Parlando: The COC Blog


Centre Stage


On November 25, 2014, the Canadian Opera Company presents its annual fundraising gala event, Centre Stage: an evening dedicated to the discovery and celebration of young opera talent with an exhilarating competitive showcase of singers. Seven vocal finalists, chosen following preliminary auditions in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and New York City for the COC Ensemble Studio – Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals –  will be competing for cash prizes ranging from $1500 to $5000. 

Hosting the highly anticipated evening is Canadian Ben Heppner. A graduate of the Ensemble Studio, Heppner is recognized internationally as one of the finest dramatic tenors in the world and one of this country’s distinguished operatic talents. Also anticipated is a surprise musical guest, who will be revealed only at the event itself!

The young singers featured in the 2014 vocal competition are: mezzo-soprano Zoe Band (Toronto); soprano Eliza Johnson (Stratford, Ont.); baritone Dimitri Katotakis (Toronto); baritone Nathan Keoughan (Charlottetown); tenor Aaron Sheppard (St. John’s, N.L.); mezzo-soprano Michelle Siemens (Calgary); and tenor Charles Sy (Toronto). 

Each singer will perform two arias before the audience and a panel of judges, with accompaniment supplied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus.  First, second and third prizes, of $5,000, $3,000 and $1,500, are awarded, in addition to an Audience Choice Award, selected by audience vote, of $1,500. Select finalists are also invited to join the COC’s 2015/2016 Ensemble Studio, to be announced at a later date.

“Through Centre Stage, the Canadian Opera Company is able to offer a special preview of the future of opera in Canada. The young artists we invite to participate in Centre Stage are some of the best and most promising operatic voices from across the country,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “We see exceptional talent over the course of our annual auditions for the Ensemble Studio and wanted to find a way to share these young artists with a wider audience, which is why we created a public competition component to the process a few years ago. Now, Centre Stage is one of the most anticipated events in the COC season.”

The vocal competition was first launched in 2011 in order to showcase the opera talent the COC had scouted from across the country and to create a public platform for celebrating the future of opera in Canada. In 2013 the competition finalists were showcased as never before when they performed with an orchestra led by a world-renowned conductor from the mainstage of the COC’s opera house.

“It’s the excitement of hearing up-and-coming voices vying for prize money and glory that makes competitions irresistible – to me, at least!” said Joseph So, an opera journalist, in his review of the 2012 competition for La Scena Musicale. “Aspiring singers [get] to strut their stuff... Some of them have that extra, intangible something called star power, musicality, charisma, whatever. It’s that elusive quality that makes a singer an artist, and someone with the promise of a significant career. Competitions such as this one are designed to find that singer.”

Centre Stage takes place on November 25, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. in R. Fraser Elliott Hall at the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W.). Centre Stage Competition tickets are $100 and include a pre-competition cocktail celebration. Specially priced $35 tickets are also available for patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 through Opera Under 30 sponsored by TD Bank Group. Centre Stage Gala tickets, encompassing the competitive vocal showcase and an exclusive black-tie dinner, are $1,500, with a limited number available for purchase.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231 or visit the Four Seasons Centre Box Office (145 Queen St. W.).

Ensemble Studio Competition finalists and winners with Centre Stage host Rufus Wainwright, 2013. Photo Credited to Michael Cooper

Posted by Kiersten Hay / in Centre Stage / comments (0) / permalink

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



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