The Canadian Opera Company (COC) has announced that four new artists will be joining its Ensemble Studio for the 2022/23 season: soprano Ariane Cossette, mezzo-sopranos Queen Hezumuryango and Alex Hetherington, and pianist Brian Cho. The group will join the COC’s specialized digital program for Canadian Professionals this August, alongside returning ensemble members baritone Jonah Spungin, sopranos Charlotte Siegel and Midori Marsh, bass-baritone Alex Halliday, and pianist Vladimir Soloviev.
In addition to receiving mainstage performance experience, tailored mentorship and career guidance, the artists will work directly with COC General Director Perryn Leech, COC Music Director Johannes Debus, and Director of Artistic Planning Roberto Mauro. They will also receive training and masterclasses from some of the industry’s leading vocal, language, movement and acting coaches.
“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,” Leech said in a statement. “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.”
Auditions for the 2022/23 Ensemble Studio began with a round of video submissions in the fall of 2021, followed by a round of live auditions from 70 singers in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. Despite COVID-19 delays, eight finalists were invited to join the COC in March to participate in working sessions and vocal coachings that culminated in a final round of auditions. This year’s finalists were: sopranos Sydney Baedke, Ariane Cossette, and Hannah Crawford; mezzo-sopranos Alex Hetherington and Queen Hezumuryango; tenor Elias Theocharidis; and baritones Alex Mathews and Mikelis Rogers. Final auditions were adjudicated by Leech, along with key members of the COC’s artistic and musical staff including 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 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,” Cox said in a statement. “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!”
At the conclusion of the 2021/22 season, Ensemble Studio members soprano Jamie Groote, tenor Matthew Cairns, bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian, and pianist Frances Thielmann will mark the end of their time in the program. The group look forward to an exciting line-up of 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 for the 2022/2023 season. All three singers will return to the COC mainstage in the upcoming season.
The COC Ensemble Studio Competition will return for live audiences on November 3, 2022, with details to follow at a later date. More information on the Ensemble Studio artists is available here.