Karoline Podolak Wins First Prize at Centre StageBy COC StaffPosted in 22/23 Season
Canadian soprano Karoline Podolak took home First Prize and the Audience Choice Award at the Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition last night at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The evening marked the grand finale of a national search for Canada’s top young opera singers, all of whom were vying for cash prizes and the chance to be invited for a coveted spot in the company’s prestigious Ensemble Studio training program. In a COC first, the annual event in support of the company’s Ensemble Studio was live-streamed to audiences across the country, providing an unparalleled platform for the young artists to share their talent; also new this year, at-home audiences were able to register in advance to add their vote, live, for the night’s Audience Choice Award.
Podolak won First Prize, a $7,500 award, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which was matched on this night and increased to $2,000 by an audience member, inspired by the competition’s rising young artists.
Soprano Hannah Crawford of Toronto won the Second Prize of $5,000.
And, in an added surprise for the evening, tenor River Guard of Hamilton, Ontario and tenor Wesley Harrison of Windsor, Ontario shared the Third Prize of $3,000.
“The dedication and incredible talent of Canada’s young opera voices continues to astonish me,” says COC General Director Perryn Leech. “These seven, highly talented young artists should be so proud of what they were able to achieve in reaching this level of artistry–especially considering the many challenges the last few years have presented for live performance and in-person experience.”
“I’m also thrilled that, for the first time ever, we were able to share this night with so many audience members beyond the opera house,” adds Leech. “I know that all of Canada joins me in congratulating all of the night’s winners and finalists and looks forward to seeing where their next steps lead.”
Seven finalists were selected from a pool of nearly 100 applicants and 64 live auditions nationwide. On November 3, each finalist performed two arias, accompanied by the COC Orchestra led by conductor Jacques Lacombe—one in a closed round for the judges alone, and a final performance for both judging panel and a live public audience. The COC Orchestra also kicked off the evening with a rare performance of Sinigaglia’s concert overture from Carlo Goldoni’s comic play Le baruffe chiozzotte.
This year’s competition jury comprised COC General Director Perryn Leech; COC Director, Artistic Planning Roberto Mauro; American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges (who sings the title role in the COC’s current production of Carmen); and Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka.
The Ensemble Studio Competition serves as the final stage of the audition process for the 2023/2024 Ensemble Studio, which will be announced at a later date. Those invited to the Ensemble Studio will join an innovative program that, since its inception in 1980, has launched the careers of over 235 Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors, including Gordon Bintner, Ambur Braid, Emily D’Angelo, Claire de Sévigné, Wallis Giunta, Miriam Khalil, David Pomeroy, and Krisztina Szabó.
During the pre-competition cocktail reception, guests enjoyed a complimentary selection of delicious canapés and cocktails, curated by Toronto rooftop restaurant The Chase.
Following the competition, Premium Spotlight Experience guests went on to enjoy an elegant seated dinner in H.R. Jackman Lounge overlooking bustling Queen Street West, dining with the finalists and current Ensemble Studio artists.
For more on Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition, head to our Centre Stage webpage!
Artist Prizes Generously Sponsored By: Temerty Foundation, Alberto & Beatriz Behar, ARIAS: Canadian Opera Student Development Fund, Classical 96.3 FM, Krystyna and Andy Williamson
Photos: Michael Cooper