Michael Donovan, Music Director
Michael Donovan’s experience as a musician encompasses a wide range of musical styles and forms of expression.
As a boy, he studied piano and pursued extensive studies in classical and jazz saxophone at the Conservatoire du Québec. As a teenager, he composed original music for the avant-garde bands with which he performed. He then went on to pursue vocal studies at McGill University, followed by graduate studies in Opera at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, Germany, with legendary mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender. Donovan was also a student of renowned Baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who is acknowledged as the 20th century’s greatest master of lieder. As Fischer-Dieskau’s hand-picked private student at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, Donovan was immersed in the historic continuum of Romantic art song interpretation.
Donovan has enjoyed a successful career as a performer of opera, oratorio, art song, chamber music, jazz, new music and improvisational music in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, France and the U.S. He has appeared in leading roles with the Bern State Opera, Stuttgart State Opera, Munich State Opera, Opera Vancouver and the Edmonton Opera. He has been a soloist with the Quebec Symphony, the Winnipeg Symphony and Symphony Nova-Scotia as well as with many concert and new music presenters, including Numus (Waterloo), Queen of Puddings (Toronto), BradyWorks (Montreal), Array Music (Toronto), New Music Concerts (Toronto) and, most recently, the Nouvel Ensemble Modern in Montreal.
Donovan is also in demand as an educator—he is newly appointed professor at Dalhousie University and has also been on the voice faculties of Wilfrid-Laurier University and York University. He has given master classes at York University, Brandon University, the Glenn Gould School, Chadron State College (Nebraska) and Concordia University. He is also an active adjudicator and consultant for music schools and festivals.
As a composer, Donovan has written numerous settings of poems by living Canadian, German, French and Japanese poets. He has also written chamber music and film music.
Donovan’s PhD in musicology, which was nominated for the York University Thesis Award, is an inquiry into the deep-ecological significance of the poetic settings of Franz Schubert.
Donovan is also co-founder, co-artistic director and music director of Long Reach Opera Workshop, a Toronto-based opera training program for singer-actors.
In 2016 Donovan premiered his project Schubertnow: The Journey Outward, a re-visitation of Franz Schubert’s seminal song cycle Winterreise. Most recently, Donovan premiered his setting of Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats, a song cycle for voice, piano, flute and bassoon.
Anne-Marie Donovan, Stage Director
Anne-Marie Donovan is a stage director, performer and creator, originally from Montreal. Creation: Maanomaa, My Brother (Blue Bird Theatre Collective, TO), Frankenstein’s Ghosts (Blue Rider Ensemble/Inter Arts Matrix, Mtl), The Last Fifteen Seconds (MT Space, Kit), Sounding Rituals (Inter Arts Matrix, Kit). Currently working on the creation of très loin (BoucharDanse, TO) and Échos de Phèdre (Inter Arts Matrix, Kit). Anne-Marie was the founder and artistic director of Inter Arts Matrix from 2007-2014. She remains an associate artist at the company. She is co-artistic director of Long Reach Opera Workshop (TO) and a founding member of Blue Rider Ensemble (Mtl). For 21 years, Anne-Marie taught in the Drama Department at University of Waterloo, where she was awarded the Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award.
Christopher Bagan, pianist mainstage
Christopher Bagan is a versatile artist, equally at home on modern and historical keyboard instruments. He is in high demand as a collaborator, chamber musician and basso continuo specialist. He has performed with many of the leading baroque singers, instrumentalists and conductors in North America and abroad with recent engagements including appearances with I Furiosi, Apollo's Fire, Les Dèlices, Catacoustic Consort, Daniel Taylor and Ellen Hargis. He is a regular performer in the Early Music Vancouver main series and Summer Festival as well as Vancouver’s Music on Main concert series. In 2015-16 Christopher was the Early Keyboard instructor at Case Western Reserve University and the head of Harpsichord at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He is harpsichordist for the Canadian Opera Company and Opera Atelier and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance from the University of British Columbia with a specialization in the piano music of Arnold Schönberg.
Darlene Spencer, Stage Director, understudy scenes
Darlene has been a director of theatrical productions, documentaries, educational and industrial films for the past 30 years. Selected directorial credits include: Myra’s Story by Brian Foster, If We Were Birds by Erin Shields, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Falling; A Wake by Gary Kirkham, Pride and Prejudice adapted by Christina Calvit, String of Pearls by Michele Lowe, Three Cities in the Life of Norman Bethune by Tim Brady and Bradyworks, The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman, Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker, Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, Les Belles Soeurs by Michel Tremblay, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, as well as the musicals Little Women, Dogfight and The Apple Tree.
