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.
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?
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
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!”
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Having to sing in a language other than your mother tongue is par for the course in the opera world, so knowing a couple, particularly French, Italian or German, can come in handy for a singer. Well, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure has it covered, and then some.
Jean-Philippe was born and raised in Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo area, but with all of his extended family in Québec, and having spent a lot of time in Ottawa and Montreal as part of his university and vocal studies, French comes just as easily to him as English. He also has a bit of familiarity with Spanish, German and some Italian, courtesy of high school student exchanges. Jean-Philippe says he has enough that he can “get by” or as he puts it, “So, if I was dropped from a plane and landed in Spain, Germany or even Italy, I could have a siesta, order a schnitzel, and find some delicious gelato, and then reluctantly make my way home.”
This flare for languages would certainly come in handy if Jean-Philippe were ever to pursue a career as an interpreter, a profession he’s already flirted with to some degree through studies in university and as a volunteer interpreter with the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Youth Choir on a trip to Europe. “I loved the experience,” he says. “It was challenging, but a lot of fun at the same time!”
Fortunately for opera fans, classical music got to Jean-Philippe first. It’s been part of his life since childhood. He’s played the violin and sung in choirs since before he can even remember. The foundation was laid early so when the idea of a career in opera came around, there was no turning back.
“When studying linguistics at the University of Ottawa, I started taking voice lessons with a professor, who turned out to be the chorus master for Opera Lyra Ottawa. He gladly let me join the chorus and that’s where I really fell in love with opera. I was amazed by the control and the artistry of the people I was working alongside,” Jean-Philippe shares. “And so, from that point on, I immersed myself in the art form and I’ve been having fun ever since! It is such a wonderful feeling to work on something for months, even years, and still be discovering new secrets, new ways of thinking and still be so moved. I can’t see myself doing anything else!” A good mindset to have for the singer whose dream role is Canio in Pagliacci - “The music and the drama are terrifyingly magnificent,” he says.
Jean-Philippe is currently pursuing a master’s degree in classical singing at the University of Montreal. He has participated in young artist training programs with the National Arts Centre, Centre d’Arts Orford and Académie Internationale d’été Nice. His credits include Pelléas in Pélleas et Mélisande (Nova Scotia Opera Company and Atelier d’Opéra, University of Montreal); Chevalier de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites (Atelier d’Opéra); Beppe in Pagliacci (Opera Lyra Ottawa – Silver Cast); Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Curzio/Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro and Mr. Gobineau in The Medium (University of Ottawa Opera Productions); and Guard in Manon and Prince of Persia in Turandot (Opera Lyra Ottawa).
Outside of opera, scuba-diving is pretty high on Jean-Philippe’s to-do list. “I enjoy scuba diving any chance I get,” he says. “I love the feeling of flying just like Superman, weightless above the ocean floor.”
You can also find him cooking: “I recently discovered the Montreal Jean-Talon Market, which is an amazing place!”, or volunteering for a worthy charitable cause.
“Alongside my girlfriend and a colleague dear to me, I recently had a chance to raise funds for the Northern Cancer Foundation of Sudbury,” he shares. “It was gratifying to be able to lend my talents to a cause that has affected close friends.”
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001