2015 Brian Law Opera Competition

Gerald Finley, O.C., Honorary Patron

The Competition

The 2015 Brian Law Opera Competition took place in .

The prizes were: 1st prize: ; 2nd prize: ; 3rd prize: .

For a history of the competition, a biography of Brian Law and a list of previous winners and their biographies, see the Competition page.

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The Evening’s Program

The evening unfolded as follows:

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The Finalists

In July 2015, the preliminary jury chose the following candidates for the competition recital:

Picture of Tonatiuh Abrego

Tonatiuh Abrego, tenor

A native of Ottawa, award-winning tenor Tonatiuh Abrego is thrilled to be competing in the Brian Law Competition. Tonatiuh’s previous credits include: Lionel in SOLT’s production of Martha, the creation of the leading role Orisis in Voicebox: Opera in Concert’s workshop of the brand new opera Isis and Osiris; Male Chorus and the Witch in Calgary Opera’s productions of The Rape of Lucretia and Hansel and Gretel respectively; Nemorino in Opera NUOVA’s L’Elisir d’amore; Don Ottavio and Mr. Craven in Banff Centre for the Arts’ productions of Don Giovanni and The Secret Garden; Count Almaviva in Capital City Opera’s Il barbiere di Siviglia. His upcoming performance will be with Jeunesses Musicales du Canada, where he will sing Romeo in Romeo and Juliette in their fall and spring tours. After having completed his Masters degree in Voice Performance at McGill University under the tutelage of Maestro Stefano Algeri, Tonatiuh graduated from Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist program; he is also a laureate of the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques du Canada. Tonatiuh was a semi-finalist in the prestigious Lotte Lenya Competition and the recipient of the Elizabeth Wirth Opera Scholarship at McGill. Tonatiuh is the winner of the St-Georges Provincial Music Festival in the Maestoso Category, a finalist in the Ottawa Orchestra Concerto Competition and a winner of the Ontario Provincial Music Festival for Classical Voice. With an extensive list of concert experience, Tonatiuh has performed as a guest tenor soloist with the Calgary Festival Chorus, directed by Mel Kirby; the Kanata Choral Society, directed by Gloria Jean-Nagy; and the Ottawa Welsh Choir in various pieces including Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s The Creation, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Ariel Ramirez’s Misa Criolla, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and Camille Saint-Saëns’s Oratorio de Noël (2008).

Picture of Joel Allison

Joel Allison, bass-baritone

Joel Allison’s voice has been described as having “crisp tones blessed with a silken smoothness.” He recently graduated from the University of Ottawa with a BMus in Vocal Performance. He is now pursuing a Diploma in Opera Performance at the University of Toronto, under the tutelage of Daniel Taylor, and is a core member of the Tafelmusik Baroque Chamber Choir. Previous engagements include the role of Adam in Haydn’s Creation with the Peterborough Singers, the premiere of a new set of songs by Andrew Ager in recital at the University of Ottawa, the complete third book of Dowland lute songs, Mozart’s Requiem, the complete Songs of Travel in a solo recital at the NAC Fourth Stage, the role of Aeneas in the University of Ottawa’s production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and the title role in Don Quixote by Telemann with Seventeen Voyces. He also performed multiple roles while at the University of Ottawa, including Leporello in Don Giovanni, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Don Alfonso and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and premiered the role of Beppe in Andrew Ager’s opera Casanova. He has performed for the past two seasons with the Talisker Players. Upcoming performances include the role of Mr. Gobineau in The Medium and the role of John Shears in Paul Bunyan by Benjamin Britten. Upcoming performances as a member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir include Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah. An ardent choral singer, Joel has sung in many choirs, including Seventeen Voyces, St. Andrew’s Church in Ottawa, The Theatre of Early Music and Tafelmusik Baroque Chamber Choir. He is the second bass soloist at St. Paul’s Bloor St. in Toronto. Joel is also an alumnus of the Ontario Youth Choir and the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute.

Picture of Ania Hejnar

Ania Hejnar, soprano

With critics already hailing her “pristine coloratura” and “outstanding interpretations,” soprano Ania Hejnar is enjoying what many consider the inevitable result of her extraordinary voice and talent. She won 1st prize in the Canada Music Competition and was asked to perform with the Orchestre Métropolitain under the baton of Alain Trudel. She also won the 2009 Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition, resulting in a performance debut at Carnegie Hall, as well as a study grant for The Alexander & Buono Festival of Music, and a performance at New York’s Kosciuszko Foundation Auditorium. Ms. Hejnar won the 2011 Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition that resulted in an invitation to a Carnegie Hall performance in 2012. She also won the North York Concert Orchestra (NYCO) Mozart Vocal Competition and was invited to perform with NYCO Symphony Orchestra in Toronto in 2012. She returned to Carnegie Hall as a featured guest artist for the Fifth Annual ABC Gala. Ms. Hejnar began her undergraduate work as a Bachelor of Music candidate at the University of Ottawa, studying under Professor Ingemar Korjus. This collaboration led to invitations to perform in roles such as Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, and Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen. Ms. Hejnar has also performed for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Governor General Michaëlle Jean, while also participating in Opera Lyra Ottawa’s production of Puccini’s Turandot. Ms. Hejnar has recently been the lead soprano in Ottawa’s Opera Lyra Studio, with performances of Mabel from Pirates of Penzance and both the Queen of the Night and First Lady in Die Zauberflöte. Her light lyric voice has made appearances as soprano soloist in Haydn’s Creation with the NYCO Symphony Orchestra and Handel’s Messiah with Maestro Michel Brousseau. She recently performed her premier role as soprano soloist in Carmina Burana in Montreal and Ottawa with Maestro Brousseau in May 2015. She is set to perform Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte in April 2016. Currently coaching with Christiane Riel and Judy Ginsburg, Ms. Hejnar is preparing roles and concert repertoire for upcoming performances that include engagements in Canada and beyond.

Picture of Ryan Hofman

Ryan Hofman, baritone

A new resident of Vancouver, baritone Ryan Hofman is attending the University of British Colombia for a Master’s of Music in Opera under the tutelage of J. Patrick Raftery. The 2014-15 season proved to be a busy one for Mr. Hofman: he appeared with the Opera Lyra chorus in their productions of Puccini’s Tosca and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Other credits with the company include an opera-concert production of Verdi’s La Traviata, Puccini’s La Bohème and Turandot and Massenet’s Manon in 2010. This past season, he also appeared with University of Ottawa Opera Company as Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus and made his company debut with Pellegrini Opera as Schaunard in La Bohème, where he was hailed as “performing with gusto… (Mr. Hofman) sang with a pleasing and strong voice in a limited role which promises well for the future” (National Capital Opera Society, Summer 2015 Newsletter). In June 2014, Mr. Hofman had the pleasure of appearing in Opera NUOVA’s Vocal Arts Festival as Maximilian in Bernstein’s Candide and Dungbeetle in Isaiah Bell’s Lives of Lesser Things. A recipient of the 2014 Rising Stars Award from the Ottawa International Chamberfest, his other stage credits include Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, Leporello in Don Giovanni, le Dancaïre in Carmen, Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro and Speaker of the Temple in Die Zauberflöte with University of Ottawa Opera productions.

Picture of Eliza Johnson

Eliza Johnson, soprano

Canadian/American Soprano Eliza Johnson has been praised for her fine acting prowess and even lyric tone. Under the mentorship of Maestro Stephen Lord she was Opera Theater of Saint Louis (OTSL)’s first-ever Richard Gaddes Festival Artist (a new category for emerging young artists in Opera Theater’s prestigious Gerdine Young Artists’ program) appearing as Berta in The Barber of Seville and covering Pulcheria in the American premiere of Handel’s Riccardo Primo. With OTSL, Eliza appeared as Mrs. Fiorentino in Street Scene and Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann in the 40th Anniversary Center Stage concert. During the 2014 season, Eliza appeared as an Artist in Residence and as a Gerdine Young Artist, making her company debut as Soeur Valentine in The Dialogues of the Carmelites and covering Adina in The Elixir of Love. She sang the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro under the baton of Maestro Daniel Lipton during the 2015 summer season of Highlands Opera Studio. With Opera Lyra Ottawa’s Opera Studio, Eliza appeared as Pamina/Second Lady in The Magic Flute and competed as the only soprano finalist in the 2014 COC Centre Stage Competition. In concert, Eliza has been heard with the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven’s Mass in C), Stratford Symphony Orchestra (Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate), Stratford Summer Music Concert Series and Salon 21 with Soundstreams International. Eliza was a member of the COC Chorus during the 2013-14 season. Eliza holds a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in Opera from the University of Toronto where she studied with Canadian soprano Mary Morrison and tenor Dr. Darryl Edwards. Roles with the U of T Opera Division include Lucy in The Telephone, Despina in Così fan tutte, Rob Ford’s Mother in Rob Ford: The Opera, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Governess in The Turn of the Screw, and she appeared in excerpts as Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Marzelline (Fidelio), Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), and Violetta (La Traviata). Eliza is an alumna of training programs with Highlands Opera Studio, OTSL, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, Tapestry New Opera, University of Manitoba Contemporary Opera Lab, St. Andrews by the Sea and the Oratorio Advanced Workshop with the Victoria Conservatory. In 2009, Eliza released her debut album, Eliza Sings Rodgers and Hart, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Mr. William Francis. Eliza is a member of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association and the American Guild of Musical Artists.

Picture of Jennifer Mizzi

Jennifer Mizzi, soprano

Canadian soprano Jennifer Mizzi has been hailed as “beautiful to watch” and “sweet on stage.” A complete musician, dedicated to performance, Jennifer has appeared in a wide range of venues from Vancouver’s Chan Centre to Luxembourg’s Château de Vianden and Toronto’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheater. With a focus on the roles of Mozart operas, she has performed the roles of Firordiligi in Così fan tutte, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Papagena in The Magic Flute, and Mademoiselle Silberklang in Der Schauspieldirektor. Other appearances include Elle in Poulenc’s La voix humaine, Sandman in Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck, Gasperina in Haydn’s La Canterina, Mimi in La Bohème and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi.

Jennifer pursued musical studies at York University with soprano Stephanie Bogle, later transferring to the University of British Columbia to continue her undergraduate studies with Heather Thomson-Price. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Opera Diploma Program and is a grant recipient of the Ontario Arts Council. She is currently working with Canadian Tenor Ermanno Mauro and has participated in workshops including the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute, Vianden Music Festival, and the NAC Young Artist Program. She was awarded a National Residency in Chianti, Italy, where she engaged in artistic exchange and research exploring the art of Bel Canto with Maestro Daniel Ferro and Maestro Bruno Rigacci. In addition to her operatic work, Jennifer is an active chamber music performer with repertoire ranging from Pergolesi to Heitor Villa-Lobo to Willem de Haan.

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The Pianists

Thomas Annand, pianist

Bio to appear shortly

Judith Ginsburg, pianist

Judith Ginsburg is a graduate of the University of the Ottawa School of Music, where she studied with the internationally acclaimed pianist and pedagogue Jean-Paul Sevilla. She pursued further advanced studies in London, England, with the renowned former Glyndebourne Opera music staff member and BBC staff accompanist Paul Hamburger. Upon her return to Canada, Judith completed the Repetiteur Training Program at the University of Toronto Opera Division. While at the Opera Division, Judith participated in extensive accompanying classes and master classes with Martin Isepp and Menahem Pressler.

Since 1987 Judith has been Principal Repetiteur of Opera Lyra Ottawa and Principal Pianist with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. She is to be heard on CBC radio and is a frequent performer in Ottawa’s hugely successful International Chamber Music Festival, Music and Beyond Festival, the National Arts Centre’s Music for a Sunday Afternoon and the Almonte in Concert series. Judith has worked for the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre, most recently as piano coach for The Unanswered Question.

As an accompanist Judith has collaborated with many of Canada’s leading artists, among them Alan Monk, Theodore Baerg, Tracy Dahl, Eilana Lapalainen, and Gerald Danovitch. Judith is presently Opera Studio Manager and Principal Repetiteur for Opera Lyra Ottawa.

Frédéric Lacroix, pianist

Frédéric Lacroix has performed in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia as a soloist, chamber musician, and collaborative pianist, having performed with many of Canada’s most important musicians. He has made regular radio appearances on the Canadian Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Société Radio-Canada (SRC) or the American National Public Radio (NPR). Following the University of Ottawa’s purchase of a fortepiano in 1997, Frédéric has devoted part of his time to the study and performance of music on period keyboard instruments, for which he was recognized as the Westfield Center Performing Scholar for 2008-09 and has presented numerous concerts (solo, chamber music, with orchestra) in Canada and the United States as harpsichordist and fortepianist.

Intrigued by the seemingly infinite diversity of new music, Frédéric has enjoyed collaborating with composers and performers in the premiere of a number of Canadian and American works. Frédéric is also active as a composer, having composed for the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, the Society of American Music, the Canadian University Music Society, the Choeur Classique de l’Outaouais and other noted Canadian musicians. His song cycle Nova Scotia Tartan (2004) is featured on Hail, a disc dedicated to Canadian Art Song.

Much in demand as collaborative artist, teacher, adjudicator and composer, he currently teaches piano and composition at the University of Ottawa. He holds degrees from the University of Montreal, the University of Ottawa, and Cornell University, where he recently completed his doctorate degree in keyboard performance practice with Malcolm Bilson. His other teachers include Marc Durand, Cynthia Floyd, Andrew Tunis, Jean-Paul Sévilla and Monique Collet-Samyn.

The Jury

Picture of John Peter (Jeep) Jeffries

John Peter (Jeep) Jeffries

John Peter Jeffries was appointed as General Director of Opera Lyra in June 2012. He is responsible for the overall direction of the company’s artistic and business operations, and for managing all its resources. Mr. Jeffries came to Opera Lyra with over thirty years of experience in the professional opera. His career spans from the technical to the business and production side of opera with various companies across the United States and Canada.

Jeep Jeffries served as Executive Director of Tulsa Opera from 2008 to 2011. He was responsible for overseeing all aspects of Tulsa Opera’s business operations, including marketing, fundraising, and finance. He served as Executive Director of Opera Grand Rapids, in Michigan, from 2001 to 2008. In Grand Rapids, he successfully led the campaign to retire the company’s accumulated deficit and the construction of a new permanent home for the company. He has also served as the Managing Director of Opera Idaho, located in Boise.

Earlier in his professional career, Mr. Jeffries was Director of Production for the Portland Opera, in Oregon, where he managed all technical aspects of the company’s five-opera season. He held similar production positions with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, from 1989 to 1996, and with the Florida Grand Opera, in Miami from 1984 to 1989. He has also worked with the Boston Opera, the Lake George Opera Festival, and several tours by Opera New England.

Mr. Jeffries has been active in two major professional associations: Opera America and the Canadian Institute for Theatre Technology (CITT). While with the Canadian Opera Company, he served on the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee, which developed guidelines for the theater and entertainment industries.

Jeep Jeffries graduated from the University of Michigan in 1975, with an Honors Degree in Speech, Communication and Theater. He is married to Iliana Ordaz-Jeffries, who also has an extensive professional career in theatre and cultural administration.

Picture of Richard Turp

Richard Turp, Juror

Richard Turp was born in Montreal but from the age of 6 was raised in London, UK. Having graduated from the University of London (Russian Regional Studies and Music), he began vocal studies with his father, the renowned tenor André Turp. For a decade he worked principally in Europe as an operatic tenor and also appeared with his father in l’Opéra de Montréal’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth in 1983.

From 1988 to 1991 he was the Artistic Director of the Montreal International Music Festival, then joined l’Opéra de Montréal as Director of Special Projects for two seasons. He became Artistic Director of the Lachine Music Festival in 1997, a post he still holds today. In 1997 he co-founded and assumed the artistic direction for fourteen years of the André Turp Musical Society that presented a prestigious vocal series in Montreal. He is a co-founder of the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute and since 2009 directs the vocal program at the Orford Academy.

Richard Turp is regularly invited to adjudicate vocal competitions and is a board member of both the Jeunesses musicales du Canada and Opera Canada magazine. He has worked extensively for both the French and English networks of the CBC and assumed the artistic and musical conception and writing of several series (Opera Easy, Opera Stories, Portraits of Mozart, Shakespeare in Music, Klassical Kabaret, Musical Voices) for BRAVO television. For many years he was a highly entertaining member of the panel of experts in the Quiz section of the CBC’s “Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.”

He has lectured widely, including for l’Opéra de Montréal, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and the Wagner Society and has hosted two editions of the Opera Canada Awards Gala (the Rubies). In addition, he has written many program notes for musical organisations and record companies and has been a frequent collaborator with Opera Canada and Opera Now. Richard Turp has taught vocal literature at UQAM and l’Université de Montréal and French vocal diction at McGill University.

Picture of James Wright

James Wright

Dr. James Wright serves as Professor of Music and Supervisor of Performance Studies in Carleton University’s School for Studies in Art & Culture. His scholarly contributions include two award-winning books on the life and work of Arnold Schoenberg, and a forthcoming monograph titled They Shot, He Scored (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2016) on the life and work of Eldon Rathburn, the prolific Canadian film composer. James Wright is also widely known as a composer whose vocal works have been commissioned, performed and recorded by soloists and ensembles throughout North America and Europe. His recent chamber art song settings of excerpts from Beethoven’s passionate love letters of 1812 have met with critical acclaim. A recording of Briefe an die unsterbliche Geliebte (“Letters to the Immortal Beloved”), by mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah and the Gryphon Trio, was released on the Naxos label in May 2015. Whole Note Magazine describes the work as “exquisite” and “deeply moving,” critic Ettore Garzia of Italy’s Percorsi Musicali commends it as a “fascinating” cycle “that vacillates between the function of remembrance and an unambiguous tenderness.”

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