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General Director

Robin Whiffen (she/her)

Passionate about creating greater representation and sustainability in opera, Robin Whiffen, originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, has served as Executive Director of Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) in Toronto, Canada, and was named General Director of the company in November 2022. Trained as a performer, Robin began her arts administration career as General Manager of Opera on the Avalon, where her work focused on creating operatic interpretations of Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.

With a mission to make opera accessible and relevant to the artists and audiences of our time, Robin has been a leader in the success of AtG’s strategic initiatives by stewarding the artistic process, both through the growth and development of the organization and by supporting artists to tell their stories in authentic and meaningful ways. This work is evident in AtG’s debut film, Messiah/Complex, with Robin executing the success of the JUNO-nominated production and AtG winning the first-ever OPERA America Digital Excellence Award. Further projects led by Robin include the film version of Sāvitri (also nominated for an OPERA America Digital Excellence Award) and Identity: A Song Cycle, supported by the National Arts Centre National Creation Fund, to create a stage adaptation and commission the orchestral version.

As a strategic leader, Robin brings empathy, authenticity, respect, and collaboration to her work. She creates opportunities for artists to develop a deeper skill set beyond their work as performers and advocates for female-identifying persons to excel in the opera sector. Robin was recently selected to participate in the Business/Arts Executive Leadership Program and the OPERA America Leadership Intensive. These programs identify promising future leaders and provide them with mentorship and education to bolster their leadership capacity and advance their careers. In September 2021, Robin was appointed as a member of The College of Electors for the University of Toronto, representing the Faculty of Music. She has been a mentor in the Association for Opera in Canada RBC Future Launch Fellowship Program and invited to speak as an arts leader and ambassador of the operatic art form for audiences in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

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.

Chair of the Board of Directors

Marc Chalifoux (he/him)

Marc is Vice President, Digital Commerce Platform at Thomson Reuters where he leads a global transformation of their digital sales strategy and capabilities. 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.
Founding Member & Artistic Advisor

Miriam Khalil (she/her)

Two time Juno nominated artist, Miriam Khalil has established herself as one of Canada’s most versatile and expressive performers. She has become increasingly known for her non traditional performances of opera, art song and concert repertoire.

She has sung on numerous opera stages across North America and the UK, including a stint at the renowned Glyndebourne Festival Opera (GFO) in the United Kingdom. Notable roles include Mimì in La Bohème (Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Opera Hamilton, Calgary Opera, Edmonton Opera and Against the Grain Theatre (AtG)); Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Opera Tampa and AtG/The Banff Centre/Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival); Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande (AtG); the Governess in The Turn of the Screw (AtG); Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare (GFO); Almirena in Rinaldo (GFO); Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro (Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Lyra Ottawa and AtG), Alcina (Fargo Moorhead Opera), Marzelline in Fidelio (Pacific Opera Victoria) and Mamah Cheney in Hagen’s Shining Brow (Urban Arias) among others.

She is a proud founding member and Associate Artistic Director of the Dora Mavor Moore Award-winning chamber opera company Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). With vision and dedication, AtG explores different and innovative ways of presenting opera to new and familiar audiences. Miriam is delighted to help shape “one of the most important opera companies in Canada” (Calgary Herald).

She also recently joined the Voice Faculty at the University of Alberta and is very excited to be working with the next generation of singing artists and creators.

Director of Operations

Amy Strilchuk (she/her)

With 20 years of experience as an arts leader and dramaturg, Amy loves the business of bringing new work to audiences. She is a curator, producer, marketer, and fundraiser who has collaborated on more than 200 new Canadian premieres at Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Club Theatre Company, Ballet BC, The Cultch, Gateway Theatre, Green Thumb Theatre, Magnetic North Theatre Festival, and Touchstone Theatre. Seasoned in company transformations, Amy has steered teams through leadership transitions while championing empathy-based processes. Recent inspirations include Banff Centre’s 2020 Cultural Leadership Program and Misha Glouberman’s course How to Talk to People About Things, giving her frameworks for navigating challenges and developing more sustainable ways for making shows. Amy currently consults for arts organizations across Canada and is passionate about mentoring emerging, female-identifying artists and leaders. She holds an MA in Theatre from UBC and is an avid vintage collector.

Board of Directors

Marc Chalifoux, Chair
Ilona Dougherty, Treasurer
Ian Cusson, Secretary
Philip Akin
Matthew Bernstein
Piyush Bhatnagar
Simion Candrea
Kim Finkelstein
Andrew Gillespie
Mary-Ann Haney
Astrid Janson
Robin Whiffen, ex-officio

Our Founder

Founding Artistic Director

Joel Ivany (he/him)

Joel Ivany is the Founder and was the Artistic Director of AtG, is the artistic director of Opera at Banff Centre and was recently appointed Artistic Director at Edmonton Opera. 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 is a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Direction as well as 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 (Hänsel und Gretel, 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). Recent highlights include Messiah/Complex (AtG) and directing the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards. 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.

Legacy Members

You know what they say: it takes a village.

We want to extend a huge thank you to all the wonderfully creative and administrative magicians that helped guide AtG along its journey.

Madison Angus,  Digital Content Manager

Joanna Barrotta

Andrea Bellefeuille, Past President

Allison Bent

Cecily Carver

Brad Cherwin

Holly Coish

Cait Coull, Founding Member

Michaela Dickey, Administration & Projects Consultant 

Nina Draganic

David Eliakis, Artistic Associate & Opera Pub Host

Amanda Hadi,  Editorial & Creative Manager

Jason Hand, Lighting Designer

Nancy Hitzig

Joel Ivany, Founding Artistic Director

Jonathan MacArthur

Topher Mokrzewski, Founding Music Director

Michael Morreale, Digital Consultant

Nikki Tremblay