RBC Future Launch Artist Fellows: 2020-2021 Cohort

The Fellowship has identified sixteen exceptional Canadian emerging artists from all disciplines of opera to participate in a year-long skill development and leadership training program. Designed to give a voice and agency to the next generation of artists, the Fellowship provides a platform for discovery and skill development.

 


 

Soprano Madison Angus (she/her) is a multidisciplinary performer and artist based in Toronto, Ontario. As a performer and creator, she is drawn to projects that focus on innovation and social change.

Recent engagements were to include performing the role of Monica in Menotti’s The Medium with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre, performing in Tapestry Opera’s Songbook X, and assistant directing on Toronto City Opera’s Cavallaria Rusticana. Due to COVID-19 these projects have been canceled or postponed. Select past performance engagements include, Musetta in Against the Grain Theatre’s Yukon tour of La bohème, performing in FAWN Chamber Creative’s Convergence Theory, Relay with Expect Theatre, modelling and singing at Fashion Art Toronto, and portraying Rosetta in Love in a Village at the Eastman Early Music Conference

Additionally, Madison enjoys directing, writing, and visual arts. Recent engagements include assistant directing on Giulio Cesare for the Historical Performance Department at UofT. This year, she was a member of Expect Theatre’s Playwriting Unit. Last year, Madison directed her first opera, Dido & Belinda with OperaQ and was involved in writing narration and designing the set/ costumes for the show.  Madison is a talented visual artist working with a variety of media through both personal and corporate commissions. She is a former participant of Nightwood Theatre’s Young Innovators Program where she gained valuable skills in producing theatre. Currently, Madison is the Digital Content Manager at Against the Grain Theatre.

Through her varied skill set, Madison is creating her own path within the performing arts and aspires to empower the next generation of opera artists in their own artistic pursuits.

 

Venezuelan-Canadian Tenor Tony Bittar-Sayegh (he/him) started his music training in Caracas. After completing an Artist Diploma in Voice Performance and earning a Bachelor of Business Administration, he pursued a Bachelor of Music in Voice at the University of Ottawa under the tutelage of Soprano Donna Brown. Later on, our West Coast welcomed him to embark on a Master of Music in Opera at UBC.

Praised for his “velvet quality of tone and magnetic stage presence” (Opera Canada) and for his “complex characterizations that range from the extreme dramatic to the comedic” (El Universal, Venezuela), Tony has performed for professional and semi-professional opera companies across Canada and in Latin America.

Tony has been seen as Julián in Breton’s Zarzuela LA VERBENA DE LA PALOMA, Don Ottavio in Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI, Ferrando in Mozart’s COSÍ FAN TUTTE, Tamino and Monostatos in Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE, Don Basilio in Mozart’s THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, Pedrillo in Mozart’s THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, Belfiore in Mozart’s LA FINTA GIARDINIERA, Grimoaldo in Händel’s RODELINDA, Oronte in Händel’s ALCINA, Gherardo in Puccini’s GIANNI SCHICCHI, Turmoil in the world premiere of Imant Raminsh’s THE LAKE OF TEARS The Governor in Bernstein’s CANDIDE, Le Remendado in Bizet’s CARMEN, Vašek in Smetana’s THE BARTERED BRIDE, Guillot in Massenet’s MANON, and Spalanzani in Offenbach’s THE TALES OF HOFFMANN.

He is also a grammar and conversation instructor at The Spanish Centre in Toronto and advocates for mental health and visible minorities in the arts. Bittar-Sayegh now studies privately with Soprano Frédérique Vezina.

 

Soprano D’Arcy Blunston (she/her) is a versatile performer, performing across a range of genres, including opera, concert work, musical theatre, choral, and theatre.

With live performance cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, D’Arcy, with pianist Emily Logan, has taken the initiative to produce and perform a series of digital mini-concerts throughout the Fall of 2020.

Recent engagements include soloist in Emily Doolittle’s A Short Slow Life with Symphony 21 (2020), first prize in the 2019 UBC Concerto Competition, performing Britten’s Les Illuminations, op. 18, Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte (UBC Opera Ensemble 2019), and soprano soloist in J.S. Bach’s Magnificat and Saint-Saëns’s Christmas Oratorio, in collaboration with Les amis de l’orgue de la Cathédrale de l’Immaculée Conception d’Edmundston (2018).

