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Introducing the newest members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio

On November 29, 2012, 10 finalists competed at the Canadian Opera Company’s Second Annual Ensemble Studio Competition for cash prizes and a chance to join the Ensemble Studio for the 2013/2014 season. At the competition, bass-baritone Gordon Bintner was awarded first-place and the audience-choice awards, tenor Andrew Haji took home the second-place prize and mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage received the third-place prize. View our recap for photos and tweets from the competition.

The three prize winners are joining the 2013/2014 Ensemble Studio as well as soprano Aviva Fortunata, baritone Clarence Frazer, and mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillanThese six singers become part of an illustrious program that has launched the careers of over 150 Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors. They join returning Ensemble Studio members, soprano Sasha Djihanian, soprano Claire de Sévigné, tenor Owen McCausland and baritone Cameron McPhail.  

A native of Regina, bass-baritone Gordon Bintner is currently pursuing a master of music degree in opera and voice at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music.  Credits include the title roles in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera NUOVA and Don Giovanni with Opera McGill; his European debut as Colline in La Bohème with Angers Nantes Opéra; and, after winning the grand prize in the OSM Standard Life Competition, his debut with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. This season Bintner’s appearances include Nardo in Mozart’s La finta giardiniera with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program and Lescaut in Massenet’s Manon with Opéra de Montréal. Learn more about Gordon here.

Originally from Woodstock, Ontario, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage holds a master of music in voice performance from the University of Toronto and is a graduate of the opera diploma program at University of British Columbia (UBC). Credits include Hansel in Hansel and Gretel (Vancouver Opera in Schools); Dorabella in Così fan tutte (Banff Centre’s Opera as Theatre, Jeunesses Musicales); and, La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica and the title role in Massenet’s Cendrillon (UBC).  Burrage performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Arnie Roth and was the alto soloist in the Bach Magnificat, BWV 243 (UBC). Learn more about Charlotte here.

Calgary native and soprano Aviva Fortunata holds an advanced certificate in opera performance from the University of Toronto. This past summer with the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco she sang the role of the Lady with a Cake Box in Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco.  Other credits include Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Concert Opera Group, Centre for Opera Studies in Italy, University of Toronto), Poulenc’s Gloria (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra) as well as singing at Jack Layton’s state funeral.  Fortunata was the 2012 Norcop Prize in Song Recital winner and was awarded a judges’ commendation in the Mildred Miller International Voice Competition (Opera Theater of Pittsburgh). Learn more about Aviva here.

Mississauga, Ontario native and baritone Clarence Frazer completed his musical studies at the University of Western Ontario.  As a current member of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program, he performed the role of Re di Scozia in Ariodante and this season performs Count Gil in Il segreto di Susanna and Ramiro in L’heure espagnole.  Other roles include Pinellino in Gianni Schicchi, Daggoo in Moby-Dick, Alcindoro in La Bohème (Calgary Opera) and Sid in Albert Herring (Opera NUOVA).  Upcoming roles include Dottore Grenvil in La Traviata and Ford in Falstaff (Calgary Opera).  Frazer won the inaugural Lois Marshall Voice Competition and was a finalist in Palm Beach Opera’s International Voice Competition. Learn more about Clarence here.

Originally from London, Ontario, tenor Andrew Haji is currently pursuing a master of music degree at the University of Toronto’s Opera School.  At UofT his credits include Cecco in Haydn’s Il mondo della luna, Vanderdendur/Ragotski in Bernstein’s Candide, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Lacouf/Reporter from Paris in Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias and most recently the title role in Rob Ford: The Opera as well as Ferrando in Così fan tutte.  Other roles include Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte (Accademia Europea dell’Opera).  Haji’s upcoming performances include an appearance with the Aldeburgh Connection, Lionel in von Flotow’s Martha at UofT and joining the Music Academy of the West to sing the role of Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Learn more about Andrew here.

Born in Toronto, Danielle MacMillan holds a bachelor of fine arts, with honours, in classical vocal performance from York University, with additional training at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, Istituzione Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto in Italy and The Glenn Gould School (GGS) of The Royal Conservatory of Music. Roles include Rose in Lakmé (Opera by Request); Diana in Cavalli’s La Calisto, Véronique in Bizet’s Le docteur Miracle and the Cabaret Singer in Weil’s Mahagonny-Songspiel (GGS); and, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro (York University). Learn more about Danielle here.

As we welcome our newest Ensemble Studio members, we must sadly say goodbye (for now) to soprano Mireille Asselin, soprano Ambur Braid, mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, pianist Timothy Cheung, bass-baritone Neil Craighead, pianist Jenna Douglas and tenor Christopher Enns, who all graduate from the program at the end of the 2012/2013 season. 

But before they leave, our graduates can be heard in several performances during the remainder of the season. 

On the COC mainstage this February, Mireille Asselin sings Servilia in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and on February 6, 2013, audiences can see Ambur Braid as Vitellia, Rihab Chaieb as Sesto and Christopher Enns as the Emperor Tito in a special Ensemble Studio performance of the same opera. 

Rihab Chaieb also appears as Soeur Mathilde in the COC’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites, Francis Poulenc’s shattering masterpiece about an order of Carmelite nuns caught up in the turmoil and terror of the French Revolution.

And on May 23, 2013 at 12 p.m. as part of the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, all seven graduating artists perform in a special farewell concert, Les Adieux. The singers and pianists will perform a program of music featuring their favourite art songs and arias.

Photo: Charlotte Burrage, Andrew Haji, Gordon Bintner and Alexander Neef at the Second Annual Ensemble Studio Competition, 2012. Photo by Chris Hutcheson.