Nelson Bettencourt (”He” in A Tall Order, “John” in La Casati),is excited to be preforming again with the The Little Opera Company. Originally born in Winnipeg, Nelson received his bachelors of music from the University of Manitoba and masters of fine arts from The Boston Conservatory. He recently returned to Winnipeg after studying and working abroad in the US and Europe. He is an active member of the Winnipeg arts community both as a performer and as an educator, and wants to thank his family, friends and the Winnipeg arts community for creating an amazing supportive environment. This spring Nelson can be seen in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra / Rainbow Stage production of A Chorus Line and he will be traveling to Edmonton to work on Mayfield theatres’ production of All Shook Up.Select credits: Charlie Brown/Linus (MTYP), South Pacific/Harbison (WSO/Rainbow Stage), Les Misérables/Lesgles (Rainbow Stage), Into the Woods/Jack (District Theatre Collective), Rent/Mark (TBZ Production/Saskatchewan Express), The Velveteen Rabbit/Boy (Little Opera Company), Spring Awakening/Ernst (Winnipeg Studio Theatre), Zanna Don’t/Zanna (Stage 16).
Zoë Gotziaman(”Veneto” in The Confused Castrato) studies at the University of Manitoba, under the tutelage of Tracy Dahl. Zoë has performed with Manitoba Opera, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Winnipeg, Halifax Summer Opera Festival, Opera NUOVA, University of Dalhousie, Opera York, COC, and CCOC. Recent roles include Nancy in Albert Herring, and Angela in Patience. Later this spring she will play Phoebe in The Yeomen of the Guard with the G&S Society of Winnipeg. This is Zoë’s first production with LOC and she’s really looking forward to it.
Spencer Duncanson (Artistic Director, “Charles” in A Tall Order) comes to us from New York City where he began his musical training at Brooklyn College. Since then he has studied voice with Robert Irwin, Orville Derraugh, Ted Puffer, Diane Berger, Sherry Zanoff and Judith Coen. He has spent a large part of his career teaching in the school system where he has trained some wonderful choirs and has taught voice in his private studio and at MCMA He has also appeared in concert and opera and founded The Little Opera Company whose mission it is to provide a platform for established and emerging artists. Presently he is conducting the Winnipeg Boys Choir and The Rady to Sing Choir at the Faculty of Health and Science.
Renate Rossol (Music Director) holds a Master of Music (Collaborative Piano) and Bachelor of Music (Performance and Music History) from the University of Manitoba, and an ARCT in Piano Performance. She also studied at the Vienna Conservatory from 2012-2013. Having performed as both a soloist and collaborative pianist in Austria, Canada, and the United States, Renate has attended many summer programs where she developed a love of working with and coaching singers. These programs include the Vancouver International Song Institute, Alpenkammermusik, Opera NUOVA, and the Franz-Schubert Institute. She also performed with both the University of Manitoba’s Opera and Musical Theatre Ensembles, and was a pianist for the Advanced Opera Studies program at the university during her master degree. She made her music directing debut August 2015 with Secondary Characters Musical Theatre in Chilliwack, BC, for The Last Five Years. Renate served as apprentice music director for Dry Cold Productions’ A Little Night Music (Winnipeg, MB), vocal coach/répétiteur for Fraser Lyric Opera’s The Barber of Seville (2016, Prince George, BC), and répétiteur for Manitoba Underground Opera’s productions of La Clemenza di Tito (2014), and The Magic Flute (2016, Winnipeg, MB). She was very excited to be the repetiteur for the world premiere of Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas Stephen Leacock in December 2016 with Little Opera Company. Ms. Rossol apprenticed under Dr. Kinza Tyrell for Opera Kelowna’s La Bohème summer 2017, and played for the company’s regional auditions in Calgary in September. Calgary Concert Opera engaged Ms. Rossol as a pianist and coach for their Autumn Operanox performance of ensemble excerpts also in September 2017. She will be leading a week intensive coaching musical theatre and operatic repertoire with Fraser Lyric Opera in March 2018. Renate is in demand as a recital partner, collaborating with singers and instrumentalists across Canada and abroad. Locally, she is the music director at Sturgeon Creek United Church, and works as a vocal coach, collaborative pianist, and adjudicator.
