Colin AinsworthCanadian tenor Colin Ainsworth has distinguished himself as an up and coming tenor by his exceptional singing and diverse repertoire. Acclaimed for his interpretations of the major Classical and Baroque tenor roles, his many role have included the title roles in Orphée et Euridice, Pygmalion, Castor et Pollux , Roberto Devereux and Albert Herring; Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Rinnucio in Gianni Schicchi, Fenton in Falstaff, Tonio in La Fille du Régiment, Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Pylades in Iphigénie en Tauride, Renaud in Lully's Armide, Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress, and Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Also an supporter of new works, he has appeared in the world premieres of John Estacio's Lillian Alling at the Vancouver Opera, Stuart MacRae's The Assassin Tree at the Edinburgh International Festival, Victor Davies' The Transit of Venus with the Manitoba Opera, and Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna at Sadler's Wells in London and at the Luminato Festival. Other past opera engagements have included appearances at the Chicago Opera Theatre, Glimmerglass Opera, Lake George Opera, L'Opéra de Français, Opera Atelier, Pacific Opera Victoria, Edmonton Opera, and the Greek National Opera.
Brian Barlow Big Band
Brian is one of Canada's most recorded drummers and is also much in demand as an arranger and producer. He has performed with a very diverse group of international and Canadian artists including: Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Branford Marsalis, Moe Koffman, Ringo Star and Diana Krall. His favourite thing to do is perform with his big band which has entertained audiences at Westben on two occasions. Brian has been the Creative Director of the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival since 2005.
Bob has become one of Canada's most sought-after clarinetists and is no stranger to the music of Benny Goodman. In 2008 he performed with his own band at Carnegie Hall paying tribute to the late Mr. Goodman. Over the past 20 years, Bob has entertained for numerous heads of state including our Prime Ministers Pierre E. Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and several members of the British Royal Family, as well as US Presidents Reagan & Bush.
While still in his twenties Steve worked with many top international jazz artists including, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Harry 'Sweets' Edison. He has also recorded and toured with some of the biggest names in Canadian jazz including Rob McConnell, Oscar Peterson, and Oliver Jones. Steve became bassist with Rob McConnell's 'The Boss Brass' in 1983 and remained with the band for ten years.
A native of Winnipeg, Bernie moved to Toronto in 1968 where he became on of that cities leading jazz pianists. He joined the Moe Koffman Quintet in 1969 and was a member of that esteemed ensemble until the leaders passing in 2001. He has performed with a who's who of international jazz stars including, Joe Williams, Zoot Sims, Art Farmer, Herbie Mann, Peter Appleyard and Buddy DeFranco.
Westben Concerts at the Barn — Advancement & Marketing Director
Co-Founder and Advancement & Marketing Director of the Westben Arts Festival Theatre in Campbellford, Canadian soprano Donna Bennett is active on both sides of the concert stage.
Since co-founding Westben in 1999 with Brian Finley, she has acted as the organization’s principal administrative coordinator, a position which grew into Assistant Managing Director in 2001, and now includes her duties as Marketing Director. With her wealth of international experience on stages around the world, she brings a great deal of practical experience to the operations of Westben, as well as to its stage.
“…from opera and musical comedy…a glorious voice!” (Harry Currie, Kitchener Record)
Canadian soprano Donna Bennettis known to audiences internationally for her performances ranging from opera and oratorio to Broadway and musical theatre. Operatically, she has performed leading roles at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the London International Opera Festival, the Henze Festival in Montepulciano, Italy, as well as in Berlin, Neuberg, Torontoand New York. Other career highlights include the role of Dede in the British premiere of Bernstein's A Quiet Place and Ariana in the world premiere of R. Murray Shafer's The Enchanted Forest.
