Since 2010, Against the Grain Theatre has been making waves in Canada’s classical music scene. Offering everything from Mozart, Handel, Schubert and Puccini to Britten, Messiaen, Janáček and Kurtág, we have made it our mandate to exhibit fresh, daring re-interpretations of classical repertoire. We perform in nontraditional spaces — courtyards, bars, Victorian mansions, wedding halls — and with scaled-back accompaniment, such as a string quartet or piano, to bring out the full force of operatic singing in close quarters. The result? A thrilling, intimate, and unforgettable experience shared between our artists and audiences. Come see for yourself.

Against the Grain Theatre is a proud member of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing ArtsOpera Volunteers International, and Indie Opera T.O.

Against the Grain Theatre is proud to be the inaugural participant in the Canadian Opera Company’s company-in-residence program.

Mandate

Our mandate is to create and introduce communities to outside-the-box opera experiences.

Past Seasons

  • 2019: Kopernikus
  • 2018: Orphée⁺Bound v. 2 
  • 2017: La Bohème (remount), Bound v. 1
  • 2016: A Little Too Cozy, No One’s Safe (Banff), Kurtág’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared (Ottawa Chamberfest), Ayre (Banff, Ottawa Chamberfest, Toronto)
  • 2015: Death & Desire, A Little Too Cozy (Banff), #UncleJohn (remount), AtG’s Messiah (remount)
  • 2014: Pelléas et Mélisande, #UncleJohn
  • 2013: Kafka/Janáček/Kurtág, Figaro’s Wedding, AtG’s Messiah
  • 2012: The Turn of the Screw
  • 2011: La Bohème, La Bohème (remount)

The Team

In December of 2010, Toronto’s opera scene received a jolt of energy when a visionary young group of friends who worked in the opera business united to form Against the Grain Theatre. With the goal of reinvigorating the art form by presenting classical repertoire in unconventional spaces and innovative ways, AtG staged its first performance to a sold-out audience of 50 people, and with that the company was off and running. The company’s success is thanks in no small part to a gang of comrades who work tirelessly to breathe life into every AtG venture.

Joel Ivany

Founder & Artistic Director

@joelivany

Joel Ivany is the Founder and Artistic Director of AtG, and is the artistic director of Opera at Banff Centre. His directing credits include productions of Verdi’s Macbeth (Minnesota Opera), Carmen (Vancouver Opera), Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera), Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever (Adelaide Festival) and Le nozze di Figaro (revival at Norwegian National Opera). He is the author of seven (and counting) original librettos for companies such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company. He was a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Direction and has also been nominated for multiple Dora Awards for Outstanding New Opera/Musical, winning one for Figaro’s Wedding. Recent mainstage directing credits include Dead Man Walking at Minnesota Opera and the multiple award-winning production of Gluck’s Orphée with Opera Columbus, AtG and Banff Centre. He has directed productions for the Canadian Opera Company (Carmen), Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Mozart’s Requiem, Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins), the Canadian Children’s Opera Company (Brundibár), Vancouver Opera (Carmen, Dead Man Walking), and Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus (AtG and Banff Centre). Upcoming directing credits include new productions of Figaro’s Wedding (AtG), Hänsel und Gretel (Canadian Opera Company) and Candide (Edmonton Opera). He is a proud graduate of the Opera School at U of T and is a member of the Alumni Wall of Fame at his alma mater, Western University.

Robin Whiffen

Executive Director

@robinwhiffen

An arts administrator and performer from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Robin Whiffen spent the past three seasons with Opera on the Avalon, most recently in the role of General Manager. Inspired by a lifelong love of music, Robin is passionate about creating meaningful collaborative partnerships within the arts community, allowing audiences to see their full potential reflected through the power of opera. Robin is a Master of Business Administration candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland and holds a Bachelor of Music in voice performance from The University of Toronto. In 2017, she represented Opera.ca at the OPERA America Leadership Intensive in New York City and has been invited to speak across Canada in her capacity as an arts administrator and advocate of the operatic art form. When not working, Robin can be found managing her dog’s instagram account and drinking a lot of coffee.