D’Arcy is also a member of the Vancouver Opera chorus, having performed in their October 2019 production of Verdi’s La Traviata. She has previously portrayed the roles of Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte (cover, Chicago Summer Opera), La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi (UBC Opera Ensemble 2018, Halifax Summer Opera Festival 2016), and Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen (Halifax Summer Opera Festival 2017). Non-operatic roles include Psyche/Aphrodite/Hermes in Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses (Motyer-Fancy Theatre, 2016), Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes (Garnet & Gold Musical Theatre Society, 2015) and Babette in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2014).

D’Arcy currently works as a voice instructor at Ava Music and Art Centre in North Vancouver. She holds a Master of Music in Opera from the University of British Columbia, and a Bachelor of Music from Mount Allison University.

 

Kyle Briscoe (he/him) is a young tenor studying vocal performance at the Desautles Faculty of Music under baritone Mel Braun. Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Kyle is a prairie boy at heart who is passionate about everything that involves music in Manitoba. For Kyle, this includes his position of Section leader at Young United Church where he enjoys inspiring music making. At the Desautels faculty, he has been fortunate to be able to learn from a variety of mentors in the areas of opera, musical theatre, music theory research, and music administration. Each of these
areas form his identity as an artist which has been influenced by always walking through every door of opportunity with a spirit of openness, understanding, and a curiosity to learn. His inspiration comes from his many voice teachers and research mentors who taught him the most powerful tool we have as musicians is what we have to say. Kyle offers a unique perspective by providing his audiences with an understanding of his passion for communication both on the stage and off the stage. This passion has translated into him receiving the Andrew Kuryk Memorial Scholarship (2020 & 2019), the Zita Bernstein Prize (2020), and the University of Manitoba Undergraduate Research Award (2019). He has also been given opportunities at a young age to perform with local opera and choir ensembles including the Little Opera Company, Manitoba Opera, and Camerata Nova. Most recently, Kyle has accepted a fellowship with the Association for Opera in Canada where he hopes to contribute to meaningful conversations and continue to feed his curiosity to learn.

 

Alex Chen (he/him) is a collaborative pianist and vocal coach whose curiosity brings fresh perspectives on a diverse body of musical works. In the words of his mentor John Hess, he is “an immensely musical and sensitive player” with “a deeply inquisitive mind.”

He has worked as an art song collaborator, opera répétiteur, and choral accompanist. During his MMus, Alex held a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Scholarship to support his work in dynamic art song programming.

Professional highlights presenting a distinguished recital titled Demons & Dichterliebe to explore themes of the supernatural and love; workshopping and performing The Book of My Shames with tenor Isaiah Bell & director Sean Guist; and playing Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes with the acclaimed Western Singers under the baton of Lydia Adams.

Believing a wide variety of experiences enriches both one’s life and music, Alex holds an eclectic collection of other credits. He has music directed the musical theatre show Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens. Moreover, he has sung in ensembles ranging from the Pacific Opera Victoria chorus, the award-winning University of Guelph Chamber Singers, the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s Opera Studio, Ontario Youth Choir, and the Luminato Festival’s production of R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis. Alex is on faculty at the Victoria Conservatory of Music where he works with a wide variety of students and young professionals.

In a past life, Alex handled birds of prey for educational programs and contemplated the physiological factors affecting birdsong. He loves spending time outdoors and spotting local flora and fauna.

 

Originally from PEI, mezzosoprano Lindsay Connolly (she/her) graduated with a Masters of Music from McGill University under a Joseph Armand Bombardier SHHRC scholarship for research on gender and performance. Since graduating, Lindsay has performed with Opera Nova Scotia, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Musique3Femmes, the Toronto Creative Music Lab, the Lachine International Vocal Academy, and College Light Opera Company. She has also assistant directed at the Segal Centre, and was a 2018/2019 Alumna Artist in Residence with Opera McGill. Lindsay is experienced in grant-writing, commissioning, producing, directing, discovering non-traditional performance repertoire/venues and especially in faking it til she makes it. She is currently pursuing an opera diploma studying with Laura Tucker at University of Toronto and is excited to join the RBC Future Launch Fellowship. Lindsay lives, works and plays in beautiful T’karonto and is grateful to the traditional ancestors and keepers of this land which include but are not limited to the Wendat, Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Metis, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

 

Hailed for her “delicate yet strong vocalism” (Millbrook Independent), Jardena Gertler-Jaffe (she/her) is a soprano from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Jardena is passionate about finding ways that the vocal arts can challenge, transform, and innovate in the twenty-first century. Her personal projects merge classical music with issues of social justice and representation within the arts.

