Digital Audio Series

Key Change
is the COC’s new podcast, co-hosted by classical singer and culture critic Robyn Grant-Moran, a member of the COC’s Circle of Artists, alongside stage director, dramaturg and COC Academy graduate Julie McIsaac. Our bi-weekly episodes explore the operagoing experience from a variety of perspectives, offering a fresh take on today's opera issues with special guests from the opera field and beyond.

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What does it mean to be both a conductor and a disruptor? Through his work with neurodiverse, prison and other marginalized communities, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser helps to extend the boundaries of classical music. Learn more about his boundary-breaking journey and his powerful experience with Washington National Opera in this insightful chat with co-hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac.



A passionate communicator, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser brings clarity and meaning to the concert hall, fostering deep connections between audiences and performers. He is concurrently the Barrett Principal Education Conductor and Community Ambassador of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Artist in Residence and Community Ambassador of Symphony Nova Scotia. He served as Assistant Conductor of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and Associate Conductor of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. Daniel has been re-invited to the San Francisco Symphony for six consecutive years and was Cover Conductor with the Washington National Opera in 2020. In the 2021 season, Daniel will debut with the Carnegie Hall Link-Up Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and others. Daniel was the subject of the 2020 CBC documentary, Disruptor Conductor.


Disruptor Conductor (CBC Documentary):

Symphony Nova Scotia:

Toronto Symphony Orchestra:

Washington National Opera's Blue:

Adam Johnson:

Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra:

San Francisco Symphony:

Kenneth Kellogg:

Aaron Crouch: 


Key Change theme music: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Herbert von Karajan, conductor, with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23 by Chopin. Krystian Zimerman, piano. Deutsche Grammophon, 1988.

“Finale and End Title March” from John Williams’ Superman: The Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). John Williams, conductor, with the London Symphony Orchestra. Rhino/Warner Records, 2005 (originally released 1978).

First Movement of Symphony Fantastique in C Major, Op. 14 by Berlioz. Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor, with the Moscow RTV Symphony Orchestra. EMG Classical, 1968.

“Te Deum” from Puccini’s Tosca. Leo Nucci. Sir Georg Solti, conductor, with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and the Welsh National Opera Chorus. Decca, 1986.

We love to hear from our listeners! If you have a story or question that you’d like to be featured on a future episode, you can send us a voice message. Here’s how to do that. All you need is a smartphone.

Voice and email messages can be sent to [email protected]

Send us your message by March 5 to be featured on our listener “mailbag” episode on March 30!




In our first episode, co-hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac chat with four special guests from both inside and outside the opera world about their first experiences with the art form - the good, the bad and the ugly. You'll hear from acclaimed soprano Angel Blue, who saw her first opera at the age of four; Canadian visual artist Shary Boyle, who draws some amazing comparisons between opera and thrash metal bands; the COC's own Music Director, Johannes Debus; and soprano Midori Marsh, a new member of the COC’s Ensemble Studio training program for Canada’s rising opera stars.


Watch HiHo Kids: "Kids Meet an Opera Singer" with soprano Angel Blue.

Learn more about Shary Boyle's work including information about her upcoming solo show, Outside the palace of Me.

Featured Music:
Key Change theme: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier; Herbert von Karajan, conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

Puccini's Turandot; Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, conductor with the Orchestra del Teatro Dell'Opera di Roma; Warner Classics, 1965

Puccini's Turandot; "In questa reggia;" Tamara Wilson, soprano; Carlo Rizzi, conductor with the COC Orchestra; COC, 2019

Verdi's Aida; "O patria mia;" Sondra Radvanovsky, soprano; Constantine Orbelian, conductor with the Philharmonia of Russia; DELOS, 2010

In this episode, hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac explore how we hear opera, with special guests musicologist Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley and acoustician Bob Essert. They’ll take us through the history and science of why opera sounds the way it does, its evolution through the ages, and how it affects audiences on both a physical and emotional level.



Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley is a musicologist, active in the public sphere as a writer, speaker, and researcher. She was recently Musicologist-in-Residence at the 2018 Verbier Festival in Switzerland and at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where she was also Managing Editor of publications. She holds a Bachelor of Music Honours in violin performance from McGill University, a Master of Philosophy in musicology and performance from the University of Oxford, and a PhD in musicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Hannah’s research interests include the social and cultural history of music and music institutions, focusing on the Europe–North America transatlantic context from the 19th century to the present day, as well as the performance and reception history of opera (notably, the works of Richard Wagner) and orchestral music, about which she has written and presented at major conferences. She is the creator of the award-winning Visual Listening Guides—a new kind of graphic listening guide for symphonic music.


