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Beyond the music diploma: where young artists go for apprenticeships and professional development.

Each year, talented young singers emerge from music schools across the country, eagerly clutching their diplomas and all set to star in major roles on the first opera stage they can find. But, if they don't know it upon graduation, they soon find out: there is still a lot to learn. So where do they go? Here are some snapshots of Canadian training programs for opera singers with talent and education, but, as yet, limited experience.


Opera programs at the Banff Centre for the Arts include Opera as Theatre, Performing Arts Residencies and vocal pedagogue Richard Armstrong's workshops in extended vocal techniques.

Opera as Theatre, led by Vancouver stage director Glynis Leyshon, is the Centre's flagship training program for young singers to develop essential theatre skills. Last summer, Banff also offered the recently reintroduced Concert and Opera Orchestra Residency. The participants, performing as the Banff Festival Orchestra, accompanied a fully staged production of Le nozze di Figaro. Next summer, John Estacio's Filumena will be produced.

Leading theatre and music pedagogues hold daily acting, movement and voice classes, stressing the significance of body alignment, breath, diction and speech in achieving reliable performances. In group study and one-on-one mentoring, participants are exposed to diverse spoken and sung repertoire to enhance their skills in script analysis and character development. The program also investigates performance styles from various theatrical and musical periods, and offers opera-scene study and vocal master classes with such artists as soprano Edith Wiens and vocal pedagogue Selena James, among many others.

Participants work with an established stage director and conductor to focus on the study, rehearsal and performance of a complete opera or operas as the centrepiece of the annual Banff Summer Arts Festival.


"Each summer, I left Banff feeling energized, inspired and ready for new challenges," says mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal. "Working with the many exceptional core and guest faculty, as well as the amazing group of singers chosen to participate in the program each year, allowed for many opportunities for longer-term friendships and connections. I have been offered two contracts as a result of the program, one of which came out of an audition held in Banff by Bob McPhee of Calgary Opera. The contract is for their Emerging Artist Program, part of which will include a school tour of the Canadian opera, Turtle Wakes."

Richard Armstrong's International Voice Workshops explore and expand range and character. Special emphasis is placed on the connection between the voice and personality of each participant, and workshops may include some improvisation.

Performing Arts Residencies are offered in dance, theatre, opera/music theatre and interdisciplinary forms. Applications are accepted from individuals, groups and companies. A residency allows opera companies, composers and librettists time and space to develop new work. For instance, during her residency in January 2004, composer Linda Bouchard workshopped and reconceived her opera, House of Words.

An important component of a residency is the use of the Centre's professional theatre facilities for studio and stage rehearsals, with some technical support. Information: 403-762-6180; Toll free: 1-800-565-9989;


The Atelier lyrique trains 12 young Canadian singers for one to three years, with 124 graduates entering the professional opera world since 1984. Chantal Lambert, program director since 1990, maintains an active career as a soprano soloist in opera, concert and recital.

Atelier singers receive 30 hours a week of vocal coaching and participate in master classes by established opera artists. They also take classes in acting, diction, movement, dance, fencing and stage makeup, and, as either soloist or cover, take on roles appropriate to their abilities in Opera de Montreal mainstage productions. There are also touring and local concertizing, and the Atelier participates in new works. This season, it is L'Arche, a children's opera by Isabelle Panneton, in collaboration with the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne and Les Coups de Theatre. In April 2005, the Atelier presents its own production of Dido and Aeneas, in collaboration with the National Theatre School of Canada and the Arion Ensemble.


To enhance students' profiles in the opera community, the Atelier arranges for members to audition for a number of opera-company directors. There's also expert advice and counselling on how best members can further their careers.

Soprano Marie-Josee Lord, who sang Liu in this season's Opera de Montreal production of Turandot, was an Atelier apprentice from 1999-2002. "The team of coaches and singers surrounding you really helps develop the best in your voice," she says. "There are a lot of concerts and other vocal activities that stimulate the young singer to develop the skills of the professional. I found the coaching--lots of coaching--most valuable." Information: 514-596-0223;


"The COC Ensemble Studio is Canada's premier training program for young opera professionals and provides advanced instruction," reads some fine print on the COC website. The program forms a bridge between academic and professional life for gifted young singers, vocal coaches and stage directors, though it began in 1980 with just 11 singers, including Mark Pedrotti, Theodore Baerg and Roxolana Roslak.


National auditions seek out exceptionally talented candidates with extensive opera training and musical education. For two to three years, singers receive vocal and theatrical instruction, participate in education and outreach programs, and understudy major roles and perform minor roles in COC mainstage productions. Vocal coaches and stage directors also work in education and out-reach programs, as well as on mainstage productions and other projects. Since 1988, the Ensemble has performed in all COC composer-in-residence operas. Ensemble members also perform in schools, community centres, senior-citizens' homes and libraries, and in summer concerts at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.

"The COC Ensemble Studio really was the launching pad for my singing career," says rising Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabo. "As part of my training, I understudied major roles on the COC mainstage, and when the artist I was understudying could not perform for whatever reason, the COC had enough faith in me to let me take over the performances--an incredible opportunity for any singer. And since I have graduated, they have continued to support my career by giving me further work."

