Highlands Opera Studio


TWITTER  @HighlandsOpera

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"I have taken part in a number of artist development programs with various opera companies in the US and Canada. While these programs serve an important purpose for the companies that host them, many of them are of dubious benefit to the young singer in the early stages of his or her career. Many offer young performers understudies and token-bit parts on the mainstage, and may sweeten the deal with the promise of extensive coaching and training. While coaching is certainly important, stage experience and exposure are two of the most crucial elements in the early development of a singer's career--elements many programs only scarcely provide. In order to work in this business, one needs to be heard, but singing two-line-roles on a major stage is not going to give anyone in the audience a halfway-decent idea of one's singing and acting skills. Additionally,  the experience of performing these bit-parts generally afforded to young singers is a far cry from the experience of performing a featured role on a company's mainstage. The process of preparing a role for high-level performance and dealing with pressure of the performance itself can only be learned by doing. Having a good coach work through a role with you can be a great help, but no amount of coaching is going to prepare you for the feeling of stepping out into the lights with an audience of thousands before you.

This is why the experience Highlands Opera Studio offers is so important. Highlands engages singers with a wide range of experience levels--some will be university students with little to no professional experience, a few will be in the early stages of a successful career with several mainstage credits already on their résumé, and many will be somewhere in-between. The most developed singers receive the featured roles where they will be seen and heard most often by guests, critics, and audiences. The greenest singers receive smaller assignments where they can grow in a lower-pressure environment, and learn from their more experienced colleagues. Valerie and Richard treat all their artists like artists, rather than students. This model results in a supportive environment where everyone's artistic input is valued. I feel this kind of environment provides much better preparation for working on the professional operatic stage than the typical educational or young-artist-program model in which young singers' artistic choices and opinions are rarely heard or considered. The experience at Highlands helps a singer become a collaborative artist who actively participates in creating the performance, and this is precisely what is expected of a professional working in the mainstage opera world.

There are very few artist-development programs in Canada that provide such a valuable experience, and Valerie and Richard's decades of experience at the top level of this business brings a very high profile to the productions. Performing a featured role at Highlands lends an air of legitimacy to an emerging artist's résumé, and can act as a springboard to the next level of a singer's career, be it graduate school, season-long young-artist programs, or transitioning to the mainstage. Of all the development programs I've gone through (and there have been a few), I honestly feel like my experience at Highlands Opera Studio was the best. Highlands young artists are not there to fill out a chorus or sing small roles at a discount. They are not their to fulfill an outreach commitment so a company can access more funding. They are there to sing and create art at a high level, and to be seen and heard in their element by influential figures in the business. Highlands exists for the sole purpose of advancing burgeoning careers, a quintessential niche that few other organizations can fill."

"It is hard for me to find the words to adequately describe my experience at Highlands Opera Studio! I could go on and on about incredible high-pedigree of each faculty member. Truly!  Being able to work under such experienced, wise, devoted, generous instruction was truly a privilege.

I have never participated in a training program that is so holistic and practical. The faculty is deeply invested in helping individuals make strides vocally, musically, interpretatively, and personally in lessons, coachings, public masterclasses, staging rehearsals, and numerous performance opportunities throughout the program.  Participants benefit from individual consultations with agents, casting directors and other influential people working in opera.

Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka are unbelievably generous and inspired in their leadership. Their commitment to helping young singers is an extension of their love for opera itself. This passion is truly inspirational!"

"My experience at HOS was absolutely wonderful. The summer I spent there was a crucial step in my continuing development as an opera singer. The faculty of professionals they assemble is first-rate."

"Highlands opera studio is a wonderful program for artists looking to learn in a safe and nurturing environment from some of the worlds best singers and teachers.  I found this program extremely valuable because we had the opportunity to work and spend time with those that have worked internationally and therefore, learn from them what is required to have a long and fulfilling singing career."

"Highlands opera studio is an intimate intensive retreat ideal for the most accomplished young professional singers. It gave me personal access to world class agents, artistic directors and teachers."

"After successful performances throughout Canada and abroad, through my participation in HOS, I met and sang for Bruce Zemsky who has since signed me to the Zemsky/Green Roster in NYC and I have recently made my Met debut. The high level of training and networking opportunities in an intimate environment make HOS a truly invaluable experience."

"In Canada there are few professional training programs for opera singers. There are even fewer that bring teachers, coaches, directors, and other important people working in this industry as professionals themselves, together for zero cost to the participant. As a working professional myself, the tools that I have received from Highland Opera Studio have been invaluable and pinnacle in not only creating my career, but also fueling it. What Valerie Kuinka and Richard Margison have created for us, is an ability to focus on our art for a few intense number of weeks. Most of us artists live hand to mouth and have a hard enough time trying to survive let alone hone our artistic abilities. The subsidy provided by this program is desperately needed and tremendously helps emerging artists while we attempt to launch our careers in this very difficult industry. In an age where there are unfortunate funding cuts to the arts, this program is NEEDED."

"A unique opportunity that facilitates musicianship and artistry of the highest order in the most talented group of young Canadian opera singers."

"This is the one and only young-professional  initiative in Canada. One of maybe five of its kind in the world. Future Canadian opera success stories depend on it. Truly."

"The location is reason enough to want to attend this wonderful program, but the training we receive is absolutely top notch. Allowing the young artists to fully immerse themselves in their craft without the added financial burden of tuition is an opportunity that is simply not found elsewhere."

"A summer program unlike any other in Canada and one that is on par with its international counterparts. The level and standard of professional consultants that HOS brings is humbling to say the least."