• Meet the 2019 Ensemble Studio Competition Finalists

    By COC Staff


    After a months-long, nationwide search, we’ve invited seven rising stars from across the country to compete in the COC’s annual Ensemble Studio Competition. At stake are cash prizes, performance opportunities, and coveted invitations to join the prestigious COC Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for up-and-coming opera stars.

    We asked our finalists about their love of opera (and their lives outside of it!):



    SARAH BISSONNETTE
    Mezzo-soprano | Boucherville, QC



    What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?

    I love travelling, learning languages, playing board games.

    What’s something people don’t know about you?
    I cannot whistle, but I wish I could

    What’s the best thing about opera?
    Bringing together mind, body and soul. It cannot work without all three.

    When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
    I chose to study music in 2009 at CÉGEP de Saint-Laurent to try it out. Little did I know that it would become such a big part of my life. That's when I started listening to classical music and attending live concerts. I remember wanting to be surrounded by artists with the same passion and simply make great music together.

    I’m not a typical opera singer because _____________.
    I am a rather low-maintenance person 



    MARCEL D'ENTREMONT

    Tenor | Merigomish, NS



    What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?
    When I’m not singing, I love to play video games! I always travel with my Nintendo Switch, and I love to play games with other people. I’m also a very big Survivor fan and have watched every season!

    What’s something people don’t know about you?
    Some people don’t know that throughout my undergraduate and master's degrees, I was volunteering at senior citizens homes/assisted living complexes. Here in Toronto, I used to visit New Horizons Tower every other week for two years, playing the piano and singing songs that the residents knew and enjoyed. If I weren’t pursuing performance, I would definitely consider a career in music therapy.

    What’s the best thing about opera?
    I can often feel very alone and intimidated when I do a solo recital or concert. For me, the best thing about opera is being able to share the stage and music with so many other people and feeling like part of an ensemble. There is something very comforting about having the support of everyone else around you, and also something really exciting about being able to have so many people come together to create one single piece of music.

    When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
    I don’t remember a particular moment where I realized that singing was what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t grow up in a family that was involved in classical music in any way, but I began taking piano lessons at a very young age and became increasingly involved in different types of music as I grew up, singing in many choirs, performing in musicals, and playing in different bands. When I finally decided to pursue singing at a university level, it was because out of all of the different types of music that I was performing, singing came the easiest to me. By the time I completed my undergrad, I had finally starting to believe that a career in singing was possible for me. That being said, there are still times when I’m not sure that this is what I want to do with my life! It’s always hard to have days where your voice doesn’t do the things that you want it to do; but my passion for expressing myself through music always comes back and reminds me that this is what I love to do.

    I’m not a typical opera singer because _____________.
    I almost always learn to play the score on the piano at the same time as I’m learning to sing it.



    BRENDEN FRIESEN
    Bass | Langham, SK



    What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?
    I have a deep passion for photography, audio production, and videography which is only rivalled by my love for longboarding and snowboarding.

    What’s something people don’t know about you?
    People are often surprised when they find out that I usually spend spring on the grain farm back home in Saskatchewan helping with seeding and other farm jobs, which has certainly been a nice change from busy city life.

    What’s the best thing about opera?
    It is immensely rewarding. It takes so much time to work through a score, to memorize, to work with the dynamics, your character’s motivations, and to perform something truly authentic with this historical music. There’s nothing like the feeling of walking out on stage and singing with your own unique voice, and it has been such a blessing to be able to share this beautiful music and these amazing stories with an audience. 

    When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
    I always thought that I couldn’t be a singer because everything that was popular was too high for me to sing. But when my teacher back in Saskatchewan introduced me to opera, and said that there was music out there for my voice type, I quickly fell in love with it. The fact I could sing with my full voice and didn’t have to be afraid of “being too loud” meant opera really felt like the thing for me!

    I’m not a typical opera singer because _____________.
    People are usually surprised to know that I used to be a guitarist and vocalist in a heavy metal band before I started singing classical music around age 19 or 20. I still love my metal music, but my voice now remains solely in classical singing. I am incredibly passionate about this art form, and I am very excited to see where this beautiful music and this amazing career path takes me.



    ALEX HALLIDAY
    Bass-baritone | St. John's, NL



    What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?
    I am an intense music lover of all kinds but I grew up involved in athletics. Many of my outside interests are centred around physical activity. I spend a lot of time at the gym and it has sort of become my second passion. Watching the Raptors take home the championship this year was a major highlight for me as well.

    What’s something people don’t know about you?
    I like to dabble in extended vocal techniques such as throat singing, beatboxing and overtone singing. I’m very amateur at all of these things so typically nobody gets a chance to hear what wild sounds I like to practice.

    What’s the best thing about opera?
    Opera. An art form that has lasted centuries, inspiring and changing the way people see the world and themselves. It is an art form that has the power to move and speak to people like no other I have experienced. It has evolved and shifted since it was conceived and continues to evolve today. The best part for me is just that. No performance or show will ever be the same. As a human being, I can be impacted differently with each production I perform in or watch as an audience member. Opera contributes to my always changing character.

