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THE SCOOP | Four Artists Join The COC Ensemble Studio For 2022-23

By Anya Wassenberg on June 16, 2022

Incoming members of the COC Ensemble Studio, Queen Hezumuryango, Ariane Cossette, Alex Hetherington, and Brian Cho (Photos courtesy of the artists)
Incoming members of the COC Ensemble Studio, Queen Hezumuryango, Ariane Cossette, Alex Hetherington, and Brian Cho (Photos courtesy of the artists)

The COC Ensemble Studio is adding four new artists to the company for its 2022/2023 season. New members soprano Ariane Cossette, mezzo-sopranos Queen Hezumuryango and Alex Hetherington, and pianist Brian Cho will join returning sopranos Charlotte Siegel and Midori Marsh, baritone Jonah Spungin, bass-baritone Alex Halliday, and pianist Vladimir Soloviev in August.

The COC Ensemble Studio is a specialized development program for Canadian opera professionals. Involvement brings a host of benefits.

  • Experience performing on the COC’s mainstage;
  • The opportunity to work directly with COC General Director Perryn Leech, COC Music Director Johannes Debus, and Director of Artistic Planning Roberto Mauro;
  • A customized mentorship program that offers guidance on career path;
  • Specific training in voice, language, movement, and acting skills from some of the industry’s best;
  • Masterclasses with visiting artists.

“The term ‘emerging’ is often applied to the young artists of this program, but I cannot stress enough the incredible talent of these incoming artists,” says Perryn Leech in a media release. “By giving opportunities on our mainstage, in recital, and across all company work, we’re not only better able to provide the real-life experience every artist requires to grow and flourish in this industry, we’re also proudly presenting the next generation of Canadian opera talent to our audiences throughout each and every season.”

“More than ever, we’re looking to take a holistic approach to artist development,” says Roberto Mauro, Director, Artistic Planning. “With each member of the Ensemble Studio, we’re considering their pathway to this career, their personal goals and priorities, and seeking out how we can best support their individual journey in a way that sets them up for long-term success.”

About the artists…

  • Ariane Cossette: from Trois-Rivières, Quebec with a bachelor’s degree from Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and a master’s degree from Université de Montréal, her credits include Micaëla in La tragédie de Carmen (Université de Montréal) and Selene in Endymion’s Dream (COSA Canada).
  • Queen Hezumuryango: originally from Burundi, her credits to date include Tisbe in La Cenerentola (Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance), Carmen in La tragédie de Carmen (Atelier d’opéra à l’Université de Montréal), and Third Wood Sprite in Rusalka (Toronto Summer Opera Workshop). She recently began a doctorate in vocal performance at l’Université de Montréal, with a thesis exploring the contribution of Black composers to classical music.
  • Alex Hetherington: The Toronto native is currently completing a Masters of Opera Performance at the University of Toronto; past performances as Rosina in The Barber of Seville, the title role in La tragédie de Carmen (UofT Opera), as well as The House in Tapestry Opera’s cast recording of Rocking Horse Winner. As a composer, she is currently completing a research-creation project combining art song performance practice and modern gender theory.
  • Brian Cho: From London, Ontario, he completed his Bachelor of Musical Arts and Masters in Collaborative Piano at Western University. Subsequently, he participated in the Orford Summer Music Academy and the Accademia Europea Dell’Opera. Cho is the co-founder and head coach of Can of Soup Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to making opera accessible and relatable to wider audiences.

The appointments come after auditions that began with video submissions in fall 2021. Seventy singers in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal then completed live follow-up auditions. The eight finalists came to the COC in March 2022 for working sessions that culminated in the final auditions, adjudicated by COC General Director Perryn Leech along with key members of the COC’s artistic and music staff: Johannes Debus (Music Director), Roberto Mauro (Director, Artistic Planning), Dorian Cox (Director, Ensemble Studio), Liz Upchurch (Head of the Ensemble Studio), and Wendy Nielsen (Head Vocal Consultant).

The list of finalists includes: soprano Sydney Baedke, soprano Ariane Cossette, soprano Hannah Crawford, mezzo-soprano Alex Hetherington, mezzo-soprano Queen Hezumuryango, tenor Elias Theocharidis, baritone Alex Mathews, and baritone Mikelis Rogers.

“The level of applicants we saw from across Canada was extraordinarily high, a fact that is especially impressive given that many were only able to sing from their living rooms 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 ongoing success through an industry still in recovery, and will be eagerly watching as they lead the way to a new era of live opera!”

Four Ensemble Studio members are leaving to make way for the new crop of artists. Soprano Jamie Groote, tenor Matthew Cairns, bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian, and pianist Frances Thielmann were all features in the COC’s live and digital offerings. All will also be moving on to new professional opportunities: Thielmann has been named Head Coach at Edmonton Opera, Gabrielian will debut with Vancouver Opera, Groote will make her debut with Manitoba Opera, and Cairns has been accepted into Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program starting in the 2022/2023 season.

Groote, Cairns, and Gabrielian will be returning to the COC mainstage in the upcoming season’s productions.

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THE SCOOP |The National Ballet of Canada Taking Distinctive Program To New York City Center In March 2023

By Anya Wassenberg on June 14, 2022

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SCRUTINY | Toronto Symphony Orchestra Closes Classical Season With A Triumphant Beethoven 9th

By Joseph So on June 16, 2022

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