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.
“It’s an incredibly powerful medium,” Rachel says of opera. “I really can’t think of any other art form that’s as all-encompassing or has the transformative power of opera.” She finds the physicality of singing, especially when performing with an orchestra, “exhilarating!” She’s equally awed when sitting in the audience. “I come to the opera to be moved, inspired and transported, even if it’s only for a little while.”
Rachel’s operatic credits include Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia and La Natura/Endimione in La Calisto (Opera Studio Nederland); Zita in Gianni Schicchi (Opera Experience Southeast and Indiana University Opera and Ballet Theater [IUOBT]); Penelope in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and Madame Croissy in Dialogues des Carmélites (Accademia Europea dell’Opera); Dorabella in Così fan tutte (IUOBT); and Cornelia in Giulio Cesare (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy).
She doesn’t have a dream role yet, but she’s fascinated by the strong, dramatic female characters of the mezzo-soprano repertoire. “In portraying these types of characters, it gives the singer the opportunity to explore different aspects of their personality or to become a completely different person on stage,” Rachel says. “They provide the singer with numerous opportunities for dramatic exploration and freedom.”
Right now, Rachel can’t imagine pursuing any other career, but when she has spare time her interests outside opera include teaching, studying, travel, and spending time with family and friends.
To learn more about Rachel, visit her website: http://rachelwoodmezzo.com/
The Ensemble Studio competition is Tuesday, November 26, 2013. Tickets to the Ensemble Studio Competition and Centre Stage cocktail celebration are $100. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit COCCentrestage.ca. You can also buy tickets here, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231, or go to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). You can also chat about the event with us on Twitter using #COCCentrestage.
Photo: (banner) BT/A.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink
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.
Jean-Michel went on to the University of Montreal where he completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree of music in voice performance. He’s also a grant recipient of the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation.
As a current member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, Jean-Michel has sung the role of King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Ben in The Telephone. Additional credits include Pong in Turandot, Bardolfo in Falstaff, Gastone in La Traviata and Zingaro in Il Trovatore (Opéra de Montréal); and Chevalier de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (Chautauqua Music Festival).
Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème and the title role of Massenet’s Werther aren’t in his repertoire yet, but those are two roles Jean-Michel dreams to take on one day.
For opera fans who want to see more of Jean-Michel after catching his performance in the 2013 Ensemble Studio Competition at Centre Stage on November 26, take note of his next gig. On December 11, 2013, Jean-Michel joins an exciting roster of singers from Quebec and across Canada to perform in the annual Gala de l'Opéra de Québec, which also features Ensemble Studio alumni Peter McGillivray, Luc Robert and Lauren Segal.
Perhaps he’ll be asking them for tips about the Ensemble Studio by then?
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.
“Opera is a compelling art form because it allows me to immerse myself into a character that is brought to life for audience members,” says Francesca. “I get lost in my character when I am on stage. I am no longer Francesca but the character I am portraying… There is no better feeling than being on stage.”
Francesca’s dream role is the title character in Bizet’s Carmen, a role she’s been lucky to sing already at UBC, European Music Academy (EMA), Westben Arts Festival and Bard on the Beach Festival (BBF). “Carmen was the very first opera I saw live and I have been hooked ever since,” says Francesca.
Additional credits include Giulietta in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Mère Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites, Praskowia in The Merry Widow, Ježibaba in Rusalka and Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible (UBC); and Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro (BBF and EMA). Upcoming roles include La Baronessa di Champigny in Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (UBC).
But Francesca’s interest in opera isn’t limited to singing – she also enjoys the behind-the-scenes aspects of a production. Her work-study placement at UBC’s costume shop allows her to help organize the opera ensemble members’ costumes. This summer, she even did a stint in the lighting booth.
When she’s not living the busy life of a UBC opera student, Francesca enjoys spending time with her family and friends, whether it’s going on road trips or playing baseball. She recently took up hot yoga and finds it “a great mental and physical challenge.” This summer, she visited her grandfather’s rustic farm in Calabria, Italy. “I enjoy city life but being on his farm is so relaxing… I love waking up in the morning to the sound of the roosters and breathing in the fresh clean air.”
Francesca values the support she’s received from her family throughout her life. “My parents have always been supportive of me in my decisions on the path that I have chosen,” she says. But she still wonders: “Maybe I should have listened to them as a child when I had the opportunity to take music lessons!”
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (1) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001