Stage Door News

Toronto: Four new artists to join the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio for the 2019/2020 season

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, welcomes four new artists for the 2019/2020 season: tenor Matthew Cairns, bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian, mezzo-soprano Jamie Groote, and Alex Soloway as a pianist and intern coach. The four will join the Ensemble Studio in August 2019 and become part of a program that has launched the careers of over 230 Canadian opera professionals.

This past November, Cairns, Gabrielian, and Groote won the top prizes at the 2018 Centre Stage Ensemble Studio Competition, where young artists also vied for acceptance into the Ensemble Studio program. Cairns won First Prize and the new CBC Music Young Artist Development Prize, while Gabrielian and Groote claimed the Second and Third Prizes, respectively. Soloway has performed across North America and Europe and recently served as apprentice collaborative pianist at the Lachine International Vocal Academy and the Highlands Opera Studio.

Next year’s Ensemble Studio features a wide range of voices and artistic personalities,” says Nina Draganić, Director of the COC Academy. “With such a high level of talent and creative energy, it will be very exciting to watch them explore and develop every facet of their artistry. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

Graduating from the Ensemble Studio in May 2019 are baritone Samuel Chan, soprano Lauren Eberwein, mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh, and pianist and intern coach Stéphane Mayer. All four can be heard at upcoming concerts in this season’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, presented by TD Bank Group. Both new and returning members will then be featured in the opening concert of the 19/20 Free Concert Series: Meet the Young Artists, happening September 2019.

Members of the Ensemble Studio receive a blend of advanced study and practical experience. The multi-year program involves understudying and performing mainstage roles, intensive vocal coaching, language and acting studies, and career skills development, as well as participation in masterclasses with internationally renowned opera professionals. In addition, the Ensemble Studio artists perform several concerts each year, participate in COC Education and Outreach initiatives, and perform in the COC’s family-oriented initiative, Opera for Young Audiences. Former members include Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Allyson McHardy, and Krisztina Szabó.

Together with the COC Orchestra Academy, Company-in-Residence program, and new Composer-in-Residenceprogram, the Ensemble Studio is part of the COC Academy, a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive post-graduate training unit for opera professionals in Canada. The COC Academy aims to foster a vibrant community of Canadian artists and creative professionals–from singers to instrumentalists to administrators–and provide participants with the skills, experiences, and resources to thrive in a global opera environment.


Matthew Cairns – Tenor 

Toronto-based tenor Matthew Cairns received his Bachelor of Music in voice performance from the University of Toronto (UofT), where he is currently pursuing his master’s degree in operatic performance. His credits include Sam Kaplan in Street Scene; John P. Wintergreen in Of Thee I Sing and Sam Sharkey/German Lumberjack in Paul Bunyan(UofT Opera); Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy [COSI]/UofT Opera); Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi (COSI); Marcelo/Daniel in Miracle Flight 571, Colonel Fairfax in Yeomen of the Guard, General Krebs in Führerbunker, and Francesco in The Gondoliers (COSI Connection). Recently, he sang the role of Detlef in The Student Prince at the Chautauqua Institute Voice Program, where he placed first in its Sigma Alpha Iota Competition. As a concert soloist, he has performed with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, COSI Connection, and the Arts and Letters Club. Cairns can be seen in the COC’s 19/20 season as The Prince of Persia in Turandot, the Gamekeeper in Rusalka, and the Messenger in Aida.

Vartan Gabrielian – Bass-baritone 

Toronto-born bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian is pursuing a master’s degree in vocal performance at the Curtis Institute of Music, where his credits include the title role in Sweeney Todd, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Doc in A Quiet Place, Groves in Doctor Atomic, Collatinus in The Rape of Lucretia, Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro, and Colline in La Bohème. He has also appeared as Sparafucile in Rigoletto (Opéra de Montréal/New Jersey State Opera), Sarastro in The Magic Flute (Chautauqua Summer Festival), and a Cappadocian in Salome (Detroit Symphony Orchestra). In 2018, Gabrielian was a Santa Fe Opera Apprentice, as well as the recipient of a Metropolitan Opera National Council Encouragement Award. In 2019, he makes his role debut as Leporello in Don Giovanni with Curtis Opera Theatre. Gabrielian will also perform in the COC’s 19/20 season as the Hunter in Rusalka and the Officer in The Barber of Seville.

Jamie Groote – Mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Groote, from Toronto, received her Bachelor of Music in voice performance from Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), and is completing her Master of Music in opera performance at the University of Toronto (UofT). Her upcoming performances include Mercedes in Carmen (Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony). Her recent credits include Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (UofT Opera); Nicklausse in The Tales of Hoffmann, Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxosand Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen (WLU Opera); Roméo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Jade Boucher in Dead Man Walking and Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town (Opera NUOVA). Groote can be heard in the COC’s 19/20 season as The Second Wood Nymph in Rusalka

Alex Soloway – Pianist and intern coach

Pianist Alex Soloway, from Ottawa, received his Master of Music from the Schulich School of Music of McGill University and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto. While at McGill, he won the Chamber Music Competition (2015) and the Classical Concerto Competition (2017). He has performed in Canada, Europe, and the United States, including in the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, and Weill Recital Hall in New York. Soloway is a laureate of the Franz Schubert Institut (Baden bei Wien, 2015) and the Académie Francis Poulenc (Tours, 2017). These studies were generously funded by bursaries from the Austrian Society of Canada and the Art Song Foundation of Canada. In 2018, he was an apprentice collaborative pianist at the Lachine International Vocal Academy and the Highlands Opera Studio. In the COC’s 19/20 season, Soloway will serve as rehearsal pianist for Rusalka, Hansel & Gretel, and The Flying Dutchman.

Photo: Matthew Cairns, Vartan Gabrielian, Jamie Groote and Alex Soloway.