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 6: In Conversation with Perryn Leech and Alexander Neef

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.

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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.



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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