Parlando: The COC Blog


A Day in the Life of the Xstrata School Tour


[This is the second part of a two-part guest post from Ensemble Studio soprano Simone Osborne, who just finished playing one of the Strolling Players in Death in Venice and will be sharing the role of Pamina with Isabel Bayrakdarian in the upcoming The Magic Flute. This post was written Nov. 5. There will be public performances of the School Tour operas on Nov. 13, this Saturday]

The average school tour day looks like this:

1. As early as 7 a.m. (but usually about 8):  Arrive at the COC rehearsal space and board the van.  Now, depending on where you live, this may mean waking up at 6 a.m. to get to work by transit, bike etc.—last time I checked, none of us Ensemble members had cars.

2. Once everyone has arrived (large coffee cups in hand): Drive to school #1. These drives are anywhere from 20 minutes, to two hours.

3. Arrive at school #1 for the 10 or 10:30 a.m. performance.

4. Unpack the van of all of the sets and costumes and set them up in the school gym. Warm up. Finish coffee. Make sure all of the keys on the piano are intact. Get dressed in your costume. Do your hair and makeup. Sneak behind the set before the classes are led into the auditorium or gymnasium.


5. Perform a high energy 45-minute performance to a room full of adorable, bright, enthusiastic (hopefully!) school kids.

6. Lead a question and answer period—ALWAYS a highlight. My favourite quote from last season's tour of The Barber of Seville would have to be: "I have a hole in my pants.  What can I do about that?"

7. Say goodbye to the kids, get changed out of costumes, take down the set, and pack it into the back of the van along with the garment bags full of costumes.

8. Board the van for the drive to school #2. It's usually between a 30 minute to an hour and a half commute.

9. Stop for lunch somewhere on the way to the next school. This part of the tour has been significantly improved since the invention of iPhone apps that search out restaurants in the immediate area.

10. Realize that the cast will not get through a second show without more coffee.  Stop for coffee if there is time.

11. Arrive at school #2, unpack the van of costumes and sets and set everything up again, this time for a 2 p.m. performance. Get into costume. Fix hair and reapply makeup if needed  Warm up again if needed/if the required willpower exists.

12. Perform another high-energy 45-minute show.

13. Lead another Q&A.

14. Say goodbye to the second group of school kids.

15. Get out of costume, take down and pack the set into the van.  

16. Board the van and proceed back to the COC rehearsal space.

17. Arrive back at work (usually by about 5), crawl out of the van, say goodbye to your colleagues and hop on the streetcar, subway, bike etc., and head home.

18. Arrive at home. Rest your voice. Prepare for another 6 a.m. wakeup call.

Gruelling? Yes. Fabulous? Absolutely. The COC Ensemble touring shows reach over 16,000 students across Ontario and have been a tradition at the opera company for over 20 years. Even the great Ben Heppner sang his way across the province as a part of the tour and it is an honour to be able to follow in the footsteps of the many incredible Canadian artists before us, bringing opera to young people that may very well not have experienced it otherwise. Coming from a non-musical family myself, it was only through my public school education that I experienced performances like these. It is an incredible feeling to have a whole gymnasium full of little faces looking up at you and hanging on your every word. Some of the notes and drawings we receive after the performances will be cherished until the end of our careers. The school tour pulls resources from all of the departments at the COC. From costumes to music staff, education to props, administration to communications . . . everyone lends a hand in order to make the tour possible. After all, who knows where the next great Canadian director, performer, costume designer, opera fan, theatre critic or maestro will come from? Quite possibly from a school near you.

Photo descriptions from top: (all © Simone Osborne 2010):

1. Tenor Chris Enns and some of the scorpions

2. Even our fearless music director/painist Christopher Mokrzewski pitches in for set up and tear down.   

3. Mezzo Wallis Giunta and one of the puppets from Isis.  We have affectionately named her "Jessye"....the similarities in bone structure are uncanny. 

4. Packing up the "Isis and the Seven Scorpions" set

Posted by Simone Osborne / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (2) / permalink

Barney (11/10/2010 9:21:00 PM)
Good one Simone, I know you guys work really hard on the school tour. At least there are no more Death in Venice performances.
(11/13/2010 2:32:00 PM)
Thanks Barney. Loving your posts too! Sad to see Death in Venice go, but it's certainly made our early morning shows easier! See you after Christmas for Flute!

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



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