See the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio in Cosi fan tutte

by Liza Mattimore


If you have ever wanted an opportunity to check out Opera this is your shot. On Friday, February 7, 2014 at 7:30 p.m., the spotlight shines on the rising stars of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio when they take to the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. They present their own special performance of Mozart’s wry romantic comedy, Così fan tutte. This production is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™ and all tickets to the Ensemble Studio performance are accessibly priced at $25 or $55.  Led by renowned Canadian director Atom Egoyan, the Ensemble Studio artists perform with the full COC Orchestra and Chorus, under the direction of COC Music Director Johannes Debus.

   In Così fan tutte, two young couples become entangled in a fidelity-testing wager. Inspired by the opera’s subtitle, The School for Lovers, Egoyan sets the action in an academy where love is examined, dissected and manipulated to illuminate the characters’ struggles with fidelity and temptation. This production is an ideal showcase for the Ensemble Studio’s young stars-in-training, from enacting Egoyan’s playful staging, full of farce and folly, to performing Mozart’s sublime score, which features some of opera’s most exquisite music for ensembles and breathtakingly beautiful arias.


The Ensemble Studio performance of Così fan tutte is a rare opportunity for artists of the Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, to sing the starring roles in a COC mainstage production. For some of the cast in this year’s showcase, the February 7 performance takes their careers to the next level as they make their COC mainstage debuts. The singers work with the same creative team as the mainstage cast for Così fan tutte.
Four talented singers share the roles of the opera’s two sisters, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, whose devotion is challenged by their fiancés’ secret wager. Sopranos Sasha Djihanian and Aviva Fortunata perform the role of Fiordiligi. Djihanian returns to the COC mainstage after being hailed as a “warm and charming presence” (bachtrack) in the COC’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Fortunata, whose “exceptional voice” (La Scena Musicale) impressed audiences at the 2012 Ensemble Studio Competition, makes her COC mainstage debut. Mezzo-sopranos Charlotte Burrage and Danielle MacMillan are cast as Dorabella. As third-prize winner of the 2012 Ensemble Studio Competition, Burrage possessed a “fine musicality” (La Scena Musicale). She takes to the COC mainstage for the first time with this production. MacMillan makes her second appearance on the Four Seasons Centre stage after a “standout” (barczablog) performance as the Second Niece in the COC’s recent Peter Grimes.
The roles of the sisters’ two suitors also showcase four rising stars. Baritone Clarence Frazer is Guglielmo, Fiordiligi’s fiancé. A graduate of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program, he returns to the mainstage after his debut in the COC’s La Bohème. Baritone Cameron McPhail, whose “impressive voice” (barczablog) was last heard on the COC’s mainstage as Schaunard in La Bohème, also sings the role of Guglielmo. Tenors Andrew Haji and Owen McCausland sing the role of Dorabella’s suitor, Ferrando. Praised after placing second in the 2012 Ensemble Studio Competition for his “bright, well focused and sweet” voice (La Scena Musicale), Haji now makes his debut on the Four Seasons Centre stage. McCausland was lauded for possessing a “maturity, confidence and conviction extraordinary for a singer at such an early stage in his career” (Opera Toronto) after stepping into the title role of the COC’s mainstage production of La clemenza di Tito for several performances last season. He makes his seventh appearance on the COC mainstage with this role of Ferrando.
Soprano Claire de Sévigné brings her “sparkling tone with an endearing stage persona” (La Scena Musicale) to the role of the conniving Despina. She last appeared on the mainstage as the First Niece in the COC’s Peter Grimes. As the wily Don Alfonso, bass-baritone Gordon Bintner instigates the fidelity-testing scheme. One of CBC’s “30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30,” he won first prize and the Audience Choice Award at the 2012 Ensemble Studio Competition.
The Ensemble Studio performance is part of the mainstage production of Così fan tutte, which runs from January 18 to February 21, 2014 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. This new COC production features set and costume design by Debra Hanson, and lighting design by Michael Walton.  For tickets to this exciting event click here