Darlene is one of the founding members of Single and Sexy, a show about the first year in University produced by Health Services at the University of Waterloo. She was the Drama Coordinator with the Community Education Team for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children in the Waterloo Region – both projects committed to theatre for change. She is the past president of the Board for Inter Arts Matrix, the birthplace of Hybrid Art, an organization that fosters the development of integrated art and is based in Waterloo, Ontario.
Darlene is an actor who has performed in theatres across Canada, and for television and film. Favorite roles include: her one woman show, I am Scheherazade by LCCarson (Annex Theatre), Bernarda in The House of Bernarda Alba by Lorca (Toronto Fringe Festival), Titania/Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Resurgence Theatre Company), Paulina in A Winter’s Tale, (York MFA) Helga Ten Dorp in Deathtrap (Waterloo Stage Theatre) and Sarah in the film 976, for which she won the Planet Indie Film Festival Best Supporting Actor award.
Darlene is also an educator who has taught at the University of Waterloo and York University. She is the past artistic director of the Randolph College for the Performing Arts, a conservatory training professional performers in Acting, Vocal and Dance, located in Toronto, ON. She is a sought after adjudicator and a workshop leader specializing in Shakespeare, Acting, Text and Audition Preparation classes.
Darlene currently lives in Ohio with her husband Michael and their three cats, Marzipan, Rrrnold, and RuPaul.
Kate Carver, piano-vocal coach
Kate Carver is based in Toronto, and is in great demand as a private vocal coach and accompanist. She has also worked as a vocal coach with the University of Toronto's Opera Division, and répétiteur and vocal coach with the Canadian Opera Company, as well as Music Director for Essential Opera and Maritime Concert Opera. She has been on staff in the voice program at the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, New York, as well as the University of Montreal, and has played for many masterclasses with world class visiting artists. After receiving her Bachelor and Masters degrees in Music from McGill university, Kate spent several years in London, England, where she studied with master voice coaches Martin Isepp and Graham Johnson at the Britten-Pears School, received a Vocal Coaching/Repetiteur Diploma from the Guildhall School of Music, and was sponsored by the Friends of Covent Garden Bursary to attend the prestigious National Opera Studio, where she continued her studies with Martin Isepp among others. Kate was attracted back to Canada by a position as Apprentice Coach with the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble program.
Perri Lo, collaborative pianist, understudy scenes
Known for her versatility and her non-hierarchical approach to collaboration, pianist Perri Lo has been collaborating with dancers, singers and instrumentalists for almost 15 years.
Cultivating a specialization in collaborative relationships with singers, Perri worked regularly as a répétiteur at Opera da Camera and Lakeshore Light Opera, two Montreal chamber opera companies. She has travelled to Lucca, Italy, to work as a répétiteur for the Accademia Europea dell’Opera on their production of Alcina, as well as to Germany to participate in the International Workshop and Chamber Music Festival. While surrounded by such inspiring instrumentalists, Perri felt moved to form her own trio, Panecorde, co-founded by Dominic Painchaud and Nadia Sparrow. This summer, Perri attended the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara as a Vocal Piano fellow and performed in the Marilyn Horne Art Song Competition, as well as collaborative concerts with composer Matthew Aucoin.
Perri is equally passionate and experienced in her work with dancers. She was engaged by the popular Ballet Divertimento contemporary dance school, the École supérieure de ballet du Québec (Montreal) and most recently at the National Ballet of Canada, In Studio program (Toronto). Drawing on a broad range of approaches to artistry and music education, Perri was engaged by the Suzuki School of Music in Calgary, AB for 4 years before starting to teach piano through the McGill Conservatory. She draws on her experience in both the Suzuki and Traditional methods in her teaching and music making.
A Calgary native, Perri is now based in Toronto, where she is completing an Opera Repetiteuring diploma at the University of Toronto, studying with Sandra Horst. When she’s not at the piano, Perri loves cycling and playing the ukulele.
