Elisabeth St-Gelais Takes Home First Prize in 10th Annual Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition
By COC Staff
Soprano Elisabeth St-Gelais of Chicoutimi, QC took home First Prize and the Audience Choice Award at the Canadian Opera Company’s 10th annual Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition on October 26, 2023 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The evening, hosted by television’s Sangita Patel, 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.
St-Gelais won First Prize, a $7,500 award and the Audience Choice Award of $1,000.
Soprano Emily Rocha of Courtice, ON won the Second Prize of $5,000.
Bass Duncan Stenhouse of Calgary, AB took the Third Prize of $2,500.
“It is truly incredible and inspiring to see this caliber of artistry from young Canadian artists who arrive at this competition from so many different pathways to the art form,” says COC General Director Perryn Leech. “All of tonight’s finalists should be exceptionally proud of where their dedication and hard work has gotten them to date–and where I know their talents will lead them, moving forward.”
“It has been a thrilling night in the opera house and I’m delighted that we were once again, through livestreaming, able to share this night with audiences all over the world,” adds Leech. “I know that Canada joins me in celebrating our winners and finalists and I can assure you will be hearing from these amazing artists soon.”
The competition’s seven finalists were selected from a pool of over 100 applicants and nearly 90 live auditions held in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. On October 26, each finalist performed two arias, accompanied by the COC Orchestra led by conductor Johannes Debus–one in a closed round for the judges alone, and a final performance for both judging panel and a live public audience.
This year’s competition jury comprised COC General Director Perryn Leech; COC Director, Artistic Planning Roberto Mauro; Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka; Canadian conductor and music educator Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser; and Canadian actor and director Thom Allison.
The Ensemble Studio Competition serves as a final opportunity for COC artistic leadership to hear artists in the multi-stage audition process for the COC’s Ensemble Studio, with final members for the 2024/2025 season to 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 nearly 240 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.
An event like Centre Stage and, truly, a program like the COC’s Ensemble Studio, could not be possible without the generous support of sponsors who are passionate about seeing young Canadian artists thrive. Here are some personal messages of congratulations from some of this year's major sponsors.