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

  • 2018: Orphée⁺
  • 2017: La Bohème (remount), Bound (Year 1)
  • 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 artistic director of Banff Centre’s “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 seven (and counting) original librettos for companies such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company. He was a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Direction and has also been nominated for multiple Dora Awards for Outstanding New Opera/Musical, winning one for Figaro’s Wedding. Recent mainstage directing credits include Dead Man Walking at Minnesota Opera and a multiple award-winning production of Gluck’s Orphée⁺ with Opera Columbus, AtG and Banff Centre. He has directed productions for the Canadian Opera Company (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 (Banff Centre). Upcoming directing credits include Kopernikus with AtG and No One’s Safe at Banff Centre. 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.

Topher Mokrzewski

Topher Mokrzewski

Founding Member & Music Director

@Tophski

Conductor, pianist and vocal coach, Topher Mokrzewski is a steadily rising figure in the world of Canadian opera. He is currently Music Director of the acclaimed Toronto indie opera company Against the Grain Theatre, is Music Director of the Open Space Opera Program at The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and recently completed four seasons as Resident Conductor of Calgary Opera. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio and the Eastman School of Music, he is frequently sought as a soloist, collaborator and music director. He has served on the music staff of the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier, the Chautauqua Institute, Highlands Opera Studio, among others. Recent conducting engagements of note include: Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, South Pacific and The Mikado at Calgary Opera, Vivier’s Kopernikus and Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Banff Centre and the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Handel’s Messiah, Bound (a reimagined updated Handel project) and the critically acclaimed production of A Little Too Cozy with AtG, as well as Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man at the Glenn Gould School. As pianist, Topher recently performed Messiaen’s titanic Turangalîla Symphonie with the Calgary Philharmonic. The remainder of 2018 sees Mokrzewski returning to Against the Grain Theatre, as well as the Banff Centre, where he will conduct Gluck’s Orphèe et Eurydice and Bernstein’s Candide.

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, studied abroad at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, and the Saint-Petersburg State University in Russia. This year he remounts Electric Messiah with Soundstreams, performs as the frontman for the band DONNA, “a DJ set trapped in the body of a sexy-six piece pop band,” premieres three operas with FAWN Chamber Creative in PANDORA and sings with recent Polaris Prize Winner Jeremy Dutcher at Danforth Music Hall: selections from Wolastoqiyik Lintuwokonawa. He has performed with Saskatoon Opera, Luminato Festival, Toronto Masque Theatre, Music Academy of the West and internationally with iSING Festival in China. He fell hard for AtG as a member of the Dora Award–winning ensemble of AtG’s Messiah. He has been General Manager of the company for the past two years and has been receiving valuable mentorship as the company-in-residence at the Canadian Opera Company with additional training at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in the Cultural Leadership program.

Amanda Hadi

Editorial, Creative & Digital Manager

@mandahadi

Toronto-based digital media specialist, producer, editor and writer Amanda Hadi has made a career successfully bridging the gap between a 19th-century impresario and a 21st-century meme generator. She has made it her mandate to support and champion the work of Canadian creators, and has collaborated on projects and grants for independent filmmakers, newly immigrated visual artists, emerging opera singers, illustrators, animators and videographers. She is currently a full-time Digital Engagement Producer for the Toronto International Film Festival, and for the past two years has spent her evenings running the editorial, creative 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 head of Social Media for the Art Gallery of Ontario. She has been profiled in Flare Magazine, NOW Magazine, Metro News, DX3 Digest and 500px.

David Eliakis

Artistic Associate & Opera Pub Host

Pianist, voice coach, AtG Opera Pub host and lecturer David Eliakis has collaborated with some of Canada’s finest singers and has worked with world-renowned artists such as Isabel Bayrakdarian, Warren Jones, Julius Rudel, and Sir Martin Isepp. After graduating from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, he was awarded an Ontario Arts Council grant to study privately with Warren Jones in New York City. His performances have taken him to the stages of Brazil, Switzerland, England (where he was a finalist in the Wigmore Hall Song Competition), Germany, Bermuda, and the Maritime Provinces. He currently works as a collaborative pianist and voice coach at the University of Toronto and The Royal Conservatory of Music. This year he also appears as a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music. and returns as a regular host of AtG’s free Opera Pubs, running the first Thursday of each month at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club. (Next event: May 3, 9pm.)

Jason Hand

Jason Hand

Resident Lighting Designer

@JHLighting

Jason 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 five 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 ten of AtG’s numerous productions.