Jonathan MacArthur

Digital Marketing Manager

@JRusmac

Jonathan MacArthur is known as both a producer and performer in the Toronto arts scene: he is a Masters graduate of the University of Toronto Opera program, studied abroad at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, and the Saint-Petersburg State University in Russia. He has performed two consecutive seasons of Electric Messiah with Soundstreams, and premieres three operas with FAWN Chamber Creative in PANDORA this spring. He is the frontman for the band DONNA, “a DJ set trapped in the body of a sexy-six piece pop band,” with two music videos in pre-production scheduled for release summer 2019. He has performed songs from Wolastoqiyik Lintuwokonawa in Jeremy Dutcher’s band at incredible moments in history that include both the Polaris Prize and the Junos, both televised/livestreamed by the CBC. He has performed with Saskatoon Opera, Luminato Festival, Toronto Masque Theatre, Music Academy of the West and internationally with iSING Festival in China. He fell hard for AtG as a member of the Dora Award–winning ensemble of AtG’s Messiah. He has been General Manager of the company for the past two years and has been receiving valuable mentorship as the company-in-residence at the Canadian Opera Company with additional training at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in the Cultural Leadership program. With AtG, he has produced La Bohème, BOUND v. 1 and v. 2, and the Dora-Award winning production Orphée⁺.

Amanda Hadi

Editorial & Creative Manager

@mandahadi

Toronto-based cultural programmer, writer and digital producer Amanda Hadi has made a career successfully bridging the gap between a 19th-century impresario and a 21st-century meme generator. She is currently part of the Toronto International Film Festival’s public programming team, where she supports their year-round series, including Books on Film, In Conversation With…, Reel Talk, Secret Movie Club, and special onstage events. Prior to this, she was TIFF’s Lead Digital Engagement Producer, co-programming the third annual TIFFxInstagram Film Festival. She has worked for the Canadian Opera Company, the City of Ottawa Public Art Program, several creative branding studios in Toronto, and as the head of Social Media for the Art Gallery of Ontario. Since Death & Desire (2015), she has spent her evenings running the editorial, creative and digital campaigns of the renowned Canadian indie opera company Against the Grain Theatre, where among her many contributions she spearheaded the company’s RGD-winning creative rebrand by Acme Art & Design. She has been profiled in Flare Magazine, NOW Magazine, Metro News and 500px. She hopes you like your hand-packaged Claude Vivier dossier and find its contents compelling and haunting…

David Eliakis

Artistic Associate & Opera Pub Host

As a sought-after voice coach, host and lecturer, pianist David Eliakis has collaborated with world-renown artists such as Warren Jones, Julius Rudel, and Sir Martin Isepp. His performances have taken him to the stages of Brazil, Switzerland, England, Germany, and across Canada. He shares his time between the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music and the Royal Conservatory of Music as a voice coach and lecturer, as well as Against The Grain Theatre as an Artistic Associate and host of their wildly popular monthly Opera Pubs. As a lecturer he speaks passionately about lesser-known composers and works, as well as singers from previous generations, including a pre-screen talk about Maria Callas at the Toronto International Film Festival for the debut of their film ‘Maria by Callas’.

Jason Hand

Resident Lighting Designer

@JHLighting

Jason Hand is a Toronto-based lighting designer working in theatre and opera. He has designed at major opera houses in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Minneapolis, and at theatres and festivals including Canadian Stage, Soulpepper, Shaw, Stratford, Banff, Young People’s Theatre and Theatre Calgary. He is the recipient of five Dora Award nominations for Lighting Design, and was the 2012 protégé recipient of the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in Theatre. Beginning with the first Bohème in 2011, Jason has lit ten of AtG’s numerous productions.

Michael Morreale

Digital Consultant

@18mrm

Michael is a Toronto-based digital producer and writer. His work has been featured in The Guardian, CBC, Maclean’s Magazine, WQXR, The Globe and Mail, CTV News, The New Classical FM, Classic FM, Ludwig Van Toronto and more. At the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, he led the $10-million Canada 150 signature initiative Canada Mosaic, which included 42 concert recordings, an innovative e-learning platform and partner orchestras across the country. This season, he is producing 12 live concert streams from Koerner Hall at the RCM. Previously, he was a producer at CBC Music and CBC Radio 2, and an Emerging Dance Critic at the National Ballet of Canada. He is from Sarnia, Ontario.

Heather Legg

Chair of the Board of Directors

By day, Heather Legg is a reinsurance broker at Aon Benfield. By night, she is a mom to two teens and a supporter of the arts. Her first career was as a harpist, playing with the National Youth Orchestra. Growing up in a family where volunteer work was a given, she volunteered for many years with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, sitting on the Board of the London chapter while in university. After taking a board preparatory course in 2013, she started looking for a new organization to devote her time to. After seeing AtG’s Marriage of Figaro, Messiah and finally #UncleJohn she was hooked and sent a short email asking if they were looking for board members…. she joined the Board a month later in January 2015 and became Chair of the Board in January 2018.