In Canada, Donna has sung with the Canadian Opera Company, the Royal Opera, Opera Atelier, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Tafelmusik, Toronto Symphonietta, Orchestra London, Victoria Symphony and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. Having toured extensively across Canadawith pianist and husband Brian Finley, Donna’sdiscography includes Henze's opera The English Cat and a collection of Mozart Arias and Lieder recorded live at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, A Christmas of Love & Light, Lullabies for Benjamin, andLove's Old Sweet Songs. In addition to several recitals and orchestral appearances, her performances with Westben include roles ranging from Maria in The Sound of Music, Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar , Delilah in Brian Finley’s opera-musical SAMSON, the title role in Brian’s Rapunzel opposite Michael Burgess and in June 2010 Donna created the role of Linette in The Selfish Giant a new musical by Brian and Ken Tizzard. Several of her performances have also been recorded for CBC, CFMX, KING-FM (Seattle), and the BBC in London.
Recently appointed Music Director of the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, Leslie Dala is also the Music Director of the Vancouver Bach Choir in addition to his positions as the Associate Conductor and Chorus Director with Vancouver Opera. He recently stepped down as Music Director of the Prince George Symphony which he led for eight years and was the longest serving conductor in the organization's forty year history. A member of the Vancouver Opera music staff since 1996, he recently conducted their production of West Side Story in addition to Rigoletto and The Threepenny Opera, and he has assisted on over 50 mainstage productions and has adapted numerous works for the VOIS program.
Leslie has been a member of the music staff at L'Opera National du Rhin, the Santa Fe Opera and the Canadian Opera Company and he has been a frequent guest conductor with the UBC Opera Ensemble. Recent performances include guest conducting engagements with Soundstreams Canada in Toronto at the new Koerner Concert Hall, the Thirteen Strings of Ottawa and the Rachmaninoff Vespers and The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz with the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. This past summer Leslie conducted Britten's Albert Herring with the UBC Opera Ensemble, Lillian Alling by John Estacio for the Banff Summer Festival, and the Opening Night Gala for MusicFest Vancouver with Sarah McLachlan and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming performances include The Goh Ballet's production of The Nutcracker ballet and Stravinsky's Les Noces and Haydn's Creation with the Vancouver Bach Choir.
Tom Power - Guitar
Aaron Collis Button - Accordion
Emilia Bartellas - Fiddle
Matthew Byrne - Vocals, Guitar, Bouzouki
Rich Klaas BodhranArmed with a love of jigs, reels and ballads honoured in Newfoundland and an energy found more often in 3 piece punk rock bands than 5 piece folk acts, their accordions, fiddle and talent have shaken national festivals including Winnipeg, Mariposa, and Vancouver.Still in their twenties, they've intuitively become the keepers of songs we love and have sought out tunes that may have otherwise been lost to the culture forever. The Dardanelles are a new breed of folk musician with a wide sense of the world, out to show that Newfoundland traditional music is alive, vibrant, and powerful.
The pianist Julius Drake lives in London and specialises in the field of chamber music, working with many of the world’s leading artists, both in recital and on disc. He appears at all the major music centres: to the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, Munich, Schubertiade, and Salzburg Music Festivals; to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Centre, New York; Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and Philarmonie, Cologne; Châtelet and Musée de Louvre, Paris; La Scala, Milan, Liceu, Barcelona and Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid; and Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Vienna. Julius Drake’s many cd’s include award winning recordings with Ian Bostridge for EMI and a recent widely acclaimed series with Gerald Finley for Hyperion for which Barber Songs and then Schuman Heine Lieder have won both the 2008 and 2009 Gramophone Awards. Julius Drake now embarks on a major project for Hyperion to record the complete songs of Franz Liszt. Recent and coming highlights in Julius Drake’s schedule include recitals in Madrid, Brussels and New York with Gerald Finley; in Moscow, Oslo and at the Schwetzingen Festival with Dorothea Röschmann; at La Fenice Venice, La Scala Milan and the Schubertiade Festival with Ian Bostridge; instrumental chamber music at the festivals of Delft, West Cork and Oxford; new recordings of Liszt with Angelika Kirchschlager, Shostakovitch with Christianne Stotijn and Schumann with Gerald Finley; performances of Janacek’s Zápisník zmizelého (The Diary of One Who Disappeared) in London, Stuttgart and Vienna with Christianne Stotijn and Mark Padmore; recitals in Bern and London with Christoph Pregardien; and four concerts, presenting the complete Mörike and Goethe Songbooks of Hugo Wolf, at London's Wigmore Hall.
