- Chérubin -

Looking back at Chérubin (fall 2011)

Rave reviews:
“Clearly Essential Opera were not afraid of the challenges… The audience embraced their efforts. The comedy was not lost on us, often quite elaborately staged even in the concert context.”
“Soprano Erin Bardua’s delightful coloratura and confident command of the stage”
“As Nina, Chérubin’s true love (for now), Maureen Batt was the other outstanding vocal portrayal, treading a fine line between pathos and comedy”
“Mezzo-soprano Margaret Bárdos as the trousered young soldier displayed a wonderful gift for comedy, both in her ironic expressions, her delivery and her delightful impersonation of a young man”
“the backbone of the performance… Eliakis was fearless, often challenging the voices to sing out with his passionate playing, yet without losing accuracy.”

-from barczablog

Photos – Dress Rehearsal & Performance

Cast and Creative Team

David Eliakis

Music Director

Pianist David Eliakis has collaborated with some of Canada’s finest singers and has worked with world-renowned artists such as Isabel Bayrakdarian, Warren Jones, Julius Rudel, and Sir Martin Isepp. After graduating from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, David was awarded an Ontario Arts Council grant to study privately with Warren Jones in New York City. Since then he has also worked with Roger Vignoles, Rudolf Jansen, Dalton Baldwin, and Graham Johnson.

David works as a collaborative pianist and voice coach at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music. Here he has had the honor of performing for Carol Vaness, Sherill Milnes, Russel Braun, and Håkan Hagegård to name just a few.

David’s performances have taken him to the stages of Brazil, Switzerland, England (where he was a finalist in the Wigmore Hall Song Competition), Germany, Bermuda, and the Maritime Provinces.

In 2006 David attended the Aspen Summer Music Festival on a fellowship as part of a production of Verdi’s La Traviata conducted by Grammy winner Juluis Rudel, directed by Ed Berkley of Juilliard. In 2010 David returned as musical director and pianist in SOLT’s productions of Don Giovanni and Viva Espana. Previous productions with SOLT included Delibes’ Lakmé, Rossini’s Tancredi and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, conducted by Kevin Mallon.

Aside from David’s performances he has also worked in Public Relations liaising with companies such as Deutsche Grammophon and IMG Artists.

This is David’s first season with Essential Opera as musical director and pianist.

Margaret Bárdos


Hungarian-born mezzo-soprano Margaret Bárdos is in growing demand as a versatile performer, having appeared in Hungary as well as with many of Ontario’s choirs and orchestras, featuring both contemporary and classical repertoire. With a voice described by Opera Canada as “mellow, fruity, that caresses the ears”, she made her Canadian mainstage début with Opera Ontario as Flora in Verdi’s La Traviata.

Critically praised for her acting and interpretation, recent highlights include the Dora-award winning premier of R. Murray Schafer’s The Children’s Crusade, the North American premiere of Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater, galas for the National Ballet and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, solo appearances in Halifax, Michigan and Montréal and at the Burlington Sound of Music Festival, Igma in Out of the Box Productions’ Opera Erotique, Einhorne’s Voices of Light for Nippissing University, Third Lady in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Franz Liszt’s Via Crucis, Rossini’s Petite Messe, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Karl Jenkins’ Requiem, and Handel’s Messiah. She continues an association with the Institute for the Music and the Mind at McMaster University, Hamilton, maintains soloist position at All Saints’ Kingsway Anglican, Toronto, and is a member of the studio of Tom Schilling.

Jeremy Ludwig

Le Philosophe

Baritone Jeremy Ludwig, a recent graduate of the University of Toronto’s (UofT) Opera School, can be seen regularly performing in the Toronto area as well as in other cities across Canada. Highlights this season include Handel’s Messiah with the Redeemer University College Choir in Hamilton as well as his debut appearance with Toronto Operetta Theatre in Kálmán’s The Gypsy Princess. Early in 2012, Jeremy will also be taking part in an exciting collaboration with the Toy Piano Composers, a collective of young and talented composers from across Canada in a performance of a series of brand new operatic vignettes.