Miriam Khalil

Founding Member & Artistic Advisor

@SongbirdKhalil

One of Canada’s acclaimed sopranos, Miriam Khalil has sung at Glyndebourne, Aldeburgh, and with North American companies and orchestras from coast to coast, including the Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Hamilton, Opera Lyra Ottawa and Opera Tampa. She is a graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio and a Founding Member of Against the Grain Theatre. Her roles with AtG include Mimì in La Bohème, the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, Susanna in Figaro’s Wedding, Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande, Elvira in #UncleJohn, the soprano soloist in AtG’s Messiah and most recently Osvaldo Golijov’s song cycle Ayre (Banff, AB, Toronto and Ottawa, ON). Her 2018/2019 season includes Mimì in La Bohème with the Canadian Opera Company, Marzelline in Fidelio with Pacific Opera Victoria, Eurydice in Orphée at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Noor Haddad in AtG’s Bound v.2. Her season also includes Osvaldo Golijov’s acclaimed song cycle Ayre at the Rockport Festival and Pacific Opera Victoria, a work she has previously performed in Buenos Aires, Banff, Ottawa, and Toronto.

Michaela Dickey

Administration & Projects Consultant

@MichaelaDickey ‏

Originally from 100 Mile House, BC, Michaela Dickey’s journey as a performer has recently led her here to Toronto. She holds degrees in Opera from McGill, the University of British Columbia and the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Michaela has had the pleasure of working with AtG as a performer first, singing the role of Zerlina in #UncleJohn at the Banff Centre, and as an ensemble member of AtG’s Dora Award–winning production of AtG’s Messiah.

Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh

Orchestra Manager, Violin/Viola

@ravensara2

Violinist, violist, and entrepreneur, Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh has created an exciting career around her love of orchestral and chamber music, with performances in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Ireland, England, Wales, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Romania. Recently appointed to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Brenna is the founding violinist of the Amarok Ensemble, and violist of the Toronto-based performance project Bach from the Heart. A long-time business owner, she has managed the Canadian music agency Cadenza Strings with finesse and imagination for over 15 years. Brenna plays on a violin by Ottawa luthier Guy Harrison, and a viola by Toronto luthier John Newton.

Michael Zarathus-Cook

Media Attaché

@ZarathusCook

Michael Zarathus-Cook is a student at the University of Toronto, pursuant of a career in Optometry. He’s a burgeoning arts critic, home cook and music blogger at briband.com. He’s contributed to several publications including The Wholenote, Opera Canada and The Dance Current. Much of his stream-of-consciousness can be divided equally between Bon Iver lyrics, basketball trivia and Nietzsche quotes.

Madison Angus

Manager of Guest Engagement

@MadisonJA

Soprano Madison Angus is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto, Ontario. Upcoming engagements include modelling and singing at Fashion Art Toronto for designer, Padina Bondar. Recent engagements include Rosetta in Love in a Village and performing in Tongue in Cheek Productions’ Verbotenlieder. Select roles to date include Armida in Handel’s Rinaldo, First Woodsprite in Rusalka, and Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro. Soloist opportunities include collaborative recitals at the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto and the Alliance Française. Madison holds a graduate degree in Voice Performance from the University of Toronto. In addition to performing, she enjoys directing, writing, and visual arts. Upcoming directing opportunities include Dido and Belinda with OperaQ. Additionally, Madison is a member of Theatre Gargantua’s Emerging Artist Roundtable program for young theatre creators.

Emily Trace

Media Manager

@Emily_Ascepiter

Emily Trace is a writer of plays, articles, fiction, personal essays, reviews of the performing arts and has published articles on queer culture for World of Wonder. An alumnus of the National Ballet of Canada’s Emerging Arts Critics Programme, Emily enjoys working on the other side of media with Against the Grain Theatre and the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival. She is also an actress and creative associate with White Mills Theatre Company, presently in rehearsals for an immersive production of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ to be staged this holiday season at Spadina House.

Alumni & Original Members

Topher Mokrzewski

Founding Member & Music Director

Cecily Carver

Joanna Barrotta

Nikki Tremblay

Holly Coish

Brad Cherwin

Nina Draganic

Allison Bent

Andrea Bellefeuille

Past AtG President & Chair of the Board of Directors

Cait Coull

Founding Member

Nancy Hitzig

Board of Directors

Heather Legg, Chair
Simion Candrea, Treasurer
Marc Chalifoux, Vice Chair
Barrie Chercover
Kim Finkelstein
Marzena Gersho, Secretary
Michael Hutcheon
Joel Ivany, ex-officio

Directors Emeritus

Andrea Bellefeuille, Past Chair
Cecily Carver
Caitlin Coull
Nina Draganic

Careers & Volunteer

Want to get involved?

We’re always looking for sharp and dedicated people to contribute to our year-round operations and productions. Get behind-the-scenes access, invitations to dress rehearsals and after-parties, and a hands-on opera education today. Contact us to get involved.