Ensemble Studio artists


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The COC Ensemble Studio is an innovative artist development program for emerging Canadian opera professionals.

The company’s uniquely collaborative approach blends advanced study and practical experience through a multi-year program that’s individually tailored for each member. Artists receive intensive vocal coaching; language, movement and acting studies; as well as private masterclasses with renowned opera professionals. Ensemble singers perform and understudy mainstage roles, while Ensemble pianists participate in the preparation of the COC’s mainstage productions.

Members of the Ensemble Studio are the COC’s resident artists and important community ambassadors for the company. Through performances and collaborations with local schools and organizations, Ensemble members are often the first point of contact with opera for many; their ongoing participation in this area is integral to creating inclusive and welcoming opportunities for more people to engage with the art form.

Since 1980, nearly 230 young professional Canadian singers and pianists have acquired foundational opera experience through the Ensemble Studio. Former members include Ben Heppner, Krisztina Szabó, Emily D’Angelo, Claire de Sévigné, Gordon Bintner, Ambur Braid, Miriam Khalil, and Wallis Giunta, and David Pomeroy.

New members are chosen through a national audition process that culminates in the Ensemble Studio Competition for vocalists, the feature event of the COC’s annual fundraising gala Centre Stage.


Brian Cho – Pianist

Brian Cho completed his Bachelor of Musical Arts and Masters in Collaborative Piano at Western University where he studied with Professor Marianna Chibotar-Rutkevich and Dr. John Hess. He was named a 2020 Magisterra Fellow and collaborated with the Magisterra Soloists Chamber Ensemble in their public concerts. Cho has participated in the Orford Summer Music Academy, the Accademia Europea Dell’Opera, and the Russian Art-Song Intensive Program in London, Ontario. He is an accomplished music director and is known within the London community for his work with MTP Theatre, Pacheco Theatre, and King’s Theatre. He is also the co-founder and head coach of the not-for-profit opera organization, Can of Soup Collective. Cho has been nominated twice for Classical Musician of the Year at the Forest City, London Music Awards. 

Ariane Cossette – Soprano

Canadian soprano Ariane Cossette is a graduate of Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and Université de Montréal where she studied with soprano Adrienne Savoie. She has received bursaries from many foundations including Jeunesses Musicales Canada, Art Song Foundation of Canada, McAbbie Foundation, George-Cedric-Ferguson Foundation, Opéra Bouffe du Québec and Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation. As a concert soloist, she made her France debut in 2018 in Chœurs Éternels, under the direction of Andrei Feher and Aldo Salvagno and, in 2019, sung the soprano solo in Bruckner’s Mass in F Minor with the Conservatoire’s orchestra. Her recent opera credits include Micaëla in La tragédie de Carmen with Université de Montréal and Selene in Endymion’s Dream with COSA Canada. She is looking forward to being a part of theCOC Ensemble Studio for the 2022-2023 season and can be seen on-stage as Frasquita in the COC’s 2022 production of Carmen. 

Alex Halliday – Bass-baritone

Alex Halliday is from St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he received his Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Memorial University. He received his master’s degree at the University of Toronto in opera performance where his roles included Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park, Colonel Denison/Samuel Miller in Maid & Master: The Massey Murder, Nardo in La finta giardiniera, Inspector Brinks in Who Killed Adrianna?, Carl Olsen in Street Scene, Alexander Throttlebottom in Of Thee I Sing, and Masetto in Don Giovanni. Additional roles include Father in Silent Light (Banff Centre), Berto in Un avvertimento ai gelosi, and Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Memorial University). Most recently, he performed as Guccio in the COC’s Gianni Schicchi (2021) and Noah in the 2022 world premiere presentation of Fantasma, by Ian Cusson and Colleen Murphy. This season at the COC, Halliday sings the role of Morales in of Carmen, Cappadocian in Salome, Servant in Macbeth, and Jailer in Tosca

Alex Hetherington – Mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano and composer Alex Hetherington recently graduated with a Master’s in Opera Performance from the University of Toronto. She won the Norcop Art Song Award in 2020, the UTSO Concerto Competition in 2022, and was a finalist in the OSM Competition in 2021. Recent credits include Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Carmen in La tragédie de Carmen (UofT Opera), Riley in R.U.R. A Torrent of Light (Tapestry Opera), and Nicklausse in The Tales of Hoffmann (Toronto City Opera). Hetherington has also performed with Toronto Summer Music (Beyond Borders), Canadian Art Song Project (dawn always begins in the bones), and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (The Bear). As a researcher, she completed a project examining performance practice through the lens of modern gender theory. Hetherington has a passion for contemporary music and is herself a composer, with works performed by the Gryphon Trio and Esprit Orchestra. She can be seen on the COC’s mainstage this season in Carmen, performing as Mercedes, and as An Attendant in Salome.  

