Parlando: The COC Blog


The Ensemble Studio School Tour: Second Nature

It was nice they didn’t have to go too far to take part in the theatre experience—our gym transformed into a theatre with very talented singers/actors and musicians.” – Candace Lombard, Holy Name Catholic School

The Ensemble Studio School Tour has officially kicked off with its production of Second Nature by Matthew Aucoin, one of America's most promising young composers. The group of talented COC Ensemble Studio artists will be travelling throughout southern Ontario, performing and educating thousands of students on the importance of opera and the performing arts. Already on the roster for this season's tour are schools in the Toronto District School Board, the Limestone District School Board, the York Region District School Board, the Peel District School Board, and the Grand Erie District School Board.

On Sunday, November 27, audiences of all ages can enjoy Second Nature in its only public performance at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto.

Second Nature

Set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future where humans have retreated from nature because of the deteriorating environment, Second Nature is about two curious and courageous pre-teens who decide to leave the safety of their artificial habitat and work to heal the planet. Dora Award-winning duo, director Ashlie Corcoran and designer Camellia Koo, bring the futuristic, zoo-like enclosure of Second Nature’s “Habitat” to life, and the opera is performed by the rising stars of the COC Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals.

Second Nature has been hailed as "entertaining yet thoughtful" with an "absorbing and inventive" score (Chicago Tribune). The inspirational work is the creation of award-winning American composer, pianist and poet Matthew Aucoin, who has been called "the next Leonard Bernstein" (Wall Street Journal) and "Opera's Great 25-Year-Old Hope" (New York Times).

The Ensemble Studio School Tour of Second Nature runs from November 10 to December 4. For more information on hosting a performance of Second Nature, click here.

On Sunday, November 27 at 1:30 p.m., the COC is hosting a public performance of Second Nature in the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre at 227 Front Street East. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for youth 15 and under. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Photo credits (top - bottom): Lauren Eberwein, Aaron Sheppard (behind prop), and Iain MacNeil in Second Nature (COC, 2016), photo by Chris Hutcheson; Danika Lorèn, Aaron Sheppard, Samantha Pickett, Lauren Eberwein, and Iain MacNeil in Second Nature (COC, 2016), photo by Chris Hutcheson; (front) Betty Allison, Bruno Roy, Megan Quick, (back) Charles Sy, and Emily D'Angelo in Second Nature ​(COC, 2016), photo by Chris Hutcheson.

Posted by COC Staff / in Education / comments (0) / permalink


Meet the Centre Stage Finalists!


Before the Centre Stage Gala and Ensemble Studio Competition takes place on November 3, take a moment to become acquainted with our seven finalists! For more information on the event and the competition, or to purchase tickets, click here.

Andrea Lett
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Who is on your dream dinner party guest list?

David Duchovny (I had a dream once that we went for lunch and he was very nice), Anna Moffo, Amelia Earhart, George Orwell, Nina Simone.

What is your dream operatic role, regardless of voice type?


What is the best advice you've ever been given?

Eat your veggies first.

What book have you read again and again?

Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient.

What's the best thing about being an opera singer?

The passionate, brilliant, quirky, and inspiring people you get to meet—on stage, in the orchestra, behind the scenes, and in the audience. 

Andrea Núñez
Markham, Ontario

What is the best advice you've ever been given?

"Be in the moment, enjoy yourself when you're performing."

What is your favourite musical? Hamilton, Rent, or Les Misérables

Rent! I did a lot of musical theatre in high school and would look for any excuse to do an impromptu duet of "Take me or leave me".

What would be your Lip Sync Battle song choice?

"Don't Rain on My Parade" by Barbra Streisand.

What's the best thing about being an opera singer?

This world in which we all live in can be so stressful and ugly at times. As an opera singer, I love being able to transport the audience to another place filled with beautiful music and heartfelt stories. Nothing is more rewarding than when someone tells you that your performance brightened their day. Plus, five-year-old me is happy to be playing dress-up at work.

Geoffrey Schellenberg
Vancouver, British Columbia

What is your favourite musical? Hamilton, Rent, or Les Misérables

Hamilton at a party, Les Misérables at the gym, and Rent when I am home alone.

What is your dream operatic role, regardless of voice type?

Figaro in The Barber of Seville!

What book have you read again and again?

Harry Potter 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. And 2 as well, I suppose.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I am an identical twin. Besides the obvious differences in profession (opera singer vs. economist), we are fairly similar.

What's the best thing about being an opera singer?

​I get to pretend like singing all the time is for work instead of pleasure. I love pretty much everything about what I do.

Maria Lacey
St. John's, Newfoundland

What is your favourite musical? Hamilton, Rent, or Les Misérables

Les Misérables, because Little Cosette was my first role!

What book have you read again and again?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—both for pleasure when I was younger and more recently for research when I played one of the sisters in the opera. 

What would be your Lip Sync Battle song choice?

The theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I've been preparing for this moment since the '90s.

What's the best thing about being an opera singer?

Spending every day with people who are open-minded, curious, and full of heart (not to mention FUN)! 

Myriam Leblanc
Saint-Lazare, Quebec

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I also have a folk band in which I play violin. We’re called the Humming Trees. I really do love this kind of music. I listen to folk music a lot in my daily life. It’s relaxing.

