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Something to sing about at the COC

Something to sing about at the COC

[photo of Queen's alumni at Canadian Opera Company]L-R: Katherine, Lauren, Gianmarco,
Caitlin and Nina

Queen’s alumni Nina Draganic, Caitlin Coull, Katherine Semcesen, Gianmarco Segato, and Lauren Rahman couldn’t have found themselves at the Canadian Opera Company (COC) in Toronto at a better time.

Not only is the COC the largest producer of opera in Canada, but it’s also celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, has a 100 per cent attendance rate for performances, and enjoys the highest subscription rate of any company in North America.

With opera lovers enjoying perhaps the best years ever in the glittering new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (FSPCA), these five really are in the right place at the right time.

Nina Draganic, Mus’85, Artsci’87, has been with the COC since 2000 and is currently Director of Programing for the Four Seasons Centre. She developed an interest in opera while attending concerts in Florence and Vienna before she was hired to assist general director Richard Bradshaw (who died suddenly in 2007) during the construction of the opera house.

Right now, Nina is responsible for all artistic programing in the FSPCA outside the regular opera subscription season. “I’ve got the best job in the world because I get to work with so many different artists at so many different levels,” says Nina. “Many of them are emerging artists who are exciting because they’re at the beginning of their careers. I also get to work with international stars who are performing on the main stage, world music, jazz, not just opera.”

One of her responsibilities is planning the free concerts held in the Richard Bradshaw atrium - something Caitlin Coull, Artsci’03, helps her to co-ordinate. As Community Relations Manager, Coull compiles schedules, promotes the concerts and coordinates communications around them. She loves the way young audiences respond to the music, and describes her first day on the job—which was the day before the official opening of the FSPCA—as a baptism by fire–but a wonderful one.

“On my first day on the job I walked through the stage door, onto the stage and looked out at the opera house. I had to pinch myself at the thought I was really going to be working here,” she recalls.

Coull’s interest in opera was born when she sang in the Queen’s Choral Ensemble with Katherine Semcesen, Mus’03, who works beside her as the Senior Manager of Education and Outreach. Semcesen, who still sings for fun, laughs, “I became passionate about opera at the age of 19 when I was in the chorus of an opera at Queen’s and was very moved by the story. Up until then I’d hated opera,” she says.

Semcesen took that newfound love and her desire to work in education and now works with school and after-school programs as well as special events for children, youth, and adults. One element of the After-School Opera program involves setting up a 10-week workshop on which participants create an opera. “Our themes can range from African safaris to the internet. We just did an opera on the Olympics. We try to connect to themes that are relevant to young people.”

Gianmarco Segato’s job at the COC also involved engaging young people. He works as Retail and Creative Coordinator in the Marketing Department. His work has taken the 1988 MA grad into the world of making the opera relevant via social networking.

“It’s not just about tweeting or Facebooking though. We want to up our presence across the nation and we do that through everything from quizzes to podcasts. We whittle things down to a level that we hope reaches a lot of new people as well as those who know more about opera.”

While Segato majored in Art History at Queen’s, he says music has always been a big part of his life, and he performs classical opera. Segato loves his job, too. “It pulls in a lot of my interests and skills.”

Lauren Rahman, Artsci’08, also confesses to her job pulling in interests she never knew existed. As Publications and Administrative Assistant in the Public Relations Department, Rahman admits to not having a huge interest in opera until she arrived. However, when she took in her first opera she was hooked. In fact, in between writing everything from biographies for programs and for the Free Concert Series, she loves watching rehearsals.

“I absolutely love it. I get to sit with the directors, the choreographers, lighting designers, and the crew members and understudies. I watch the operas with them and I take notes. It’s such a thrill.”

[Queen's Alumni Review 2010-2 cover]