This intimate and intriguing new double-bill brought together two of Canada’s most engaging talents — bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus and mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó — in performance of two of the most compelling song cycles ever written: Franz Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Olivier Messiaen’s Harawi.

AtG Music Director Christopher Mokrzewski at the piano. Staging by AtG Artistic Director Joel Ivany.

Sung in German and French, with English surtitles.

Video by Michael Barker | Photos courtesy of Darryl Block


June 2, 3, 4, 5, 2015 at 8pm
Neubacher Shor Contemporary Gallery
5 Brock Avenue, Toronto


Our favourite things | The Globe and Mail
“Simply done, it was the most unforgettable night of the year and made, as a poet said, one little room an everywhere.”

2015 in Review | Opera Ramblings
“There was also much to like in the category of hard to define productions. Against the Grain produced two fine combinations of music and choreography. Death and Desire; a mash up of Die Schöne Müllerin and Messiaen’s Harawi featured a searing performance from Krisztina Szabó, well paired with Stephen Hegedus.”

Jon Kaplan’s Top 10 Theatre Artists of 2015 | NOW Magazine
“Mezzo Krisztina Szabó was equally haunting in the double bill of Die Schöne Müllerin/Harawi.”

End of Year Highlights | Definitely the Opera
Death & Desire named a 2015 highlight.

Review: Death & Desire | NOW Magazine
“Inventive mashup of Schubert and Messiaen produces ravishing results. Rating: NNNN”

Review: Death & Desire | The Whole Note
“Against the Grain Theatre is dedicated to experimentation… specifically an attempt to break down the traditional barrier between song recital and music drama.”

Death and Desire: Mashup opera breaks all the classical-music rules | The Globe and Mail
“In doing so, they have broken about 100 classical-music rules all at once. … And, if Death and Desire runs true to Against the Grain form, the result will be a stunning artistic triumph.”

Death & Desire: Against the Grain Theatre Goes Green and Wins Gold | Musical Toronto
“…Joel Ivany must be thrilled with the results and commended for his ingenuity and daring.”

Review: Death & Desire | Opera Going Toronto
“Perennially daring indie collective Against the Grain Theatre has fundamentally redefined the nature and form of the art song experience.”

In Review: Death & Desire | Schmopera
“One of the most artistic and thrilling examples of lyric theatre to date. … There are many reasons why Against The Grain Theatre is tearing up the opera scene, and this show is one of them.”

Death & Desire Review | Definitely the Opera
“…the latest AtG offering Death & Desire turned out to be excellent. The closer you look at how Topher Mokrzewski, Joel Ivany and comp. shaped it, the more stirring and intelligent the work shows itself.”

Death & Desire/Eros and Thanatos | Opera Ramblings
“What makes the piece fascinating is that what we see is two very different worlds intersecting, never merging and ultimately blowing apart.”

#AtGdeathdesire: more desire than death | barczablog
“…the youthful Against the Grain crew are a force to be reckoned with … The inventive way that these songs are framed defamiliarizes them, and refreshes them.”

Critics Picks: Death & Desire | Musical Toronto
“Against The Grain Theatre is back with another groundbreaking production that is sure to get everyone talking. […] Novel as ever, the two texts have been mashed-up into a single theatrical production. If you were to see only one show this week, this should be it.”

Preview: Death & Desire | NOW Magazine
“Against the Grain Theatre doesn’t go for the stuffy or traditional … Rather than perform the two song cycles one after the other, Ivany and Mokrzewski have done a mash-up, creating a dramatic structure in which the two singer/characters interact with each other.”

Doundou tchil (Death & Desire) | Opera Ramblings
“Her [Krisztina Szabó’s] performance is of extraordinary intensity…. Hegedus makes a perfect foil with a stylish performance of the Schubert that seems to counterpoise a a gentler version of nature and love to the rawness of the Messiaen.”

Is #AtGdeathdesire a new genre? | barczablog
“You must go see what Ivany, an obstreperous Szabó and a silent, frustrated Hegedus make of this fascinating composition … Topher Mokrzewski doesn’t just play this music, he enacts it, playfully working with Messiaen.”

Critics Picks: Death & Desire at the RBA | Musical Toronto
“Indie Opera fans will want to cancel their plans and run down to the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre to check out the exclusive preview of Against the Grain Theatre’s production of Death & Desire.”


