Since 1968, The Canadian Children’s Opera Company (CCOC) has provided a permanent children’s chorus for the Canadian Opera Company. The first of its kind in this country, the CCOC has gone on to establish an internationally recognized commitment to the creation and production of children’s opera.
Founded by singer, broadcaster and impresario Ruby Mercer and Music Director Lloyd Bradshaw, the company was designed to offer young people top quality instruction in operatic and choral singing, stagecraft and drama. This training, paired with numerous and varied annual performance opportunities, places the CCOC in a central position in the Canadian opera scene.
The CCOC remains the only permanent children’s opera company in Canada that commissions and produces opera for children on a regular basis. The company has commissioned no less than 12 major operatic works by Canadian and International composers and librettists such as Gian Carlo Menotti (Chip and His Dog, 1979), Derek Holman & Robertson Davies (Dr. Canon’s Cure, 1982), Harry Somers & Tim Wynne Jones (A Midwinter Night’s Dream, 1988), John Greer and Jeremy James Taylor (The Snow Queen, 1993), Dean Burry (The Hobbit, 2004), and Errol Gay & Michael Patrick Albano (A Dickens of a Christmas, 2005). Recent major opera commissions include The Secret World of Og (2010) by Dean Burry, Laura’s Cow: The Legend of Laura Secord (2012) by Errol Gay & Michael Patrick Albano, East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon (2014) by Norbert Palej & CCOC alumna K.T. Bryski, and Alice in Wonderland (2015) by Gay & Albano. Children are involved every year in a production with high-profile professional directors, designers, singers and coaches drawn from the Canadian and international opera community.
The company regularly collaborates and performs with other leading arts organizations, such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Hannaford Street Silver Band, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Soundstreams Canada, and the Luminato Festival. Five commercial recordings have been released, including the 2006 recording of A Midwinter Night’s Dream that garnered a Juno nomination in 2007. The CCOC’s second European tour, to Central Europe in summer 2007, was met with critical acclaim. The CCOC’s third European tour, also to Central Europe in summer 2011, garnered a second prize win in the Summa Cum Laude competition in Vienna.
Two Junior Choruses (AC and IC) were added to the main program in 1988 to provide basic training for children ages 6 to 11 years and in 1999, the Ruby Chorus was created to introduce 5 and 6 year-olds to music and drama through singing games and eurythmic training. In 2002, the CCOC introduced the Canadian Youth Opera Chorus for boys with changed voices and girls ages 16 to young adult in order to provide further training and experience as a bridge to university programs. Due to the popularity of the CCOC’s programs, a further chorus was created in 2010. The Butterfly Chorus introduces 3 and 4 year olds to drama and singing. From 32 original members, the CCOC has now grown to around 200 children and youth participants.
In 2009, OPERAtion KIDS, the CCOC’s outreach arm, was formally created and has since expanded to include after-school and in-school programs, along with educator training. The CCOC also maintains a bursary program, which allows equal access to its core program for talented individuals.
In the fall of 2015, the organization released its sixth CD recording, Lullabies, a recording of 15 multicultural lullabies in 12 languages. Over half of the initial run of the CD was provided free-of-charge to parents of babies and young children with the partnership of several Toronto area hospitals, community centres and women's shelters.
In the spring of 2016, the company created and hosted a city-wide celebration of the art form the Toronto Festival of Children's Opera.