Queen Hezumuryango – Mezzo-soprano

Originally from Burundi, Queen Hezumuryango holds both her master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Montreal, where she earned a number of prizes that include the Ferguson Scholarship, the Gadbois Bursary, and the support of the Jeunesses Musicales Canada foundation. Performance credits include Larina in Eugene Onegin (Highlands Opera Studio), Tisbe in La Cenerentola (Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance), and Carmen in La tragédie de Carmen (Atelier d’opéra à l’Université de Montréal). Hezumuryango was a semifinalist in the OSM Competition in 2021 and has participated in several prestigious programs including the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute, the Toronto Summer Opera Workshop, and the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance. 

Midori Marsh – Soprano

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Midori Marsh completed her Master of Music in opera at the University of Toronto. In the COC’s 2021-2022 season, she was seen as Nella in Gianni Schicchi, the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, Annina in La Traviata and Papagena in The Magic Flute, a performance for which she earned a 2022 Dora Mavor Moore Award nomination. Marsh will next appear on the COC’s mainstage as Third Apparition in the company’s 2023 production of Macbeth. Past engagements include Norina in Don Pasquale (Under the Spire Festival), Sarah Thorpe in No One’s Safe, and Johan’s Mother in Silent Light (Banff Centre); Frasquita in Carmen (Waterloo Symphony); Arminda in La finta giardiniera, Rose Maurrant in Street Scene, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park (UofT Opera); Annina in La Traviata (Cambridge Symphony Orchestra). In 2019, she took home both the First Prize and the Audience Choice Award at the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio Competition. 

Charlotte Siegel – Soprano

Soprano and singer/songwriter Charlotte Siegel of Toronto holds a graduate diploma and a master’s in opera and voice from McGill University, and bachelor of classical voice performance from the University of Toronto. Siegel was featured in the COC’s 2021 concert In Winter, and was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for her performance as Second Lady in The Magic Flute (COC, 2022); her next COC role is as Second Apparition in the company’s upcoming production of Macbeth. Siegel has previously been included in CBC’s annual list of “30 Hot Classical Musicians Under 30,” completed Pacific Opera Victoria’s inaugural Civic Engagement Quartet program, and was a Buffalo/Toronto District winner for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In 2019, she placed third in the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio Competition and was also a finalist for the Atelier Lyrique National Auditions. Other recent roles include Rose Maurrant in Street Scene, Nancy in Albert Herring, and Elle in Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Opera McGill. Siegel is the co-founder and Managing Director of the Marigold Music Program and will be the librettist for Loose Tea Music Theatre’s next iteration of Carmen #YesAllWomen, scheduled for 2023. 

Vladimir Soloviev – Pianist

Vladimir Soloviev is a Toronto-based pianist and vocal coach whose performances around the globe includes appearances at Carnegie Hall and Bohemian National Hall in New York. Soloviev has won the Pattison Piano Competition and the London Scholarship Foundation Competition, and the Concerto Competition at Western University. He completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Western Ontario, his Master’s at the Eastman School of Music, a Professional Studies Diploma at Mannes College, and a Master’s in Collaborative Piano at the University of Toronto (UofT). Apart from his collaborative work at the COC Ensemble Studio, Soloviev has coached at the Classical Lyric Arts Opera Studio, Highlands Opera Studio, UofT Opera School, and the Toronto Summer Music Festival. Soloviev remains active as an organist and choral conductor, holding the positions of Music Director at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Kitchener, and Assistant Conductor at the Mississauga Festival Choir. Most recently, he was featured as Character Pianist/Dante in the COC’s world premiere presentation of Fantasma, by Ian Cusson and Colleen Murphy.

Jonah Spungin – Baritone

Ottawa native Jonah Spungin earned his master’s degree in voice and opera from McGill University and graduated from Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program. He was most recently seen on the COC’s mainstage as Marquis d’Obigny in La Traviata (2022), Second Priest in The Magic Flute (2022), and Marco in Gianni Schicchi (2021). Other credits include: Jan Nyman in the Scandinavian premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves (Vadstena Summer Opera Festival); Marullo in Rigoletto, Mike Groom in Everest, and Paris in Roméo et Juliette (Calgary Opera); Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus (Opera McGill); Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore (McGill Savoy Society). He also created the role of Ludovic Athenodorus in the world premiere of Ghost Opera (Calgary Opera and The Old Trout Puppet Workshop). As a concert soloist, he has performed the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the McGill Symphony Orchestra and Calgary Philharmonic, and has been the baritone soloist in Fauré’s and Goodall’s Requiems. Spungin will next be seen as El Dancairo in the COC’s 2022 production of Carmen, First Apparition in Macbeth, and Sciarrone in Tosca.