Jardena has appeared as a soloist with the Cincinnati Fusion Ensemble, Concerts in the Village (NY), Victoria Baroque, The Orchestra Now, and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. Jardena’s recent opera credits include singing the roles of The Composer in the operatic pastiche Rest in Pieces, Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Hansel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and Molly/Nephthys/Tahemet in Dean Burry’s opera Isis and the Seven Scorpions.

Jardena is a student in the selective Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory where she studies with Lorraine Nubar, Stephanie Blythe, and Kayo Iwama. She holds a BMus from the University of Toronto, and is an alumna of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, SongFest and Opera NUOVA. While performing is her main focus, Jardena also earned her MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Toronto. Jardena seeks to incorporate her research interests concerning the construction of musical and cultural identities in the face of oppression, into her artistic practice. Jardena’s ongoing Body Work project, which treats the singer’s body as the site for the negotiation of power and identity, will be launched in late 2020.

For more information, please go to jardenasings.com.

 

Leanne Kaufman (she/her) is a Toronto-based soprano and young professional. Originally from Calgary, Leanne holds a Master of Music in Opera from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Music in Opera from the University of British Columbia. A voracious reader and a lover of languages, Leanne has recently begun exploring a career in editing, and is currently pursuing the Certificate in Publishing at Ryerson University. As an RBC Future Launch Fellow with the Association for Opera in Canada, Leanne is looking forward to combining her knowledge of opera with her editorial skills. Her goal is to help fellow artists express themselves confidently and professionally online, and to help opera companies polish their written publications.

Leanne is passionate about creating a Canadian body of work within the genre of opera. With the COC Academy, she has workshopped roles in Ian Cusson’s Fantasma and Ana Sokolovic’s The Old Fools. Leanne also created the principal role in the world premiere of Vengeance, a collaboration between UofT Opera and the UofT Composer Collective.

Leanne’s recent opera engagements include: Fourth Maid (cover, Elektra) at the Canadian Opera Company; La Contessa (Le nozze di Figaro) at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) at the Westben Festival; Musetta (La bohème) with Highlands Opera Studio. Her concert experience includes engagements with local symphonies such as Stratford Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Beach Chorale in works such as Messiah, Fauré Requiem, Mozart Requiem. She has been a regular member of the COC Chorus since 2018.

 

Gambian-Canadian-American performer Khadija Mbowe (she/her) is a charismatic and dynamic singer, entertainer, educator, and all around creative. She has studied and performed several styles of music including: jazz, opera, musical theatre, and many contemporary works as well as writing her own songs. Khadija has
been featured in varying roles and performances, from playing “Flora” in Opera by Request’s La Traviata, to paying tribute to Jazz icon Billie Holiday with the Toronto Concert Orchestra at Casa Loma, to working with established operatic artist Angel Joy Blue in her ‘Generation Next’ recital series. She is also a content creator using her voice and social media platforms to entertain and educate whenever she can. Writing, filming, producing, editing, and staring in her own projects on a weekly basis. Her growing YouTube channel has over 8000 views and counting. Khadija is also an advocate for equity and inclusion in all aspects of the performing arts and has collaborated with many artists to organize events and create more performance opportunities for singers and instrumentalists alike. From forming her own artists collective, in Calgary to helping create the “Celebration of Black Artists” recital at the University of Toronto and ensuring her own repertoire choices represent more marginalized groups in the classical music realm. Khadija’s passion for singing and conviction in being a voice of representation is only matched by her pursuit for continuous development in the performing arts and education of the world around her. She is an alumnus of the University of Toronto BMus. Perf. ‘20.

 

Canadian soprano Megan Miceli (she/her) has been praised for her “bright, pure, well focused high lyric soprano, with admirably steady and evenly produced tone” (Musical Toronto). Some role highlights include Mother/Gravedigger/Guilt Spectre in the world premiere of Ghost Opera, composed by Veronika Krausas, commissioned by The Old Trout Puppet Workshop in partnership with the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity and Calgary Opera, The Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Papagena (The Magic Flute), Berta (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), the title character in Dawn Sonntag’s new opera Evangeline, Morgana (Alcina), and Despina (Così fan tutte). Recent concert performances include appearances with Tapestry Opera, the Toronto Mozart Players, Pax Christi Chorale, BrottOpera and the National Academy Orchestra, Opera 5, and The Cantabile Chorale, among others with concert highlights including Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Bach’s Magnificat, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri, Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, Fauré’s Requiem, and Beethoven’s Mess C-dur. Megan was a member of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Development Program for their 2018-2019 season and was the first prize winner in the Toronto Mozart Vocal Competition in 2017. She holds a Graduate Diploma in Performance and a Masters in Music in Voice and Opera from McGill University. Postponed 2020 performances, due to COVID-19, include appearances with Saskatoon Opera and Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Pax Christi Chorale, the Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Oakville Choral Society, and Opera in the 21st Century. Upcoming virtual performances include Fanny Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang and Beethoven’s Mess C-dur with The Toronto Mozart Choir.

