Out of a pool of 120 aspiring opera singers from across the country, eight were selected to compete at Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition on November 3, 2015, our annual celebration of the next generation of opera stars selected from nationwide auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio—Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. The competition features the young singers vying for cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 to $5,000. We interviewed our eight young finalists to learn more—check out all of the interviews, linked by name as they become available, here (or here if on a mobile device).
Stratford, Ontario native and soprano Eliza Johnson studied at the University of Toronto, where her roles included Governess in The Turn of the Screw, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Despina in Così fan tutte, Rob Ford’s Mother in Rob Ford: The Opera and Lucy in The Telephone. Additional credits include Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (Highlands Opera Studio); Berta in The Barber of Seville and Soeur Valentine in Dialogues des Carmélites (Opera Theatre of St. Louis); Pamina in The Magic Flute (Opera Lyra’s Opera Studio); and concert appearances with the University of Toronto and Stratford symphony orchestras, and Stratford Summer Music. Recently, Ms. Johnson won First Prize in the Brian Law Opera Competition with the National Capital Opera Society and was a finalist for the Ryan Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
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Originally from Kitchener, Ontario, soprano Samantha Pickett studied opera at McGill and Wilfrid Laurier universities. Her credits include Anna in Crush (Banff Centre); the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro (Opera McGill and Opera Laurier); La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, understudy for the title role in Suor Angelica and Elle in La voix humaine (Opera McGill); Micaëla in Carmenand Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Opera NUOVA); Mrs. Demers in City Workers in Love, Lady Gerstein in One Lump or Two, Sophia in May 23, and First Lady in The Magic Flute (Opera Laurier). She recently participated in the St. Andrews by-the-Sea Opera Workshop and the Bel Canto Summer Voice Program in Munich.
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A native of Laval, Quebec, mezzo-soprano Pascale Spinney studied opera at McGill University and is a current member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. Her recent credits include Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (Opéra de Montréal); Dora in A Little Too Cozy (Banff Centre); Fatmé in Zémire et Azor (Violons du Roy); Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel (VIVace); Véronique in Le Docteur Miracle (Stu&Jess Productions); the title role in Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Third Lady in The Magic Flute, Epicene in Volpone, and Eustazio in Rinaldo (Opera McGill). Upcoming roles include Stephano and Gertrude in Jeunesses Musicales du Canada’s touring production of Roméo et Juliette.
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001