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THE SCOOP | Soprano Midori Marsh Wins First Prize Of The 2023 Louis And Christina Quilico Awards

By Joseph So on February 10, 2023

L-R: Christina Petrowska Quilico, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Bruce Bennett, Ariane Cossette, Alex Hetherington, Midori Marsh, Perryn Leech, Steven Philcox, Carolyn Sproule (Photo: Karen Reeves)
L-R: Christina Petrowska Quilico, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Bruce Bennett, Ariane Cossette, Alex Hetherington, Midori Marsh, Perryn Leech, Steven Philcox, Carolyn Sproule (Photo: Karen Reeves)

After a hiatus of four years due to the Pandemic, the Louis and Christina Quilico Awards resumed on February 6 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre.

Established in 2003, the award is granted to winners of a competition among members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio. The Quilico Award is administered under the umbrella of the Ontario Arts Foundation (OAF), an organization committed to building long term support for the arts in Ontario. The most recent competition took place in February 2019, with First Prize going to soprano Anna-Sophie Neher. Baritone Joel Allison won Second Prize, and soprano Simona Genga Third Prize.

Hailed as Canada’s great Verdi baritone during his long and distinguished career, Louis Quilico passed away in July 2000. The Award was established by pianist Christina Quilico in memory of her late husband. Christina Quilico says, “Louis had wanted to establish this award before he died. It was really his vision to help young opera singers. Launching an award was something we could do to leave a legacy in memory of Louis’ success as a singer, and as a support to future generations.”

Many past award recipients have gone on to fine careers. A case in point is the current COC winter season, where two previous winners are singing with the COC in starring roles, and earning audience and critical accolades. 2013 winner soprano Ambur Braid scored a huge triumph on opening night in the title role in Salome. Also making a successful homecoming is 2015 winner baritone Gordon Bintner, as a vocally and dramatically superb Count in The Marriage of Figaro. They are both fest artists at Frankfurt Opera.

The 2023 COC Ensemble Studio singers participating in the competition included sopranos Midori Marsh, Ariane Cossette and Charlotte Siegel, mezzos Alex Hetherington and Queen Hezumuryango, and bass-baritone Alex Halliday. The (non-competing) Ensemble pianists were Vlad Soloviev and Brian Cho. Baritone Jonah Spungin, a current member of the Ensemble, did not compete. I am told that he has been given release from the Ensemble to sing in Kaija Saariaho’s Adriana Mater at Norrlandsoperan.

The jury panel this year consisted of COC General Director Perryn Leech, mezzo Carolyn Sproule, and pianist Steven Philcox. Each contestant submitted a list of three arias, and they each sang one aria of their choice. A second aria was chosen by the jury panel. As is typical of these RBA free concerts, it was a full house.

I have attended many of the previous Quilico Awards competitions, and it was always enjoyable. There’s nothing quite like hearing fresh, young voices giving their all, and knowing that some of them will have fine careers. As in all competitions, there are winners and there are also-rans. That said, one should keep in mind that these young artists have already been selected, through a vigorous, coast-to-coast selection process, to join the COC Ensemble Studio. It’s safe to say that they are all winners.

At the end, the jury panel took time out to deliberate, and returned with the announcement: First Prize went to soprano Midori Marsh, Second Prize to Ariane Cossette, and Third Prize to mezzo Alex Hetherington. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with the decision of the jury panel. Ms. Marsh is the outstanding singer in this year’s Ensemble, combining a sparkling voice with an effervescent stage persona. I predict a fine career ahead of her.

For those of you who missed the competition, you’ll get a chance to hear them in supporting roles in COC mainstage performances of Salome, The Marriage of Figaro, Macbeth, and Tosca.

Midori Marsh and Alex Halliday will sing Les Adieux, their farewell recital at the RBA at noon on Feb. 21. Baritone Jonah Spungin and pianist Vlad Soloviev will perform in theirs on May 30. See you there!


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Joseph So
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