By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager
For Episode 16, the “How do YOU define excellence?” edition, we welcome back opera journalist Joseph So, as well as opera blogger John Gilks. For the first time, Ali Kashani, the COC’s Associate Director, Institutional Gifts (and opera aficionado) joins the chat. Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager is your host.
Several provocative opera stories stoked our fires this week:
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What she's doing with us: Ensemble Studio graduate Ileana Montalbetti returns to the COC to star alongside world-famous tenor Ben Heppner in Peter Grimes. The Saskatchewan native makes her role debut as Ellen Orford, the town school teacher and one of Grimes' few friends.
Where you might have seen her: While she was in the Ensemble Studio, Ileana performed in mainstage performances of La Cenerentola, Maria Stuarda and Death in Venice. Last season she returned to the COC to understudy the roles of Leonora in Il Trovatore and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and gave two Free Concert Series performances. Since graduating from the Ensemble Studio in June 2012, Ileana has made her Edmonton Opera debut as Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann, and performed as Leonore in Fidelio at the Michigan Opera Theatre.
Her background: After completing undergraduate studies at the University of Manitoba, Ileana continued to hone her skills at the University of Toronto, graduating from the opera diploma program. She also studied at the Chautauqua Institute and completed two fellowships at the Tanglewood Music Centre in addition to the four years she spent in the COC Ensemble Studio.
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By Tanya Morgado, Public Relations Intern
While Torontonians are sweltering under back-to-back heat alerts, new Ensemble Studio member tenor Andrew Haji is enjoying the friendlier weather in California. “Santa Barbara's weather is phenomenal,” he says. “It’s just the right temperature, with very little rain and lots of sun.”
Andrew (last seen at the COC winning second-place in the Ensemble Studio Competition) is having a busy summer attending the Music Academy of the West, a two-month program for opera singers and instrumentalists. The musicians participate in daily rehearsals, masterclasses, and individual lessons with prestigious faculty members, including mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne who has directed the vocal program since 1997.
“I was very excited to work with Marilyn Horne,” confesses Andrew. “I've had one voice lesson with her so far, and she’s fantastic. She's been in the business for a good amount of time so she knows all the secrets and the tools of the trade. I have also had a chance to work with some great coaches from around the country: Carrie-Ann Matheson, who is a prompter at the Met; Warren Jones, a superb pianist and coach; and Jonathan Kelly, assistant conductor at the Met and San Francisco Opera.”
The program also offers Andrew many performance opportunities, beginning with a “Death by Aria” concert which took place in the first week. Each Academy Voice Fellow sang an aria, and Andrew explains that it was “similar to a ‘sing-in’ but with a paying audience.” A few days later, he sang in a masterclass led by Russian baritone, Vladimir Chernov: “Vladimir gave a recital shortly after, and it was phenomenal. It was truly a wonderful experience to work with him, and to listen to his exquisite music-making.”
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001