Deena Grier (Music Director) Much in demand as both a vocal collaborator and coach, Deena Grier's work as a studio pianist, recitalist, and music director continue to spread her reputation as a sensitive musician and skilled diction coach. A recent graduate of Boston Conservatory with a Masters degree in Collaborative Piano with Opera Emphasis, Ms. Grier completed her studies under Maestro Andrew Altenbach. Originally from Riverton, Manitoba, her graduate degree included work on The Cunning Little Vixen (Janáček), Die Zauberflöte (Mozart), The Rape of Lucretia (Britten), The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky), and The Italian Girl(Rossini). The Italian Girl was Deena’s first foray into the orchestra pit as harpsichordist, and her work on the recitatives was described as “brilliant” by The Boston Intelligencer. Deena has performed with Boston Conservatory's Children's Opera Outreach (Little Red Riding Hood, 2015-2016), Manitoba Underground Opera (Winnipeg, MB), University of Manitoba's Opera & Musical Theatre Ensembles (Winnipeg, MB), North End Music & Performing Arts Center (Boston, MA), Boston Opera Collaborative, and Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point (Eureka Springs, AR). In July 2017, Ms. Grier once again joined Fraser Lyric Opera Society (Prince George, BC) working at their week long Vocal Intensive workshop, and served as coach for Manitoba Underground's August 2017 festival in productions of Idomeneo, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi. Since her return to Manitoba, Deena has performed with a number of choral ensembles as a singer, music director, conductor, and accompanist, including playing for The Winnipeg Boys Choir, the second oldest choral ensemble in Winnipeg.
Donnalynn Grills (”Casati” in La Casati) is pleased to be back performing with The Little Opera Company as La Casati in Opera Shorts. Some of her favourite roles with The Little Opera Company include Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti, the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, the 3rd Lady in The Magic Flute, Nan/the Race Car in The Velveteen Rabbit and the Announcer in Gallantry.Equally at home in opera, oratorio and musical theatre, Donnalynn has had the privilege of performing with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Rainbow Stage, Dry Cold Productions, Manitoba Opera, Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony, Canzona, Camerata Nova, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Winnipeg, The Winnipeg Singers and the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir.When not rehearsing for one performance or another, Donnalynn can be found at the Desautels Faculty of Music at U of M as the program coordinator for the Prep Studies Division.
Emily Diehl-Reader (”She” in A Tall Order, “Elvira” in The Confused Castrato)Currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at the University of Manitoba, soprano Emily Diehl-Reader most recently appeared on stage with the Manitoba Underground Opera in their productions of Suor Angelica and Idomeneo, as well as in their Opera 360° gala concert. She was a runner-up for the 2017 and 2016 Winnipeg Music Festival Rose Bowl.Emily has also appeared on stage with Manitoba Opera, playing Second Lady in Turandot, First Bridesmaid in The Marriage of Figaro, and joining the chorus in Falstaff and Fidelio. She has also worked with the University of Manitoba Contemporary Opera Lab, and Brandon’s Seven Ages Productions and Mecca Productions. She performed the titular role of Emily Carr in the Manitoba premiere of Jana Skarecky and Di Brandt's contemporary opera Emily: The Way You Are.Emily is interested in the connections between classical music and contemporary culture: she thinks that music is an intrinsic part of storytelling, and telling stories is what she aims to do above all else. She is an avid gamer and lover of science-fiction and fantasy who writes fan-fiction and plays Dungeons & Dragons in her spare time.
Sandra Resendes-Unger (Director) Born and raised in Winnipeg by her immigrant parents from Sao Miguel, Acores, Sandra has loved the arts as long as she could remember. Her first endeavours of performing were in the Portuguese community singing at various festivals and, most recently starring in the role of Amalia: The Musical (Amalia jovem-Mar Salgado). For over 20 years, she has graced her voice in various venues across the city with her late group Ménage, and currently with her duo San Carlos (Jazzfest 2017-Combo Latino).Singer by night, Sandra also teaches by day. Receiving a scholarship from the Manitoba Arts Council Sandra studied at the University of Winnipeg, majoring in Theater in Education (BEd-2003). Upon graduation she moved to Calgary and taught at a fine arts school. Her heart was in the Peg where she returned and completed her Post Bach in counselling and resource at the University of Manitoba. As a special education resource teacher Sandra enjoys using music and dance as a tool to connect with her students. Her biggest productions happen each night at home where her three girls creatively indulge in singing, dancing, and acting! She is grateful for all of the support from her family and friends. Sandra is humbled and deeply appreciative of this opportunity to work with the Little Opera Company.
