Artists this season

Simona Rose Genga

Mezzo Soprano Simona Genga, who is at once “compelling and technically confident” (Opera Canada) and “formidable” (Saint Louis Dispatch) is a recent graduate of the Opera School at the University of Toronto under the tutelage of Wendy Nielsen.

​As a Gerdine Young Artist  with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Simona covered the role of Mother Chen in the premiere of Huang Ro’s An American Soldier. She appeared as Annina in Verdi’s La Traviata under the direction of Patricia Racette, and sang the roles of Charlotte and Marcellina in the 2018 Centre Stage Gala under Maestro Stephen Lord.

​An avid interpreter of song, Simona  had a recital debut with the Elora Festival in July 2018. She received the 2017 James and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song, and later joined the Ravinia Steans Music Institute as a Voice Fellow. In 2016, she received a grant from the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation to attend the Franz Schubert Institute in Baden bei Wien, where she was deeply inspired by the late Dr. Deen Larsen.

Simona was the 2016 recipient of the Classical Voice Grant from the Hnatyshyn Foundation and most recently was awarded the Barbara and Stanley Richman Award at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and the Richard Bradshaw Graduate Fellowship in Opera at the University of Toronto.

She is also the First Prize and Audience Choice Award of 2018 Ensemble Studio Competiton at the Canadian Opera Company where she joined the Ensemble for the 18/19 season. Highlights include covering both Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Emilia in Verdi’s Otello, singing 2nd Maid in Strauss’Elektra and the lead role in this season’s Opera for Young Audiences.

Stéphane Mayer

Stéphane Mayer is a graduate of McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, and served as vocal coach and accompanist at Western University. At the COC, he has served as a rehearsal pianist for Norma, The Magic Flute, Louis Riel, ArabellaThe Abduction from the Seraglio and Anna Bolena. He has served as an opera répétiteur for productions of The Marriage of Figaro and Ariadne auf Naxos (Opera NUOVA) and Don Giovanni(Opera McGill).

As a piano accompanist, he studied with noted interpreters of German Lied, including Elly Ameling, Robert Holl, Julius Drake, Andreas Schmidt and Roger Vignoles at the Franz-Schubert Institut in Baden bei Wien, Austria. Mr. Mayer also participated in the presentation of two world premieres: The Rocking Horse Winner (Tapestry Opera/Scottish Opera) and Ours (Opera on the Avalon). This season with the COC, Mr. Mayer serves as rehearsal pianist for Eugene OneginCosì fan tutteLa Bohème and Otello.

Gordon Foote

Gordon Foote recently accepted a position at the University of Toronto as professor in the Jazz Studies Program of the Faculty of Music. The most important part of this portfolio will be to direct the University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra (UTJO). Previous to that, Gordon spent 26 years as a Professor in the Jazz Studies Program at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University, in Montreal, Quebec. He served as Dean (interim), Associate Dean (Academic and Student Affairs), Chair of the Department of Performance, Director of Graduate Studies and Chair of the Jazz Area, as well as 6 years at St. FX University in Nova Scotia. Gordon is one of the pioneers of jazz education in Canada, being instrumental in the development and implementation of the first undergraduate and graduate university jazz studies programs in the country.

Professor Foote was the coordinator of the McGill Jazz Orchestras, and directed McGill Jazz Orchestra I. Under his direction, the ensemble performed throughout the United States, France, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Mexico and Canada. The ensemble has released eight compact discs, with a ninth, the Kenton Project, in production. The ensemble also recorded a project of the music of Slide Hampton.

As a saxophonist and clinician for Conn-Selmer, Gordon has performed in Canada, Europe and the United States. Gordon has served as the Quebec representative to the IAJE, the Director of Education for IAJE Canada and as President of Jazz Canada. His studies at the University of Minnesota and the University of North Texas combined with 37 years of performing and teaching experience, leave him as probably the most requested adjudicator, conductor, clinician and jazz educator/performer in Canada.

“… the hands–down best college jazz ensemble I heard last year was Canada’s McGill University….no one could single them out as anything other than a professional working band.” Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

“Proof of the excellence of jazz education in Canada.” Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star.

“If they come much better than this I simply won’t believe it…. McGill gets everything right.” John Killoch, Mainly Big Bands.

Michael Bridge


Lauded as “a wizard of the accordion,” Michael Bridge is internationally-renowned for his warm stage personality, stereotype-smashing versatility, and blazing virtuosity. Named one of CBC’s “30 Hot Classical Musicians Under 30”, he made his solo orchestral debut with the Boston Pops and gives over 100 concerts per year in Europe and the Americas. His debut solo album,  Overture”, was named CBC Album of the Week.

More than a classical musician, Michael simply describes his repertoire as ‘concert music’ – encompassing baroque, classical, and contemporary works, plus many of his own concert arrangements of folk music. Prolific in working with composers, Michael has given over 40 world premieres. He performs solo or with orchestra, and with his two ensembles – Bridge+Wolak and Ladom Ensemble – and has toured Poland, France, Italy, the U.K., Ecuador, the USA and in every Canadian province.

Michael is pursuing doctoral studies in accordion performance at the University of Toronto, with Joseph Macerollo. His first accordion was purchased at a garage sale for $5 when he was five, and two decades later, he is redefining the perception of his traditional instrument.

Joseph Johnson

Joseph Johnson has been heard throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician and educator. His festival appearances include performances in all classical genres at the American festivals of Santa Fe, Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Bard, Cactus Pear, Grand Teton, and Music in the Vineyards as well as the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, and the Virtuosi Festival in Brazil.

Principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since the 2009/2010 season, Mr. Johnson previously held the same position with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He also serves as principal cellist of the Santa Fe Opera, and during the 2008-2009 season, was acting principal cellist of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. Prior to his Milwaukee appointment, Joseph Johnson was a member of The Minnesota Orchestra cello section for eleven years, during which time he performed numerous chamber music works during the orchestra’s Sommerfest, both as cellist and pianist. He was a founding member of both the Prospect Park Players and the Minneapolis Quartet, the latter of which was honoured with The McKnight Foundation Award in 2005.

A gifted and inspiring teacher, Mr. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Cello at the University of Toronto, the cello coach for the Toronto Youth Symphony, and regular coach and teacher at the New World Symphony in Miami.  He has conducted numerous master classes for a wide range of institutions and ensembles, including The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Northwestern University, the youth orchestras of the Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Toronto symphonies, as well as The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Joseph Johnson earned his master’s degree from Northwestern University. Awards and honours include a performer’s certificate from the Eastman School of Music and first prize from the American String Teachers Association National Solo Competition.

Mr. Johnson performs on a magnificent Paolo Castello cello crafted in Genoa in 1780. He uses Jarger Superior brand strings exclusively.