Dutch speakers was “quite an experience.”

Despite all her travels, Rachel still calls London home and it’s the city where she first discovered opera.

“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a performer!” she says. “I come from a very musical family – both my parents are music educators – so I studied piano and oboe, and sang in choirs when I was younger.” She also began private voice lessons when she was 13 years old. Rachel’s first performing experiences were through her high school’s musical theatre productions and The Grand Theatre’s High School Project, a program that allows students in London to perform musicals in a professional theatre setting. It wasn’t until she was cast in University of Western Ontario productions during her undergraduate studies at the UWO that she began to seriously pursue an opera career.

“It’s an incredibly powerful medium,” Rachel says of opera. “I really can’t think of any other art form that’s as all-encompassing or has the transformative power of opera.” She finds the physicality of singing, especially when performing with an orchestra, “exhilarating!” She’s equally awed when sitting in the audience. “I come to the opera to be moved, inspired and transported, even if it’s only for a little while.”

Rachel’s operatic credits include Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia and La Natura/Endimione in La Calisto (Opera Studio Nederland); Zita in Gianni Schicchi (Opera Experience Southeast and Indiana University Opera and Ballet Theater [IUOBT]); Penelope in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and Madame Croissy in Dialogues des Carmélites (Accademia Europea dell’Opera); Dorabella in Così fan tutte (IUOBT); and Cornelia in Giulio Cesare (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy).

She doesn’t have a dream role yet, but she’s fascinated by the strong, dramatic female characters of the mezzo-soprano repertoire. “In portraying these types of characters, it gives the singer the opportunity to explore different aspects of their personality or to become a completely different person on stage,” Rachel says. “They provide the singer with numerous opportunities for dramatic exploration and freedom.” Right now, Rachel can’t imagine pursuing any other career, but when she has spare time her interests outside opera include teaching, studying, travel, and spending time with family and friends.

To learn more about Rachel, visit her website:

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 also 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.

Photo: (banner) BT/A.

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

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