 

Praised as “vocally delightful” (Opera Canada), Morgan Reid (she/her) is a versatile performer of recital, musical theatre, dance, and operatic repertoire. Selected stage credits include Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Halifax Summer Opera Festival), G & S’s H.M.S. Pinafore (COSA Canada), Arden’s The Happy Prince (Highland Arts Theatre), and Ensemble for Puccini’s La Bohème (Against the Grain Theatre), which was streamed nationwide on CBC Arts. Morgan has performed in the Vocalis series (University of Toronto), notably in The Song Narrative Project (2019), where she also choreographed and assistant directed. She has also attended SongFest’s Young Artists Program, Orford Musique, COSI, and the National Opera Institute (AtG). Morgan is an active teacher in both classical and musical theatre repertoire, coaching a wide range of ages in her private studio and Bravo Academy for the Performing Arts. When not performing or teaching, Morgan works as a stage manager and an arts administrator, with notable positions at the Highland Arts Theatre (2017-2018), on the team behind the new Canadian opera The Bells of Baddeck (SM 2017, ASM 2016), serving as COSA Canada’s Social Media Manager/Admin Team (2020-), holding multiple Teaching Assistantships (U of T/MtA, 2018-), and as a member of the U of T Voice Studies Administration team (2019-). In the Fall of 2020, Morgan began her Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice Performance, with a research focus in interdisciplinary performance, at the University of Toronto, studying under Dr. Darryl Edwards. She is a graduate of the Master of Music Voice Performance Program at U of T and Mount Allison University’s Bachelor of Music program.

 

Eva Stone-Barney (she/her) is an active mezzo-soprano from Montreal, Quebec, currently completing her degree in Voice Performance with a minor in Early Music, under the instruction of Dr. Tracy Smith Bessette, Suzie Leblanc, and Olivier Godin at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, where she has received the Pauline Donalda Memorial Scholarship (2020), the Margaret Kalil Vocal Scholarship (2019) and the Grace Evelyn Tuttle Vocal Scholarship (2018) . Previously, she received a DEC in voice performance from Vanier College, where she was awarded the Noel Spinelli Vocal Entrance and Exit Scholarships (2015, 2017), as well as the Jean Sult Choral Scholarship (2017).

Eva appears regularly as a soloist and ensemble member at the Schulich School of Music, and throughout Montreal. Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, she was scheduled to appear in performance with Voces Boreales (dir. Andy Gray), La Scola Ville Marie (dir. Adam Begley), and the 2020 National Youth Choir of Canada (dir. Jean Sebastien Vallée). She was also meant to assume the role of The Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Halifax Summer Opera Festival.

When she isn’t singing, Eva is passionate about facilitating artistic and community experiences— a passion she has pursued in her work as founder of the Community Concert series (2014-2016), in administrative roles with the Yellow Door (2018) and Planet in Focus: Environmental Film Festival (2019), and as a journalist at La Scena Musicale (2020). Eva also enjoys musicological research, and earned an honourable mention at the 2020 National Choral Awards for her piece Technologized Ensemble Singing and Embodiment in the 21st Century.

 

Anna Theodosakis (she/her) is a stage director and choreographer based in Toronto. She is a sessional lecturer for the University of British Columbia and a guest lecturer this season with Dalhousie University, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the University of Manitoba, among other post-secondary institutions. Anna is a dramatic coach for the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio and directed the Ensemble in their 2019 mainstage performance of La bohème as well as their 2018 Ensemble Showcase featuring Dido and Aeneas. She also directed the COC’s Opera for Young Audiences WOW Factor: A Cinderella Story. Anna is a teaching artist for the COC, Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall. This past summer she directed a fully virtual Don Giovanni for Brott Opera and will continue to direct digital remote operas throughout the 2020/2021 season. Other recent directing credits include: dawn always begins in the bones (University of Toronto/Manitoba, COC Ensemble, 21C Festival), The Tender Land and Les contes d’Hoffmann (Opera Laurier), Haus Musik 6 (Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra), and Tears of the Knife/Hin und Zurück (Glenn Gould School). Anna received the Vancouver Opera Guild Career Development Grant in 2017 which she used to co-found Muse 9 Productions. www.annatheodosakis.com