What is your dream operatic role, regardless of voice type?

My dream role will sound cheesy but it is, and has been for many years, the role of Violetta in La Traviata. The music is just gorgeous. All the time! Never boring. The story is just breathtaking.

What's the best thing about being an opera singer?

You get to play and sing emotions. Singing makes you vibrate. I think it should be mandatory for everyone to experience and use it as a therapy. It’s something that people aren’t used to feeling, to crying and shouting, and we get to do that every day. For me, it’s my therapy.

Samuel Chan
Calgary, Alberta

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

One thing people might be surprised to know about me is that I purposefully read crime fiction/mystery novels right before stepping out on stage, and have found that they’re my most effective way to clear my mind before performing.

What is your favourite musical?

It's so hard to choose one, but one that immediately comes to mind is Batboy the Musical. Most. Ridiculous. Plot. Ever!

What is the best advice you've ever been given?

"Listen, don't try, and just be."

What's the best thing about being an opera singer? 

The best thing about being an opera singer is being able to share amazing music written by timeless composers, and tell amazing stories which are still truthful and relevant to our lives in the present today, with people all over the world.

Simone McIntosh
Vancouver, British Columbia

What would be your Lip Sync Battle song choice?

Anything by Rush... "YYZ" would be an interesting song to sing.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

This is hard to admit to the public, but I'll go ahead and say it. I don't care for chocolate... I'm glad that's off my chest.

What's the best thing about being an opera singer?

I truly love singing, and I go home every day with a smile on my face because there is almost nothing I don't like about my job. I enjoy working on the music to improve it to my possible best, working with people in rehearsals, listening to recordings, etc. However, when all is said and done, the best thing for me is the performance. 

I love feeling an extra bit of adrenaline before I go on stage, and cultivating everything my colleagues and I have worked towards into one live moment. This moment in performance is wonderfully special, and I hope to share it with an audience in a way that is memorable every time.

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Artist Basics: Elza van den Heever

What she's doing with usSouth African soprano Elza van den Heever is playing the title role in Bellini's Norma with us this fall at the October 23, 26, 28, and Nov. 5 performances. 

The role of Norma is one of the pinnacles of the dramatic soprano repertoire, and van den Heever is no stranger to this role. After her 2015 performance of ​Norma​ with the Opéra National de Bordeaux, she garnered both critical and audience acclaim: "The virtuosity of Ms. van den Heever is breathtaking... coloratura at the top of the range, with stunning maturity in the lower range. With her controlled virtuosity, [she] had the audience awaiting every note." (Bachtrack)

For more information on our production of Norma, click here.

Where you might have seen her: Elza van den Heever has appeared on the stage at the Four Seasons Centre once before in the COC production of Il Trovatore, in which she played the role of Leonore. Her portrayal of this iconic role was widely praised: "Her performance as the piece's tragic heroine... hit all of the emotional touchstones the part requires: vulnerability, ecstatic love and heart-rending despair. From the opening notes of 'Tacea la notte placida,' it was obvious we were in the hands of a singer for whom delicacy and power are not mutually exclusive." (The Toronto Star)

Above: Elza van den Heever in the COC's 2012 production of Il Trovatore

Another highlight in van den Heever's career was her 2012 debut at the Metropolitan Opera where she performed the role of Elisabetta in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda opposite Joyce DiDonato. This opera was broadcast nationally and internationally as a part of the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD program. "Her voice has penetrating depth and character. She turns flights of coloratura passagework into bursts of jealousy and defiance as Elizabeth contends with the threat that Mary, a blood relative, poses to her reign in England." (The New York Times)


​Above: Elza van den Heever performing the role of Elisabetta in the Metropolitan Opera's 2012 production of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda

Her thoughts on Norma"The sheer endurance required to sing from the beginning all the way to the end is incredible! The most delicate passages come toward the end of the opera when you have already sung so much and your body and voice is just spent! So, it really is like climbing a mountain... I have always regarded it as such. But also, just as rewarding. It's like reaching the top of a mountain and being able to observe the most exquisite view imaginable!"

"[Norma] is so complex and her relationships with everyone around her are so twisted. She is actually very real; her emotions run hot and cold very easily (like some of us!); her music is wild, exciting, tender and sweet all in one. It's wonderful to play such a woman!"

Hard hitting questions:

1. What are your least favourite things to do?

Memorize a debut role and finding shoes that fit my huge feet!

2. Would you rather vacation at a 5-star hotel or in a tent under five million stars?

Tent all the way!

3. What performer would you drop everything for to see?

Barbra Streisand

4. What is your favourite place in the world?

My kitchen

5. What is your preferred pre- or post-show meal?

Pre-show: pasta / post-show: champagne

6. Weirdest word in the English language?


7. Les MisérablesRent or Hamilton?


8. What is the worst job you've ever had?

Chopping onions

9. Who would play you in a movie of our life?

Sigourney Weaver

10. One piece of advice for Norma?

It's not all about "Casta Diva"!

Photo credits (top - bottom): Elza van den Heever, photo by Dario Acosta; Elza van den Heever in ​Il Trovatore ​(COC, 2012), photo: Michael Cooper; Elza van den Heever, photo by Roberto Giostra

Posted by COC Staff / in Norma / 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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