Other recent credits include Top in Copland’s The Tender Land (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre), Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème (Opera Kitchener), Il Conte in Le nozze di Figaro (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy, Essential Opera, Opera by Request), Schaunard in Puccini’s La Bohème (COSI), Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte (Opera Kitchener), and Harlekin in scenes from Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (Canadian Operatic Arts Academy).

Jeremy holds a Masters of Music degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Music from University of Western Ontario.

Maureen Batt


Noted by Opera Canada as a “young, lovely and captivating soprano,” and by the Halifax Herald as being “enthusiastically at home on stage” and having an “endlessly energetic and animated interpretation,” Maureen Batt is an accomplished concert and opera artist.

Maureen’s opera credits include Opera in Concert’s production of La dame blanche (Jenny), Maritime Concert Opera’s productions of Don Giovanni (Zerlina) and La Traviata (Annina), Halifax Summer Opera Workshop’s production of Così fan tutte (Despina), and Dalhousie University Opera Workshop’s productions of The Old Maid and the Thief (Laetitia), The Maid Mistress (Serpina), Ten Belles Without a Ring (Limonia), and The Impresario (Miss Silverpeal). Her opera credits with Essential Opera are Le nozze di Figaro (Susanna), Chérubin (Nina) and Alcina (Morgana). As an actor, she has appeared in Theatre St. Thomas University’s productions of Measure for Measure, Oh, What a Lovely War and Caucasian Chalk Circle. Most recently, she filmed a TV pilot for a series called Oznaberg, which premiered in the 2011 Silverwave Film Festival. Her oratorio credits include Handel’s Esther, Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de Confessore, Bach’s BWV 4, BWV 187 and St. John Passion.

Maureen’s formal training includes a Master of Music from the University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Music from Dalhousie University, and a Bachelor of Arts from St. Thomas University. She is an alumna of the St. Andrews Opera by the Sea workshop, the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop, the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival, and the Daniel Ferro Vocal Program in Italy.
Other career highlights include being invited to perform for Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and, more recently, singing with Plácido Domingo, Sondra Radvanovsky, Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Raul Esparza, Jane Krakowski, Martin Short, Adrianne Pieczonka, Ekaterina Metlova, Richard Margison and René Pape as part of the BlackCreek Festival.

Erin Bardua


Soprano Erin Bardua is a seasoned concert and opera artist. She made her professional operatic debut as Anna in Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco. She counts many other operatic roles in her repertoire: Nannetta in Verdi’s Falstaff, Anna in Nicolai’s Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen, Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème, Cathleen in Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea, Antonia and Giulietta in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Erin’s other Mozart roles include the Countess and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. A lover of contemporary music and theatre, Erin created leading roles in operas by Canadian composers Christopher Donison and Andrew Ager. In 2003, Erin and a group of other adventurous opera singers began clown training with mentor Sue Morrison. Since then, Erin has continued her training and participated in the co-creation of a clown opera, The Figaro Project, which premiered in 2007. In 2010, Erin co-founded Essential Opera, a Toronto-based group exploring both new and classic works in concert. Her roles with Essential Opera include the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, L’Ensoleillad in Massenet’s Chérubin, and Alcina.

As a concert soloist, Erin has sung Handel’s perennial favourite, Messiah, with numerous choirs and orchestras, including the Pax Christi Chorale, the Toronto Sinfonietta, the Oshawa-Durham Orchestra and Chorus, and the Arcady Baroque Ensemble. Other oratorio performances have included Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, Vaughan Williams’ Hodie, Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Esther and Judas Maccabaeus, Mozart’s Requiem and Vesperae solennes de confessore, Saint-Säens’ Christmas Oratorio, Rutter’s Requiem, M.A. Charpentier’s Te Deum, Bach’s Magnificat, and Vivaldi’s Gloria, Nulla in mundo pax sincera, and In furore justissimae irae.