Acoustician Bob Essert, founding director of Sound Space Vision, uses sound in architecture in the service of the arts: to connect performers and audiences, teachers and students, and to enable artists to do their best work.   Weaving the priorities of performance into a building involves upholding the connection between design and engineering, based on the human perception and experience of sound.   

Based first in New York, and now in London, Essert has for 40 years been working with orchestra, opera and theatre groups and venues to develop quality arts buildings around the world.  His projects have achieved a reputation for success, ranging from small gems to prestigious concert halls and opera theatres. His acoustics in Canada include the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Koerner Hall, Weston Recital Hall, Maison Symphonique in Montreal and the Chan Centre at UBC, and is now working on the revitalization of Massey Hall. He has designed acoustics in the UK for Garsington Opera and Nevill Holt Opera, theatres in Istanbul and Kazakhstan and the new Xiqu Centre for Chinese Opera in Hong Kong.

Featured Music:

Key Change theme music: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier; Herbert von Karajan, conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

Handel's Giulio Cesare; "Giulio, che miri;" Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Karl Richter, conductor with the Münchener Bach-Orchester; Deutsche Grammophon, 2006

Handel's Giulio Cesare; "Piangerò la sorte mia;" Joan Sutherland, soprano; Richard Bonynge, conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra; Decca, 1992

Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro; Act II: "Voi signor, che giusto siete;" Sir Georg Solti, conductor with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; Decca, 1982

R. Strauss' Elektra; "Allein! Weh, ganz allein;" Christine Goerke, soprano; Johannes Debus, conductor with the COC Orchestra; COC, 2019

What stories are we telling? Why do they persist? And how can we tell them differently – in a way that invites more people into the narrative? In this episode, hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac talk storytelling with soprano and multi-disciplinary artist Teiya Kasahara and award-winning theatre director Ravi Jain.


Toronto-based stage director Ravi Jain is a multi-award-winning artist known for making politically bold and accessible theatrical experiences in both small indie productions and large theatres. As the founding artistic director of Why Not Theatre, Ravi has established himself as an artistic leader for his inventive productions, international producing/collaborations and innovative producing models which are aimed to better support emerging artists to make money from their art.

Ravi was twice shortlisted for the 2016 and 2019 Siminovitch Prize and won the 2012 Pauline McGibbon Award for Emerging Director and the 2016 Canada Council John Hirsch Prize for direction. He is a graduate of the two-year program at École Jacques Lecoq.  He was selected to be on the roster of clowns for Cirque du Soliel. Currently, Sea Sick which he co-directed will be on at the National Theatre in London, his adaptation of The Indian epic Mahabarata will premier at the Shaw Festival and What You Won’t Do For Love, starring David Suzuki will premier in Vancouver in 2021.


First-generation Nikkei-Canadian settler Teiya Kasahara is a queer, gender non-binary, interdisciplinary performer-creator. Heralded as “an artist with extraordinary things to say” by The Globe and Mail, Teiya comes from a background of over a decade of singing both traditional and contemporary operatic roles across North America and Europe, most recently Madama Butterfly with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. Teiya explores the intersections of identity through opera, theatre, electronics, and taiko within their artistic practice, and they are a co-founder of a new Toronto-based company called Amplified Opera.


Why Not Theatre's Mahabharata 

Tapestry Opera's Shanawdithit: 

Soundstreams' Two Odysseys 

Featured Music:

Key Change theme music: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier; Herbert von Karajan, conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

Mozart's The Magic Flute; "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen;" Lucia Popp; Otto Klemperer, conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1964

Puccini's Manon Lescaut; Act III Intermezzo; Marco Armiliato, conductor with the Munich Radio Orchestra; Deutsche Grammophon, 2016

Strauss' Salome; "Ah! Ich habe deinen Mund geküsst, Jochanaan;" Cheryl Studer, soprano; Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor with the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Deutsche Grammophon, 1991

Co-hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac explore how the visual elements of an opera production come together to create “magic” on stage. They speak to special guests, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada and a big fan of Wagner's Parsifal, acclaimed Canadian set and costume designer Michael Levine, and the COC’s own costume supervisor, Sandra Corazza, who shares her tricks of the trade.

The Right Honourable ADRIENNE CLARKSON

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Canada’s 26th Governor General (1999-2005), is universally acknowledged to have transformed the office and to have left an indelible mark on Canada’s history. She arrived in Canada from Hong Kong with her family in 1942 and made the astonishing journey from child refugee to accomplished broadcaster, journalist, and distinguished public servant in a multi-faceted lifetime. Her legacy foundation, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship helps all new citizens to be included and to belong in the fabric of Canada.

Photo: Alyssa Faoro


Canadian Michael Levine’s previous work at the COC includes designing Eugene Onegin, Dialogues des Carmélites, Rigoletto, the Ring Cycle, Oedipus Rex with Symphony of Psalms and Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, as well as directing Das Rheingold. Recent credits include The Rape of Lucretia (Deutsche Oper); Eugene Onegin (Grand Théâtre de Genève); The Magic Flute (Festival d’Aix-en-Provence); Dialogues des Carmélites (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden); and I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Opéra national de Paris). Mr. Levine has won a Gemini, multiple Dora Awards, Paris Critics’ Prize, Edinburgh Festival Drama and Music Award and is a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in France.


Learn more about the COC's 2022/2023 production of Wagner's Parsifal

Photos from Wagner's Parsifal:

Photo credits: Scenes from the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Parsifal, 2013, photo: Ken Howard

Featured Music:

Key Change theme music: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Herbert von Karajan, conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

Wagner’s Parsifal. Herbert von Karajan, conductor, with the Berliner Philharmoniker; Deutsche Grammophon, 1981

Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites. Pierre Dervaux, conductor with the Orchestre du Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris; EMI, 1958 (digitally remastered in 2004).

In our season 1 finale, co-hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac speculate on the future of opera and creation – including who will be telling those stories and who will be watching – in conversations with best-selling author Cherie Dimaline (Empire of Wild, The Marrow Thieves) and COC Composer-in-Residence Ian Cusson. Both hail from the same Georgian Bay community and share their views on creating for future generations, representing their communities, as well as some exciting updates on their own new opera.


Ian Cusson is a Métis and French-Canadian composer of art song, opera, and orchestral work. His work explores the Canadian Indigenous experience, including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures. He is the inaugural artist of the COC’s newly developed Composer-in-Residence program, with a residency at the COC Academy that officially began on August 19, 2019.

As part of Cusson’s composer residency, the COC has commissioned a new work with award-winning Canadian playwright and librettist Colleen Murphy. Fantasma is being developed with families and young people in mind.


Cherie Dimaline is a member of the Georgian Bay Métis Community in Ontario who has published five books. Her 2017 book, The Marrow Thieves, won the Governor General’s Award and the prestigious Kirkus Prize for Young Readers, and was the fan favourite for CBC’s 2018 Canada Reads. It was named a Book of the Year on numerous lists including the National Public Radio, the School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and the CBC, has been translated into several languages, and continues to be a national bestseller two years later.  Her most recent novel for adults, Empire of Wild (Penguin Random House Canada) became an instant Canadian bestseller and was named Indigo's #1 Best Book of 2019. It was published in the US through William Morrow in July 2020. Cherie recently moved from Vancouver, BC, to Midland, ON, where she is working on a new YA book, the next adult novel and the hotly anticipated sequel to The Marrow Thieves, as well as the forthcoming TV adaptation.


Maria Campbell 

Sonny-Ray Day Rider 

Cris Derksen 

Lee Maracle
Twitter: @MaracleLee 

Melody McKiver 

Waubgeshig Rice

Eden Robinson ​ 

Janet Rogers
Twitter: @janetmarieroger

Richard Van Camp:  
Twitter: @richardvancamp  

Joshua Whitehead 


Key Change theme music: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Herbert von Karajan, conductor, with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

"Dodo, mon tout petit" from Louis Riel, music by Ian Cusson, text by Mavor Moore. Simone Osborne. Johannes Debus, conductor, with the COC Orchestra, 2019.

"Celeste Aida" from Verdi's Aida. Jon Vickers. Sir Georg Solti, conductor, with the Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Decca, 1962.

"Prenderò quel brunettino" from Mozart's Così fan tutte. Miah Persson, Anke Vondung. Iván Fischer, conductor, with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, Glyndebourne Opera House, 2006.

Cusson's Fantasma. Recorded during a March 2020 workshop featuring artists from the COC Ensemble Studio.

Join co-hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac for an insightful chat with the COC's current General Director Alexander Neef and the company's incoming leader Perryn Leech. Hear their thoughts on the future of the art form, risk-taking, the genius of Freddie Mercury, and more, in this insider's glimpse into what it's like to lead a major opera company.


Born in Brighton, England, Perryn Leech has dedicated more than 35 years to the performing arts industry, starting at the Glyndebourne Festival and then as a freelance lighting technician and Head of Lighting at the Edinburgh International Festival, before moving to English National Opera, and then served as Technical Director at Welsh National Opera. Since 2011, Leech has served as the Managing Director of Houston Grand Opera (HGO), one of the largest and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. Leech initially joined HGO in 2007 and served as the technical and production director and then the chief operating officer before being appointed to the role of Managing Director. HGO has built a reputation for commissioning new opera, with 67 world premieres to date, and has received a Tony Award, two Grammy Awards, and three Emmy Awards – the only opera company in the world to win all three honours.