Recently invested as a Member of the Order of Canada, John Fanning's schedule of engagements is evidence of his pre-eminent position among today's baritones. A veteran of nine seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, roles there include John Plake in SLY, co-starring with Placido Domingo, Mandryka in ARABELLA, the Father in HÄNSEL UND GRETEL and Count Almaviva in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. Further Met highlights include Mr. Astly in THE GAMBLER conducted by Gergiev, Faninal in DER ROSENKAVALIER and the Four Villains in LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN conducted by James Levine. At the San Francisco Opera he was conducted by Patrick Summers in LOUISE, he toured the United States as soloist in Mozart’s REQUIEM with Bernard Labadie and Les Violons du Roy and sang Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Zukerman in Ottawa with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Engagements for the 2012-2013 season include Germont in LA TRAVIATA for Calgary Opera, Mozart’s REQUIEM in a staged version for the Alberta Ballet, and an Opera Gala for Opera Hamilton.
Brian Finley – Pianist, Composer, Conductor, Director
Artistic & Managing Director – Westben Arts Festival Theatre
Brian Finley is the co-founder of Westben Arts Festival Theatre as well as its Artistic & Managing Director. He also continues his multi-faceted career as a pianist, composer, director and impresario.
As a pianist, Brian has performed with numerous orchestras including the Dallas Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic as well as at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, Wigmore Hall in London, England and the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. He has appeared in over 10 international piano competitions including the 8th International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, and he won the third prize in the AMSA International Competition in Cincinnati as well as the Gina Bachauer Award in Dallas.
Brian’s compositions range from solo piano music to songs, choral works and arrangements for full symphony orchestra that have been heard from Victoria to Vienna. Many of his compositions, including his 70-minute Requiem for a Millennium, have been published internationally by Boosey & Hawkes in New York. His recordings include a collection of solo piano music from Wigmore Hall, three critically acclaimed CDs with his wife, soprano Donna Bennett as well as several recordings for CBC, CFMX, KING-Fm in the US and Soviet Television. As a director he has staged musical productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music, Requiem for a Millennium, his own musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for Westben. In addition, he has written and produced opera-musicals: SAMSON (2001) and Rapunzel (2005) and The Selfish Giant (co-written with Ken Tizzard in 2010). Other original projects include music-dramas (The Loves of Clara, My Brother Wolfgang and Notes of Mozart), A Westben Christmas Carol (2002), The Match Girl Messiah (co-written with Ken Tizzard in 2006), The Littlest Angel (2007), and The Magic Ornament (co-written with Michael Nitsch in 2008)
Winner of two Floyd S. Chalmers Awards from the Ontario Arts Council, Brian holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto as well as an ARCT. Principal teachers include William Aide, Boris Lysenko and the Schnabel pupil Maria Curcio with whom he worked in London, England. He has been a full scholarship student at the Banff Centre and the Victoria International Festival, as well as a frequent performer at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington. In 2002, Brian was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his work within his community and with his fellow Canadians.
Judy Fong Bates came to Canada from China as a young child and grew up in several small Ontario towns. She is a writer, storyteller and teacher. She taught elementary school in the city of Toronto for over twenty years. While teaching she honed her skills as a storyteller and has told folktales and original stories at schools and festivals throughout southern Ontario. Judy has also taught and mentored students in creative writing through the University of Toronto, TrentUniversity and Diaspora Dialogues. Midnight at the Dragon Café is the 2011 One Book Community Read for the city of Toronto. Her stories have been broadcast on CBC radio and published in literary journals and anthologies. She has written for The Globe and Mail and The Washington Post. She is the author of the critically acclaimed short-story collection, China Dog and Other Stories, and the novel, Midnight at the Dragon Café, which was the Everybody Reads selection for Portland, Oregon, and an American Library Association Notable Book for 2006. Her family memoir, The Year of Finding Memory, was published in April, 2010 by Random House of Canada. Judy has two adult daughters and two grandchildren. She lives with her husband on a farm outside of Toronto. They are both devoted gardeners and enthusiastic hikers.