    When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
    It was in grade 11 of high school for me. I had no dramatic or singing experience but I decided to take a drama class taught by a man whom I will never forget, Joel Pratt. Our school was ambitiously doing a production of Les Misérables and Mr. Pratt saw that I had an untouched passion for performing. He suggested I audition and I thought it was a ridiculous idea since I had never sung. I was sure it would be terrible. He encouraged me to take a leap of faith and after pondering the idea for a week, I did. Well, it turned out that I could actually sing and had a voice for opera. Mr. Pratt cast me as Javert and from there I fell in love with classical music. My high school music teacher and second mentor, Janice Alcorn, tirelessly helped me learn all of the basics I needed to in order to continue pursuing music. That was when I knew I wanted to be an opera singer.

    I’m not a typical opera singer because _____________.
    I am a major fan of hip-hop music. I like the style and I enjoy the fashion. In my spare time, my friends and family will typically hear me catching up on the latest artists. I have been told that that is not typical of an opera singer.



    KIRSTEN LEBLANC
    Soprano | Fredericton, NB



    What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?
    My hobbies are what usually calm me down and distract me from stress, so I love to bake, cross-stitch, and I’m a total bookworm.

    What’s something people don’t know about you?
    I’m addicted to watching cooking and baking shows and have earned the nickname “Martha Stewart” from my family for trying to replicate the recipes I see on the shows.

    What’s the best thing about opera?
    I love the way opera bonds people together; whether it’s the cast and crew becoming a close-knit team in their collaboration to bring the piece to life, or the audience collectively going through the emotions inspired by the drama and music.

    When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
    I was obsessed with musical theatre in high school and performing in them was why I first started taking voice lessons. In university, I got assigned my first opera arias and ensembles and I loved the way they opened my voice. The fact that I was able to combine that with the dramatic aspects of musicals I already loved meant that I got hooked very quickly!

    I’m not a typical opera singer because _____________.
    I never planned to study music! My first undergraduate degree was in biology, which I eventually combined with a separate music degree once I realized music was what I loved. It taught me the very important difference between doing something you’re good at and something you are truly passionate about.



    MIDORI MARSH
    Soprano | Cleveland, Ohio, USA



    What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?
    I love drawing and painting, writing, eating spicy food, Marvel movies and comic books, period dramas, people watching, sitting in nice coffee shops, and hanging out with my friends and family.

    What’s something people don’t know about you?
    My name, Midori, means green in Japanese.

    What’s the best thing about opera?
    The music, that’s a given. But I also love the diversity. Seeing a cast of five sing an indie opera in a bar one weekend, and a cast of a hundred sing a classic in an opera house the next. I love that the voice can go anywhere, and be anything. I love that opera isn’t afraid to be opulent. I love that people get dressed up, and that they just get to unwind for a few hours.

    When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
    I’ve always been someone who loves to perform, in any way. I would get really invested in school safety-patrol skits, I would sing for my parents’ friends at parties. But the first time I wanted to be an opera singer was after seeing my first professional opera: the Canadian Opera Company’s La Bohème at the Four Seasons Centre.

    I’m not a typical opera singer because _____________.
    There is no typical opera singer anymore! I have met and worked with so many amazing people, and each one has brought their own unique self to the art form. All of these different points of view make opera such an exciting place to be. Don’t worry about being typical; if you love opera, it’s for you!



    CHARLOTTE SIEGEL
    Soprano | Toronto, ON



    What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?
    Baking, hanging out with family and friends, reading, travelling, watching terrible holiday movies, and dancing around to Lizzo at all times.

    What’s something people don’t know about you?
    When I was 19 I released an independent EP called Travelling.

    What’s the best thing about opera?
    Working with creatives of all types to share different emotions, ideas, and stories.

    When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
    I knew I wanted to be an opera singer after spending a month in Munich, Germany during their annual opera festival. I fell deeper in love with the music and singing, but mostly with the electric energy flowing throughout the opera house.

    I’m not a typical opera singer because _____________.
    I write and sing pop music.


     

    ENSEMBLE STUDIO COMPETITION
    Wednesday, October 30, 2019

    5:30 p.m. - Pre-show drinks
    6:30 p.m. - Competition begins



    Opera's next great voices compete to wow the judges — and you.

    At stake are cash prizes and invitations to join the COC Ensemble Studio, a career-changing training program for young opera artists. 

    $50 (Orchestra Ring Rear or Ring 3 Rear)

    $65 (Orchestra Ring)

    $80 (Orchestra or Ring 3)

    Pre-show open bar included*

    *You may be required to present proof of age identification for any alcoholic beverage orders.


    ENSEMBLE STUDIO COMPETITION PARTNERS

    Posted in Ensemble Studio Competition

Phone: 416-363-8231

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