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, opera.ca and Canadian Actors Equity Association.

Against the Grain Theatre was 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.

  • 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.

Staff

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.

The Collective

Miriam Khalil

Associate Artistic Director & Founding Member

@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.

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.

Madison Angus

Digital Marketing Manager

@Madison__Angus

Soprano Madison Angus (she/her) is a multidisciplinary performer and artist based in Toronto, Ontario. As a performer and creator, she is drawn to projects that focus on innovation and social change. Recent performance engagements include, performing in FAWN Chamber Creative’s Convergence Theory, Relay with Expect Theatre, Musetta in Against the Grain Theatre’s Yukon tour of La Bohème, modelling and singing at Fashion Art Toronto, and portraying Rosetta in Love in a Village. In addition to performing, she enjoys directing, writing, and visual arts. Recent engagements include, assistant directing on Giulio Cesare for the Historical Performance Department at UofT as well as being a member of Expect Theatre’s Playwriting Unit. Last year, Madison directed her first opera, Dido & Belinda with OperaQ and was involved in writing and designing for the show. Madison has past experience assistant directing with Opera 5 and co-directing scenes through the studio of Lorna MacDonald at UofT. Madison is currently a member of Nightwood Theatre’s Young Innovators Program where she is learning how to produce her own projects and empower the young artists of the future.

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.

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 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.

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.

Marc Chalifoux

Chair of the Board of Directors

Marc is Associate Vice President of Digital Performance where he oversees digital sales and servicing for TD’s largest business lines. He has had an eclectic career path that spans the private, public and non-profit sectors in both Canada and the US. He holds an MBA for MIT Sloan School of Management in Boston.

Marc’s sole artistic talent is as an audience member and he pursues it passionately. After being blown away by Orphée+, he reached out to Against the Grain offering to help out. He joined the Board of Directors in January 2019 and became Chair in March 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. He enjoys great art and overcoming adversity.

Alumni & Original Members

Topher Mokrzewski

Founding Member & Music Director

Joanna Barrotta

Andrea Bellefeuille

Past AtG President & Chair of the Board of Directors

Allison Bent

Cecily Carver

Brad Cherwin

Holly Coish

Cait Coull

Founding Member

Nina Draganic

Nancy Hitzig

Jonathan MacArthur

Nikki Tremblay

Board of Directors

Marc Chalifoux, Chair
Simion Candrea, Treasurer
Marzena Gersho, Secretary
Matthew Bernstein
Barrie Chercover
Kim Finkelstein
Michael Hutcheon
Heather Legg
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.