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TORONTO (July 12, 2023) – Against the Grain Theatre (“AtG”), Canada’s award-winning experimental opera company, announces its esteemed Founder and Artistic Director, Joel Ivany, will be stepping back after thirteen (13) years of service. After a remarkable tenure of visionary leadership, Ivany has made the decision to step down from his role on the heels of a successful season for AtG, with its first live production since the COVID-19 pandemic, Bluebeard’s Castle, earning seven (7) Dora nominations and winning three (3) including Outstanding Opera Production.

“This decision to leave AtG was the hardest of my career. My next chapter of life requires more attention to my family, for renewed creativity and my own mental health. Since 2010, our team at AtG has passionately poured ourselves into this company to make a mark, and to create a space where we could produce work that spoke to us and our communities,” remarked Joel Ivany on his journey with the company. “On a personal level, being a part of AtG has fulfilled my artistic dreams. Together over the last decade and half, with help from hundreds of artists and thousands of engaged opera fans, we hoped to transform our feisty little company into something that would strengthen the artistic landscape in Canada. I believe we’ve accomplished that. Now, I’m excited to see all the new and exciting ways that AtG will evolve the nature and perception of what opera and vocal works can be in the years ahead.”

Under Ivany’s exceptional guidance and boundless creativity, AtG has established itself as a trailblazer within the Canadian opera ecosystem, pushing boundaries and redefining traditional operatic and vocal performance. His relentless passion for innovation and unwavering commitment to making opera accessible to diverse audiences have left an indelible mark on the company and the broader artistic community.

Ivany spearheaded numerous groundbreaking productions during his tenure, transforming how audiences engage with opera From immersive performances in untraditional venues to boundary-pushing adaptations of standard repertoire, AtG, under Ivany’s direction, has consistently captivated and challenged audiences, earning critical acclaim and garnering international recognition. Collaborations include creating a renewed opera program with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, as well as productions with partners including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Crow’s Theatre, the Ottawa International Chamber Festival, Rockport Chamber Music Festival and Opera Columbus. AtG was the Inaugural Company in Residence at the Canadian Opera Company, and AtG, in partnership with CBC Arts, presented the first live-streamed professional opera production in Canadian history.

“Joel’s legacy at AtG is immense: multiple new and re-imagined productions resulting in nine (9) Dora Awards and thirty-two (32) nominations, four (4) album releases, two (2) JUNO award nominations, two (2) Canadian Screen Award nominations, and the inaugural OPERA America Award for Digital Excellence. In addition, he has seen Opera Pubs established in three (3) provinces, a national tour which included the first live opera produced in the Yukon since 1903, and introduced new audiences to opera, including more than 200,000 through our digital productions including Messiah/Complex,” said General Director Robin Whiffen. “He has also nurtured the careers of many emerging artists across Canada, and the Canadian opera sector is stronger because of what he has built. Joining Joel on this journey at AtG has been, and will continue to be, a career highlight.”

Ivany leaves AtG with two upcoming seasons programmed with exciting new commissions in various stages of development. These include an operatic adaptation of Thomas King’s Indians on Vacation by composer Ian Cusson and librettist Royce Vavrek (co-commission with Edmonton Opera); the continued evolution of Identity: A Song Cycle by composer Dinuk Wijeratne, poet Shauntey Grant and baritone Elliot Madore; a new version of L’histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale) by Igor Stravinsky with a new libretto by Titilope Sonuga (co-commission with the Art of Time Ensemble); and the Mozart murder-mystery No One’s Safe by composer Nicole Lizée. 

AtG’s Board Chair, Marc Chalifoux, expressed the Board’s gratitude to Ivany for his thirteen (13) years of creativity, innovation and artistic excellence, saying, “Joel’s transformative vision and artistic passion birthed Against the Grain Theatre and built it into Canada’s leading independent opera company. We are so grateful for everything he has done for AtG, as well as his commitment and continuing partnership as we produce genre-bending, boundary-breaking opera experiences.”

Officially serving as Artistic Director until August 12, 2023, Ivany will remain involved as a director for upcoming AtG productions, including Identity: A Song Cycle, as well as a consultant throughout the transition period. Ivany will continue to serve as Artistic Director of Edmonton Opera and lead the Opera in the 21st Century program at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity. 

General Director Robin Whiffen will continue to provide artistic leadership at AtG in the lead-up to and following Ivany’s departure. The Board of Directors will announce plans around the search for Ivany’s successor in the coming months. 



Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) is a multi-award-winning Canadian experimental opera company dedicated to creating boundary-breaking, genre-defying vocal works and films staged in surprising locations emphasizing innovative storytelling and memorable artistic experiences. AtG is the creator of the internationally acclaimed film Messiah/Complex and the ongoing Opera Pub series.

Established in 2010 and still evolving, AtG is committed to revitalizing the operatic art form by introducing diverse audiences to outside-the-box opera experiences, creating daring re-interpretations of classical repertoire, and offering thrilling, intimate, and unforgettable experiences shared between artists and audiences.

For more information, please visit AtG online at, on Twitter and Instagram @AtGTheatre, and on Facebook at



Robin Whiffen

General Director