Ensemble Studio


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The COC Ensemble Studio is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. Since the inception of the program in 1980, over 230 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio. Former members include Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Allyson McHardy, and Krisztina Szabó.

The members of the Ensemble Studio are the COC’s resident artists and important ambassadors for the company. The COC’s pioneering, collaborative approach to training ensures that  singers receive a blend of advanced study and practical experience through an individually tailored, multi-year program, involving understudying and performing mainstage roles, intensive vocal coaching, language, movement and acting studies, and career skills development, as well as participation in masterclasses with internationally renowned opera professionals. Intern coaches participate in the preparation of the company's mainstage productions, as well as art song recitals and Ensemble Studio performances.

The Ensemble Studio is chosen through a national audition process which culminates in the Ensemble Studio Competition, the feature event of the COC’s annual fundraising gala Centre Stage.

  • The COC Ensemble Studio Competition

    The Ensemble Studio Competition is the feature event of Centre Stage, the Canadian Opera Company’s annual fundraising gala. It is an awe-inspiring showcase for emerging Canadian talent, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Ensemble Studio graduates such as Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Joseph Kaiser, Wendy Nielsen, John Fanning, and many more. Finalists in the Ensemble Studio Competition perform from the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre, accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus.

    The competition was launched in 2011 by COC General Director Alexander Neef to showcase the operatic talent the COC had scouted from across the country and create a public platform for celebrating the future of opera in Canada. With the creation of Centre Stage in 2013, the competition was moved from the intimate setting of the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing to R. Fraser Elliott Hall, opening the Ensemble Studio Competition to an audience of over 1,000 guests.

    The annual Ensemble Studio audition process, open only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, takes COC artistic staff across Canada for preliminary auditions, followed by a final callback audition at the COC’s Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto. It’s from this pool of singers that finalists are selected for the Ensemble Studio Competition.

    Applying for the Ensemble Studio

    Thank you for your interest in the Canadian Opera Company. 

    The online application for the 2018/2019 COC Ensemble Studio is now available. Please find the application and 2018 Audition Schedule below. For more information, contact the COC's Ensemble Studio Administrator at 416-363-6671 or send an e-mail to ensemble@coc.ca.


    Click here to view the video submission guidelines.

    Audition Schedule

    Round 1: Video Submissions
    August 10: Application available on coc.ca
    September 5: Deadline for submissions

    Round 2: Live Auditions
    September 20: Calgary auditions
    September 29: Montreal auditions
    October 1 - 4: Toronto auditions

    Round 3: Competition/Centre Stage Gala
    October 28 - 31: Toronto callbacks
    November 1: Competition and Centre Stage Gala

  • Samuel Chan – Baritone

    A native of Calgary, baritone Samuel Chan received his bachelor of music from the University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music (CCM). He placed second in the COC’s 2016 Ensemble Studio Competition and was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions–Western Canada District in 2015. His credits include Moralès in Carmen (Brott Music Festival); Gomatz in Zaïde, Calandrino in L’oca del Cairo, and Don Asdrubale in Lo sposo deluso (City Opera Vancouver); Donkey in The Bremen Town Musicians and Jacob Grimm in The Brothers Grimm (Highlands Opera Studio); Ruggiero in Alcina and Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (Opera D’Arte at CCM); Page in Amahl and the Night Visitors (Clermont Philharmonic Orchestra); and Pastore II/Apollo in L’Orfeo (Cincinnati Chamber Opera). This season with the COC, he appears as Second Japanese Envoy in The Nightingale and Other Short Fables and as the Usher in Rigoletto.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Lauren Eberwein – Soprano

    Qualicum Beach, British Columbia native Lauren Eberwein placed second in the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio Competition in 2015 and made her COC debut as Wellgunde in Götterdämmerung in 2017. She is a graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music and was an Emerging Artist with Opera Philadelphia. Her credits include Der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos, Mère Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites, Olivia in Cold Mountain and Clairon in Capriccio (Opera Philadelphia). She made her Carnegie Hall debut singing Handel's Israel in Egypt with the New York Choral Society and last season made her Lincoln Center recital debut at Alice Tully Hall. An avid chamber musician, Ms. Eberwein is a member of Philadelphia-based Gamut Bach Ensemble and is in residence at The Marlboro Music Festival. She is the recipient of a 2016 Sullivan Foundation Career Development Grant. In the COC’s 2017/2018 season she sings the roles of Giannetta in The Elixir of Love and Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Rachael Kerr – Pianist/Intern Coach

    Rachael Kerr enjoys varied roles as a pianist. Credits include being a collaborative pianist at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the Académie Orford Musique, a fellow at the Toronto Summer Music Festival, a two-time fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and an opera-coaching fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. As an orchestral pianist, she has performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, the National Ballet of Canada, and the Niagara Symphony. Recently, she was a rehearsal pianist at the TSO for Mozart’s Requiem, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, and Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, among other projects. Ms. Kerr also performs frequently with her piano trio, the MIR Trio. She recently graduated with her doctorate from Northwestern University, where she was concurrently a faculty instructor in music theory. In the COC’s 2017/2018 season, she serves as rehearsal pianist for The Elixir of LoveRigoletto and The Nightingale and Other Short Fables.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Danika Lorèn – Soprano

