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.


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 and Artistic Director


Joel the “Ginger Ninja” Ivany had the crazy idea to start this company and serves as Artistic Director and stage director, when he’s not slowly climbing the opera career ladder by freelancing as a stage director. He is the author of four (and counting) original librettos performed by AtG. His 2015/2016 engagements include mainstage directing debuts at the Canadian Opera Company (Carmen) and the Toronto Symphony Orchestras (Mozart’s Requiem).

Christopher Mokrzewski

Topher Mokrzewski

Founding Member & Music Director


Pianist, vocal coach and conductor Christopher (or Topher) “Verklemption” 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 a founding member and Music Director of Against the Grain Theatre.

Cait Coull

Cait Coull

Founding Member


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).

Jonathan Russell MacArthur

Jonathan MacArthur

General Manager


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 interim General Manager at AtG.

Amanda Hadi

Amanda Hadi

Editorial & Digital Media Manager


Toronto-based editor and copywriter Amanda Hadi is best known to AtG as the “GZA Genius” for her outrageously quick wit and damn good ideas. 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 is currently a Digital Engagement Producer for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Alison Bent

Allison Bent

Volunteer & Administrative Manager


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.

Nikki Temblay

Nikki Tremblay

Patron Services & FOH Manager


Nikki “Disgrace” Tremblay joined the team in 2015 to help mount Pelléas et Mélisande. She has over 14 years of experience in artistic administration, front of house and customer service for the Canadian Opera Company—and boasts a rigorous set of skills achieved from spending five years in the Canadian military and obtaining a degree in Law Enforcement. By day, Nikki is a passionate and creative writer, visual artist and mother of two, but by night, she is a heavy hitter member of the GTARollergirls Roller Derby League, where she skates under the alias “Disgrace Jones.”

Jason Hand

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, 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.

Joanna Barrotta

Joanna Barrotta

Administrative Advisor


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.

Miriam Khalil

Miriam Khalil

Founding Member & Artistic Advisor


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.

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.

Cecily Carver

Cecily Carver

Digital Strategy Advisor


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.

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.