Against the Grain Theatre

"The future of opera."

− Alexander Neef, General Director, Canadian Opera Company

"One of the most exciting companies in the country."

− The Charlebois Post

"They bring a modern, triumphant twist to Don Giovanni."

− The Globe and Mail

"Opera needs exciting productions like #UncleJohn ... The directness is electric."

− Maclean’s

"The troupe has an unbroken five-year list of hits."

− NOW Magazine

"They have magic that carries even a shoebox production into your imagination and makes it live as art."

− Opus One Review

"...AtG’s power of art, of opera, of storytelling and of great music smack you in the face like a bracing wake-up call to the spirit."

− The Globe and Mail

"Against the Grain Theatre has ... achieved that rarest of wonders: a production that succeeds on all levels."

− John Terauds, Musical Toronto

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

Against the Grain Theatre is an award-winning Canadian opera collective that presents classical music in innovative ways and in unusual venues.

Past Seasons

  • 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

Joel Ivany

Founder & Artistic Director

@joelivany

Joel Ivany is the Founder and Artistic Director of AtG, and is the program director of 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 (revival at Norwegian National Opera). He is the author of five (and counting) original librettos. He was a Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Direction (AtG’s Figaro’s Wedding), Outstanding New Opera/Musical (AtG’s #UncleJohn) and the recipient of the same prize for Figaro’s Wedding. Recent mainstage directing credits include debuts at the Canadian Opera Company (Carmen) and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Mozart’s Requiem). His 2016/2017 engagements include a new production of Dead Man Walking (Vancouver Opera), a semi-staged presentation of The Seven Deadly Sins (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) and Canadian Claude Vivier’s chamber opera Kopernikus (Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity).

Christopher Mokrzewski

Topher Mokrzewski

Founding Member & Music Director

@Tophski

Conductor, pianist and vocal coach, Topher “Verklemption” Mokrzewski is a steadily rising figure in the world of Canadian opera. He is serving his fourth season as Resident Conductor of Calgary Opera, and is Music Director of both AtG and the Open Space Opera Program at The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, he is frequently sought as a soloist, collaborator and music director. He recently conducted Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado and Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges at Calgary Opera (where he also served as assistant conductor for Lakmé, Die tote Stadt and Die Zauberflöte) and Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia with Against the Grain Theatre at the Banff Centre and Toronto Summer Music Festival. In 2016/2017, Topher returns to his duties at Calgary Opera, Against the Grain Theatre and Banff Centre and will also return to the music staff of the Canadian Opera Company.

Jonathan Russell MacArthur

Jonathan MacArthur

General 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, and has studied abroad at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory and the Saint-Petersburg State University in Russia. He is a passionate performer of the Baroque and New Music genres, and was an ensemble member of AtG’s Dora Award winning performance of AtG’s Messiah. Having worked closely with FAWN Chamber Creative, and Tapestry Opera, Jonathan adds another colourful feather to his Indie Opera TO hat as General Manager at AtG.

Amanda Hadi

Amanda Hadi

Editorial & Digital Media Manager

@mandahadi

Toronto-based editor, copywriter and digital media specialist Amanda Hadi has made a career successfully bridging the gap between a 19th-century impresario and a 21st-century internet meme generator. She is currently a full-time Digital Engagement Producer for the Toronto International Film Festival, and spends her evenings running the editorial and digital media strategy of the renowned Canadian indie opera company Against the Grain Theatre. She has worked for the Canadian Opera Company, the City of Ottawa Public Art Program, several creative branding studios in Toronto, and, most recently, as the Social Media Officer for the Art Gallery of Ontario. She has been profiled in Flare Magazine, NOW Magazine, Metro News and 500px.

Allison Bent_New

Allison Bent

Volunteer & Administrative Manager

@AllisonBent1

Allison “NKOTB” Bent brings experience from both sides of the stage. A professional percussionist, she holds degrees in performance from the University of Toronto, Cleveland State University, and The Glenn Gould School. Allison has performed with many orchestras in Canada and the US, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Canadian Opera Company. By day she works as an orchestra personnel administrator at the TSO.

Holly Coish

Holly Coish

Box Office Manager

After years on the road as a travelling ukulele player, Holly “Bling” Coish finally settled down in Toronto. Currently the Audience Services Coordinator for Opera Atelier, she has also worked in Box Offices at the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto International Film Festival, Koerner Hall, and Orchestra London. Highlights of her musical career include playing onstage with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, and performing to a sold-out Massey Hall audience in 2014.

Jason Hand

Jason Hand

Resident Lighting Designer

@JHLighting

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, Young People’s Theatre 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.

Andrea Bellefeuille

Andrea Bellefeuille

President and Chair of the Board of Directors

Andrea Bellefeuille is Director of Cross Business Risk at BMO Capital Markets, specializing in derivatives and market infrastructure, has an MBA from Dalhousie University, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers. She began working as a classical music singer after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Toronto. Although Andrea stopped singing professionally in 2006, opera has continued to be her passion; she joined AtG in 2014.

Cait Coull

Cait Coull

Founding Member & Communications Advisor

@CaitCoull

A passionate arts professional with a background in dance and classical music, Cait “Half-Pint” Coull has been AtG’s Communications Director since the company’s debut performance in December 2010. She honed her chops at the Canadian Opera Company, where she worked in communications for five years. By day she leads the communications department of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and by night she can be found refilling wine glasses at parties in her excellent home (and AtG’s unofficial HQ).

Miriam Khalil

Miriam Khalil

Founding Member & Artistic Advisor

@SongbirdKhalil

One of Canada’s rising sopranos, Miriam “The Leb” Khalil has sung at Glyndebourne, Aldeburgh, and with Canadian companies and orchestras from coast to coast. She is a graduate of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio and a founding member of AtG. Her roles with the company include Mimi in La Bohème, the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, Susanna in Figaro’s Wedding, Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande, and Elvira in #UncleJohn.

Nina Draganic

Nina Draganic

Artistic Advisor

By day, Nina “The Hammer” Draganic is the Director of the the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio and Orchestra Academy. After hours, she brings some serious cred to the AtG team as its Artistic Advisor. Praised by music critic John Terauds as “the most significant concert presenter in [Toronto] outside of the TSO,” she has made a lasting impact on the COC and the Toronto cultural scene by creating one of the most popular and highly regarded concert series in the city: the Free Concert Series in the RBA.

Cecily Carver

Cecily Carver

Digital Strategy Advisor

@cecilycarver

An opera obsessive specializing in technology and social media, Cecily “T-Bone” Carver joined the Against the Grain Theatre team in 2012 as its community engagement advisor. She is the co-founder/director of Dames Making Games, a non-profit community organization for women game-makers. Cecily currently lives in Seattle, where she works as a software engineer at Google.

Joanna Barrotta

Joanna Barrotta

Administrative Advisor

@JoJoBarBar

Joanna “Fly-Tape” Barrotta has over a decade of experience in the biz, working in stage management for such companies as the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, Tapestry New Opera, Canadian Stage, Factory Theatre and, of course, Against the Grain Theatre. She was also the first General Manager for the SummerWorks Performance Festival. Joanna likes bourbon, lives in the East end, and has two cats.

Board of Directors

Andrea Bellefeuille, President & Chair
Jamie Cameron, Treasurer
Jonathan MacArthur, ex-officio
Christine Bryce
Caitlin Coull
Kim Finkelstein
Joel Ivany
Yvette Lam
Heather Legg
Christopher Mokrzewski
Amy Mushinski
Shirley Neuman

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.