Stage Door News

Toronto: Four emerging artists invited to join the COC Ensemble Studio for 2020/21

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Canadian Opera Company welcomes four new opera artists to its Ensemble Studio training program for the 2020/2021 season: soprano Midori Marsh, baritone Jonah Spungin, bass-baritone Alex Halliday, and pianist/intern coach Frances Thielmann. In August 2020, the artists become part of a renowned program that has launched the careers of over 235 Canadian opera professionals.

In October 2019, Marsh took home both First Prize and the Audience Choice Award at the 2019 Ensemble Studio Competition, with Halliday claiming Second Prize that same evening. Spungin was a finalist at the 2017 Ensemble Studio Competition and has since graduated from Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program. Thielmann most recently joined Opéra de Montréal’s Atelier lyrique as a coach and pianist for the 2019/2020 season. Underlining the Canadian Opera Company’s commitment to providing incomparable, hands-on experience, all the young artists will be involved with upcoming mainstage productions; further details will be shared at the company’s Season Reveal event on February 10, 2020.

COC Ensemble Studio members receive a unique blend of advanced training and practical career experience. The multi-year program involves understudying and performing mainstage roles, intensive vocal coaching, as well as detailed language, movement and acting studies. Participants attend intimate masterclasses and lessons with internationally renowned opera professionals and are also provided with holistic training that includes honing industry-specific business skills as well as financial, career and nutrition counselling. The new group, which includes returning artists Matthew Cairns, Vartan Gabrielian, Jamie Groote, Anna-Sophie Neher and pianist/intern coach Alex Soloway, will later open the 2020/2021 season of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, presented by TD Bank Group, with a Meet the Young Artists concert, set for September 2020.

Nina Draganić, Director of the COC Academy, says that she is excited to see how the Ensemble Studio’s newest members embrace and grow from the immersive experience ahead. “With Midori, Alex, Jonah, and Frances,” she says, “the company recognized a perfectly timed development opportunity that will provide these four with the support and guidance required to elevate their performance as industry professionals.”

Four exceptional artists graduate from the program this May: soprano Lauren Margison, mezzo-soprano Simona Genga, bass-baritone Joel Allison, and pianist/intern coach Rachael Kerr. All graduating members can be heard at upcoming concerts in this season’s Free Concert Series.

As the company’s most important public ambassadors, Ensemble Studio artists perform in several community concerts each year. They also participate in the COC’s education and outreach programming, and form the main cast of the COC’s annual Opera for Young Audiences, an initiative designed to welcome families and young people to the art form.

Together with the COC Orchestra Academy, Composer-in-Residence program, and the newly created Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence role, the Ensemble Studio is part of the COC Academy, a first-of-its-kind, post-graduate training opportunity 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.


Midori Marsh – Soprano

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Midori Marsh is completing her Master of Music in opera at the University of Toronto, following undergraduate studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Recent engagements include Sarah Thorpe in No One’s Safe and Johan’s Mother in Silent Light (Banff Centre); Frasquita in Carmen (Waterloo Symphony); Arminda in La finta giardiniera and Rose Maurrant in Street Scene (UofT Opera); Annina in La Traviata (Cambridge Symphony Orchestra); Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Portland Summer Opera Workshop); Laurie Moss in The Tender Land and Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann (Opera Laurier). This season with UofT Opera, she sang the roles of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Cecilia Corfield in Maid & Master: The Massey Murder, and can soon be seen as Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park.

Alex Halliday – Bass-baritone

Alex Halliday is from St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he received his Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Memorial University. He is currently studying for his diploma in opera at the University of Toronto, where he also received in master’s degree in opera performance and his roles include Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park, Colonel Denison/Samuel Miller in Maid & Master: The Massey Murder, Nardo in La finta giardiniera, Inspector Brinks in Who Killed Adrianna?, Carl Olsen in Street Scene, Alexander Throttlebottom in Of Thee I Sing, and Masetto in Don Giovanni. Additional roles include Father in Silent Light (Banff Centre), Berto in Un avvertimento ai gelosi, and Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives ofWindsor (Memorial University).

Jonah Spungin – Baritone

Ottawa native Jonah Spungin earned his master’s degree in voice and opera from McGill University and graduated from Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Program. Recent credits include Marullo in Rigoletto, Mike Groom in Everest, King Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and Paris in Roméo et Juliette (Calgary Opera); Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, Gideon March in Little Women (Opera McGill), Baron Mirko Zeta in The Merry Widow, Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore (McGill Savoy Society). He also created the role of Ludovic Athenodorus in the world premiere of Ghost Opera (Calgary Opera and The Old Trout Puppet Workshop). As a concert soloist, he has performed the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the McGill Symphony Orchestra and Calgary Philharmonic, and the baritone solos in Fauré’s Requiem and Goodall’s Eternal Light Requiem with the Ottawa Choral Society.

Frances Thielmann – Pianist and Intern coach

Frances Thielmann, of Vancouver, completed her master’s degree in collaborative piano at the University of Toronto and holds a bachelor’s degree with distinction in piano performance from the University of Victoria. In 2018, she was selected to be an Art of Song fellow at Toronto Summer Music, where she trained with Julius Drake and Christoph Prégardien. Frances has studied a broad range of repertoire at other prestigious programs, including the Vancouver International Song Institute, Orford Summer Academy, Franz Schubert Institute, Stratford Vocal Academy, Opera NUOVA, and St. Andrews Opera Workshop. She was a coach and pianist at St. Andrews in the summer of 2019 and is currently an apprentice coach with the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. Most recently, she was invited to participate in the 2020 Vocal Piano Program at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California.

Photo: Midori Marsh, Jonah Spungin, Alex Halliday and Frances Thielmann.