Bryce Kulak is a Toronto-based composer; award-winning projects include stage works Nami Namersson, Bears, and La Casati,and the movie-musical The Man That Got Away, in which Bryce also starred. The film won the only monied prize for shorts at the Berlin International Film Festival and went on to screen and win awards at festivals worldwide. As a performer, Bryce has been seen across Canada for 25 years, including productions at Mirvish (The Lord of the Rings), Marquis Entertainment (2 Pianos 4 Hands), Theatre Aquarius (Billy Bishop Goes to War), The Citadel (Oliver!, The Music Man), and Theatre Calgary (Camelot). Bryce co-created and tours with Tom Allen’s chamber-musicals Bohemians in Brooklyn, The Judgment of Paris, From Weimar to Vaudeville, and The Missing Pages. Most recently he was pianist, composer, and music consultant for the English world premiere of To The Light at Alberta Theatre Projects, and for A Christmas Carol at Western Canada Theatre. As a young composer, Bryce was mentored by John Estacio. He made his debut as a singer-songwriter with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and has sung with the orchestra of the Banff Centre and the Kingston Symphony Orchestra. Bryce has played a series of sold-out cabarets at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre; highlights are on their podcast. His albums Welcome, Tin Can Telephone, and The Man That Got Away are on iTunes. brycekulak.com
La Casati Synopsis: The Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881 – 1957) was one of the most talked-about personalities of the first half of the 20th century. A wealthy Italian aristocrat with the sensibility of an audacious performance artist, La Casati commissioned portraits of herself by the most avant-garde artists of her time. In most of her portraits, she is wearing outrageous costumes and has seemingly provoked each artist to his/her most extreme artistic expression. By contrast, the first painting of her by Augustus John (1878 – 1961) appears stripped of artifice and presents the viewer with a direct, vulnerable, and unadorned portrayal of La Casati. This painting (The Marchesa Casati, 1919, Art Gallery of Ontario) was the starting point for our collaboration.We find the Marchesa Casati in her crumbling Venetian palace, surrounded by her animals: two cheetahs, a greyhound, a parrot, a boa constrictor… Welsh painter Augustus John, her friend and one-time lover, tries to convince Casati she must sell everything and pay off her debts. She takes offence when he compares her to other vain aristocrats who commission portraits. Casati distracts John by summoning the memories of their first meeting, and subsequent artistic and romantic exchange. In their reminiscence, Luisa (the young Casati) arrives at John’s apartment demanding to be painted. He agrees, on the condition she pose as she is, without her usual façade. John paints with passion. The memory fades; the older Casati laments that her paintings will be sold, and she will be alone.– Bryce Kulak & Erin Shields
Michael McKay is a pianist and composer originally from Nova Scotia but now based in Winnipeg. Winnipeg audiences will mostly know Michael as a choral composer, through performances of his works by Camerata Nova and Winnipeg Singers (among others); however, he has written in various styles and genres, with musical dramas holding the biggest fascination for him. His second score, The Triumph of Caffeina was performed by Little Opera Company in 2015. His fourth score, for the hit Toronto musical Clouds was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award in 1996. And his eleventh (and most recent) score The Confused Castrato (composed in 2017)—will be premiered by Little Opera Company in March 2018.
