By Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager
The COC’s free noon-hour Les Adieux concert last week on May 23 was a bittersweet farewell to this season’s graduating artists of the Ensemble Studio Program: sopranos Mireille Asselin and Ambur Braid, mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, bass-baritone Neil Craighead, tenor Christopher Enns and intern coaches, pianists Timothy Cheung and Jenna Douglas. We’re sad to see them go, but at the same time it’s going to be very exciting to watch what happens next in their careers as their stars continue to rise. Here’s a little primer of what the immediate future holds for these exceptional young artists.
With the exception of a bit of downtime at a loved one’s family farm in September 2013 and catching a few spare moments with family in her hometown of Ottawa, soprano Mireille Asselin is living out of a suitcase next year. Mireille performs at the Boston Early Music Festival in June singing the roles of Flore in La Couronne de Fleurs and Proserpine in La descente d'Orphée aux enfers in a double-bill presentation of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s operas. Immediately following, she joins Wolf Trap Opera Company to start rehearsals as Nannetta in their production of Falstaff this August. Then it’s off to London to compete in the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition at the end of August, followed by a bit of a time off before performing with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra in November and heading to the Metropolitan Opera to cover the role of Adele in Die Fledermaus, which opens in the New Year. Come next spring, Mireille is back with the Boston Early Music Festival for a North American tour of the Charpentier double-bill before making a return to Toronto to sing Princesse Andromède in Opera Atelier’s production of Persée. The whirlwind year wraps up with Mireille joining Opera Atelier on the tour of Persée to the Royal Opera House of Versailles in France in May 2014.
The May 23 concert wasn’t the last chance to see soprano Ambur Braid perform before a Toronto audience this season. On June 1, 2013, she performs in the preview concert to launch the exciting new vocal series Recitals at Rosedale created by pianists Rachel Andrist and John Greer. Ambur is then off to Europe in July for the 2013 Stella Maris Singing Competition which takes place annually on board the EUROPA cruise ship, and this year travels from Hamburg to Spitsbergen, Norway, and back against an Arctic backdrop. Following the competition, Ambur wraps up her summer at the Highlands Opera Studio summer program, performing in its production of La Traviata. She’s then back in front of Toronto audiences as Konstanze for Opera Atelier’s production of The Abduction from the Seraglio from October 26 – November 2, 2013 before giving a recital in her hometown of Terrace, B.C. in December. Come March 2014, she’ll make her role debut as Violetta in the Arizona Opera production of La Traviata. She’ll also be hard at work behind the scenes at the COC in spring 2014, covering the role of Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux
Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb is making San Francisco her home this summer where she joins San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera Program. While there she sings Cherubino in the Merola Opera production of The Marriage of Figaro. She then bids adieu to the United States to head off to Germany for the final rounds of the Neue Stimmen International Singing Competition in October 2013, as well as to spend some time in Europe for auditions. Some of her other performance plans are in the works but have yet to be publically announced so remain hush-hush for now. Toronto audiences can look forward to seeing Rihab on the COC mainstage in spring 2014 as Garcias in Don Quichotte, while at the same time covering the role of Dulcinée.
Rihab Chaieb has company in San Francisco this summer because graduating Ensemble Studio intern coach and pianist Timothy Cheung also joins San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, as an apprentice coach. So far confirmed for the 2013/2014 season, Tim will be returning to the COC in the fall as the music director of The Brothers Grimm school tour production, helping to introduce thousands of young people across Ontario to the performing arts and opera. He’s also joining the company’s spring 2014 production of Hercules as a member of the music staff, having previously served as a rehearsal pianist for recent COC productions of Die Fledermaus, La clemenza di Tito and Salome, among others from last season.
Fresh off winning first prize at the 2013 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards (of which Rihab Chaieb was a co-recipient), bass-baritone Neil Craighead is now spending the summer getting ready for a very important role, that of dad! He and wife Melanie welcome a new addition to their family in fall 2013. His hometown of Calgary can look forward to a special recital Neil will be giving in late June, however, featuring the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams and other opera selections. He’ll also be back at the COC in October 2013 as a member of the company’s school tour production of the Canadian opera The Brothers Grimm.
Ensemble Studio intern coach and pianist Jenna Douglas is travelling for work and pleasure this summer. She first goes to Opera on the Avalon in St. John's, NL to join the music staff on its productions of The Magic Flute and La Traviata. She’s then back at the COC as a guest artist educator in the company’s Summer Youth Intensive program before taking some much-needed vacation time and going to Amsterdam. Jenna then travels to Haliburton, ON, to work on the Britten showcase, taking place at the Highlands Opera Studio summer opera program, before finally rejoining the COC as part of the music staff in the company’s fall production of Peter Grimes.
Tenor Christopher Enns is getting ready to enjoy a little down time this summer. In addition to some private vocal study, Chris is looking forward to some travelling through the United States, as well as getting back to his home in Manitoba, spending a few months on the farm and helping with the fall harvest for the first time in years! Many of the details of what’s next for Chris in the 2013/2014 season are still being finalized. What is confirmed, though, is that Chris sings the title role in Persée in spring 2014 for Opera Atelier, in Toronto and in France when the production tours to the Royal Opera House of Versailles.
Photo Credits: (top) Liz Upchurch, Timothy Cheung, Jenna Douglas, Mireille Asselin, Ambur Braid, Rihab Chiaeb, Neil Craighead and Christopher Enns on Thursday May 23, 2013 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Karen Reeves (middle) Mireille Asselin as Adele in the COC’s production of Die Fledermaus, 2012; (middle) Ambur Braid as Vitellia in the Ensemble Studio Performance of the COC’s production of La clemenza di Tito, 2013; (middle) Rihab Chaieb as Juno in the COC's Ensemble Studio performance of Semele, 2012; (middle) Timothy Cheung in performance at the COC free concert, Vive l’amour!, on February 14, 2013, in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. Photo: Karen Reeves; (middle) Neil Craighead as Publio and Rihab Chaieb as Sesto in the Ensemble Studio Performance of the COC’s production of La clemenza di Tito, 2013; (middle) Jenna Douglas in performance at the COC free concert, Of Love and Longing: Songs of Richard Strauss, on February 21, 2013, in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. Photo: Karen Reeves; (bottom) Christopher Enns as Jupiter in the COC’s Ensemble Studio performance of Semele, 2012. Photos by Michael Cooper unless otherwise indicated.
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001