Thursday, July 9, 2020

Countdown to the COC Ensemble Studio Competition Gala

Glitz and Glamour abound as the COC Vocal Showcase takes Centre Stage in Toronto.

The Canadian Opera Company really knows how to promote young talent while raising funds that support the opera house. I know many theatres that could learn from their example. Their latest event is a Gala dinner and competition that will feature the finalists from the Ensemble Studio Competition. The Ensemble Studio is the resident Young Artist Program (YAP) at the Canadian Opera.

I love the way they open the final round of auditions to the public in the form of a concert, instead of hiding away the talent in a closed audition setting. This way the singers get extra exposure and have the opportunity to be adjudicated during a performance, instead of in a potentially nerve-wracking, and stifling audition room.

Ensemble Studio Competition finalists and winners with Centre Stage host Rufus Wainwright, 2013. Photo: Michael Cooper
Ensemble Studio Competition finalists and winners with Centre Stage host Rufus Wainwright, 2013. Photo: Michael Cooper

The company has the opportunity to fundraise by hosting a swanky event that compliments the competition, and the public has the opportunity to hear fresh talent, have a few cocktails, and if they are so inclined, to enjoy an intimate, post-concert black-tie dinner on stage catered by Chef David Lee. The whole thing is fab, and the audience even gets to vote for their favourite singer. After the concert, the winners receive a cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 – $5,000, and the newest additions to the Ensemble Studio are announced.

Ben Heppner will host the festivities when the seven singers perform on the mainstage accompanied by the COC Orchestra conducted by Johannes Debus. They also have a surprise musical guest lined up to perform with the Orchestra. It’s anyone’s guess who will be singing.

Some official info:

The young singers featured in the 2014 vocal competition are: mezzo-soprano Zoe Band (Toronto); soprano Eliza Johnson (Stratford, Ont.); baritone Dimitri Katotakis (Toronto); baritone Nathan Keoughan (Charlottetown); tenor Aaron Sheppard (St. John’s, N.L.); mezzo-soprano Michelle Siemens (Calgary); and tenor Charles Sy (Toronto). You can learn more about the singers by visiting Centre Stage.

The jury is comprised of COC General Director Alexander Neef, COC Artistic Administrator Roberto Mauro, COC Music Administrator Sandra Gavinchuk and Head of the COC Ensemble Studio Liz Upchurch, as well as Canadian soprano and Ensemble Studio Head Vocal Consultant Wendy Nielsen.

Photo: Jenna Marie Wakani
Photo: Jenna Marie Wakani

Here are the details of you would like to attend (please send me photos or video, I wish I could be there!):

Centre Stage takes place at 6:30 p.m. in R. Fraser Elliott Hall at the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W.). Centre Stage Competition tickets are $100 and include a pre-competition cocktail celebration in the Four Seasons Centre’s sparkling Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room. Specially priced $35 tickets are also available for patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 through Opera Under 30 sponsored by TD Bank Group.




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