    A native of Saskatoon, Danika Lorèn is a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Buffalo/Toronto District Auditions, the 2017 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards, the COC’s David and Anne Award, and the 2015 University of Toronto (UofT) Concerto Competition. She made her COC debut in the role of Woglinde in Götterdämmerung. Recent engagements include Coloratura Soprano in Kopernikus (Banff Centre); soloist in A Night at the Opera (Toronto Summer Music Festival); Tiny in Paul Bunyan (UofT Opera); and Rosina in The Barber of Seville (Saskatoon Opera). Orchestral appearances include Richard Strauss’ Op. 27 with the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Fauré’s Requiem with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and Mozart’s Coronation Mass with the London Fanshawe Chorus. She is also founding member of Collectìf, an artist collective dedicated to exploring art song as theatre. Ms. Lorèn completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UofT. This season with the COC, she appears in The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. She will also perform as a soloist in Haydn's Die Schöpfung with Toronto's Pax Christi Chorale in 2018.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Stéphane Mayer – Pianist/Intern Coach

    Pianist Stéphane Mayer is a graduate of McGill University’s Schulich School of Music and studied under Kyoko Hashimoto and Michael McMahon. He also served as vocal coach and accompanist at Western University. In the COC’s 2016/2017 season, he was a rehearsal pianist for Norma, The Magic Flute and Louis Riel, as well as music director for Matthew Aucoin’s Second Nature. He has served as an opera répétiteur for productions of The Marriage of Figaro and Ariadne auf Naxos (Opera NUOVA) and Don Giovanni (Opera McGill). As a piano accompanist, he studied with noted interpreters of German Lied, including Elly Ameling, Robert Holl, Julius Drake, Andreas Schmidt and Roger Vignoles at the Franz-Schubert Institut in Baden bei Wien, Austria. Mr. Mayer also participated in the presentation of two world premieres: The Rocking Horse Winner (Tapestry Opera/Scottish Opera) and Ours (Opera on the Avalon). This season with the COC, Mr. Mayer serves as rehearsal pianist for Arabella, The Abduction from the Seraglio and Anna Bolena.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Simone McIntosh – Mezzo-soprano

    Vancouver-born mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh earned her master of music from the Schulich School of Music at McGill University and received her bachelor’s degree in opera from the University of British Columbia (UBC). Her credits include Ruggiero in Alcina, Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, Judith in Bluebeard's Castle, Waitress in Speed Dating Tonight! and Meg in Little Women (Opera McGill); Donna in Crush (Banff Centre); Béatrice in Béatrice et Bénédict (MY Opera); the Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen, Giulietta in The Tales of Hoffmann and Harry in Albert Herring (UBC Opera Ensemble); Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro (Burnaby Lyric Opera); and Cis in Albert Herring (Vancouver Opera). At the COC this season, she appears in The Nightingale and Other Short Fables and as the Page in Rigoletto.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Samantha Pickett – Soprano

    Originally from Kitchener, Ontario, soprano Samantha Pickett studied opera at McGill and Wilfrid Laurier universities. Her credits include Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Toronto Summer Opera Workshop); Anna in Crush (Banff Centre); the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro (Opera McGill and Opera Laurier); La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi (Opera McGill); Micaëla in Carmen and 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 has participated in the St. Andrews by-the-Sea Opera Workshop and the Bel Canto Summer Voice Program in Munich. Last season with the COC, she appeared in the choruses of Louis Riel and Tosca.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Megan Quick – Mezzo-soprano

    Mezzo-soprano Megan Quick is a native of Brockville, Ontario and completed her diploma in operatic performance at the University of Toronto. Her credits include Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw and Third Lady in The Magic Flute (Chautauqua Vocal Academy); alto soloist in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (Columbus Symphony Orchestra, under the baton on Rossen Milanov); Moppet in Paul Bunyan, Little Buttercup in HMS Pinafore, Baba in The Medium, roles in The Fatal Gaze and The Art of the Prima Donna, and soloist in performances of “Das Lied der Waldtaube” from Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, (UofT Opera). Other engagements include performances of Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra. She is part of the COC Chorus for The Nightingale and Other Short Fables this season.

    Last updated: August 2017

    Bruno Roy – Baritone

    Montreal-born baritone Bruno Roy won Third Prize in the COC’s 2015 Ensemble Studio Competition, and received his bachelor’s degree and master of music performance from McGill University. His recent credits include Belcore in The Elixir of Love (Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal and Opera McGill); John Brooke in Little Women and Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (Opera McGill); Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette (Canadian Vocal Arts Institute); Matt in Crush (Banff Centre); L’Horloge/Le Chat in L’enfant et les sortilèges (Opera on the Avalon); and Papageno in The Magic Flute (Blooming Voce Summer Opera Workshop). He was also a soloist in Carmina Burana with Orchestre Philharmonique et Choeur des Mélomanes (OPCM). In 2017 he appeared as Second Priest in The Magic Flute, the Jailer in Tosca, and as Louis Schmidt and Dr. François Roy in Louis Riel at the COC. This season, he sings the roles of Lamoral in Arabella, Marullo in Rigoletto and appears in The Nightingale and Other Short Fables.

