• Meet the Centre Stage Finalists

    By COC Staff

    On November 3, our annual Ensemble Studio Competition makes its return following a two-year hiatus! After weeks of auditions and callbacks, seven talented finalists will descend on the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts to perform live at Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition in front of a public audience and with the full force of the COC Orchestra accompanying them.

    These young voices are some of the best emerging opera singers in the country. Next week, they showcase their talent from a national platform—competing for cash prizes, a chance to join the COC Ensemble Studio, and your vote for Canada’s next opera star.

    Read on to get to know the remarkable emerging voices who will be front and centre at the competition next week!

    COC: What are your hobbies and interests outside classical music?

    Hannah Crawford: I absolutely love creative writing and drawing abstract paintings with watercolour pens.

    River Guard: Acting, practicing guitar, spending time with family, and shawarma!

    Wesley Harrison: I love spending time gardening, camping, or cooking. 

    Matthew Li: I love going to art museums and seeing the limitless potential of human creativity and curiosity!

    Laura Nielsen: I love going to sporting events and I especially love supporting our Canadian athletes during the Olympics! 

    Karoline Podolak: I love the outdoors (especially hiking and fishing), skiing, playing guitar, film photography, theatre, vintage finds, traveling.

    Korin Thomas-Smith: I spend most of my free time working out or playing Sudoku, regardless of how bad I still am at both of those activities. I’ve also gotten really into watching dog training and dog grooming videos recently, despite having never had a dog.

    COC: What’s something people don’t know about you?

    Hannah Crawford: I am actually pretty good at plumbing! Once in a cold winter up north, I had to re-wire and install a new water pump for my parent's house in -30℃ weather and I learned how by watching YouTube videos!

    River Guard: I write and record my own music.

    Wesley Harrison: I can make latte art!

    Matthew Li: Before I started singing, I really wanted to become a professional badminton player.

    Laura Nielsen: I have a particular knack for thrifting vintage clothing.

    Karoline Podolak: I played the guitar and sang a duet with Vance Joy.

    Korin Thomas-Smith: I can fall asleep practically anywhere, am a horrible snorer, and my favourite book of all time is Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

    COC: What’s the best thing about opera?

    Hannah Crawford: It transports you into another person’s world for a few hours, totally enrapturing you with each phrase or musical line. It is like a mini-vacation!

    River Guard: Experiencing truly great singing live; you don't just see and hear it, but you feel it in your being. 

    Wesley Harrison: How an emotion can be portrayed several different ways based on how we vocalize it. 

    Matthew Li: For me, it is the chance to witness the fullest potential of the human voice in singing really amazing music, and telling epic stories.

    Laura Nielsen: The larger-than-life stories we get to tell on stage!

    Karoline Podolak: It’s hard to put into words the feeling you get when singing or hearing some of the most beautiful moments in opera, and the exhilaration of experiencing what the voice is capable of achieving and producing.

    Korin Thomas-Smith: The catharsis of screaming, but getting paid for it. But really, the physical sensation of singing is truly unmatched! You should try it!

    COC: When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?

    Hannah Crawford: I grew up around the arts and music my entire life. I was very fortunate but I knew when I had a young girl come up to me in tears, saying how moved she was by my music. It became clear that I needed to tell a story to the world, and opera provides that for me.

    River Guard: Even though I have been studying classical voice since I was 17, I rediscovered my desire to sing opera at the beginning of 2022 through the recordings of truly great singers from the late 19th and early 20th century. While bathing in the mastery of these voices past, I found a pathway to my true voice and haven't looked back since.

    Wesley Harrison: I knew I wanted to be an opera singer when I was 14 and could find more musical exploration through my singing as opposed to my piano playing. 

    Matthew Li: While browsing recordings for a high school music project, I came across a recording of the great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing “Votre toast” from Bizet’s Carmen on YouTube. It was after hearing his voice I thought to myself, “I want to sound like that guy!”

    Laura Nielsen: I think my love for art, music, literature, and theatre helped me fall into this art form.

    Karoline Podolak: I have always loved singing, however my love for opera was sparked when I was a child watching Constanze’s aria in the film Amadeus (my family’s favourite movie) and eventually life lead me through an unexpected and exciting path to becoming an opera singer.

    Korin Thomas-Smith: I learned I wanted to be a musician in the third grade, but I realized I wanted to be an opera singer when I didn’t want to take my Music Education courses.

    COC: What’s your dream role to perform?

    Hannah Crawford: I would love to sing the Countess from The Marriage of Figaro or, in the distant future, Senta from The Flying Dutchman.

    River Guard: My dream roles are the title roles in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann and Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George.

    Wesley Harrison: I believe I am always growing and adjusting my goals but for the moment a dream role of mine is Nemorino in The Elixir of Love or Timothy in Fellow Travelers.

    Matthew Li: Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni—he’s got great music and is such a playful character!

    Laura Nielsen: My answer to this question changes daily but I would love to perform Mimí from Puccini’s La Bohème one day soon!

    Karoline Podolak: I have many but right now it’s the title character from Lucia di Lammermoor.

    Korin Thomas-Smith: If I have to sing as a baritone, Pelléas from Pelléas et Mélisande, or Scarpia from Tosca (“Te Deum?” More like “Te Bae-um.”) But if I could sing anything, it’d be Gilda from Rigoletto.

    Join us for the thrilling final round of the national Ensemble Studio Competition by booking your Competition Experience ticket today!

    Buy Tickets
    Posted in 22/23 Season


Phone: 416-363-8231

Toll Free: 1-800-250-4653

Contact Page

Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube