The COC Ensemble Studio welcomes four rising artists starting in the company’s 2023/2024 season: soprano Karoline Podolak
, tenor Wesley Harrison
, baritone Korin Thomas-Smith
, and pianist Mattia Senesi
. The four officially join the highly specialized development program for Canadian opera professionals this August, alongside returning sopranos Ariane Cossette
and Charlotte Siegel
, mezzo-sopranos Alex Hetherington
and Queen Hezumuryango
, and pianist Brian Cho
This past November, Podolak, Harrison, and Thomas-Smith placed as finalists at the 2022 Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition, a competitive vocal showcase for young artists from all over Canada. Podolak took home First Prize and the Audience Choice Award that evening, while Harrison tied for second prize.
“The Canadian Opera Company has a long-standing commitment to recognizing and nurturing young artist development,” says COC General Director Perryn Leech. “For decades now, the Ensemble Studio has helped prepare generations of Canadian opera artists and then watch them launch major international careers. We are thrilled to see Karoline, Wesley, Korin, and Mattia join this exceptional program—I look forward to seeing everything they get from the experience. Opera’s future is in exciting young hands.”
Artists of the Ensemble Studio receive a blend of intensive coaching and practical experience through a highly tailored multi-year program that includes understudying and performing mainstage roles. In addition to rigorous training from some of the industry’s best vocal, language, movement, and acting coaches, artists work directly with General Director Perryn Leech, Music Director Johannes Debus, Director of Artistic Planning Roberto Mauro, Director of the Ensemble Studio Dorian Cox, and Liz Upchuch, Head of Music, Ensemble Studio in receiving tailored mentorship and career guidance, as well as artist intensives with internationally acclaimed visiting artists.
“The immersive experience that young artists get through the Ensemble Studio is incomparable and invaluable,” says Cox. “They’re immediately connected to all areas of this incredible company and are given the support to reach their own unique aspirations. You can see from the impressive list of Ensemble Studio alumni that this holistic and individualized approach sets them up for a lifetime of success.”
At the end of this season, four Ensemble Studio members will mark the end of their time in the transformative program: soprano Midori Marsh, bass-baritone Alex Halliday, baritone Jonah Spungin, and pianist Vladimir Soloviev. All four artists were prominently featured in the company’s 22/23 mainstage programming, and will perform a final farewell concert as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre Presented by TD Bank Group.
Karoline Podolak holds a master’s degree from the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Poland. She had her operatic debut at Silesian Opera House as Zuzia in Moniuszko’s Verbum Nobile, and Adele in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. She most recently sang Violetta in La Traviata at the National Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria. In 2021, Podolak won the Toronto-Buffalo District at the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition and was a Region Final Encouragement Winner.
is from Windsor, Ontario and currently based in Montreal, Quebec. Having completed his bachelor’s in voice performance at Wilfrid Laurier University and his master’s in opera and voice performance at McGill University, Harrison has been focused on exploring and refining his voice as well as his expressive abilities. He recently had the opportunity to perform as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and debut roles in collaboration with Montreal-based composers.
Korin Thomas-Smith holds a Master of Music in Opera and a bachelor’s in voice performance from the University of Toronto. Thomas-Smith currently studies at Yale University in the Master of Musical Arts program, and is a past participant of the Ravinia Steans Music Festival, the Music Academy of the West, the Rebanks Family Fellowship, and International Performance Residency. In 2021, he was named one of CBC Music’s “30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30.”
Mattia Senesi holds a bachelor’s degree from the Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali Rinaldo Franci in Siena and master’s degree in piano from the Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali Pietro Mascagni in Livorno. Senesi has won a number of international competitions, both as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles. He’s currently completing his doctorate in collaborative piano at the University of Montreal where he served as collaborative pianist for Projet Nouvel Opéra and for the university’s L’École LUMI.
Auditions for the 2024/2025 Ensemble Studio will open this spring and the next COC Ensemble Studio Competition is scheduled for October 26, 2023, with full details to follow at a later date.
For more information on the Ensemble Studio and its artists, please visit coc.ca/Ensemble
BMO Financial GroupThe COC Ensemble Studio is Underwritten By:
The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, with major support from Anne & Tony Arrell, Marjorie & Roy Linden, The MacNeill Family Foundation, Wendy J. Thompson, The Azrieli Foundation, RBC Foundation, The Slaight Family Foundation, and Stingray, and additional support from ARIAS: Canadian Opera Student Development Fund, Marcia Lewis Brown, Catherine Fauquier, George & Irene Hamilton, Patrick and Barbara Keenan Foundation, Joy Levine, Patricia & Frank Mills, and Brian Wilks.
Thank you to the entire COC community, including our COC Board of Directors, our Corporate Sponsors and Foundation Supporters, generous public funders, union partners, and—most critically—our audience. Your inspiring support ensures that opera flourishes, uniting global audiences and paving the way for a vibrant future