Out of a pool of 120 aspiring opera singers from across the country, eight were selected to compete at Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition on November 3, 2015, our annual celebration of the next generation of opera stars selected from nationwide auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio—Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. The competition features the young singers vying for cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 to $5,000. We interviewed our eight young finalists to learn more—check out all of the interviews, linked by name as they become available, here (or here if on a mobile device).
Originally from Kitchener, Ontario, soprano Samantha Pickett studied opera at McGill and Wilfrid Laurier universities. Her credits include Anna in Crush (Banff Centre); the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro (Opera McGill and Opera Laurier); La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, understudy for the title role in Suor Angelica and Elle in La voix humaine (Opera McGill); Micaëla in Carmen and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Opera NUOVA); Mrs. Demers in City Workers in Love, Lady Gerstein in One Lump or Two, Sophia in May 23, and First Lady in The Magic Flute (Opera Laurier). She recently participated in the St. Andrews by-the-Sea Opera Workshop and the Bel Canto Summer Voice Program in Munich.
I fell in love with music at the tender age of three. My mother took my brother and me to see The Phantom of the Opera, and I cried at intermission because I thought it was over. My parents signed me up for piano, dance and voice lessons when I was five and I have been singing ever since.
I can't remember precisely when opera became my life's passion; I think that it is because large, intense music has always been close to me. I began singing opera when I was 16, and at that point I had a hope that it would become my career, but, as any 16-year-old should, I had many lofty ambitions for my future self. Opera is a long-form art; it is a process, and to be an opera singer is a protracted endeavour.
One of the things I love most about opera is the commanding power of the narrative throughout its sensory facets. The total, aggregate nature of opera is truly irresistible. In many ways it is the ultimate art; exposing the senses to the total power and fragility of the human body.
Somewhere between massage therapist, yoga teacher, stage director, make-up artist, animal rescuer, interior designer, writer, and nanny. But who's to say you can't be all of those things?! Certainly not all at once, but we shall see where life takes me.
I have been practicing Moksha (hot) yoga for seven years. The combination of dynamic physicality and deep meditative practice is essential to my daily life. I have been a Moksha yoga ambassador, both here in Toronto and in Montreal, for three years.
I am an avid reader. My favourite book is A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, a historical fiction account of the simultaneous, but nearly uncorrelated destruction of Rwandan genocide and AIDS in the same country.
I adore poetry. I'm particularly smitten with Shakespeare, but I am also partial to Robert Frost and James Joyce. I also have an encyclopedic knowledge of The Simpsons.
Learn more about Samantha from her blog, The Emerging Project at theemergingproject.com, and follow her on Twitter at @SamoSoprano
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit COCCentreStage.ca, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231 or visit the Four Seasons Centre Box Office (145 Queen St. W.).
To buy competition tickets, click here.
To buy Under 30 competition tickets sponsored by TD, click here.
For more information about the the Centre Stage Dinner event and how to purchase tickets, please contact the PC Office at 416-363-5801
Posted by Kiersten Hay / in Centre Stage / comments (0) / permalink
A native of Laval, Quebec, mezzo-soprano Pascale Spinney studied opera at McGill University and is a current member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. Her recent credits include Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (Opéra de Montréal); Dora in A Little Too Cozy (Banff Centre); Fatmé in Zémire et Azor (Violons du Roy); Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel (VIVace); Véronique in Le Docteur Miracle (Stu&Jess Productions); the title role in Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Third Lady in The Magic Flute, Epicene in Volpone, and Eustazio in Rinaldo (Opera McGill). Upcoming roles include Stephano and Gertrude in Jeunesses Musicales du Canada’s touring production of Roméo et Juliette.
I find two things that I can't live without in opera: music and the theatre.
I was introduced to classical music while studying jazz voice in CEGEP, and was fascinated by the level of technical skill that opera singers needed to achieve. I applied to classical voice performance in university, took an extra year to catch up to my peers, and never looked back.
I would have been a pilot!
I like to do yoga and I have a passion for fitness and nutrition. I also enjoy reading a great deal.
Photo Credit: Brent Calis
Halifax native and baritone Zachary Read is currently a member of Vancouver Opera’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program, and he studied opera at the University of Toronto (UofT) and Western University. His credits include Marullo in Rigoletto, Jonas Fogg in Sweeney Todd, Le Podestat in Le Docteur Miracle, Ivan in Die Fledermaus, and Morales in Carmen (Vancouver Opera); Sid in Albert Herring and Malatesta in Don Pasquale (UofT Opera); and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte (Accademia Europea dell’Opera). Mr. Read was a Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions regional finalist and won the District People’s Choice Award. He was also a semi-finalist in the 2015 Lotte Lenya Competition. Upcoming roles include Prince Yamadori and Imperial Commissioner in Vancouver Opera’s Madama Butterfly.
I grew up playing and singing Scottish, Irish, and folk music. I had not been exposed much to opera before going to university, but knew that I wanted to improve my singing and songwriting. I decided to pursue a vocal performance degree at the University of Western Ontario, where I learned a lot about the operatic repertoire and was very intrigued by how a human voice could make such a glorious sound. Once I learned more about the French, German, and Italian languages, I was able to appreciate the poetry and storytelling that inspires these great works.
There are many reasons why I think this art form is so intriguing: how composers marry text to music and the way both of those elements influence one another, the sound and colours possible in the voice and orchestra, and the immediacy of creating live theatre in front of an audience, to name a few.
Another passion I have in my life is playing the Scottish Highland Bagpipes. I am currently a member of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band (six-time world champions) and will be traveling with the band to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow this summer.
I also love entertaining and cooking for friends and family, single-malt whisky, and University of Michigan football.
There are so many roles I would love to perform. It would be hard to pick one. The Verdi baritone roles are ones I would dearly love to grow into someday, but for the nearer future, I would say my top “dream” roles would be Valentin in Gounod’s Faust, Figaro in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème.
Follow Zachary on Twitter at @ZakRead
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001