Liz Upchurch – Head of Music, Ensemble Studio

Liz Upchurch is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, where she won several prizes as solo pianist and accompanist. As a music director, vocal coach and repetiteur she has worked in 21st-century and traditional opera, music theatre, and theatre. She has also covered a wide range of working techniques with singers, actors and instrumentalists in community and educational projects. For many years she worked with young artists at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh where she played for masterclasses with artists such as Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Suzanne Danco, William Pleeth and Dame Joan Sutherland. Ms. Upchurch has also worked at the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg festival in Germany and the National Theatre in London. She held a faculty position in the 20th-century opera and song program at the Banff Centre for the Arts and was repetiteur and chorus director at Edmonton Opera. As a pianist she has performed all over Europe and has been broadcast with the BBC, Norwegian Radio and CBC. Ms. Upchurch also appeared as a judge on Bravo’s hit series, Bathroom Divas: So you want to be an opera singer!

Jennifer Swan – Performance Kinetics Consultant, Ensemble Studio

As Performance Kinetics Consultant with the COC Ensemble Studio, Jennifer Swan works in private and group sessions with Canada’s top emerging singers. Her methodology creates, sustains and strengthens a singer's breath support, a technique which evolved from her extensive dance and Pilates background. Her voice method has also been an integral part of the program at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI) since 2008. She joined the teaching team at St Andrews by-the-Sea in 2016, has been a regular guest lecturer at the University of Toronto’s voice studies program since 2010, and has led annual workshops at Choirs Ontario since 2012. As resident choreographer for the Toronto Children’s Chorus since 2011, she choreographed the world premiere of Nikmaq by Donald Patriquin as well as debuts of Tsimshian Welcome Chant by Patriquin in 2015 and Arctic Lights by Lori-Anne Dolloff in 2016. Ms. Swan has also worked extensively with various international Olympic athletes, including figure skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. She choreographed their award-winning Carmen in 2013 and their programs for the 2014 Olympics. Ms. Swan is the artistic director of Performance Architects/Swan Studio Dance and Children’s Dance Project in London, Ontario. She obtained her bachelor of arts degree (honours) in dance from the University of Waterloo.

Wendy Nielsen – Head Vocal Consultant, Ensemble Studio

After a 25-year career on the international opera and concert stages, soprano Wendy Nielsen is now head of voice and assistant professor in voice and opera at the University of Toronto. She is also Head Vocal Consultant for the COC Ensemble Studio and maintains an active private voice studio in Toronto, teaching many of Canada’s prominent performers. Ms. Nielsen made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1996 as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte under the baton of James Levine. Subsequent performances at the Met over 12 seasons included: Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Micaëla in Carmen and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Her international orchestral performances were numerous, notably opening the Lucerne Summer Festival as Elsa in Lohengrin with Ivan Fisher conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Other significant performances included appearances with the Beijing Philharmonic; New York Philharmonic; Beethoven Festival in Krakow, Poland; Madrid Sinfonica; Prague Autumn Festival; Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Düsseldorf Philharmonic; and Montreal Symphony Orchestra. A native of New Brunswick, Ms. Nielsen attended Mount Allison University and earned a bachelor of music from the University of Lethbridge, as well as a master of music in opera from the University of British Columbia. She also holds three honorary doctorates and has garnered numerous awards recognizing her contributions nationally, provincially, and locally.

Steven Leigh – Corrective Phonetics for Opera Singers Specialist (C-PhOS) and Lyric Diction Coach, Ensemble Studio

Steven Leigh works with the COC Ensemble Studio to achieve standard stage-language pronunciation in Italian, German, French and English repertoire. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s (UofT) Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), where his research integrates pronunciation pedagogy theory with his background as a professional opera singer and linguist. Presentations of his research-in-progress have included a public demonstration-lecture with the COC's Spotlight Series, as well as workshops for the COC Orchestra Academy and Ensemble Studio.

