The first COC Centre Stage Ensemble Studio Competition Gala discovers Canada’s rising opera stars

For the first time in history, the Ensemble Studio of the Canadian Opera Company auditioned singers to perform at the R. Fraser Elliott Hall of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Hosted in front of a live audience and accompanied by the COC orchestra conducted by Music Director Johannes Debus, the event shines the spotlight on emerging young Canadian opera talent and celebrates the future of opera in this country. The COC Ensemble Studio, for more than 30 years had provided a bridge between academic education and the professional world of opera and has an international reputation for developing excellence.

Alexander Neef with vocal competition winners Iain MacNeil, Karine Boucher, Jean Philippe Fortier-Lazure
Alexander Neef with vocal competition winners Iain MacNeil, Karine Boucher, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure

The evening started with a wine and cheese reception in the lobby. Champagne was enjoyed with trays overlade with meat, cheese and fruit. The program in the R. Fraser Elliott Hall was hosted by Rufus Wainwright who himself has written an opera as well as popular music. The judging panel included Alexander Neef, the General Director of the COC, Roberto Mauro, Artistic Administrator of the COC, Sandra Gavinchuk, Music administrator of the COC, Liz Upchurch, Head of the Ensemble Studio as well as Canadian soprano and teacher, Wendy Nielson. Through the use of technology, the audience was allowed the opportunity to vote for their favourite singer. There were nine finalists performing that night from over a hundred who initially auditioned for the Ensemble Studio: Lara Secord- Haid, Francesca Corrado, Jean- Michel Richer, Rachel Wood, Nathan Keoughan, Karine Boucher, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Emma Char and Iain MacNeil. While the audience was waiting for the results of the voting, we were treated to a musical performance by Rufus Wainwright. After an inspiring performance of ‘E pur cosi in un giorno…Piangero las sorte mia” from opera Giulio Cesare, soprano Karine Boucher from Quebec City, Quebec was the voted the winner by the judges as well as the audience. Second place went to tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and in third place was bass baritone Iain MacNeil form Brockville, Ontario.

After the performances, the COC (Canadian Opera Company) hosted a gala to commemorate the many successes of the company. For more information about the Ensemble Studio and Centre Stage, please visit their website: http://www.coc.ca/SupportTheCOC/SpecialEvents/CentreStage.aspx

(Photo Credit: Jenna Wakani and Michael Cooper)

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