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.
Jean-Michel Richer was born in Montreal, and raised in the city’s Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood. He was a scout leader for nine years and, like most Canadians, has a major interest in this country’s national pastime – hockey!
Music has always been a part of his life, but it wasn’t a given that it would be his chosen profession. In fact, a career as a civil engineer is likely what this young tenor would be pursuing instead, if not for having a change-of-heart at the age of 17.
“Music has always been a great part of my family. My father's mother was a singer and my mother's father was an organist. After completing eight years of training at Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, a famous boys’ choir in Montreal, I realized I wanted to become an operatic singer,” says Jean-Michel. “When I was 17, I was in CEGEP in both science and trombone studies, and I decided to put the science on hold to take private voice lessons and put everything into music.”
And put everything into music, he did.
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Francesca Corrado didn’t always know she wanted to be an opera singer. As a high school student in Burnaby, B.C., she took part in nearly every singing program offered at her school, but it was purely for enjoyment. It wasn’t until grade 12, when she was struggling to decide what to do after graduation, that her choir teacher suggested she consider a career in opera.
“I knew nothing about opera and had the misconception that opera was just a bunch of people who sang very loudly,” says Francesca. “I didn’t know where a “C” was on the piano!” As a child, she went to science camp, while other kids took music classes. But her lack of formal training didn’t hold her back and she enrolled in the music program for classical voice at Capilano University.
It didn’t take long for Francesca to catch “the opera bug,” when she auditioned to be in the chorus of her first opera with Burnaby Lyric Opera. She continued her operatic training at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where she completed her bachelor’s degree in opera performance and is currently pursuing her master’s degree.
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Having to sing in a language other than your mother tongue is par for the course in the opera world, so knowing a couple, particularly French, Italian or German, can come in handy for a singer. Well, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure has it covered, and then some.
Jean-Philippe was born and raised in Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo area, but with all of his extended family in Québec, and having spent a lot of time in Ottawa and Montreal as part of his university and vocal studies, French comes just as easily to him as English. He also has a bit of familiarity with Spanish, German and some Italian, courtesy of high school student exchanges. Jean-Philippe says he has enough that he can “get by” or as he puts it, “So, if I was dropped from a plane and landed in Spain, Germany or even Italy, I could have a siesta, order a schnitzel, and find some delicious gelato, and then reluctantly make my way home.”
This flare for languages would certainly come in handy if Jean-Philippe were ever to pursue a career as an interpreter, a profession he’s already flirted with to some degree through studies in university and as a volunteer interpreter with the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Youth Choir on a trip to Europe. “I loved the experience,” he says. “It was challenging, but a lot of fun at the same time!”
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001