Born 1990 in Toronto, Canada, Leonard Gilbert is renowned for his sensitive touch, insightful playing as well as technical command. In addition to being a four times national first prize winner of the Canadian Music Competition (1999, 2001, 2005, and 2009), Leonard came to the attention of audiences after his sweeping win at the Third Canadian Chopin Competition (2010)- capturing First Prize as well as all the special prizes-“Best Mazurka” and “Best Polonaise”. His other recent achievements include qualifying for the second stage and being the only Canadian accepted to the 16th Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition (2011), Third prize winner and the Paderewski special prize at the International American Paderewski Competition (2010) in Los Angeles, prize winner for the “Best Performance of Romantic Work” at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Competition (2009), second prize winner at the World Piano competition in Cincinnati, Ohio (2006) as well as numerous other awards in Canada. He performed Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Living Arts Center (2011), and was invited to perform as part of the Chopin Year Bicentennial Celebrations at the Royal Ontario Museum (2010). He was recorded live on Classical 96.3 FM (2010), and became a Young Steinway Artist in 2011. Leonard studied with Patricia Parr while in Canada and distinguished Professor Menahem Pressler while at Indiana University. Leonard was a scholarship student at Indiana University, a recipient of both Music Dean’s and Indiana University’s Distinction Scholarships, and received the Performer’s Certificate in 2011.
As Leila in The Pearl Fishers with Opera Hamilton – "The Pearl Fishers’ priestess, Léïla, as depicted by soprano Virginia Hatfield is a woman of formidable strength and dignity. In Bizet’s plugged-in, highly charged work, the goal is to sing with an absolutely clear sense of emotional purpose, honestly, directly, with great engagement. Hatfield hits the mark with seeming effortlessness. Leila’s enchanting cavatina in which her love for Nadir overflows in a wave of heartfelt expression, Comme autrefois dans la nuit sombre becomes a moment of intense beauty in Hatfield’s meticulously focused rendition."
Soprano Virginia Hatfield is becoming known across Canada for her 'beguiling' performances (The Globe and Mail) and 'gobs of charisma' (Toronto Star). Recent opera roles for this versatile artist include Zerlina (Don Giovanni) and Marzelline (Fidelio), both with the Canadian Opera Company, as well as debuts with Pacific Opera Victoria - Italian Singer (Capriccio), Opera Hamilton - Musetta (La Bohème), and Toronto’s Opera in Concert, singing the title role of Elena in Rossini's La Donna del Lago. Highlights of the 2010/2011 season include premieres of Canadian and Mexican works with Soundstreams Canada and renowned Mexican percussion ensemble Tambuco for the Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato, Mexico and at Koerner Hall in Toronto; performances of Messiah with the symphony orchestras of Thunder Bay and Windsor; Bach’s Ich habe genug with Kevin Mallon and the Aradia Ensemble at Glenn Gould Studio, and her debut with Saskatoon Opera as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. As a member of the prestigious Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio from 2005-07, Virginia performed the roles of Pamina (The Magic Flute), Miss Wordsworth (Albert Herring), Frasquita (Carmen), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel), the Fifth Maid (Elektra), and Laura (LuisaMiller). With the COC Ensemble, Virginia created the role of Leah in James Rolfe’s Swoon. Virginia debuted with Montreal’s Ensemble Caprice in 2011 (Matthias Maute, conductor), singing arias from Handel’s Alcina. Further concert performances for this expressive artist include Bach’s Mass in B Minor with Guelph Chamber Choir, Christmas Oratorio with both Windsor and Kingston Symphony and Haydn’s Creation with Vancouver Bach Choir. In her hometown of Campbellford, Virginia joins Westben Concerts this July for “Mozart in Vienna”. Virginia's performances in in 2012/13 include Angelica in Handel’s Orlando with Opera in Concert, and Leila in The Pearl Fishers with Opera Hamilton. as Musetta in La Bohème with Opera Hamilton as Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Canadian Opera Company.
