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Canadian Opera Company competition won by U of T music student

Tenor Charles Sy takes top prize and audience choice award

“Charles is always competing – with himself and his personal best, his musical best," says Professor Darryl Edwards. "He’s quite a marvel."

Tenor Charles Sy, a second-year master’s student in the Faculty of Music’s opera performance program, has won the first prize and the audience choice award at the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Competition.

A student of Professor Darryl Edwards, Sy received the award November 25 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Second prize went to baritone Dimitri Katotakis, a U of T alumnus also from the studio of Edwards. 
 
The competition is the feature event of the COC’s annual fundraising gala, Centre Stage, an evening dedicated to the discovery and celebration of the next generation of opera stars. The event was hosted by alumnus Ben Heppner and featured a surprise performance by opera star and alumna Adrienne Pieczonka.
 
“We heard from seven fantastic singers at Centre Stage this year, some of whom will go on to have careers like those of Ben Heppner and Adrianne Pieczonka, whose names are associated with the world’s foremost opera houses, festivals and performance halls,” said COC General Director Alexander Neef. 
 
“Canada’s emerging opera singers deserve to be heard and celebrated, and it’s an honour to be able to showcase the promise that these talented young artists represent.”
 
Sy and Katotakis – who graduated with a Bachelor of Music Performance in 2013 – were among seven finalists chosen by the COC artistic staff from a pool of 175 applicants for the 2015/2016 COC Ensemble Studio, of which 150 were invited to sing in preliminary auditions in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and New York. 

Alumnae Eliza Johnson and Michelle Siemens, two other finalists from the studio of Edwards also competed in the final round. 

“Charles’ outstanding singing comes as the result of his tremendous hard work, persistent curiosity, and his need to create deeply meaningful moments,” said Edwards. 

It's the latest in a series of artistic and competitive successeses for Sy at the University of Toronto, The Centre for Opera Studies in Italy, the Banff Centre, the Music Academy of the West, and the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques Competition. 
 
“Charles is always competing – with himself and his personal best, his musical best, said Edwards. He’s quite a marvel. 

This season, Sy sings the roles of Ralph Rackstraw in U of T Opera’s HMS Pinafore, which opens on November 27, and Mr. Owen in Postcard from Morocco in the spring. His other U of T credits include Mayor Upfold in Albert Herring, and Alamão in Pedro Malazarte. In 2015, he will sing the role of Adolfo in La Rondine with Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
 
Katotakis is now studying at McGill University, where recent roles include Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lorenzo in Capuleti e i Montecchi.

Aaron Wong is a writer with the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto.