Friday March 17, 2023 7:30pm
It’s OPERA! It’s FESTIVE!
It’s a vocal PALOOZA!!
As talent presents itself, we create and OpéraFest is upping its showcase game with the presentation of two complete works in a semi-staged concert format as we do the deep dive into Samuel Barber’s A HAND OF BRIDGE and Giacomo Puccini’s stirring IL TABARRO. This year’s cast is a very dynamic and talented group of emerging and well established artists from the GTA and Hamilton along with our special invited guest artists from Mexico, soprano Zulema Vergara and tenor Alonso Sicairos-Leon, all under the artistic direction of Stuart Graham and musical direction of the incomparable pianist Narmina Afandiyeva.
Celebrate with us the magic of live performance! We look forward to welcoming you to our audience!
born in Baku (Azerbaijan). A fourth-generation musician, Narmina never had to think about her occupational choice. After an early start, she gave her premiere solo concert at the age of 6. During her studies at the Bülbül Specialized musical school under the guidance of Adelya Vekilova, Narmina frequently gave solo concerts and performed with the orchestra.
Prize-winner of many piano contests in Azerbaijan, Narmina graduated from the U. Hadjibeyov Azerbaijan State Conservatory with master’s degree in 2000.
In October 2012, she was awarded the Gwendolyn Koldofsky Prize in Accompanying, (University of Toronto, Faculty of Music). In demand as a collaborative pianist and coach, Narmina has been working as a music director for VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert, Summer Opera Lyric Theatre and other companies.
Being involved in many great projects, Narmina has the honour to work with Canadian composers, such as Victor Davies and Peter Togni, and enjoys working under the batons of Robert Cooper, Derek Bate and Larry Beckwith.
Recent performances include chamber music and piano works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, Chopin and such operas as Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, Chrubini’s Médée, Elektra by Richard Strauss, I Due Figaro by Mercadante, THE ECSTACY OF RITA JOE by Victor Davis, WERTHER by Massenet (Opera in Concert) amongst others.
Praised for “dominating with a powerful voice and with great dramatic flair” in her performances (Opera Canada, Vol. 58 No.2), Canadian Soprano Giulianna Misasi is an exciting young vocalist emerging from the prestigious Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Most recently, in November 2022 Giulianna debuted the role of The Jester in the new opera Forever hold your peace with Opera Unbound by Olivia Etey in Vancouver, Canada. In 2022 Giulianna performed in multiple productions that included her Opera In Concert Debut as a soloist in The Mother of us all by
Virgil Thomson playing the role of Constance Fletcher and Jenny in May 2022. In June 2022 she also performed with Toronto Operetta Theatre and was featured in the role of Lady Helga in A Waltz dream by Oscar Straus.
Highlights of Giulianna’s past performances include performing the role of Marta in the Music Theatre on the Thames’ production of Company. In the summer of 2017, Giulianna’s performance as Lady Billows in the Halifax Summer Opera Festival production of Britten’s Albert Herring earned glowing reviews from Opera Canada magazine. The following summer in 2018, Giulianna performed as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with the Summer Opera Lyric Theatre in Toronto. In the fall of 2018, Giulianna featured as Helene in the Glenn Gould School production of Hin und zurück by Hindemith. During the 2019-2020 opera season Giulianna was selected to perform the role of Suor Genovieffa in the Glenn Gould School production of Puccini’s Suor Angelica in March of 2020. In 2021 and 2022 Giulianna was competitively selected to participate in the Stratford Summer Music Vocal Academy. In Stratford Ontario, Giulianna featured in the Vocal Academy Finale performing various arias and ensembles.
Giulianna Misasi is a graduate of the Bachelor of Music, Vocal Performance program and Artist Diploma program at Western University under the tutelage of Jackalyn Short and coach Paul Digout. More recently, Giulianna graduated from the Glenn Gould School where she completed an Artist Diploma in Voice performance under the instruction of Monica Whicher and Peter Tiefenbach. Giulianna is currently studying under the tutelage of Elizabeth McDonald and Emily Martin. Beyond performing, Giulianna pays forward the mentorship she receives through teaching both voice and piano to students of all ages through her own studio. Giulianna was born in Orangeville Ontario, raised in Brampton and Caledon, and completed undergraduate studies in London Ontario before moving to Toronto. In her spare time she loves to kickbox, workout, and cook.
Soprano Zulema Vergara, originally from Guerrero, México, received her Bachelors of Music from the Escuela Superior of Music of the National Institute of Fine Arts (Mexico City). Since then, she was a district winner (Mexico) in the Laffont Competition of the Metropolitan Opera of New York. (2021) as well as winner of the Zarzuela prize in the Maritza Alemán Competition. She has appeared as feature soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Acapulco on various occasions as well as appearances in the Cervantino International Festival (Guanajuato). Zulema has been a resident artist in the Sinaloa Opera Studio, the Bel Canto Institute of San Miguel de Allende and MÉXICO CANTA 2022 (Toronto) as part of her professional apprenticeship.
Katherine Barr is not a stranger to the stage. Born in Hamilton, Katherine began singing at age nine with the HCC and is a graduate of Western. As a talented mezzo-soprano, she made her professional debut in 2019 performing Glascha with Opera in Concert’s staging of Káťa Kabanová. 2022 has been an exciting year with lots of new roles which include Fanny Nightingale in The Lady with the Lamp with OIC, the Witch and the Mother in Hansel and Gretal with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre and numerous other performances with Toronto’s OIC, & TOT chorus’. Katherine anticipates another lively performance year.
As an actor and singer, Martha divides her performance loyalties between theatre and music, appearing with various Toronto companies. Her latest appearance was as 3rd Maid/Trainbearer in Strauss’ Elektra with Toronto’s Powerhouse Opera. Favourite roles include: Jo in Mark Adamo’s Little Women, Dame Quickly in Falstaff, Nicklausse in Tales of Hoffmann and Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro. Ensemble credits include Opera Mississauga, Opera York and several productions with Toronto Operetta Theatre. Concert credits include Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, alto soloist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and the alto soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for Counterpoint Community Orchestra’s 25th Anniversary Concert. As a member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, she frequently performs in musical and theatrical club events. She holds the position of alto soloist at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Etobicoke. She has been a part of Steven Kettlewell’s Castle Frank House of Melody for several years which explores a vast array of operatic and art song literature in an ongoing series of soirées and recitals.
Born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, México. Alonso Studied in Escuela Nacional de Música de la Universidad Autónoma de México. He is an experienced theater actor, voiceover actor and radio and TV announcer, whose debut was in the Opera Company of Sinaloa, directed by Eric Steinman.
He is known for his vocal and musical versatility, his stage presence and the freedom in which he controls his voice. He has performed roles such as Nemoríno in elisir d´amore by Gaetano Donizetti, Chamaco in the Zarzuela Don Gil de Alcalá by MAnuel Penella, Leandro in La Tabernera del Puerto by Pablo Sorozabal, Aladinno and Genie in the Musical Aladino, Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady, Erik in The Phantom of the Opera, Anselmo in The Man of La Mancha, Lomper in The Full Monty, Marius Pontmercy in Les Miserables, Tamino in La Flauta Mágica de W.A. Mozart, Luigi in ll Tabarro, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Beppe in ll Pagliaci by Rugeiro Leoncavallo, Fenton in Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi, The Young Collector in A Streetcar Named Desire by André Previn, Don José by Mario Lavista (in the City Theater Esperanza Gris commemorating its 100th anniversary), Diegode la Vega (zorro) in el Zorro by H Armienta, Mozart in Mozart & Salieri by Rimski Korsakov, Alfredo Germont in La Traviata and Il Duca di Mantova in Rigoletto.
Alonso has studied with teachers such as Eric Steinman, Martha Felix, Teresa Rodriguez, Armando Mora, Rogelio Riojas-Nolasco, Alejandra Sandoval, Ted Taylor, Andrés Sarre, Michael Sylvester, Bernardo Villalobos, Guadalupe Campos, Eva Santana, Enrique Patrón de Rueda, Joseph Mc Clain, Nadine Secunde, Jane Dutton Michael Chioldi y Carlos Aransay.
He was a member of the “Ensambe Vocal Naval” and a Soloist in the orchestra and symphonic band of the Army-Navy of Mexico, as well as its institutional voice. Soloist of the monumental orchestra and choir of the Mexican Armed Forces for the 100th anniversary of the institution (army, navy and aerial force) and soloist in the military festivities of the bicentenary of the mexican independence. He has performed in the most important theaters and orchestras in México, as well as international sceneries such as the Esperanza Iris Theater, Palacio de Bellas Artes, National Auditory (Mexico), Fox theater in Tucson, Arizona and Francisco Cardoso theater in São Paulo, Brasil.
He has worked with opera companies such as Escenia Ensamble, Opera Cultura San José, West Bay Opera. He has received a scholarship by the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto, Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las artes (Mexico) and Taller de Opera de Sinaloa (Mexico). He was a winner of the Sociedad Internacional de Valores de Arte Mexicano prize during the 10th edition of the national singing contest of Sinaloa in 2018. Third place and price by the Southern Arizona Symphonic Orchestra and Orquestra do Rio Grande do Norte (Brasil) in the international voice competition Linus Lerner in 2019. Second place and audience award in the international voice competition Maria Callas in 2019 in São Paulo, Brasil, same place in which he was part of a master class with the amazing tenor Chris Merritt. Finalist in Medici International Music Competition in 2022.
Mr. Sicairos has collaborated with Casa Circulo Cultural in the Día de Muertos festivals in the mexican community in California, USA. He was a winner in the first edition of Raiz México, giras artíticas creating the spectacle “Cantos de la Tierra”.
Currently he is preparing the character El Novio in the opera Bodas de Sangre by Ildemaro Correa, Cuautemoctzin for the epic cantata Cuitlahuárzin by Samuel Zyman, Luigi in Il Tabarro in the Ópera Fest in Toronto. Latin American Live Composers Symphonic Tango by Debora Simcovich and also the spectacle “Mi novia la Soledad” premiered in Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco California in February 2023.
“Alonso is a real histrion. , capable of doing everything on stage”. Manuel Yrizar, Ópera World.
“His voice had a striking purity, an effortlessly liquid golden sound of a tenor in his best moment” Adam Brones, Repeat Performances.
David John Walsh, born and raised in Toronto, recently finished his Diploma of Opera Performance at the University of Toronto with Honours, after a Bachelor of Music in Performance there in 2020.
From there David has participated in a wide range of vocal performances. In the winter of 2023, David will be making his debut with the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia as Count Almaviva. In fall 2022, David will be singing with the Canadian Opera Company Chorus in both Bizet’s Carmen and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. He made his role debut as Martin in Aaron Copland’s opera The Tender Land in Spring 2022 with U of T Opera. A highlight of 2022 was when he was asked to perform as the Tenor soloist in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with Chorus Niagara and Robert Cooper. At U of T Opera in Fall 2021, he made his role debut as Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
As well as an avid singer, David is an avid biker. This form of transportation is the way he practices a lot of his repertoire. So, if you ever see a blur of red hair and hear some Rossini or Fauré on the downtown streets of Toronto, you have most likely encountered David John Walsh.
Hailing from Cape Breton Island, NS, Gregory Finney has made his entire life on the stage. Starting out studying Theatre/Voice and Speech through the Royal Conservatory of Music he developed a love of Shakespeare and Spoken Text early on. By 16, he would be gaining school credits for his extra-curricular theatre work. Always keen to be on a stage of any sort Gregory sang in any choir that would have him, took piano lessons, played in school band, even founded and directed his High School Dramagroup. His choral background would find him singing in honour and mixed professional choirs right up until his mid-twenties as a member of the Nova Scotia Youth Choir, National Youth Choir, Nova Voce, Mendelssohn Singers and Mendelssohn Choir to name a few. This love of making music with others led him to Musical Theatre which saw him studying Music Theatre and Vocal Performance at Acadia University where he won the Provincial Music Festival at the age of 21. The theatre always had his heart though. After graduating Gregory shifted his focus on fewer choral gigs and shifted to soloist (MESSIAH – Handel, MISSA SOLENNIS – Mozart, REQUIEM – Durufle) and eventually led him to Toronto in 2005. Hitting the ground running he was cast in THE MIKADO (Nanki-Poo) and then A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (Marcus Lycus) followed quickly by BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Narrator/M. D’Arque) and FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL (Rev. Moore). Things changed when he joined the ensemble for Toronto Operetta Theatre (TOT) and their production of THE COUNT OF LUXEMBOURG. His dancing prowess and elegance in period productions saw his resume blossom with loads of operetta and light opera roles. THE BIRDSELLER (Schneck), COUNTESS MARITZA (Prince Popolescu) HMS PINAFORE (Sir Joseph) THE GONDOLIERS (Plaza-Toro) THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (Popoff) THE MERRY WIDOW (Baron Zeta) and DIE FLEDERMAUS (Prince Orlofsky) being the highlights. No stranger to heavier works either, Gregory has been seen in shows like LA TRAGEDIE DE CARMEN as Escamillo (LOOSE TEA MUSIC THEATRE), STREET SCENE as Abraham Kaplan, (VOICEBOX: Opera By Request) and ADRIANA LECOUVREUR as Michonnet (OPERA BY REQUEST) A lifelong comedian who’s been called “a masterclass in over-the-top, irrepressible physical comedy” by barczablog.com, Gregory revels in the comprimario realm enjoying roles like Benoit/Alcindoro in LA BOHEME, Le Maitre de Plaisirs in CENDRILLION, Bardolfo in FALSTAFF, Leporello in DON GIOVANNI and every male role save the title role in NOZZE DI FIGARO. A Dora Award winner for Outstanding Ensemble for their work on Against The Grain Theatre’s MESSIAH and a nominee for the same award with the same company for FIGARO’S WEDDING, Gregory loves to bring new works to the stage. Whether it’s the World Premiere of KAMOURASKA (Jerome Rolland), TAPTOO! (Ebenezer Hatchway) or A NORTHERN LIGHTS DREAM (Taylor) or the Canadian Premiere of LUISA FERNANDA (El Saboyano), THE COUSIN FROM NOWHERE (Roderich de Weert), or JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA (Dwight/God) he has proven that you really never know where you’re going to see him pop up next. Unless you’re at the Drake Hotel for his monthly hosting spot at ATG’s OPERA PUB. You can also read his op-eds and reviews on the wildly popular opera blog schmopera.com.
Saskatchewan born baritone Stuart Graham, received his formal education at the Faculty of Music of McGill University in Montréal, Canada, with the renowned Canadian baritone Mr. Bernard Turgeon. In 1998, he continued his studies with Diane Forlano at the Koninklijk Conservatorium, Den Haag, Nederlands, and since January of 2000, Mr. Graham has enjoyed the mentorship of Diana Soviero (Metropolitan Opera, New York) as well as coaching with the incomparable Maestra Teresa Berganza (Madrid, España). Since 1992 Stuart Graham has been heard in recital, oratorio and in opera in Canada, the United States and in Europe, enjoying successes accompanied by orchestras and ensembles, such as: l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, I Musici de Montréal, the Saskatoon Symphony, Silesian State Opera, Slovak State Philharmonic (Košice) and the Oakville Symphony Orchestra. His performance in the world premier of Edifice by Arlan Schultz was broadcast by CBC, the BBC, Radio-France and the Bavarian Radio. In 1993, Mr. Graham made his New York debut as invited artist in recital as part of the Riverside Chamber Music Series (Riverside Church, New York, NY.).
His most recent credits include his solo recital (Bach | Honneger | Schumann) with pianist Namina Afandiyeva (Jeanne Lamon Hall – Toronto, La Roche d’Hys – France). In opera his most recent roles include Orest (Strauss: Elektra) with Powerhouse Opera, The Doctor (Barber: Vanessa) and Il Principe di Bouillon (Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur) with VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert. Stuart has also played Plagio in VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert’s Canadian Premier production of Mercadante’s I DUE FIGARO, as Fr. Andrew in Opera in Concert’s World Premier production of Victor Davies’ adaptation of George Ryga’s THE ECSTACY OF RITA JOE (also presented at the Ryga Festival, Summerland, BC), as Agamemnon in Toronto Operetta Theatre’s LA BELLE HÉLÈNE of Jacques Offenbach. 2018 also saw Mr. Graham’s Italian debut in Milan performing the roles of Tonio/Taddeo in Leoncavallo’s I PAGLIACCI with La Compagnia di Canto Vittorio Tosto. He returned to Milan in February 2019 to sing further presentations of I PAGLIACCI. Other recent performance credits include: Peter Tongi’s ISIS AND OSIRIS: THE GODS OF EGYPT as the Grand Vizier Khamet (world premier) with Toronto’s Opera in Concert, as Marquis Evrémonde in Victor Davies/Eugene Benson’s TALE OF TWO CITIES (world premier), as well as performances of Jacques Offenbach’s LA VIE PARISIENNE (Baron Gondremark) with the Toronto Operetta Theatre, Angeles Lopez-Artiga’s YO VIVO (for baritone & orchestra) at the Palau des Arts (Valencia, Spain) and in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as guest artist with the Opera Nacional Bellas Artes (Mexico City) and the Orquesta Sinfónica Silvestre Revueltas in Celaya, México.
Can’t come to the concert, but would like to support our event? Please consider donating tickets.
Your donated tickets will go to the students of the Regent Park School of Music and to the YMCA Youth Groups. Your generosity goes a long way to support the creation of dynamic events such as OpéraFest and enable our community cultural outreach. Your gesture is greatly appreciated and we thank you.