He has also given masterclasses in opera lyric diction at UofT’s Faculty of Music and the Irish National Opera Studio, and has been a lyric diction instructor at the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal and at Opera on the Avalon in St. John’s, Newfoundland. In addition to his work at the COC, Mr. Leigh teaches a series of lyric diction classes he developed for the Royal Conservatory of Music's Taylor Academy and has previously taught at the RCM's Glenn Gould School. Highlights as a singer include the world premiere performance of Srul Irving Glick’s A Life's Journey (Songs for Isaac) in Toronto, Don José with the Illinois Opera Theater, the Duke in Rigolettoat Fairfield Halls, England, and appearances in Montreal with the Cantabile Chorale and Orchestra. 



Thank you for your interest in the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio!
Applications have now closed for the 2023/2024 season.
Receive updates about future auditions by signing up here.

Repertoire and Video Submission Guidelines:

Round 1: Video

Deadline for video and online application submissions: September 6, 2022.

Round 2: Live Auditions 

Those advancing to the second round will be invited to live auditions in one of the following cities:  
Calgary: September 26, 2022 
Montreal: September 28, 2022 
Toronto: October 3–6, 2022 
The live round will be adjudicated by Director of Artistic Planning, Roberto Mauro; Director, Ensemble Studio, Dorian Cox; and Head of Music, Ensemble Studio, Liz Upchurch.

Round 3: Toronto Callbacks and the Ensemble Studio Competition at Centre Stage

Mandatory preparation period in Toronto: October 30 – November 2, 2022 
Ensemble Studio Competition: November 3, 2022 


While there is no official age limit for consideration in the program, the COC Ensemble Studio is a young artist program and participants are generally between 20–30 years of age.

In order to be considered for this program, applicants MUST be Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Citizens of other countries who do not possess either a Canadian passport or permanent resident card are not eligible to apply for the program.

At this time the COC continues to have a vaccination and mask policy in place. All applicants must provide proof of vaccination (2 doses of a government approved vaccine for COVID-19).

If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

Want to be kept up to date? Receive updates about auditions by signing up here.


The Ensemble Studio Competition is held annually and is the feature event of the COC’s Centre Stage fundraising gala. It was first launched in 2011 to showcase and celebrate Canada’s exceptional opera talent and has since grown from an intimate series of performances in the COC’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre to a spectacular mainstage event hosted in R. Fraser Elliott Hall.

The audition process is open to Canadian citizens and permanent residents only and takes place in three rounds. The first round invites interested applicants to send in digital submissions for screening by a panel of artists and administrators. In the second round, COC artistic staff travel across the country for preliminary live auditions, with stops in Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary or Vancouver. Final callback auditions for finalists are held over several days that include rehearsals and working sessions before their performances at the Ensemble Studio Competition on the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

For the competition, finalists are accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. At stake are a number of cash prizes, as well as performance opportunities, and the opportunity to be invited to join the COC Ensemble Studio.

The COC Ensemble Studio is a young artist program for operatic singers and pianists/vocal coaches designed to bridge the gap between post-secondary musical study and a career as a working opera professional on the national and international stage. There is no age limit in effect, but as the Ensemble Studio is designated as a young artist program, members generally range between 20 and 30 years of age.

During their time in the Ensemble Studio, members are provided with an individualized program that generally includes:
  • Regular voice lessons, music coaching, and lyric diction coaching
  • Regular performance kinetics sessions (movement & breath)
  • Drama coaching
  • Italian, German, French, Russian diction coaching
  • Other coaching tailored to specific mainstage production needs (eg. stage combat, Czech diction, or dance)
  • Personal finance and tax seminars
  • One-on-one career coaching
  • Roundtables, workshops, and other seminars in career development
  • Experience preparing, rehearsing and performing roles and understudy roles for mainstage operas (Singers)
  • Experience working as music staff on mainstage operas and rehearsing singers for their roles (pianists)
  • Mentorship and coaching opportunities with visiting music staff, artists, conductors, and special guests
  • Additional public and community performance opportunities (COC Opera For Young Audiences, Free Concert Series, recitals, public events, scene programs, etc.)
  • Auditions for artist management and agents or visiting general and artistic directors
  • The chance to participate in new work creation workshops and performances
The Ensemble Studio young artist program is a paid opportunity. Members typically work full-time, on a 36-week contract, for two seasons. Singers of the Ensemble Studio become members of Canadian Actor’s Equity Association (CAEA).

In order to be considered for this program, applicants MUST be Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Citizens of other countries who do not possess either a Canadian passport or permanent resident card are not eligible to apply for the program.

Please note: all of the above information is subject to change without notice.

Photo: Gaetz Photography


Phone: 416-363-8231

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