Brad Cook, Movement Coach
Brad Cook is an actor, puppeteer, movement director, movement teacher and theatre creator. As a creator with BBTC, Cook was co-creator and actor in Maanomaa, My Brother. Other selected creations include; Body 13 (MT Space), Frankenstein’s Ghosts (Blue Rider Ensemble/Inter Arts Matrix).
As an actor and puppeteer selected credits include: the head of Joey in War Horse (National Theatre of Great Britain), Earthling House Huntress (CBC), King Lear (Cosmic Fishing), Charles Dickens Writes a Christmas Carol, Pearl Gidley, Radio Leacock, Twelfth Night (Lost ↦ Found), The Importance of Being Earnest (Guild Theatre Festival). Currently in his 4th season at the Stratford Festival as a movement coach and movement director and will be movement and puppetry coach of the University of Waterloo’s upcoming production of The Eco Project: How on Earth Do We Live?.
Selected movement direction and puppetry direction credits include: The Breathing Hole, Treasure Island, Breath of Kings: Rebellion and Redemption (Stratford Festival), Cosi fan tutte, The Consul, Susannah (Long Reach Opera), Western (Next Stage), Lord Sword (Inter Arts Matrix), The Lark, The Trojan Women (Lost & Found Theatre), Western (Next Stage), King Lear (Cosmic Fishing Theatre). Brad teaches Movement for Actors at the National Theatre School of Canada, Randolph College and The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre.
Linda Garneau, Movement Coach
Linda Garneau, choreographer, educator, and student, with an MA in Dance Studies from York U. Linda is the artistic director of the Helix Dance Project, whose works include The Waiting Room, Rain, Unearth, and Integration. Theatre credits include three seasons with The Shaw Festival, as well as productions for Rainbow Stage, Tarragon Theatre Company, Randolph Theatre, Sheridan Theatre and Drayton Entertainment. Other credits include the Opening Ceremony for the Pan Am Games (Guadalajara), Juno and Gemini Awards, and repeat guest choreographer for Stars on Ice. Linda continues to enjoy freelance choreography, teaching both at home and abroad, and is a faculty member at Ryerson University and Sheridan College.
Sara Maida-Nicol, Italian Language Coach
Sara Maida-Nicol is an Italian linguist, language coach and lyric soprano. Whether performing or lecturing, Ms. Maida-Nicol is noted for her passion and energy on stage. Ms. Maida-Nicol holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Toronto and a Master of Arts in Italian from Middlebury College. While in graduate school, she studied at the Universita’ degli studi a Firenze, where she became interested in linguistics and culture. This interest led her to pursue a Ph.D. in Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Toronto, giving her the opportunity to integrate the various areas of her expertise into an overall anthropological-semiotic analysis of the phenomenon of Italian language in music. Her early graduate work was devoted to the field of Italian Linguistics and Dialectology where she had the privilege of working with distinguished experts including Umberto Eco, Marcel Danesi, Tullio De Mauro and Giulio Lepschy. Her first publication, a book on Italian Dialectology co-authored by Gianrenzo Clivio and Marcel Danesi, and published by Lincom Europa, was also the first of its kind available in the English language. She has since published a handful of scholarly articles on diverse aspects of Italian language and culture, as well as encyclopedia entries and texts in anthropological linguistics. She also sat on the editorial boards of the academic journals Semiotica and Cultura e Cominicazione from 2010-2013. Early in her singing career, Ms. Maida-Nicol spent summers in Tuscany (and NYC in the off-season) under the tutelage of Daniel Ferro (Juilliard). Other teachers/coaches with whom she has worked during that time include Carol Vaness (Indiana University), Blanche Thebom, Federica Von Stade, Luciano Roberti (Maggio Musicale), Giovanni Reggioli (Washington Opera), Bruno Rigacci (Italy), and Jean MacPhail (Canada). Currently, Ms. Maida-Nicol teaches the Italian Vocal Repertoire at both the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School and remains active as a freelance lecturer, giving talks on all things Italian, from Opera to Food Culture. While teaching at Middlebury College from 2010-2011, she created and led a series of diction workshops that became part of the standard undergraduate curriculum, a unique addition to one of North America’s leading Italian departments. As former Editor-in-Chief of the Italian magazine formerly known as VIVO, she considers herself an “Italianist” in every sense, and works tirelessly within the communities of Toronto and Niagara promoting opera and supporting young singers through her program “Opera Tastings”.
Hanna Edwards, costume design
Hanna Edwards, costume designer, is a multidisciplinary researcher based in Toronto. Though her official education is in biology and neuroscience, she has been working in textiles for over 10 years in design, embroidery, sewing, and weaving. Her design and construction credits include Hanna Kiel/Anisa Tejpar's In Time, Michael Caldwell's FACTORY, LROW's The Consul, BLM Toronto's Freedom School, and Little Pear Garden's 5 Elements (Earth - Natasha Poon Woo). She brings her performance experience as a dancer with Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, Frog in Hand, and the Fringe Festival, as well as Anna Gomez in LROW 2017 to costume design for dance and theatre.
Alice Ferreyra, Stage Manager
Alice Ferreyra, stage manager, is originally from Lima, Perú, Alice moved to Ontario in 2009 to attend Sheridan's Technical Production program (graduated 2011). Stage Management credits include Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls (Roseneath Theatre); Godspell (Theatre Sheridan); The Drowsy Chaperone, Footloose, The Addams Family, Spring Awakening, Spelling Bee, Curtains, If We Were Birds, Nine (Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts); Seussical Jr. (Capitol Theatre); Anne of Green Gables, Evita, Shrek the Musical (Lower Ossington Theatre); Apprentice Stage Manager credits include Hamlet (Tarragon Theatre); Bakkhai (Stratford Festival); The Magic Flute (Canadian Opera Company); City of Angels (Theatre By The Bay); The Story (Theatre Columbus); The Test (The Company Theatre); Assistant Concert Manager 2013-2018 (Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra). Upcoming: The Canadian (Thousand Island Playhouse).
Guest Artist Master Classes
Colin Ainsworth, 2018
“Ainsworth has always been blessed with an unusually high, pure tenor. Now it thrills with remarkable power and expressivity.” - Stagedoor 2016.
Colin Ainsworth has distinguished himself not only with his interpretations of the major Classical and Baroque tenor roles but also by his performances in contemporary opera. His many performances have included the title roles in Orphée et Euridice, Pygmalion, Castor et Pollux, Roberto Devereux and Albert Herring; Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Rinnucio in Gianni Schicchi, Fenton in Falstaff, Tonio in La Fille du Régiment, Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Pylades in Iphigénie en Tauride, Renaud in Lully’s Armide, Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress, and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An avid supporter of new works, he has appeared in the world premieres of John Estacio’s Lillian Alling at the Vancouver Opera, Stuart MacRae’s The Assassin Tree at the Edinburgh International Festival, Victor Davies’ The Transit of Venus with the Manitoba Opera, and Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna at Sadler’s Wells in London and at the Luminato Festival. Other past opera engagements have included appearances with the Royal Opera (London), Canadian Opera Company, Chicago Opera Theatre, Glimmerglass Opera, L’Opéra de Français, Opera Atelier, Pacific Opera Victoria, Edmonton Opera, and the Greek National Opera. This past season, he made three debuts; one with Opera Columbus in Lully’s Armide; Seattle Opera as the Steuermann in Der fliegende Holländer; and with Teatro Nacional São Carlos as Pylades in Iphigénie en Tauride. He appeared in concert with Jane Glover and the Music of the Baroque, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Grand Philharmonic Choir.
Also a prolific concert singer, Mr. Ainsworth has appeared with the Cincinnati Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Pygmalion, Vancouver Symphony, Calgary Symphony, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra of San Francisco, Music of the Baroque in Chicago, Mercury Baroque in Houston, Les Violons du Roy in Montreal, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto. He has also appeared at the Lanaudiere, Montreal Baroque, Elora and the Aldeburgh Connection festivals, and has toured throughout Germany. His vast concert and recital repertoire includes Bach’s Mass in B Minor and St. John’s Passion, Handel’s Messiah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Dichterliebe and Janácek’s Diary of One Who Vanished.
Mr. Ainsworth’s growing discography includes Vivaldi’s La Griselda (Naxos), Castor et Pollux (Naxos), Schubert Among Friends (Marquis Classics), Gloria in Excelsis Deo with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (CBC Records), the collected masses of Vanhal, Haydn, and Cherbuini with Nicholas McGegan (Naxos), and the premiere recording of Derek Holman’s The Heart Mislaid which was included on the Alderburgh Connection’s Our Own Songs (Marquis Classics). He also appears in a live DVD recording of Lully’s Persée with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (Euroarts). His new disc, A Play of Passion, featuring the music of Derek Holman with Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata has just been released.
