Newbies: Welcome to the COC Ensemble Studio! Finalists of the 2013 Ensemble Studio Competition. Photo: Michael Cooper

Newbies: Welcome to the COC Ensemble Studio!

Jenna Simeonov

The Canadian Opera Company has announced the names of three young singers and one pianist who will join the Ensemble Studio in the 201415 season. Soprano Karine Boucher, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and bass-baritone Iain MacNeil were selected out of nine finalists who competed in the third annual Ensemble Studio Competition in November 2013. Karine, Jean-Philippe and Iain were the top three prize winners at the competition, the feature event of Centre Stage, the COC’s first Ensemble Studio Competition Gala. In addition to these talented new young artists, the Ensemble Studio welcomes pianist Jennifer Szeto. The Ensemble Studio is Canada’s most illustrious program for young singers and pianists, offering experience through performance and understudying of mainstage roles, language and acting studies, and coaching with the best people in the industry. Members of the Ensemble Studio are involved in the COC’s annual Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour, which brings opera to young people across Ontario. At the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (an incredibly diverse series not to be missed) you can hear these young singers and pianists in recital.

So, who are these newbies?

Born in Québec City, soprano Karine Boucher is the first prize and audience-choice award winner of the COC’s 2013 Ensemble Studio Competition with her stunning and poised singing of “Piangerò la sorte mia” (she had my vote!). Boucher is a graduate of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. She studied at the Québec Conservatory, and is a grant recipient of the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation. In 2011 she was a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Credits include Annina in La traviata, Inez in_ Il trovatore_ and Kätchen in Werther (Opéra de Montréal); Miss Pinkerton in The Old Maid and the Thief and Micaëla in Carmen (Atelier lyrique); and Damon in Acis and Galatea (Arte Musica). In 2014, Boucher will sing the role of Mimì in the Jeunesses Musicales tour of La bohème.

Tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure won second prize at the COC’s 2013 Ensemble Studio Competition, warming our hearts with his sweet singing of Donizetti’s “Quanto è bella”. Originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, he studied at the University of Montreal. Jean-Philippe has participated in young artist training programs with the National Arts Centre, Centre d’Arts Orford and Académie Internationale d’été Nice. Credits include Pélleas in Pélleas et Mélisande (Nova Scotia Opera Company/Atelier d’Opéra, University of Montreal); Chevalier de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites (Atelier d’Opéra); Beppe in Pagliacci (Opera Lyra Ottawa); Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Curzio/Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro and Mr. Gobineau in The Medium (University of Ottawa Opera Productions); Guard in Manon and Prince of Persia in Turandot (Opera Lyra Ottawa).

Iain MacNeil took third prize at the COC’s 2013 Ensemble Studio Competition with his animated (almost Gumby-like?) performance of Mozart’s “Aprite un po’ quegli occhi”. A native of Brockville, Ontario, MacNeil studied at the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University. Credits include Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Bobby in Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny-Songspiel, Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd, Brewer in Comedy on the Bridge and Tom/John in The Face on the Barroom Floor (Dalhousie Opera Workshop). In 2013, he participated in the Young Singers Project at the Salzburg Festival.

Jennifer Szeto recently served as staff pianist at the Institut Canadien d’Art Vocal in Montreal, an apprentice pianist/coach at a St.-Andrews-by-the-Sea opera workshop in New Brunswick, and staff pianist at the Cowtown Opera Summer Academy in Calgary. Jennifer is a graduate of Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal and studied at McGill University. In 2012, she was an Emerging Artist with the Green Mountain Opera Festival in Vermont and, in Toronto, played for the Metro Youth Opera’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. For Opera McGill, she served as répétiteur for Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La bohème. Other recent engagements include presenting one-act operas in English at the 2012 Halifax Summer Opera Workshop. In 2011 she attended the prestigious Franz Schubert Institute in Austria and served as music director for the Metro Youth Opera Company’s production of Così fan tutte.

So, a grand welcome, new Ensemblers! You are in for a season of big names, big audiences, big experiences and big friendships. I am excited on your behalves.

Are you a fan of the COC’s young artists? Are you one of them? Do you have casting predictions for the Ensemble Studio performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia? Let us know if the comments below!



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