The Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio; its young artists training programme, has an exchange with the equivalent in Montreal. This week the Montrealers are in town and there was a lunch time concert featuring four singers from each programme. Being a big fan of the Ensemble Studio I went along to see how the products of the two programmes compared. I don’t know whether the Toronto programme is harder to get into or provides a more rigorous experience or, likely, both, but in terms of musicianship, stage presence and generally readiness to meet the world, the Toronto singers outclassed the Montrealers. I don’t want to write negatively about young singers who are working really hard so I’m only going to talk positives. The best of the Montrealers was soprano Chantale Nurse. She has a dramatic voice with a pronounced vibrato that was heard to good effect in a Massenet aria; “Il est doux, il est bon” from Herodiade and she was fine in the Mozart ensemble pieces. If her voice continues to develop and gain power she could do very well. I just can’t see the other three progressing to major professional careers. Of the Toronto based perfomers, one of the stand outs, unsurprisingly, was mezzo Wallis Giunta, who is heading for the Met next season. She will likely be a great success in mezzo trouser roles and today did very well with some of Dorabella’s music from Cosi as well as as Annio in La Clemenza di Tito. The other star was Adrian Kramer who continues to develop as a baritone with a leaning to comedy. He’s making a name for himself as Sid in Albert Herring in various locations and the excerpt he sang today shows why; excellent comic timing and presence coupled to a voice that is getting bigger. I’ve heard him sing Papageno from Ring 5 at the Four Seasons Centre so I know the power is there! Locals Neil Craighead and Jacqueline Woodley did fine in more Mozart excerpts and it rather sums things up to say that Jacqueline, as Zerlina, rather outsung her Montreal Don Giovanni.