Four artists join the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble studio
The COC Ensemble Studio welcomes four new artists for the company’s 2022/2023 season: soprano Ariane Cossette, mezzo-sopranos Queen Hezumuryango and Alex Hetheringtonand pianist Brian Cho.
The four will officially join the highly specialized development program for Canadian opera professionals in August, alongside returning sopranos Charlotte Siegel and Midori Marsh, baritone Jonah Spungin, bass-baritone Alex Halliday and pianist Vladimir Soloviev.
In addition to gaining invaluable performance experience on the main stage, which has always been a fundamental pillar of The Studio Ensembleartists will also work directly with COC CEO Perryn Leech, COC Music Director Johannes Debus and Artistic Planning Director Roberto Mauro to receive tailored mentorship and career guidance, as well as training from some of the best singers, languages, movements and acting coaches, as well as masterclasses with internationally renowned guest artists.
“The term ’emerging’ is often applied to young artists in this program, but I can’t stress enough the incredible talent of these new artists,” says Leech. “By providing opportunities on our main stage, in recital and across all company work, we are not only better able to provide the real-world experience every artist needs to grow and thrive in this industry, we are also proud to introduce the next generation of Canadian operatic talent to our audiences throughout each season.”
Ariane Cossette is originally from Trois-Rivières, Quebec and holds a bachelor’s degree from the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and a master’s degree from the Université de Montréal. As a concert soloist, she has performed with the Eternal Choirs in France, and on stage her credits include Micaëla in The Tragedy of Carmen (University of Montreal) and Selene in Endymion’s Dream (COSA Canada).
Queen Hezumuryango’s experience and passion for music spans a variety of styles, including opera, recital and musical theatre. Hailing from Burundi, her credits to date include Tisbe in La Cenerentola (Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance), Carmen in The Tragedy of Carmen (Atelier d’Opéra at the University of Montreal) and Third Wood Sprite in Rusalka (Toronto Summer Opera Workshop). Recently, she undertook a doctorate in vocal performance at the University of Montreal, with a thesis exploring the contribution of black composers to classical music.
Alex Hetherington of Toronto is currently completing a Masters in Opera Performance at the University of Toronto. Recent engagements include performances as Rosina in The Barber of Seville, the title role in The Tragedy of Carmen (UofT Opera), as well as The House’s recording of Rocking Horse Winner in Tapestry Opera. As a composer with an interest in musicology, she is currently completing a research-creation project examining the practice of art song performance through the prism of modern genre theory.
Brian Cho grew up in London, Ontario where he completed his Bachelor of Musical Arts and Masters in Collaborative Piano at Western University and has since attended the Orford Summer Music Academy and Accademia Europea Dell’Opera . In addition to being an accomplished concert pianist and musical director, Cho is the co-founder and head coach of Can of Soup Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to making opera accessible and accessible to a wider audience.
“More than ever, we seek to take a holistic approach to artist development,” says Roberto Mauro. “With every member of The Studio Ensemblewe look at their path to that career, their personal goals and priorities, and look at how we can best support their individual journey in a way that sets them up for long-term success.”
Auditions for 22/23 Ensemble Studio kicked off with a series of video submissions in the fall of 2021 that led to follow-up live auditions of 70 singers in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. After initial delays due to changing COVID-19 conditions, eight finalists were invited to the COC in March to participate in working sessions and voice coaching that culminated in a final round of auditions. This year’s finalists were: soprano Sydney Baedke, soprano Ariane Cossette, soprano Hannah Crawford, mezzo-soprano Alex Hetheringtonmezzo-soprano Queen Hezumuryango, tenor Elias Theocharidis, baritone Alex Mathews and baritone Mikelis Rogers.
The final auditions were judged by the COC’s Executive Director, Perryn Leech, as well as key members of the COC’s artistic and musical staff: Johannes Debus (Music Director), Roberto Mauro (Director, Artistic Planning), Dorian Cox (Director, , Ensemble Studio), Liz Upchurch (Head of The Studio Ensemble) and Wendy Nielsen (Senior Vocal Consultant).
“The level of applicants we saw from across Canada was extraordinarily high, a particularly impressive fact given that many were only able to sing from their living room for most of the two years leading up to these auditions,” says Dorian Cox. “We are also so proud of our graduating artists for their continued success in an ever-recovering industry, and we will look forward to watching them as they usher in a new era of live opera!”
At the end of the 2021/2022 season, four members of Ensemble Studio will mark the end of their time on the program: soprano Jamie Groote, tenor Matthew Cairns, bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian and pianist Frances Thielmann. All four were featured prominently in the company’s digital and in-person offerings in 2021/2022, with exciting new professional opportunities to come: Thielmann has been named head coach at Edmonton Opera, Gabrielian will make his debut with Vancouver Opera, Groote will make her debut with Manitoba Opera. , and Cairns has been accepted into the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program beginning in the 2022/2023 season. The three singers will return to the main stage of the COC in the next season.
The COC Ensemble Studio Competition will return for live audiences on November 3, 2022, with full details to follow at a later date.