Canadian-born soprano Nancy Hermiston enjoys a career on both the opera and concert stages, on both sides of the Atlantic. Opera companies with which she has sung leading coloratura roles include the Opera Company of Boston, the Houston Grand, the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Canadian Opera Companies. Miss Hermiston began her European opera career with the Stadtische Buhnen at Nurenburg. The roles she has performed there include Rosina, Olympia, Oscar, Adele, Blondchen, the Queen of the Night, and Zerlina where the critics unanimously praise her vocalism and acting ability.Nancy Hermiston's New York debut took place at Carnegie Hall with Mario Bernardi and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. As a recitalist, she has been heard in London and in repeated performances for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from numerous cities in Canada. She is currently head of the UBC Opera and Voice Divisions. As a stage director she has produced works of Puccini, Mozart, Verdi, Menotti, Janacek and many other composers of the classic, romantic and contemporary literature.
David is a professional actor with over 100 productions to his credit,including leading roles inThe Beggar’s Opera, Sleuth, Man of La Mancha, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Hay Fever, The Fantastics and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as well as in Shakespeare’s Richard the Second, Henry the Fourth, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet.
David toured England in Brian Way’s Theatre Company and has appeared in theatres across Canada. As a director, he has worked in London, Cairo, Colombo and Odense in Denmark and his one-man-show, “A Child Growing Up”, has been performed in fifty countries around the world.
David is an Emeritus Professor of Drama at Queen’s University and in his retirement spare time he runs one of the largest online bookstores in Canada, as well as acting as a Wedding Officiant for the Province of Ontario. HIs is the author of five books and two plays and a member of the Actor’s Equity Association in both England and Canada.
Keith Klassen has emerged to become one of Canada's busiest tenors, averaging 12 productions a season since graduating with honours from the Opera Division at the University of Toronto in 2002. He has been engaged across Canada, as well as in Scotland, Germany, the United States, Ireland and the Czech Republic. The Star Phoenix described him as having, "...a big ringing voice and great stage presence", Classical 96.3 added, "Klassen's voice is pure honey with its ease of high notes and the lyrical grace of his phrasing.", Opera Canada raved that his Rodolfo was "...dramatically convincing, sung with passionate sincerity ensuring the audience's love.", John Terauds of the Toronto Star called him, "...one of the country's most versatile artists.", and NOW magazine's Jon Kaplan went so far as to rate Keith as one of Toronto's top ten theatre artists of 2006. In the past season alone, critics and audiences alike have enthusiastically received his performances of Rodolfo (La Boheme), Alfredo (La Traviata), Don Jose (Carmen), the Duke (Rigoletto), Samson (Samson et Dalilah), Uriel (Haydn's 'Creation') and Spoletta (Tosca). Keith has also continued his work with Tapestry New Opera Works, joining their newly formed studio company.
Acclaimed throughout North America for her vibrant expression and innovation, violist Janice LaMarre enjoys a rising career as a soloist, chamber musician, and educator. Hailed as “soulful and dynamic” by the Canadian press, Ms. LaMarre concertizes regularly in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, Chateau Fontainebleau, and the Centre d'Arts Orford. The Canadian Council for the Arts awarded Ms. LaMarre the top grant to Individual Classical Musicians, and she was given full scholarships to study at YaleUniversity and the Manhattan School of Music.
This season, Janice LaMarre plays her Weill Hall debut recital at Carnegie Hall, soloes with the Huronia Symphony, and performs many solo and chamber concerts. Ms. LaMarre directs Midsummer Sound -- a summer music program for students ages 6–24 in Canada, New York City, and Long Island. In addition to performing, Janice is on faculty at the Manhattan School of Music PreCollege, is in demand as a masterclass clinician, and continues academic research on the viola transcriptions of David Kates.
In little more than a decade, Canadian pianist André Laplante established himself as one of the great romantic virtuosos. He first burst onto the international music scene in 1974, winning both the Geneva competition and the first International Piano Competition. Just two years later, he captured the highly coveted International Tchaikovsky Competition Silver Medal in Moscow. He has performed in major concert centres in Europe, North America and the Far East, to the highest critical acclaim and has been ranked with Ashkenazy, Horowitz, and Rudolph Serkin. In recent years he has appeared as orchestral soloist with the Montréal and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, and with the Royal Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Yehudi Menuhin, during their extensive North American tour. Recent seasons have included a major concert tour of the People’s Republic of China at the invitation of the Chinese Government. André Laplante has served on the jury of the International Music Festival in Sydney, Australia, the 24th CBC National Competition and the Tenth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.
