• An Update on Our Young Artists

    By Liz Upchurch, Head of the COC Ensemble Studio


    I’m writing to you from my new office: my piano, which is pulling double duty as both my instrument and my desk.

    As the Head of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, our training program for rising young opera stars, I wanted to give you an update on what we’ve been up to. As a program that focuses on performance and collaboration, switching over to digital methods has been an interesting and challenging time for us.

    We’ve figured out how to translate much of our training into this new virtual world: we sing and play together through timed digital recordings, meet on Zoom for regular check-ins and chats, and we are busy planning an online concert to celebrate the program’s 2019/2020 season.

    It’s not quite the same, though. This is the time of year that graduating members perform their farewell concerts, which is always an emotional moment — and May 27 was meant to be this year’s Operanation, a massive party that features performances by Ensemble Studio members in collaboration with contemporary artists.

    Ensemble Studio artists Simona Genga, Anna-Sophie Neher and Rachael Kerr performing
    with Joseph of Mercury at Operanation in 2018


    Operanation is also one of our most important fundraising moments for the Ensemble Studio. Given this unfortunate financial loss, if it is within your present means, please consider making a donation to support these brilliant young artists. An incredible anonymous donor has agreed to match every gift we receive by June 30, dollar-for-dollar, which means your gift will go twice as far for this vital training program.

    In this challenging time for the performing arts, I hope we can call on your generosity to help ensure the COC can continue to provide world-class training, mentorship, and performance opportunities for the next generation.




    To me, the Ensemble Studio represents hope.  They are the next generation, the brightest opera talents in Canada. It is up to us to recognize their potential and to give them the opportunities they deserve, so that they can go out into the world and make it a better place with their artistry.

    You will see a Canadian on every great stage in the world — how is it that from such a small population, we produce so many extraordinary performers? It is not by accident. It is your support of programs like the Ensemble Studio that strengthens and sustains Canada's remarkable operatic talent.

    Whether or not a gift is within your present means, you can also support these artists by following any and all live music right now — including through the COC’s Digital Content Hub at coc.ca/Hub, which features a regularly updated catalogue of our virtual events, musical excerpts, and online community performances. You simply can’t quarantine music — it always finds a way to connect us.

    I want to finish this note to you with the names of the amazing artists currently in our Ensemble Studio. Write them down — I know you will soon see them on stages around the world: bass-baritone Joel Allison, tenor Matthew Cairns, bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian, mezzo-soprano Simona Genga, mezzo-soprano Jamie Groote, pianist Rachael Kerr, soprano Lauren Margison, soprano Anna-Sophie Neher, and pianist Alex Soloway.


    Thank you for supporting the future of live opera. From my work with these brilliant young performers, I know it’s a bright one. And when we can throw open our doors once again and present you with transformative live performances…they will be ready.




    The Canadian Opera Company and other arts organizations in Toronto are facing unprecedented financial challenges due to the effects of COVID-19. If it is possible for you at this time, we respectfully ask you to consider making a donation.





    Photo credits (top to bottom): Liz Upchurch, photo: Chris Hutcheson; (l-r) Simona Genga and Anna-Sophie Neher performing with Joseph of Mercury at Operanation in 2018, photo: Gaetz Photography; Liz Upchurch and the 2019/2020 COC Ensemble Studio, photo: Gaetz Photography.

    Posted in COC Ensemble

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