Canadian Opera Company's Free Concert Series to Bring World of Music and Dance to Toronto

The Canadian Opera Company's acclaimed Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre returns this fall for its 11th season, once again offering a dynamic showcase of Toronto's cultural and artistic diversity. Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio, Canada's premier young artists program, open the season on September 27, 2016 with a highly anticipated performance of their favourite arias and art songs.

Over the course of 75 concerts, more than 400 artists from Canada and around the world will share their passion and talents with audiences in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Six series-Vocal, Chamber Music, Piano Virtuoso, Jazz, World Music, and Dance-showcase tomorrow's brightest stars, alongside internationally acclaimed artists in a broad range of performances.

The Free Concert Series has always been a space to foster creativity and cultivate a new generation of talent. In this tradition, the 16/17 season features two world premieres performed by young artists. Members of the COC Ensemble Studio perform a new song cycle, commissioned by the Canadian Art Song Project, from acclaimed Canadian composer Ana Sokolovi?, while The Glenn Gould School's New Music Ensemble returns to the series with a new work by multi-award-winning Canadian composer Saman Shahi.

The 16/17 season also features performances that celebrate the rich artistic heritage of indigenous cultures in Canada, including performances by: Kwagiulth and Stó:lo First Nations mezzo-soprano Marion Newman performing with violinist Kathleen Kajioka and pianist Adam Sherkin; Canadian jazz singer Hannah Burgé, whose program of original works was inspired by her English and Métis heritage; V'ni Dansi's Louis Riel Métis Dancers who bring the Métis spirit alive through contemporary and traditional dance and music; and the Métis Fiddler Quartet, who take audiences on a musical voyage across the trade routes of the Northwestern frontier.

Several acclaimed artists from COC mainstage productions make their Free Concert Series debuts this season, including Canadian baritone Phillip Addis, Russian soprano Elena Tsallagova, and Croatian-born bass Goran Juri?, all from the COC's production of The Magic Flute. Other first-time appearances in the series include Canadian fiddler and singer Miranda Mulholland, who celebrates the sounds of Cape Breton; Dutch jazz duo Ineke Vandoorn & Marc van Vugt in a stop on their Canadian tour; acclaimed Canadian violinist Mark Fewer; and Collectìf, a Toronto-based vocal group dedicated to exploring and expanding the world of art song performance by presenting innovative, song-based theatre.

The Free Concert Series also welcomes the return of such notable Toronto organizations as Against the Grain Theatre, Toronto's hottest indie opera company; artists of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's New Creations Festival; and Toronto Summer Music Festival, with a preview led by its new artistic director Jonathan Crow.

Additional highlights of the Free Concert Series across all six series include:

VOCAL
Rising young talent and international stars of the operatic stage sing in the Vocal Series' 24 concerts. Acclaimed artists from COC mainstage productions include Canadian baritone Phillip Addis, Russian bass Dimitry Ivashchenko, Croatian-born bass Goran Juri?, and Russian soprano Elena Tsallagova. Former Ensemble Studio artists coming home to the COC after establishing successful careers include sopranos Miriam Khalil and Ileana Montalbetti, mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy, and tenor Andrew Haji.

Khalil, of Against the Grain Theatre, teams up with 11 instrumentalists to present the Toronto premiere of Argentinian-born composer Osvaldo Golijov's Ayre. The work is a lush fusion of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic folk melodies and texts.

Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio appear in 10 concerts this season. A highlight will be the biennial Christina and Louis Quilico Awards, returning this season for a special extended presentation which sees artists of the Ensemble Studio compete for cash prizes before a panel of judges.

Audience members of all ages can also look forward to the return of soprano Kyra Millan and pianist ChrisTina Faye's popular March Break performance. The hilarious duo reunites with artists of the Ensemble Studio to lead an interactive program of favourite arias and sing-along choruses.

CHAMBER MUSIC
Famous masterworks, alongside lesser-known gems, are showcased in the Chamber Music Series' 20 concerts this season. Six concerts feature members of the esteemed COC Orchestra, including a special performance introducing the new members of the COC Orchestra Academy, performing alongside their mentors and Ensemble Studio graduate, soprano Jacqueline Woodley.

Audiences will also enjoy the "electrifying" (Toronto Star) New Orford String Quartet; contemporary rhythms inspired by the sounds of daily life from Architek Percussion; and performances by young artists from The Glenn Gould School and the Schulich School of Music at McGill University.

PIANO VIRTUOSO
The Piano Virtuoso Series' eight concerts span a range of classical favourites from the likes of Debussy, Chopin and Liszt, to more contemporary Canadian compositions. Toronto-based pianist Adam Sherkin explores the early works of Canadian composer Harry Somers (composer of the opera Louis Riel, which is being presented by the COC in spring 2017), juxtaposed with Sherkin's own original compositions. Up-and-coming virtuosi can be seen in recitals by Sae Yoon Chon, Geoffrey Conquer (in concert with soprano Elizabeth Polese), Leon Bernsdorf, Rossina Grieco, Tristan Savella, Charissa Vandikas, and Jingquan Xie.

JAZZ
The Jazz Series features 11 performances, ranging from swinging standards to cutting-edge contemporary works. Canadian songstress Adi Braun plays Chair(wo)man of the Board for an intimate hour of Frank Sinatra's most beloved hits, and innovative drummer Ernesto Cervini returns to the amphitheatre with his newly formed group, Turboprop. Ensembles from the University of Toronto, Humber College and the Schulich School of Music showcase the next generation of jazz talent.

WORLD MUSIC
The world comes to the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with seven concerts featuring a colourful range of musical traditions from around the globe, often fused with western musical styles. Jazz, classical Western music, and traditional Bhutanese folk music come together when the Noam Lemish Quartet pays tribute to the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Composer and santur player Sina Bathaie, with percussionist Siavash Sadr Mahdavi, brings a fresh approach to Persian contemporary music, while Fantahun Shewankochew, with the Jay Danley Quartet, explores the rich musical textures of Ethiopia through traditional music and Ethio-jazz. Spectrum Percussion Trio, which draws influences from Brazil, Cuba and West Africa, and Ensemble Jeng Yi, a traditional Korean drumming troupe, will energize the amphitheatre with their high-octane performances.

DANCE
The seven performances in the Dance Series showcase inventive dancers and choreographers, covering styles running from contemporary and ballet to hip-hop and traditional dance. Returning favourites include Peggy Baker Dance Projects, with a cycle of solos integrating contemporary choreography with the spoken word and using a sonic environment designed by Debashis Sinha; and Canada's Ballet Jörgen, presenting highlights from Tchaikovsky's magical Swan Lake. Rounding out the Dance Series are performances by Gadfly Dance, tiger princess dance projects with choreography by Yvonne Ng, Throwdown Collective with choreography by Lina Cruz, inDANCE, and V'ni Dansi's Louis Riel Métis Dancers.

For a full calendar of events, visit coc.ca/FreeConcerts.

The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre is a focal point of the Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, with its striking glass wall allowing for natural lighting and a view of University Avenue. Linking Rings 3 and 4, the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre provides seating for 100 patrons. Additional seating and standing locations on the walkway and the upper floor are also available.

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world's attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world's foremost Canadian and International Artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006. For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

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