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.

EPISODE 2: Sounds Like Opera

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.

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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.


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



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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