The Canadian Children’s Opera Company (originally Chorus) was founded in 1968 by Ruby Mercer and Music Director Lloyd Bradshaw specifically to provide a stable source of child singers for productions of the Canadian Opera Company.
Subsequent Music Directors included Donald Kendrick, Derek Holman, and John Tuttle. In 2000, with the hiring of the CCOC’s first Executive Artistic Director, Ann Cooper Gay, the operatic focus of the organization was enhanced with the inclusion of an even balance of drama training and music literacy alongside choral singing.
The CCOC remains the only permanent children’s opera company in Canada that commissions and produces operas for children on a regular basis. Having commissioned and premiered half a dozen children’s operas in the first 25 years of its existence, the CCOC has redoubled its determination to create a viable canon of children’s opera since the arrival of Ann Cooper Gay. Recent major opera commissions include A Dickens of a Christmas in 2005, The Secret World of Og in 2010, and Laura’s Cow: The Legend of Laura Secord, premiered in June 2012. Children are involved every year in a production with high-profile professional directors, designers, singers and coaches drawn from the Canadian and international opera community.
The company regularly collaborates and performs with other leading arts organizations, such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Hannaford Street Silver Band, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Soundstreams Canada, and the Luminato Festival. Five commercial recordings have been released, including the 2006 recording of A Midwinter Night’s Dream that garnered a Juno nomination in 2007. The CCOC’s second European tour, to Central Europe in summer 2007, was met with critical acclaim. The CCOC’s third European tour, also to Central Europe in summer 2011, garnered a second prize win in the Summa Cum Laude competition in Vienna.
Two Junior Choruses (AC and IC) were added to the main program in 1988 to provide basic training for children ages 6 to 11 years and in 1999, the Ruby Chorus was created to introduce 5- and 6-year-olds to music and drama through singing games and eurhythmic training. In 2002, the CCOC introduced the Canadian Youth Opera Chorus for boys with changed voices and girls ages 16 to young adult in order to provide further training and experience as a bridge to university programs. Due to the popularity of the CCOC’s programs, a further chorus was created in 2010. The Butterfly Chorus introduces 3 and 4 year olds to drama and singing. From 32 original members, the CCOC has now grown to around 200 children and youth participants.
In 2009, OPERAtion KIDS, the CCOC’s outreach arm, was formally created and has since expanded to include after-school and in-school programs, along with educator training. The CCOC also maintains a bursary program which allows equal access to it’s core program for talented individuals.
In 2008, the name was changed to Canadian Children’s Opera Company to reflect the significant amount of work the CCOC does in presenting full-scale productions and commissioning new operatic works created for children to perform.