Erin has a Masters in Vocal Performance from the University of Toronto, and teaches voice in both Toronto and New Hamburg, ON. She is represented by Gossage Artists Management.

Taylor Strande


Classical 96.3 has hailed soprano Taylor Strande as “the best on stage with natural acting ability and a clear arcing lyric soprano.” Ms. Strande’s recent roles include the title role of Susannah by Carlisle Floyd, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Josephine in Comedy on the Bridge, Despina in Così fan Tutte, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Diana in Dean Burry’s world premiere of Pandora’s Locker, Célie in Thomas Pasatieri’s Signor Deluso, Giulietta in Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Second Lady in The Magic Flute.

This summer, Ms. Strande performed a series of chamber music concerts at The Banff Centre, featuring Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, Chausson’s Chanson Perpetuelle and Golijov’s Lua Descolorida. She has performed Mozart’s Requiem with The Stratford Concert Choir, Constat d’une métamorphose by Pierre Michaud with New Music Ensemble, Handel’s Messiah with Highlands Festival and Stravinsky’s Les Noces (Svadebka) with the MacMillan Singers and Naxos.

Nina Scott-Stoddart


Nina Scott-Stoddart is a dramatic mezzo soprano who has connected with audiences for over 20 years. Nina has sung with many orchestras and opera companies, including Tafelmusik, Opera Atelier, Opera Maine, Opera in Concert, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Merkin Concert Hall and Broadway Direct in New York City, the International Chamber Music Festival in New Zealand, Maritime Concert Opera and Opera Nova Scotia.  Favourite roles include La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica, Erda in Das Rheingold and the title role in Carmen.

Last season she toured Nova Scotia with the premiere of her one woman show Witches, Bitches, and Britches and sang the role of Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In 2011-2012 she will create the role of Norah in Nova Scotian composer Mary Knickle’s new opera Morgan Le Fay and will also sing Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte with Maritime Concert Opera.

A former long-time Toronto resident, Nina has lived in beautiful Nova Scotia with her husband David for the past nine years.

Fabián Arciniegas


Born in Cali, Colombia, baritone Fabián Arciniegas graduated from the Universidad del Valle and the Conservatorio Antonio Maria Valencia under the guidance of soprano Margarita Castro-Alberty. In Colombia he performed the role of Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan Tutte, Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Malatesta in Don Pasquale.

As a second year student in the MMus Opera Performance Program at the University of Toronto he studies under the guidance of Professor J. Patrick Raftery. Last season he sang Leporello in the University of Toronto’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Giorgio Germont in SOLT’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata. For the 2011-2012 fall season he will perform the roles of Il Marito in Menotti’s Amelia al Ballo and Le directeur de theatre/Le Gendarme in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias at the University of Toronto.

Mark Gardner


Mark Gardner, baritone, originally from Detroit MI, graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and a Bachelor of Music in Voice from Wayne State University in 2001. In 2004 Mark received a Masters degree in Voice from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University. Opera roles include Giorgio Germont in La Traviata, Belcore in L’Elisir d’amore, Sharpless in Madam Butterfly (Opera Kitchener), Keith/Earl/ Father in Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking, Marco in Gianni Schicchi, Sid in Albert Herring, Bob in The Old Maid and the Thief (Opera Peabody), Dimitri Petrovski in The Music Shop (Baltimore Artscape), and Pish-Tush in Mikado.

Recent engagements include singing as a baritone soloist for “A Place to Sing” (a concert for the Stratford chapter of Pal), and the role of Marcello in Opera York’s production of La Bohème. This spring Mark is looking forward to playing the role of Don Giovanni in Opera Kitchener’s Don Giovanni, and is very pleased to be singing with the Essential Opera as Le Comte in Chérubin.

James Levesque


Noted for his “expressive singing and acting abilities” (Opera Canada) baritone James Levesque has performed on both sides of the Atlantic with such conductors as Harry Bicket, Richard Egarr, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, and Raffi Armenian.

