James McLennan (”Stephen Leacock”) has been celebrated for his “emotional intensity” (Opera News), “considerable charm,” and “strong yet pure tenor,” (Toronto Star) in a career encompassing over 25 roles on opera stages across Canada. An alumnus of Toronto’s famed Second City improv and comedy training centre, his lovesick protagonists, quirky villains and comical sidekicks have been winning over audiences from coast to coast for more than a decade. James McLennan’s “freely expressive and carefully nuanced singing” (Toronto Star) has also been featured in repeat performances with major Canadian orchestras and musical ensembles.Recent opera roles include Almaviva (The Barber of Seville) for Edmonton Opera; Tamino (The Magic Flute) with the Sudbury Symphony; Caius in Falstaff, Goro in Madama Butterfly, and Young Bilodeau in the world premiere of Les Feluettes at Montreal Opera; Spoletta (Tosca) and Remendado (Carmen) with Opera Lyra Ottawa; and Brighella (Ariadne auf Naxos) and Goro (Madama Butterfly) with Pacific Opera Victoria.Upcoming season highlights include Pang in Turandot with Edmonton Opera, Bardolfo in Falstaff at Manitoba Opera, and a return to Pacific Opera Victoria as Young Bilodeau in the acclaimed production of Les Feluettes (Lilies) by Kevin March and Michel Marc Bouchard.
Rachel Landrecht (”Time”) has performed as a soloist with the Victoria, Vancouver Island, and New Westminster Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, the CMUC Centre for Peace Chamber ensemble, and the Winter Harp ensemble. With a love for providing beautiful music in unconventional circumstances, she has had the pleasure of delivering keynote musical performances for former US President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and authors Dr. Wayne Dyer and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Rachel is honoured to be making her debut with Little Opera Company and the world premiere of this new work Merry Christmas Stephen Leacock. As co-collaborators for over a decade, this is her first operatic collaboration with her husband, composer Neil Weisensel. Rachel would like to express her deepest gratitude to her teacher, the late Ellen Faull Gordon, Professor Emeritus of the the Julliard School of Music whose infinite patience and deep love of operatic singing transformed an eager but very timid student. Winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council auditions for the district of Oregon, Rachel also performed in several productions with Portland Opera including La Bohème, Aida, Otello, Carmen, I Pagliacci, and Carmina Burana.
Baritone Matthew Pauls (”Father Christmas”) has been praised for his on-stage poise and magnificent singing (Opera Canada). Matthew's stage credits include, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, the Speaker and 2nd Armoured Man in Die Zauberflöte, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Don Inigo Gomez in L’Heure Espagnole, Benoit in La Bohème, Marullo in Rigoletto, the Mysterious Man in Sondheim's Into the Woods, Frank Maurant in Street Scene, and Masetto in Don Giovanni, which he performed with UWOpera and La Musica Lirica in Italy. On the concert stage, Matthew has performed numerous works such as Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Alexander’s Feast and Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem and Vesperae solennes de confessore, Fauré’s Requiem, Grieg’s Four Psalms, J. S. Bach’s cantata Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit (BWV 106), and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and Five Mystical Songs.Matthew has been delighted to perform as a featured soloist with ensembles such as the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Paraguay, Windsor Symphony, Canadian Chamber Choir, Guelph Chamber Choir, Windsor Classic Chorale, Windsor Symphony Chorus, Pro Coro Canada, and the Winnipeg Singers.As an assistant professor of music at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Matthew enjoys helping students discover and develop their vocal potential. He is also in the process of completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance through the University of Western Ontario. The focus of his doctoral research is Argentine art song; a body of repertoire that is virtually unknown in the greater performance and scholarly communities.
Creative / Directors
Neil Weisensel is a composer and conductor based in Winnipeg, Canada. His seven operas, which have been critically and popularly acclaimed, have been performed over 240 times across Canada and in the US. He has composed music for feature films, stage works, documentaries, and animation, for networks including the CBC, Bravo!, and CTV. Vancouver Opera premiered his anti-bullying opera Stickboy, with libretto by spoken word superstar Shane Koyczan, in October of 2016. Since then, the touring version was performed 52 times in shows across BC in spring 2016, and this 60-minute version of the opera will tour Newfoundland in summer 2017. The mainstage version of Stickboy will be performed as part of Manitoba Opera’s 2017-18 season. Winnipeg’s Little Opera Company will present the world premiere of his 1997 opera Merry Christmas Stephen Leacock In December of 2016.Composing in a wide variety of genres, including jazz, rock, ethno-cultural, and world beat, he has also performed and recorded with artists such as Michael Bublé, Russill Paul, Noirin Ni Riain and Brian Tate, and with vocalist Rachel Landrecht for luminaries such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Neil garnered a Genie nomination in the Best Song category for work on the theme music to the feature film Here's To Life, which he co-wrote with Michael Bublé. Neil has received grants, awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (U.S.), the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba, Winnipeg, and British Columbia Arts Councils, and the Banff Centre for the Arts, among others. His concert music and stage works have been performed by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, the Arts Club Theatre, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Vancouver New Music, the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, Edmonton Opera, The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra, and Edmonton’s Hammerhead Consort. Neil currently teaches music at the University of Manitoba and Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada where he lives with wife Rachel and daughter Miracle.
Spencer Duncanson (Artistic Director) As we approach Canada’s sesquicentennial, it seems only fitting to celebrate the work of Canadian artists. We are thrilled to be able to present a brand new work by acclaimed Canadian composer, Neil Weisensel. His operas have been performed to the delight of audiences across Canada and the United States. In this, his new opera, Merry Christmas Stephen Leacock, he skillfully and artistically retells the story once penned by Canada’s most celebrated internationally renowned teacher, political scientist, writer and humourist, Stephen Leacock. “It was said in 1911 that more people had heard of Stephen Leacock than heard of Canada. Also, between the years of 1911 and 1925, Leacock was the most popular humourist in the English-speaking world.” With the setting of this story, Neil Weisensel is likely to seal his own measure of popularity. Audiences are certain to be moved by the exquisite music that couches this poignant story.The Little Opera Company is also pleased to have the privilege of working with stage director, Donna Fletcher, yet another Canadian treasure. Her innate sensitivity and extensive stage experience both as dramaturge and stage director has been vital to the success and presentation of this work. The fully Canadian cast (Rachel Landrecht, James McLennan, and Matt Pauls) is the icing on the cake. They are all exceptionally talented, well-trained singer / actors who skillfully embody their respective characters as they re-live this story for you. I hope you will join us.
Proud of her prairie roots, Donna Fletcher (Director) is a veteran theatre artist who has performed coast to coast at the National Arts Centre, Drayton Festival, Belfry Theatre, Charlottetown Festival, Persephone Theatre, Stage West Calgary, Theatre Calgary, MTC, PTE, Manitoba Opera, Sarasvati Theatre, Dry Cold and MTYP. As a director Donna’s favourite credits include The Addams Family, A Man of No Importance, Sweeney Todd, The Light in the Piazza and Nine (Dry Cold Productions), Brundibar (MCO) and Annie (Rainbow Stage). Upcoming directing engagements include The Sound of Music for Opera on the Avalon, the Rainbow Stage/WSO South Pacific in concert and the Manitoba premiere of The Bridges of Madison County for Dry Cold Productions. Donna is an instructor at the U of M Desautels Faculty of Music and the U of W Theatre Department and in 2012 she was inducted into the Rainbow Stage Wall of Fame. Her favourite role of all time is being mum to Amalia Grace.
Renate Rossol (Accompaniment) is currently completing her Master of Music in Collaborative Piano, Renate Rossol holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Manitoba, and an ARCT in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Having performed as both a soloist and collaborative pianist in Austria, Canada, and the United States, Renate has also attended many summer programs where she developed a love of working with and coaching singers. She performs with both the University of Manitoba’s Opera and Musical Theatre Ensembles, and is a pianist for the Advanced Opera Studies program at the university. In 2014, she was the orchestral/rehearsal pianist for Opera NUOVA’s production of Bernstein’s Candide in Edmonton, and Manitoba Underground Opera’s La Clemenza di Tito, by Mozart. Renate returned to Opera NUOVA this summer as the pianist for Oklahoma! and performed scenes from the American opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe, by Douglas Moore. She made her debut in August with Secondary Characters Musical Theatre in Chilliwack, BC, music directing The Last Five Years, and will be apprentice music-directing A Little Night Music with Dry Cold Productions this spring. Renate is excited to be working with Little Opera Company on their latest production!