In 2013, Acadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc was awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and a 4th Honorary doctorate for her contribution to Early Music and Acadian music. She recently added lieder and French melodies to her earlier repertoire, and contemporary music with premieres of Canadian works which she commissioned on the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. Her recording of works by Messiaen, Chants de terre et de ciel, won the 2009 OPUS award for Best recording in contemporary music and “Tempi con Variazioni” with jazz violinist Helmut Lipsky won the OPUS for World Music in 2010. As an actress, she played the lead in the film Lost Song directed by Rodrigue Jean which won the City TV Best Canadian Feature Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (2008). She works with many of the world’s leading early music ensembles in concerts and Festivals all over the world. On the opera stage, she has performed for De Nederlandse Opera, Festival de Beaune, Opéra de Montréal, the Boston Early Music Festival, Tanglewood, Festival Vancouver and Early Music Vancouver. Suzie LeBlanc is artistic director of Le Nouvel Opéra (www.lenouvelopera.com) and the honorary patron of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia.
Baritone James Levesque, a Calgary native, is at home on both the concert and operatic stage and has been noted for his "expressive singing and acting abilities" (Opera Canada). He has performed on both sides of the Atlantic with such conductors as Harry Bicket, Richard Egarr, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, Raffi Armenian and Robert Dean. James’ 2011-12 season includes; Fiorello and the Sergeant Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Hamilton; Handel’s Messiah at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts; Malcolm Williamson’s World at the Manger; Melisso in Handel’s Alcina with Essential Opera and at the New Hamburg Live Festival of the Arts. Highlights of past seasons include: Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem with the Mississauga Choral Society; an Offenbach Gala with Toronto Operetta Theatre; the Greta Kraus Schubertiad with the Aldeburgh Connection; Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de Confessore with the Thunder Bay Symphony; Duruflé’s Requiem with the Toronto Beach Chorale; Mozart’s Requiem with the Pax Christi Chorale; Schubert's Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin with the Mountain View Connection; Haydn’s Creation with the Ottawa Valley Music Festival; Bach's Cantata BWV 201 with the Bach Society of Calgary; Haydn's The Seasons with the Alyth Choral Society (London, UK); Purcell's Fairy Queen under conductor Harry Bicket in the Aldeburgh Festival.
Hailed for his ringing top notes and spine-tingling power, tenor Richard Margison is rRenowned for his interpretations of Verdi, Puccini, Strauss and Beethoven. Recent seasons have included performances of Un Ballo in Maschera (Montréal, Hamburg, the ROH, Covent Garden), Turandot (New York, Barcelona, Toronto), Aida (New York, Cincinnati, Montréal, Chicago, Oviedo), Ariadne auf Naxos (Oviedo, Madrid, London, Hamburg, New York), Fidelio (Seattle, Vancouver), Il Trovatore (New York, Toronto, Berlin, San Francisco), La Gioconda (Barcelona) and Don Carlo (New York) and Norma (Vancouver), the world premiere of Rattenbury, The Opera in Victoria, Salomé (Toronto) and concerts with his equally talented daughter Lauren. Richard’s discography comprises an all-Verdi recording (CBC Records), Fidelio (Chandos), Don Carlo (Philips) and Mazeppa (Deutsche Grammophon). His DVDs include Ariadne auf Naxos (Virgin Classics), Tosca, 1984 (Decca), and La Gioconda (TDK).
An Officer of the Order of Canada (2001) and recipient of a Diamond Jubilee Medal, Richard has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Giulio Gari and The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundations, and holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Victoria (DMus), University of British Columbia (D.Litt) and McMaster University (D.Litt). Richard and his wife, opera director Valerie Kuinka, created and direct the Highlands Opera Studio, which provides advanced operatic training to a select group of talented young professionals.