 

As a “personal favourite” (Vancouver Arts Review), soprano Ana Toumine (she/her) is actively establishing herself as an accomplished singing-actress. Toumine was recently named a 30 under 30 artist with the Alberta Council of Ukrainian Arts, the 2020 Flipside Opera Idol, the 2019 winner of the North Dakota-Manitoba District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the 2019 second prize winner of the Vancouver Opera’s VOX Gala competition. This season, she can be seen as an Artist in Residence in the Understudy Program with Edmonton Opera, as well as a contributing fellow of the Association for Opera in Canada – RBC Future Launch
Emerging Artist Fellowship Program.

In past years, Toumine distinguished herself as an artist in residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in addition to receiving a Training and Career Development Grant from the Alberta Foundation of the Arts. Toumine’s 2019-2020 season included a recital through L’Oasis Musicale Concert Series, numerous community engagement concerts with Edmonton Opera, Manitoba Opera, Flipside Opera, and Little Opera Company; and a performance of Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52, as an alumna soloist in the Cantilon Choirs 20th
Anniversary Concert.

Recent highlights include Toumine’s debut with Opera Kelowna as Mimí in La Bohème, as well as notable roles including Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus), the title role
of Alcina, and Anna Glawari (The Merry Widow). Toumine holds a M.Mus from McGill University, a B.Mus from the University of British Columbia, and a Performance Diploma from the University of Manitoba. For more information and upcoming concerts, please visit: https://anatoumine.com/ and follow her on instagram.

 

Alexandra Weintraub (she/her) is an emerging multi-disciplinary artist, mezzo-soprano

and creative based in Toronto. She is a recent graduate from Queen’s University where she earned her Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice Performance, as well as her Certificate in Law. Alex has been involved with the performing arts since the age of five, with training in classical voice, musical theatre, straight theatre, ballet, tap, jazz, Latin and belly dancing. She is a genuine crossover performance artist and vocalist in primarily opera and musical theatre, and has a heightened interest in understanding vocal pedagogy across all genres. As a multi-disciplinary artist, Alexandra also doubles as a visual/digital artist, having newly dipped her toes in the world of content creation, creative direction and digital media.

The next phase of Alexandra’s academic endeavours include the pursuit of a Master’s degree in Social Work, with a focus on Human Sexuality and Relationships. In addition to the performing arts, she is very passionate about sexual and relationship therapy work, as well as social justice advocacy work. Alex is a firm believer in the cohesive integration of divergent interests, and that no one need be limited to one passion or career if inter

est lies in several different fields. Alexandra is so excited and grateful to be a part of the Association for Opera in Canada’s RBC Future Launch Fellowship, and looks forward to learning, discussing and sharing new ideas on how we will enact positive change in the opera sector in the pursuit of making it more diverse, equitable, inclusive and everlasting.

Jonathan Wong (he/him) is a Toronto-based conductor, clarinettist, keyboardist, singer, and educator. His wideranging work in concert, opera, and musical theatre contexts is tied together by a love for music’s
communicative power and its ability to build communities in an inimitable way.
As a conductor, he is Artistic Director of Ruckus: The University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Alumni
& Community Choir and Assistant Conductor of the University of Toronto Campus Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a frequent participant in conducting symposia and fellowships across North America. He previously served as Artistic Director and Assistant Conductor of the Toronto Lyric Opera Centre, creating productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Handel’s Semele that featured undergraduate students at the University of Toronto performing alongside professionals.

As an award-winning clarinettist, Jonathan’s diverse experience covers the gamut of solo, chamber, orchestral, and wind band playing. Highlights include playing at Carnegie Hall as concertmaster of the Toronto Youth Wind Orchestra and a concerto performance with the University of Toronto Wind Ensemble as a winner of the 2018 UofT Winds Concerto Competition. Jonathan’s keyboard playing encompasses both modern and historical instruments. Beyond regular solo work, he particularly enjoys collaborative and continuo playing. He has studied harpsichord and organ with Charlotte Nediger, Kevin Komisaruk, and Olivier Fortin. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Music with Honours (music education, clarinet) and an Advanced Certificate in Performance, Early Music (harpsichord) from the University of Toronto. He received the University of Toronto Student Leadership Award alongside numerous scholarships during his studies.