General & Co-Artistic Director
"My husband and I attended Highland Opera Studio's production of Le Nozze di Figaro and were, in a word, delighted! We have seen many Figaros in our years of opera-going and DVD-collecting – starring many famous artists. We have travelled from the COC to the Met, the Chicago Lyric, the San Francisco and to opera houses in Vienna and Barcelona, where the trappings were finer. But, pound for pound, none was better than this." – Dr. Judy Coldoff
Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka speak about the Highlands Opera Studio summer program, with glimpses of teaching and coaching segments, including international tenor and master voice teacher, Richard Margison O.C., John Fisher, Director of Music Administration, Metropolitan Opera/Master Vocal Coach; Anthony Manoli, Master Vocal Coach (Coach and Concert Collaborator with soprano, Radvanovsky). Video created by Brenden Friesen.
ALL PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED 2021 LIVE EVENTS/ACTIVITIES, INCUDING CONCERTS/OPERA PERFOMANCES, and OUTREACH ACTIVITIES ARE CANCELLED. A shorter season of live performances, including two 'Opera to Broadway' concerts and 4 performances of Mozart's opera, 'Don Giovanni' are tentatively planned for August. Updates will be provided as available.
SET IN THE BEAUTIFUL SURROUNDINGS OF THE HALIBURTON HIGHLANDS IN CENTRAL ONTARIO, CANADA, HIGHLANDS OPERA STUDIO PROVIDES ADVANCED OPERATIC EXPERIENCE TO A SELECT GROUP OF TALENTED EMERGING PROFESSIONALS WITH THE MAIN OBJECTIVE TO PROVIDE THESE SINGERS WITH THE NECESSARY SKILLS TO EMBARK ON A CAREER IN OPERA.
Operating out of Haliburton, Ontario, since its creation in 2007, Highlands Opera Studio (produced by Highlands Opera Theatre, a not-for-profit nationally registered charity) is a professional performing arts organization for emerging operatic artists. An advanced summer professional training program and professional development resource to assist singers/pianists make the transition into the professional world, the focus is not only on performance and production excellence, but on top level coaching and professional development/networking with the goal of expanding employment opportunities both nationally and internationally. Established opera professionals (international artist agents, vocal coaches, general directors of professional opera companies, etc.) are invited to interact with and advise our participants during the intensive 5 week August season, resulting in new connections, many leading to employment and/or artist representation (national and international).
In a non-pandemic year, core activities also include 17-19 live public events/ performances: multiple performances of 2-3 fully staged operas, 3-4 public masterclasses, 5-6 concerts (including operatic, musical theatre, and Art Song repertoire), free community events, and the Highlands Opera Community School, where local amateur singers can receive lessons and interact with the young visiting professionals of the main program.
The Opera Studio singers/pianists are chosen from across Canada and internationally through a rigorous competitive audition process that takes place annually in January and February [NB: 2021 online submissions only deadline April 16th]. The 20-25 participants, once chosen out of the pool of 160+ annual applicants, attend the program free of charge (Canadians citizens, and landed immigrants).
The successful candidates are divided into three divisions within the program: Apprentice (19-25 years of age), Professional (no age limit), and Independent Study (no age limit). Members of the Apprentice division are cast as covers and chorus. The Professional Division are cast in lead roles. The Independent Study Division is available for a very select number of highly qualified applicants who submit a proposal to use our professional resources to follow a personal project (eg. Operatic role study, Art Song recital preparation, competition or audition tour preparation, etc.). All participants in every division participate in all training and professional development activities and opportunities.
Highlands Opera Studio is the collaborative partner of l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.
Experiencing in live performance the power and beauty of the unamplified trained human singing voice at its best can stir deep emotion and change the world.
“The art form [of opera] when done right...takes the breath away, moves the human heart, soul, and spirit, and creates excitement like no other.”
Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano
HOS has grown steadily since 2007, from a 3-week program with 7 participants, to a 5-week program with 20-25 participants and the same number of staff and professional consultants. The company has been guided fiscally and artistically throughout this time by the General and Artistic Directors, Valerie Kuinka and Richard Margison, in conjunction with the Board of Directors, and the Accounting/General Management Personnel of Highlands Opera Theatre. HOS has never run a deficit and has maintained balanced financial statements since 2007.
Except for a modest one time administration fee of $400 [fee waived for 2021], ALL SUCCESSFUL CANADIAN PARTICIPANTS ATTEND THE 5-WEEK PROGRAM FREE OF CHARGE. THE COST TO HIGHLANDS OPERA STUDIO IS APPROXIMATELY $15,000 PER PARTICIPANT. This covers ALL TUITION, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & AUDITION OPPORTUNITIES, ACCOMMODATION, & 2 MEALS PER DAY, 6 days a week.