Robert's debut CD, Paradiso, which was released independently in 1994, was destined to launch his career in a way that most new artists can only dream about. Initially selling the records from the stage as well as through a select number of record stores and coffee shops, Paradiso would ultimately sell over 100,000 copies in Canada, an extraordinary achievement for an instrumental artist. His impressive sales figures and a Juno Award nomination for Instrumental Artist of the Year following the release of his sophomore album, Arizona, caught the attention of Warner Music in Canada, who would ultimately sign him for the release of his third album, Utopia, in 1998. His fourth CD, Allegro, released in 2003, won Robert the Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album.
Robert received nominations as a best vocalist , instrumentalist and album for his self-titled fifth album, a 2-CD set. Besides his own vocal performances, the album also featured contributions from acclaimed vocalist Jennifer Warnes (Famous Blue Raincoat); three-time Juno Award winner as Female Vocalist of the Year, Luba; Tony Award-nominated Broadway star, Louis Pitre (Mamma Mia!); and multi-talented jazz singer/songwriter, Coral Egan.
That was followed by The Spanish Guitar Collection, a compilation of instrumental compositions from his previous six CDs, all of which have exceeded gold and platinum sales status.
“Over the years, I’ve had experience playing so many other styles that I merely incorporated all of the influences,” notes Robert. “My style was never planned. I arrived at it spontaneously while playing in front of audiences."
Diana Panton, vocals
Guido Basso, trumpet
Reg Swager, guitar
Don Thompson, bass
Diana is being heralded as one of the brightest lights on the jazz scene today. Her aesthetic sense has attracted the attention of some of the jazz world’s most respected masters. When legendary Canadian multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson first heard Panton sing at age 19, he recommended she audition for the reputed jazz workshop at the BanffCenter for the Arts (Canada). There, she studied under Norma Winstone (and in subsequent visits, Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton). She received Hamilton Music Awards, Juno and National Jazz Awards nominations for her sophomore release, if the moon turns green...(2007) - a thematic album about the moon and the stars. Diana was one of four jazz vocalists selected worldwide to showcase at the prestigious Jazz a Juan Revelations (Juan-les-Pins, France) where she was voted Premiere Dauphine by the Juan public. In 2011, the album made the Top 2 on the annual jazz sales chart for Eslite. All three of Diana's most recent albums appeared simultaneously on the Top Ten jazz sales chart for 12 weeks in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The 4th album was nominated for a JUNO, Canadian and American Independent Music Awards and three Hamilton Music Awards. Diana is happy to have superb accompaniment from Reg Schwager and Don Thompson (who appear on all of her recordings) along with Canada's premier horn player Guido Basso.
Brett Polegato appears regularly on the world's most distinguished stages including those of Lincoln Center, La Scala, the Concertgebouw, the Opéra National de Paris, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, the Teatro Real, Roy Thomson Hall, the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and can be heard as soloist in the Grammy Awards’ Best Classical Recording of 2003 - Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Brett Polegato opened the Canadian Opera Company’s season as Sharpless, his role debut, in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. He spent the winter in Oslo, performing Il Conte Almaviva, in a new production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. A series of performances of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Colorado Symphony was followed by a lieder concert with the Aldeburgh Connection. He sang the title role in Don Giovanni for Calgary Opera and made his debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony. Polegato's recordings include his critically praised solo disc, To A Poet, with pianist Iain Burnside, Bach's popular Coffee and Peasant Cantatas with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and a live period-instrument performance of Messiah with the Handel & Haydn Society.
Martha Schabas’ first novel Various Positions was published in Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand. It was named one of the “Best Books of 2011” by Quill & Quire, among the “Best First Fiction of 2011” by The Globe and Mail, and “The Year’s Best Debut” by NOW Magazine. Various Positions was also shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award. Martha’s articles, book reviews and fiction have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The New Quarterly, ELLE Canada, Broken Pencil, and Maisonneuve. She holds an M.A. in English Literature from Queen’s University and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she received the David Higham Award. In 2012, CBC Books named Martha one of the “10 Canadian women writers you need to read now.” She lives in Toronto.
