Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition Announces 2022 Winners

By Francisco Salazar

Soprano Karoline Podolak took home both First Prize and Audience Choice Award at the Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition.

The finale, which was held on Nov. 3 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Podolak, a Toronto native, won a $7,500 award, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which was matched on this night and increased to $2,000 by an audience member.

Meanwhile, soprano Hannah Crawford, also from Toronto, won the Second Prize of $5,000 while tenor River Guard of Hamilton, Ontario and tenor Wesley Harrison of Windsor, Ontario shared the Third Prize of $3,000.

In a statement, COC General Director Perryn Leech said, “The incredible talent, dedication and commitment of Canada’s young opera voices continues to astonish me. These seven, highly talented young artists should be so proud of what they were able to achieve in reaching this level of artistry–especially considering the many challenges the last few years have presented for gaining live performance experience.”

The evening saw seven finalists selected from a pool of nearly 100 applicants and 64 live auditions nationwide. The finalists performed two arias, accompanied by the COC Orchestra led by conductor Jacques Lacombe.

This year’s competition jury comprised COC General Director Perryn Leech; COC Director, Artistic Planning Roberto Mauro; American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges (who sings the title role in the COC’s current production of Carmen); and Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka.