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Canadian Opera Company competition nets three new voices for Ensemble Studio

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Canadian Opera Company general director Alexander Neef, left, presents prizes to Thursday night’s competition winners. From left: Gordon Bintner, Andrew Haji and Carlotte Burrage (COC photo).

UPDATE: I misunderstood the competition. Although the winners’ information is correct, the point of the competition is not. Please click here for a clarification.

The Canadian Opera Company’s second annual Ensemble Studio Competition held Thursday night yielded three new members for the young performers’ apprenticeship programme, each of them bearing a cash prize to sweeten the moment.

A capacity audience at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was able to watch and even vote on 10 finalists who each sang two arias. They were competing for three upcoming vacant spots in the Ensemble Studio.

The first-prize winner was Regina native Gordon Bintner, a bass-baritone. The prize came with a $5,000 cheque. Bintner was also picked by the audience for the People’s Choice Award, worth $1,500.

Second-prize and $3,000 went to London, Ont. tenor Andrew Haji. Southwestern Ontario was well-represented, as Sweaburg native Charlotte Burrage, a mezzo, claimed third prize and $1,500.

Although the singers are ranked on the night of the competition, once they become members of the Ensemble Studio next season, they are all treated as equals.

All members are given opportunities to perform in smaller roles in Canadian Opera Company productions, take over all roles in one mainstage production for one night, and perform over the course of the season in the company’s free lunchtime concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

Bintner, who performed “Non più andrai” from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart) and “Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto” from Handel’s Rinaldo is finishing up a Master’s degree from McGill University’s Schulich School of Music. Last year, he was the grand prize winner of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s annual music competition.

Haji is a graduate student in the opera division at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. Last night, he sang “Quanto è bella” from Donizetti’s  L’elisir d’amore (Donizetti) and “Un’aura amorosa” from Mozart’s Così fan tutte.

Burrage is a recent graduate of the Master’s programme in opera at U of T and is one of the Canadian touring artists with Jeunesses Musicales this season, helping connect young people with classical music and opera.

Last year’s inaugural competition chose four singers to join the Ensemble Studio at the start of this season: Sasha Djihanian, Claire de Sévigné, Owen McCausland and Cameron McPhail.

Here is Bintner in action last year as Colline in a Angers Nantes Opéra production of La Bohème in France:

John Terauds

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