Krisztina Szabó (Mezzo-soprano)

The Woman in Harawi

Widely lauded for her versatility, stage prowess and ability to paint vivid character portraits on both opera and concert stages, Hungarian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó exemplifies today’s modern singer. An alumna of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, she appears frequently with the COC in diverse roles including Idamante (Idomeneo), Musetta (La Bohème), Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale), Dorabella (Così fan tutte), The Pilgrim (Saariaho’s L’amour de loin) and, most recently, as The Woman in Schönberg’s Erwartung. Her 2014/2015 season includes engagements with Calgary Opera, Tapestry Opera, Vancouver Early Music, Music of the Baroque (Chicago), Kingston Symphony, Vancouver Bach Choir, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Continuum Music, and the Colorado Summer Music Festival.

Stephen Hegedus (Bass-baritone)

The Man in Die schöne Müllerin

Bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus is a native of Toronto. A prize-winner in the New York Oratorio Society competition, he made his Carnegie Hall debut singing Bach’s Mass in B-minor. His credits include the title role in Le nozze di Figaro, Leporello (Don Giovanni), Colline (La Bohème), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Albert (Werther) and Nick Shadow (The Rake’s Progress). He has been engaged by the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Canadian Opera Company, Vancouver Opera, L’Opéra de Montréal, Opera Atelier, Pacific Opera Victoria, Edmonton Opera, and Opera Hamilton. Equally at home on the concert stage, he has appeared with the Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Houston Symphony, and the Grant Park Festival.

Creative Team

Joel Ivany

Stage Director

Joel Ivany is the founder and artistic director of AtG, and is the program director of The Banff Centre’s “Open Space: Opera in the 21st Century”. 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 (Norwegian National Opera). He is the recent nominee of the Dora Award for Outstanding New Opera/Musical for AtG’s #UncleJohn and the recipient of the same prize for Figaro’s Wedding. His 2015/2016 engagements include mainstage directing debuts at the Canadian Opera Company (Carmen) and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Mozart’s Requiem), the premiere of AtG’s A Little Too Cozy at The Banff Centre, and a revival of #UncleJohn at the Ottawa International Chamber Festival.

Christopher Mokrzewski

Music Director

Topher Mokrzewski is a steadily rising figure in the worlds of Canadian opera and chamber music. He was recently appointed Resident Conductor of Calgary Opera, and is the founding Music Director of AtG. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, he is frequently sought as a soloist, collaborator and music director. His 2015/2016 season includes conducting Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado and Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges, and serving as assistant conductor for LakméDie tote Stadt and Die Zauberflöte with Calgary Opera. He also returns to the faculty of The Banff Centre’s “Open Space: Opera in the 21st Century” opera program this summer as Music Director of A Little Too Cozy, the latest instalment in AtG’s Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy adaptations.

Jason Hand

Resident Lighting Designer

Jason “Legz” 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, and Theatre Calgary. He is the recipient of four 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 six of AtG’s eight productions.

Michael Gianfrancesco

Set and Costume Designer

Michael Gianfrancesco has designed productions for the Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, National Ballet of Canada, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Opera Atelier, Canadian Opera Company, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Citadel Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Canadian Stage Company, Tarragon Theatre, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, and the Royal Conservatory of Music. He is a recipient of the Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award in Costume Design from the Ontario Arts Foundation, and his set design for Cabaret at the Shaw Festival was selected to be a part of the 2015 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.

Lesley Abarquez

Stage Manager

Lesley Abarquez Bradley is a veteran stage manager of opera and musical theatre, and recently worked with AtG on Pelléas et Mélisande. She regularly stage manages for the Canadian Opera Company, Tapestry New Opera Works, the Canadian Children’s Opera Company, the University of Toronto Opera School, Queen of Puddings Theatre, The Banff Centre for the Arts, Summer at the Roxy, Resurgence Theatre, and The Glenn Gould School. This summer, Lesley is looking forward to working with Cinetic Creations on her first circus/dance show, The Thirst for Love & Water, as part of the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Autumn Coppaway

Production Manager

Before joining the AtG team, Autumn Coppaway worked as an assistant technical director for The Grand Theatre, production manager for Carousel Players, and technical supervisor for the Luminato Festival’s Hub. She graduated from the Ryerson Theatre School in 2012. She continues to work as a director of production for numerous corporate events and theatrical productions across the city, and is currently an assistant technical director for the Canadian Opera Company.