After a delightful lunch with Loie Fallis in that old favourite La Fenice I went along to the Opera House for the rehearsal for the performance that the young artists of the Ensemble Studio will be giving on Wednesday evening. And I am glad I did! They have a striking group of singers in the company this year.
Alas I missed the first Act so did not see the first of the two Titos. This is the one part that switches to another singer for the second Act. An odd idea but a generous one. It is good to give opportunities to as many of the ensemble as possible.
It was an impressive line up. Typically young singers can be in the program for three years and there is no doubt that many of them develop out of all recognition during this longish period. If the two young people who are graduating at the end of this season are typical then it is clear that the COC is doing a remarkable job.
The Sesto is Tunisian born Canadian Rihab Chaieb. She has fire and a glorious voice - riveting! The Vitellia is Ambur Braid - an extraordinarily versatile singer who seems able to turn her voice to anything. Well who knows? But the Vitellia displayed vocal beauty and technical assurance in abundance, as well as another fiery theatrical presence. I can only assume that Christopher Alden ignited these exceptional young women. Impressive anyway.
And the others are on their way too. As Tito in Act 2 there is the 22 year old Owen McAusland from New Brunswick who I had noticed in the Tristan on Saturday. Here is a fine Mozartian in the making. The Annio is the delightful Sasha Djihanian whom I encountered in Castleton last summer. Another new recruit is the Servilia Claire de Sévigné - from Montreal. These were all prizewinners in the COC competition last year and represent so worthily the best of the always remarkable crop of Canadian singers who pop up year after year. Music education in this country is an example to the world.
And finally the Publio - this was Neil Craighead, a comparative veteran of the Ensemble Studio. And he is clearly an immensely valuable member of the company - a rare example of a confident and assured young bass baritone.
You may have gathered that I have had a happy and satisfying three days here in Toronto. I consider COC to be the gold standard for opera companies - an example to all of how to run a happy and productive company. The positive energy one feels around the theatre demontrates that here is a cohesive group of people working together to achieve a common goal - with exceptionally talented people achieving the highest standards through commitment and hard work.
I am looking forward to being back here for the Neue Stimmen auditions in April. I am now at Pearson Airport waiting for my flight back to London.