The Confused Castrato Synopsis: Charles, an English composer living in Rome, has just completed his latest opera—and in his mind, his masterpiece—and is celebrating with a drink. Charles’ new opera is about a charming street urchin who falls in love with a jaded princess and convinces her to leave her burdensome life of luxury for a life of love and liberty with him. Charles has specifically written the opera with the Spanish diva Elvira in mind; she will play the role of the princess. The production has been cast, all except for one role—the street urchin, who must be played by a woman. While he ponders who could play this important part, it dawns upon him—the rising star, the brilliant young actress Veneto, would be perfect! He sends his assistant to hire her and bring her to immediately for a rehearsal with Elvira.While Charles is away taking care of other business, Elvira arrives in Charles’ studio, and we discover that all is not well: she is not happy to be there, particularly disgusted by both Charles and his “terrible play”. Veneto soon arrives and questions her on why she is so hateful: Charles is a volatile, chain-smoking, alcoholic, slob, and he has blackmailed her into doing the production.Charles returns to the studio with music in hand, and gives Elvira and Veneto their parts for a read-through of the scene where the urchin convinces the princess that his love will triumph over her burdensome life of luxury. As the scene progresses, things go wrong quite quickly: Charles was expecting that a brilliant actress like Veneto would be able to play the role like an adorable and magnetic young man (picture Eddie Redmayne); however, Veneto’s acting is beautifully stylized and feminine, and completely inappropriate for the role. Charles interrupts the rehearsal to rage at Veneto over her acting and in the ensuing argument, it is revealed that Veneto is not a woman but a castrato—a male who has been castrated before puberty to keep his high voice! What is “worse” is that Veneto has only ever played female roles, with a finely-honed skill, but has absolutely no idea how to act like a man. Finding himself unable to play his own biological sex leaves Veneto in a gender-based existential crisis. Charles is horrified, and feels his opera is now doomed to failure. He becomes so enraged that he goes into convulsions and dies an epic death.
John Greer is an active accompanist, vocal coach, arranger, composer and conductor and has been heard in these capacities throughout Canada and abroad, in recital and on various CBC broadcasts. He is an honoured music graduate of both the University of Manitoba where he studied piano and composition with Boyd McDonald and of the University of Southern California where he was a student of pianists Gwendolyn Koldofsky and Brooks Smith and harpsichordist Malcolm Hamilton. As a faculty member of the University of Toronto opera division Mr. Greer made his conducting debut in 1983. He has conducted numerous operas there as well as works for Victoria’s Opera Piccola, Ottawa’s Opera Lyra, The Banff School of Fine Arts, the Toronto Gilbert & Sullivan Society and Mirvish Productions. He has worked on numerous productions with Opera (Hamilton) Ontario and the Canadian Opera Company where musical duties have included chorus master and assistant conductor. Mr. Greer was Music Director of the Eastman Opera Theatre in Rochester, New York for five years and for two years was Music Director of the Opera Studio at the University of Maryland. From 2003-10 he was Director and Chair of Opera Studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston and worked as Head Vocal Coach for the University of Kentucky voice and opera in Lexington, KY for three years. For ten seasons his summers were occupied with his duties as General Manager and Head of Music Staff for the Janiec Opera Workshop at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina. Mr. Greer has also been on the music staff of Glimmerglass and Chautauqua Opera companies.Mr. Greer’s compositions include eleven song cycles, vocal chamber music and numerous works based on Canadian folk song. He has written two operas for the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus and a revision and orchestration of the 1889 Canadian operetta Leo the Royal Cadet by O. F. Telgmann, commissioned by Toronto Operetta Theatre.
A Tall Order Synopsis: A Tall Order finds a young couple on their second date. They have agreed to meet for dinner and as they prepare to order, HER various insecurities suddenly get the better of her. Despite her wild, paranoid inner monologue and the imagined responses from her partner, all ends well. (Woody’s is a fun, trendy bohemian Boston restaurant midway between the New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory very popular with students and young adults in the area).
Lara Rae is a comedian, the co-founding Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the opera reviewer for CBC Manitoba. She has done opera talks for Manitoba Opera and for McNally Robinson Community Classroom. Last season she was a performer and emcee at WSO's Second City's Guide to the Orchestra. Unlike Maria Callas she loves the sound of her own voice. She lives in Wolsley with her two rats Nina and Frida.
Kira Fonse, (”Luisa” in La Casati) Kira is delighted to be appearing with The Little Opera Company in this eccentric role alongside such a wonderful cast and crew. A storyteller through music and theatre, Kira seeks ways to speak out for those whose voices cannot be heard, through the sharing of art, culture and stories with people in Canada and around the world. Past productions have included The Dream Catchers National Tour (Charlottetown Festival Young Company), A Little Night Music(Dry Cold), Anne of Green Gables (Steinbach Arts Council), Spelling Bee (WST StudioWorks) and Strike! The Musical (Danny Schur). Kira is completing a bachelor degree in vocal performance at the University of Manitoba studying with Tracy Dahl.