Fundraising is an ongoing and primary concern, and is an annual challenge.
The majority of funding has come from the private sector, including occasional individual corporate donations and ongoing support from BMO Financial Group, government support (Ontario Arts Council Opera Project grants, EODP through the Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC), fundraising events, individual donations, and revenue generated by ticket sales. In 2017 we received funding from Canada Council New Chapter and Canadian Heritage: Canada 150 Fund supporting the creation and presentation of ‘Mishaabooz’s Realm/Le Royaume de Michabous’, by Cree First Nation composer and librettist, Andrew Balfour. This new opera creation and presentation was in partnership with l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.
Since 2007, we have received and continue to build strong support and commitment from the community of Haliburton through a strong volunteer base and small managerial staff.
Suzanne Taffot, LLB, Soprano (HOS ‘17, ‘18)
Andrew Balfour, composer (Mishaabooz’s Realm, HOS commission, 2017)
Samuel Chan, baritone (HOS ‘16, ‘17)
Matthew Gamble, baritone (HOS ‘14, ‘17)
Chantale Nurse, soprano (HOS ‘14, ‘15)
Highlands Opera Studio is operated by Highlands Opera Theatre, a not-for-profit organization. Donations are gratefully accepted and tax-receipts are issued after the end of each calendar year.
Tax deductible donations can be made to "Highlands Opera Theatre". Please write a memo stating the money is for Highlands Opera Studio.
Charitable Registration Number 822457263 RR0001
Highlands Opera Studio is extremely grateful for the generosity of the following organizations and individual lead donors of $5000 or more who are supporting our 2021 activities.
Special Thanks to Nada Ristich
John & Thea Patterson
Margaret Swaine & Dr. Bill Siegel
Vanda Treiser in memory of Benjamin Treiser
We could not proceed without you!
We are also extremely grateful to all those who have donated the value of their tickets purchased for the 2020 season. Stay tuned for 2021 activities!
Victoria Conservatory of Music
Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera
Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, Toronto
Opéra de Montréal
National Opera Centre, New York
Audition registration for the 2021 program is now CLOSED.
If you're interested in being notified about future auditions, please fill in your contact info below.
What: ‘HARVEST MOON’ - Free Concert
Celebrate the HARVEST MOON with Lauren Margison, vocals, River Guard, vocals & guitar, and Stéphane Mayer, keyboard, for an afternoon concert of folk, musical theatre, and some opera. Presented by Highlands Opera Studio. Donations gratefully accepted either at the event or online through www.highlandsoperastudio.com
(Tax receipts provided for online donations of $25 or more)
Where & When:
Head Lake Park Bandshell, Haliburton, Sunday Sept 19th at 2pm
COVID Protocols: masks MUST BE WORN until seated.
CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR FREE TICKETS for the 'Harvest Moon' performance
Highlands Opera Community School in collaboration with the Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC) are offering a limited number of Pay-What-You-Can Singing Lessons, all styles, all levels, ages 14 to adult all winter (until April 15th)!
Love to sing? Choir starting up again? Love to write songs? Want to have more fun singing? Kick aside those pandemic blues and start the fall/winter season off with online singing lessons with HOS professionals, Lauren Margison and/or River Guard. Both singers, who are HOS 2020/21 participants, have been working professionally for a close to a decade in the folk/jazz, musical theatre, singer/songwriter genres along with their more recent emerging careers excelling in the classical world of opera.
HEAR THEM LIVE along with keyboard player and HOS 2021 Music Director, Stéphane Mayer, on September 19th, at Head Lake Park Bandshell. (See concert above).
I WANT TO LEARN MORE!
Lauren Margison - Singing (all styles) River Guard - Singing (all styles), Guitar
AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE AND VIEW EXTENDED TO AUGUST 31st!
Join us online Sundays @3pm for 'Reflections & Expressions', a series of short concerts featuring current and past HOS singers and pianists, as they share music that is important to them and why. Series partially sponsored by a generous bequest from Mme. la Juge, Anne-Marie Trahan. Click here to purchase tickets and learn more.
COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Missing live singing? Need a fun & safe outlet during lockdown?...and even afterwards? Join us for singing lessons ONLINE! All styles, from pop & jazz to classical. ALL AGES! A limited number of FREE LESSONS for residents of Haliburton County! Don’t miss out! Sign up NOW! Visit our Community School