Heather Legg

President & Chair of the Board of Directors

By day, Heather Legg is a reinsurance broker at Aon Benfield. By night, she is a mom to two teens and a supporter of the arts. Her first career was as a harpist, playing with the National Youth Orchestra. Growing up in a family where volunteer work was a given, she volunteered for many years with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, sitting on the Board of the London chapter while in university. After taking a board preparatory course in 2013, she started looking for a new organization to devote her time to. After seeing AtG’s Marriage of Figaro, Messiah and finally #UncleJohn she was hooked and sent a short email asking if they were looking for board members…. she joined the Board a month later in January 2015 and became Chair of the Board in January 2018.

Miriam Khalil

Miriam Khalil

Founding Member & Artistic Advisor

@SongbirdKhalil

One of Canada’s acclaimed sopranos, Miriam Khalil has sung at Glyndebourne, Aldeburgh, and with North American companies and orchestras from coast to coast, including the Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Hamilton, Opera Lyra Ottawa and Opera Tampa. She is a graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio and a Founding Member of Against the Grain Theatre. Her roles with AtG include Mimì in La Bohème, the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, Susanna in Figaro’s Wedding, Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande, Elvira in #UncleJohn, the soprano soloist in AtG’s Messiah and most recently Osvaldo Golijov’s song cycle Ayre (Banff, AB, Toronto and Ottawa, ON). Her 2018/2019 season includes Mimì in La Bohème with the Canadian Opera Company, Marzelline in Fidelio with Pacific Opera Victoria, Eurydice in Orphée at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Noor Haddad in AtG’s Bound v.2. Her season also includes Osvaldo Golijov’s acclaimed song cycle Ayre at the Rockport Festival and Pacific Opera Victoria, a work she has previously performed in Buenos Aires, Banff, Ottawa, and Toronto.

Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh

Orchestra Manager, Violin/Viola

@ravensara2

Violinist, violist, and entrepreneur, Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh has created an exciting career around her love of orchestral and chamber music, with performances in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Ireland, England, Wales, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Romania. Recently appointed to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Brenna is the founding violinist of the Amarok Ensemble, and violist of the Toronto-based performance project Bach from the Heart. A long-time business owner, she has managed the Canadian music agency Cadenza Strings with finesse and imagination for over 14 years. Brenna plays on a violin by Ottawa luthier Guy Harrison, and a viola by Toronto luthier John Newton.

Michaela Dickey

Michaela Dickey

Administration & Projects Consultant

@MichaelaDickey ‏

Originally from 100 Mile House, BC, Michaela Dickey’s journey as a performer has recently led her here to Toronto. She holds degrees in Opera from McGill, the University of British Columbia and the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Michaela has had the pleasure of working with AtG as a performer first, singing the role of Zerlina in #UncleJohn at the Banff Centre, and as an ensemble member of AtG’s Dora Award–winning production of AtG’s Messiah.

Alumni & Original Members

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).

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.

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.

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.

Andrea Bellefeuille

Andrea Bellefeuille

Past AtG President & 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. During Andrea’s tenure at AtG, the company obtained charitable status, developed permanent staff, and created an infrastructure that would propel the indie-company into the professional realm. Andrea continues to support the company in the role of Past Chair.

Nikki Temblay

Nikki Tremblay

Patron Services & Front of House Manager

Nikki “Disgrace” Tremblay joined the AtG 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.”

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.

Brad Cherwin

AtG Ensemble, Clarinet

Brad Cherwin is a Toronto-based clarinetist and concert presenter. His performances have been called “astounding,” and noted for their “technical prowess [and] perfect conveyance of … wit, humour, and effect” by The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Calgary Herald has hailed his playing as “a total success … as flexible in tone as possible.” Brad is also the is the co-director of a chamber music series in Toronto, Happenstance. The concerts have been lauded as “superbly planned, with a rich banquet of textures and colours … Next time these people throw a recital, run don’t walk.” (Lydia Perovic, Definitely the Opera). Brad is a fellow of the Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency Program at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Board of Directors

Heather Legg, Chair
Christine Bryce
Jamie Cameron, Treasurer
Barrie Chercover
Kim Finkelstein
Marzena Gersho
Michael Hutcheon
Joel Ivany, ex-officio
Jonathan MacArthur, ex-officio
Topher Mokrzewski, ex-officio
Amy Mushinski, Secretary
Shirley Neuman

Directors Emeritus

Andrea Bellefeuille, Past Chair
Cecily Carver
Caitlin Coull
Nina Draganic

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.