This season, Mr. Ainsworth returns to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as soloist in Jeffrey Ryan’s new composition Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation as part of Canada’s 150th Birthday celebration and the Canada Mosaic collaboration. He also will return to Chicago’s Music of the Baroque in Handel’s Esther.
Catherine Robbin, 2018
One of Canada's best known mezzo-sopranos, Catherine Robbin has established an international reputation since her debut in 1972, performing with leading conductors throughout the world. Miss Robbin’s illustrious thirty-year performing career included performances and recordings with conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Trevor Pinnock, Christopher Hogwood, Bernard Labadie, John Nelson, Andrew Davis and many others in concert halls from Rome to Tokyo. She is at ease in a wide range of vocal music but is particularly noted for her interpretations of Baroqueand Romantic repertoire in oratorio, opera and recital.
In 2003, Catherine Robbin retired from a performing career, giving her farewell concert at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto with Tafelmusik. Since then she has been the director of classical vocal studies in the School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design at York University in Toronto. Her students have won numerous awards and have gone on to graduate studies at many Canadian, American and European universities.
Aside from her activities at York University, Miss Robbin is often called upon to adjudicate and to give masterclasses at universities across Canada and for young artists’ intensive programs. Catherine is an honorary patron of The Toronto Children’s Chorus and The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto. Throughout her career Miss Robbin has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including a Juno Award, a Grand Prix du Disque and a Grammy nomination. In 2011, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Leslie Fagan – Soprano, 2017
Reviewing Leslie Fagan's recent New York appearances, Opera News names her performance of the Poulenc Gloria as “one of the most memorable performances of the season,"” and the New York Times noted the soprano's “transcendent moments” in Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall. In demand for concert appearances from North America to Europe and Asia, Ms. Fagan's engagements include Mahler's Symphony No. 2 under the direction of Hans Graf; a Stravinsky and Debussy concert with The Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine in France; Bach's Das Weinachtsoratorium BWV 248 in Stuttgart, Germany; Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall in England and with Tafelmusik Orchestra and Choir in Canada; and an engagement as guest soloist at the International Choral Festival in The Netherlands. She has performed with conductors Sir David Willcocks, Boris Brott, Jukke-Pekke Saraste, Elmer Isler, Kent Tritle and Daniel Lipton with orchestras such as the National Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony, as well as the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Her recent engagements include Bach's St. Matthew Passion with the Oratorio Society of New York; concerts in Ribideo, Spain; and in the United Arab Emirates.
When not on the world stages, Leslie teaches aspiring singers at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Elizabeth McDonald, Master Class, 2016 & 2017
Soprano Elizabeth McDonald is having a diverse career as a performer and teacher. As a young artist with both the Santa Fe Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, Elizabeth understudied and performed a number of major roles including Elettra in Mozart's Idomeneo, The Woman in Schoenberg's Erwartung, Miss Jessel in Britten's Turn of the Screw, and Jenufa in Janecek's Jenufa. She has appeared with the National Ballet Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, and the Kingston Symphony and is a regular recitalist having been featured at Virginia Polytechnic University, Eastman School of Music and the Universities of Toronto, Lakehead, Lethbridge, Queen's and Carlton, and the Off Centre Music Salon. The 2015-16 season will see Elizabeth present recitals at the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, the University of Toronto, and Bimiji State University. Oratorio work includes the soprano solos in Mendelssohn's Elijah and Poulenc's Gloria.
A voice instructor at the University of Toronto, Elizabeth's students have won major national and international awards including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition, the Canadian Opera Company Centre Stage Competition, and the Eckhardt-Grammatte Competition. They have been accepted at prestigious summer programs including the Ravinia Festival, The Schubert Institute, and COSI; as well as major graduate programs in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Elizabeth was selected as a 2012 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Intern Teaching Program participant. She has served as an adjudicator for major voice festivals across Canada and works regularly with the Ontario Youth Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus and lectures at the University of Toronto's annual Choral Symposium. Currently Elizabeth is the president of the Ontario Chapter of NATS and is the co-founder of the website ArtSongFinder.com.
Elizabeth holds a Master of Music from the Eastman School of Music and a Bachelor of Music in Performance from the University of Toronto. She lives in Prince Edward County, ON with her husband and two children.