Alexander Neef, appointed General Director of the Canadian Opera Company in 2008, has worked with some of the most prestigious arts organizations in the world, including the Salzburg Festival, Germany’s RuhrTriennale, New York City Opera and Opéra national de Paris, where he was one of Gerard Mortier’s closest collaborators as Head of Casting. He returns to Opéra national de Paris in the 2020/2021 season, following his recent appointment as its next General Director in July 2019. He also currently serves as Santa Fe Opera’s first Artistic Director. Under Mr. Neef’s leadership at the COC, he has transformed the Toronto-based company into one of the most significant opera producers in the world, attracting globally renowned singers for high-profile role debuts and gathering some of the most important conductors, directors, and designers for creative projects. During his tenure, the COC has presented or commissioned for future seasons four new Canadian operas for the mainstage, most recently Rufus Wainwright and Daniel MacIvor’s Hadrian. One of his most significant credits includes increasing the public profile and professional development opportunities for young Canadian artists through the COC Academy, a pioneering training program for young opera professionals and administrators. 


Watch a short clip from Houston Grand Opera's Cruzar la Cara de la Luna

"Barcelona" by Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé


Key Change theme music: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Herbert von Karajan, conductor, with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

Excerpt from Bluebeard's Castle/Erwartung. Johannes Debus, conductor, with the COC Orchestra, 2015.

"Pur ti miro" from Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. Sylvia McNair, Michael Chance. John Eliot Gardiner, conductor, with the English Baroque Soloists, Philips, 1996.

"Norte/Sur" from Martinez' Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. Jose "Pepe" Martinez, conductor with the Houston Grand Opera, 2011.

"How excellent thy name, O Lord (Reprise)" from Handel's Saul. John Eliot Gardiner, conductor with the English Baroque Soloists, Philips, 1991.

"The Guns of Brixton" by The Clash, London Calling, 1979.

"You're My Best Friend" by Queen, A Night at the Opera, 1975.

Explore how opera – past and present – serves as a space for activism. ​Join co-hosts Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac as they speak with musicologist Rena Roussin, who studies activism and intersectional identity in art music. Find out how Mozart and Beethoven were subversive for their time and how opera, now more than ever, is a driving force for change.


Rena Roussin is a Métis and settler doctoral student in musicology at the University of Toronto. Her research examines activism and constructions of intersectional identity in art music, with a dual focus on both opera and oratorio in the Age of the Enlightenment, as well as art music performance in Canada in the age of Truth and Reconciliation. Her publications appear in Haydn: The Online Journal of the Haydn Society of North America, Musicological Explorations, and the forthcoming Bloomsbury Handbook of Music and Art. Rena is a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Circle of Artists. 


NYC Heartbeat Opera’s staging of Fidelio:

Sweet Land:


Seven Last Words of the Unarmed:


Key Change theme music: R. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Herbert von Karajan, conductor, with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Warner Classics, 1956

"Sull'aria" from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Gundula Janowitz, Edith Mathis. Karl Böhm, conductor, with Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin. Deutsche Grammophon, 1968.

"Komm Hoffnung" from Beethoven's Fidelio. Nina Stemme. Claudio Abbado, conductor, with Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Decca, 2010.

"O welche Lust" from Beethoven's Fidelio. Claudio Abbado, conductor, with Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Arnold Schoenberg Choir. Decca, 2010.



Robyn Grant-Moran (Métis) is a classical singer, writer, and a jack of many trades who, in 2018 met the requirements to call herself a Bachelor of the Fine Arts at York University. That same year, Robyn participated in the Performance Criticism Training Program with Generator Toronto where she learned that theatre criticism can be used to push for more inclusive spaces and champion voices less heard and often misunderstood; so of course she fell in love. Since then, she’s been published in Alt.Theatre and Intermission Magazine, won the Nathan Cohen Award for Outstanding Emerging Critic, and joined the Canadian Opera Company’s Circle of Artists, to name a few. Robyn currently resides in Tkaronto (Toronto), weathering the pandemic with her wee rat dog in a box in the sky.


Canadian stage director Julie McIsaac was named the COC’s first Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence in 2019 and is now Lead Curator of Opera Everywhere, the company's reimagined 20/21 season. A versatile opera and theatre artist, her projects work towards reshaping and revitalizing the stories told on stage. During her residency with the COC, she served as Assistant Director on Joel Ivany's production of Hansel and Gretel (COC) and she is the Dramaturg and Director of the upcoming COC commission Fantasma, composed by COC Composer-in-Residence Ian Cusson with libretto by Colleen Murphy. Julie earned her Master’s degree in Theatre from the University of York (UK) and is also a graduate of Carleton University (Music) and the Canadian College of Performing Arts (Theatre Performance and Playwriting).


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