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