Szabo, one of 87% of Ensemble graduates still actively involved in opera, joins the likes of Ben Heppner and Joanne Kolomyjec on a long list of accomplished alumni. This list also includes stage directors Tom Diamond, Marilyn Gransdal Powell and Graham Cozzubbo, and vocal coaches Sandra Horst, Mark Morash and Steven Philcox, all consummate, working opera professionals. (Indeed, as part of their professional pursuits, Horst is chorusmaster for the COC and Philcox a coach.) Information: 416-363-6671;


The annual two-week Okanagan Vocal Arts Festival, which Executive Director Paul Moore and his wife, soprano Melina Moore, founded in 2003, is held every July in Vernon, B.C. The program accepts singers and pianists aged 16 to 32 for acting and language classes, vocal coaching and master classes. Teachers are young professionals with international profiles, this past summer including mezzo-sopranos Mariateresa Magisano and Lynne McMurtry and bass Andrew Greenwood.

In its founding year, OVAF presented Die Zauberflote, and last summer, two evenings of arias called An Aria Extravaganza, both recorded by CBC Radio Two. For 2005, OVAF is scheduled for July 7-23, and classes will be held in Vernon and at the Silver Star Mountain Ski Resort. Two operas are planned (based on available student casting): Le nozze di Figaro and The Pirates of Penzance. There will be performance opportunities for every singer, some of which will be in the new $10-million Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. Information: 250-503-2113; Toll free: 1-866-311-1011;


Shortly after Tyrone Paterson became General Director of OLO, he founded the Opera Lyra Young Artists Program to provide professional training to singers, directors and stage managers. It's set up as a transitional program to help young artists move from the studio environment that's been the setting for their training to the professional stage on which they plan to make their careers. The program offers a mix of performing opportunities (including OLO mainstage and outreach productions, recitals, embassy receptions and other special events), workshops and master classes. This season, nine young artists have been selected for the program. Among the sessions planned will be master classes with singers Rosemarie Landry and Elizabeth Turnbull, and stage director Kelly Robinson. Information: 613-233-9200;


The Orford Arts Centre is an idyllic retreat situated on a 222-acre site in Mount Orford National Park near Magog, about 115 kilometres east of Montreal. Founded in 1951 by Gilles Lefebvre, the OAC offers talented young musicians a chance to perfect their art in workshops that run from the last week of June to the middle of August. Most of these 300 "apprentices," from as many as 30 countries, are studying at conservatories or universities and preparing for professional careers.

The Opera Workshop, only a part of the whirlwind of musical activity that is the overall OAC milieu, is nevertheless ambitious. This past summer, for example, under the direction of Lorraine Pintal, students presented two fully staged performances of the John Rea reorchestration of Alban Berg's Wozzeck, an opera most professional opera companies in Canada have yet to stage. Baritone Alexander Dobson sang the title role, while soprano Kimy McLaren, recently engaged by L'Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg, France, sang Marie.

The number of opera students admitted depends on the opera chosen for staging, but all students receive coaching, master classes and generous performance opportunities. Soprano Rosemarie Landry, tenor Scot Weir and pedagogues Mary Morrison and Marie Daveluy, who taught in 2004, exemplify the calibre of instructors to be expected at the Opera Workshop. Plans for 2005 are not yet finalized. Information: 819-843-3981; Toll free: 1-800-567-6155;


Pacific Opera Victoria has just acquired an artist-development program in the newly minted Burton Lowell & Olive Kurth Young Artist Program. It's designed for emerging singers who have completed their pre-professional training, and offers masterclasses, performance opportunities and classes in stage-and music-related subjects. The inaugural session runs for 12 weeks from January-April 2005. Information: 250-382-1641;


Toronto-based Summer Opera Lyric Theatre and Research Centre was founded in 1986 by Guillermo Silva-Marin "to promote musical and dramatic education in Canada, showcasing artists in all stages of development through a variety of innovative and challenging operatic repertoire."


Singers attend musical and staging rehearsals, master classes, dramatic discussions and lectures. Last summer, masterclass topics ranged from Stuart Hamilton and Dixie Ross Neill's "The Coach's Perspective" to "Marketing and Promotion for the Singer" by Henry Ingram, Director, Concerts Division, of Dean Artists Management in Toronto. Other teachers and lecturers have included Dean Artists Managing Director and Director, Opera Division, Carrol Anne Curry, and former Opera Ontario General Director Ken Freeman. Clearly, this is a program that thoroughly prepares its graduates for all aspects of life as an opera professional.

SOLT workshops are held at its headquarters in the Edward Jackman Centre, while operas (this past summer they were Ariadne auf Naxos, Julius Caesar and La vie Parisienne) are staged at the University of Toronto's Robert Gill Theatre. Repertoire possibilities for future seasons include Thomas's Mignon, Argento's A Postcard from Morocco and Ward's The Crucible. SOLT alumni pursuing international careers include sopranos Jackalyn Short and Frederique Vezina and tenors David Pomeroy and Paul Moore, who is now the Artistic Director of the Okanagan Vocal Arts Festival. Information: 416-922-2912;
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Author:Jordan, Robert
Publication:Opera Canada
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 15, 2004
Previous Article:Renaud Doucet & Andre Barbe.
Next Article:Artistry & academics: Canadian universities with opera training programs.

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