    Last updated: August 2017

  • The COC Ensemble Studio for 2017/2018 with (l-r) mezzo-soprano Megan Quick, pianist/intern coach Stéphane Mayer, pianist/intern coach Rachael Kerr, baritone Samuel Chan, soprano Danika Lorèn, mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh, soprano Samantha Pickett, baritone Bruno Roy, Head of the COC Ensemble Studio Liz Upchurch and soprano Lauren Eberwein.
    The COC Ensemble Studio for 2017/2018 with (l-r) mezzo-soprano Megan Quick, pianist/intern coach Rachael Kerr, baritone Samuel Chan, mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh, soprano Lauren Eberwein, Head of the COC Ensemble Studio Liz Upchurch, baritone Bruno Roy, pianist/intern coach Stéphane Mayer, soprano Danika Lorèn and soprano Samantha Pickett.
    Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio for 2017/2018 (l-r) soprano Samantha Pickett, pianist/intern coach Rachael Kerr, pianist/intern coach Stéphane Mayer, mezzo-soprano Megan Quick, baritone Bruno Roy, soprano Danika Lorèn, mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh, soprano Lauren Eberwein and baritone Samuel Chan.
    Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio for 2017/2018 (l-r) baritone Samuel Chan, soprano Samantha Pickett, pianist/intern coach Rachael Kerr, soprano Lauren Eberwein, pianist/intern coach Stéphane Mayer, soprano Danika Lorèn, mezzo-soprano Megan Quick, mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh and baritone Bruno Roy.
  • Liz Upchurch – Head of the Ensemble Studio
    Liz Upchurch is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, where she won several prizes as solo pianist and accompanist. As a music director, vocal coach and repetiteur she has worked in 21st-century and traditional opera, music theatre, and theatre. She has also covered a wide range of working techniques with singers, actors and instrumentalists in community and educational projects. For many years she worked with young artists at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh where she played for masterclasses with artists such as Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Suzanne Danco, William Pleeth and Dame Joan Sutherland. Ms. Upchurch has also worked at the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg festival in Germany and the National Theatre in London. She held a faculty position in the 20th-century opera and song program at the Banff Centre for the Arts and was repetiteur and chorus director at Edmonton Opera. As a pianist she has performed all over Europe and has been broadcast with the BBC, Norwegian Radio and CBC. Ms. Upchurch also appeared as a judge on Bravo’s hit series, Bathroom Divas: So you want to be an opera singer!
    Wendy Nielsen – Head Vocal Consultant

    After a 25-year career on the international opera and concert stages, soprano Wendy Nielsen is now head of voice and assistant professor in voice and opera at the University of Toronto. She is also Head Vocal Consultant for the COC Ensemble Studio and maintains an active private voice studio in Toronto, teaching many of Canada’s prominent performers. Ms. Nielsen made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1996 as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte under the baton of James Levine. Subsequent performances at the Met over 12 seasons included: Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Micaëla in Carmen and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Her international orchestral performances were numerous, notably opening the Lucerne Summer Festival as Elsa in Lohengrin with Ivan Fisher conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Other significant performances included appearances with the Beijing Philharmonic; New York Philharmonic; Beethoven Festival in Krakow, Poland; Madrid Sinfonica; Prague Autumn Festival; Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Düsseldorf Philharmonic; and Montreal Symphony Orchestra. A native of New Brunswick, Ms. Nielsen attended Mount Allison University and earned a bachelor of music from the University of Lethbridge, as well as a master of music in opera from the University of British Columbia. She also holds three honorary doctorates and has garnered numerous awards recognizing her contributions nationally, provincially, and locally.


    Jennifer Swan – Performance Kinetics Consultant

    As Performance Kinetics Consultant with the COC Ensemble Studio, Jennifer Swan works in private and group sessions with Canada’s top emerging singers. Her methodology creates, sustains and strengthens a singer's breath support, a technique which evolved from her extensive dance and Pilates background. Her voice method has also been an integral part of the program at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI) since 2008. She joined the teaching team at St Andrews by-the-Sea in 2016, has been a regular guest lecturer at the University of Toronto’s voice studies program since 2010, and has led annual workshops at Choirs Ontario since 2012. As resident choreographer for the Toronto Children’s Chorus since 2011, she choreographed the world premiere of Nikmaq by Donald Patriquin as well as debuts of Tsimshian Welcome Chant by Patriquin in 2015 and Arctic Lights by Lori-Anne Dolloff in 2016. Ms. Swan has also worked extensively with various international Olympic athletes, including figure skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. She choreographed their award-winning Carmen in 2013 and their programs for the 2014 Olympics. Ms. Swan is the artistic director of Performance Architects/Swan Studio Dance and Children’s Dance Project in London, Ontario. She obtained her bachelor of arts degree (honours) in dance from the University of Waterloo.


Artists of the 2017/2018 Ensemble Studio. Banner image and headshots by Gaetz Photography

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