Recent roles include: Count Perrucchetto in Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Opera in Concert); Achilla in Handel’s Giulio Cesare (OIC); Mark in the world premiere of John Estacio’s Frobisher (Calgary Opera, CBC), and the title role on Canadian tour; Tsar Alexander I in Prokofiev’s War and Peace (Canadian Opera Company); First Priest in Mozart’s Magic Flute (Calgary Opera); Marco in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (Opera York); Balthazar in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors (Choralis Camerata); the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre); William Draper in the world premiere of Gary Kulesha’s The Last Duel (University of Toronto’s Opera Division).

Alastair Smyth


Originally from Vancouver, baritone Alastair Smyth moved to Toronto to study music at the University of Toronto. He graduated with a Bachelors in Voice Performance in 2010, and continues to study privately with his teacher JoAnne Bentley. During his time in University, he took part in productions of L’enfant et les sortilèges by Maurice Ravel, Il mondo della luna by Joseph Hayden, and Candide, by Leonard Bernstein.

Since graduating Alastair appeared as Don Alfonso in Metro Youth Opera’s 2011 production of Cosi fan tutte, as Top in Summer Opera Lyric Theatre’s production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land, and as the Marquis d’Obigny in their production of La Traviata, here in Toronto.  Also an aspiring oratorio soloist, he has performed as the baritone solos in both the Mozart and Durufle Requiem, and in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion.

James Michael Baldwin

Capitaine Ricardo

Baritone James Baldwin is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Opera Diploma program, where he studied with J. Patrick Raftery. While there, he performed the roles of Don Inigo Gomez in Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole, the Father in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Ernesto in Haydn’s Il Mondo Della Luna, and Maximillian in Bernstein’s Candide, in addition to excerpts from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky and Carmen by Bizet. In concert, James’ performed repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Brahms’ Requiem, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, Durufle’s Requiem, Faure’s Requiem, and Bach’s Matthaus Passion, performed with groups such as the Amadeus Choir of Toronto, the Metropolitan Festival Choir, the Burlington Civic Chorale, Masterworks of Oakville, and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto. Later this year, he will perform his first Christmas Oratorio and B-Minor Mass by Bach with the Metropolitan Festival Choir. Aside from his work as a soloist, James performs regularly as an ensemble singer with many choirs in and around Toronto.

Emily Klassen


Emily Klassen‘s “clear, rich, textured voice” has “enchanted” audiences in Toronto and abroad. Emily has performed in several opera and operetta productions in Toronto including the role of Doriclea in excerpts from La Doriclea by Cavalli (Toronto Continuo Collective), The Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre), Casilda in The Gondoliers by Gilbert &Sullivan (Toronto Operetta Theatre), and Adrianna in The Boys from Syracuse by Rodgers and Hart (Tryp Tych Productions).

Outside Toronto Emily has appeared in scenes from Cavalli’s La Calisto as Calisto, and Verdi’s Falstaff as Nanetta (Canadian Operatic Arts Academy – London, ON), Eurydice in Orphée aux enfers by Offenbach (Spoleto Vocal Arts Symposium – Spoleto, Italy) and Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Britten (Opera NUOVA – Edmonton, AB).

Olga Tylman


Olga Tylman, mezzo-soprano, holds a Masters in Vocal Performance from the University of Western Ontario, where she won the school’s top performance scholarship.  She has performed the roles of Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte (UWO Opera), Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Halifax Summer Opera Workshop), Euridice in Gluck’s Orfeo (Opera Nova Scotia), and Elettra in Idomeneo (Opera Nova Scotia).  She has been guest soloist in concerts with the Vespera Ensemble (Toronto), Northumberland Orchestra and Choir (Port Hope), St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir (London, ON), and Mississauga Choral Society.  Olga is currently active as a professional soloist and chorister with groups including Grammy-nominated Elora Festival Singers, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and St. James Cathedral Choir.