In a career spanning more than five decades, Robert Silverman has climbed every peak of serious pianism: lauded performances of the complete sonata cycles by Beethoven and Mozart; concerts in prestigious halls across the globe; orchestral appearances with many of the world’s greatest conductors; and award-winning recordings distributed internationally. Recognized as one of Canada’s premiere pianists, Robert Silverman has reached a level of musical and technical authority that can only be accomplished after years of deep commitment to the instrument and its vast literature. Many aspects of Silverman’s playing are frequently noted: a polished technique, an extraordinary range of tonal palette, an uncanny ability to sing his way into the heart of a phrase, and probing interpretations of the most complex works in the repertoire. Silverman has performed in prestigious concert halls throughout North America, Europe, the Far East and Australia. Under the batons of such renowned conductors as Seiji Ozawa, John Eliot Gardiner, and Neeme Järvi, he has appeared with leading orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the Sydney Symphony, the BBC (London) Symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and every major orchestra in Canada. Robert Silverman's discography includes over 30 CDs and a dozen LPs. His recording of Liszt's piano music received a Grand Prix du Disque from the Liszt Society of Budapest, while his widely-acclaimed 10-CD recording of all thirty-two Beethoven sonatas was short-listed for a Juno Award.
Canadian pianist Lisa Tahara is a soloist, chamber musician, collaborative pianist and teacher currently residing in Toronto. Lisa is currently working on her doctoral studies at the University of Toronto in piano performance and pedagogy with James Parker, Henri-Paul Sicsic and Midori Koga. Lisa has also studied with May Ling Kwok, Robin Wood and James Olsen. Lisa made her orchestral debut with the Burnaby Symphony Orchestra at fifteen. Since then, she has performed with esteemed orchestras across Canada such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. Further, as the winner of several concerto competitions, she has performed Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra and also with the University of Victoria Orchestra. Lisa has also won numerous top prizes in festivals and competitions at the local, provincial and national level, including the Canadian Registered Music Teachers’ Association Competition, the Canadian Concerto Competition, the Canadian Music Competition and most recently the 2012 Shean Piano Competition. As well as performing solo works, Lisa thoroughly enjoys playing chamber music. In 2012, Lisa participated in the St. Lawrence String Quartet Chamber Music Seminar in Stanford, California and was a pianist for the collaborative piano internship at the Banff Centre.
Nancy Hermiston – director
Leslie Dala – Music Director
The UBC Opera Ensemble was founded in 1995, when Canadian lyric coloratura (and one of Warkworth’s favourite natives!) Nancy Hermiston was appointed Head of the Voice and Opera Divisions. Since then, the program has grown from seven into a company of 50. Two major productions a year are complimented by yearly tours to the CzechRepublic and Germany. Productions include Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe, Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel as well as Robert Ward’s The Crucible, Puccini Gianni Schicchi and others. The Ensemble’s experiences in the Czech Republic and Germany include the opportunity to perform at the Prague Estates Theatre, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni was premiered. They mounted Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen in Czech and Gounod’s Faust in French at the Usti nad Labem City Theatre. Select students, past and present, also participated in the European premiere of The Crucible in the CzechRepublic under Nancy’s direction. Closer to home, the Ensemble has performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Ensemble Ruggiero, and in several Vancouver Opera productions over the past five years.
Daniel Warren is currently the Resident Conductor (1999-present) of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Ontario, Canada. He is in frequent demand as a guest conductor and has done so with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra , the National Arts Centre Orchestra, The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Orchestra London Canada, the Windsor Symphony, Symphony New Brunswick, The ERGO and Continuum ensembles and the Canadian Chamber Ensemble. He is heard conducting regularly on the CBC. For the past five years he has been the conductor for the "Westben Arts Festival Theatre " in Campbellford, Ontario, performing repertoire with orchestra and full chorus with soloists both operatic and instrumental, all in a wide variety of orchestral and operatic programs. Recently released is a CD of selections from the Nutcracker with the KW Symphony that Daniel recorded with them this fall. He resides in his owner-built home in a rural setting with his wife and two children.
Download the Westben Arts Festival Theatre mobile app