The University of Western Ontario Opera Workshop program has enjoyed a 25 year history.
Founded by conductor Prof. James McKay, the program was led by several directors including Reid Spencer and Prof. Brian McIntosh. When baritone Theodore Baerg succeeded McIntosh in1996, the University of Western Ontario Opera Workshop became known as UWOPERA. Being involved in a continuing successful operatic career, Prof. Baerg's engagement signaled a new beginning for the workshop as well as an ongoing commitment from the Faculty of Music.
Some of the new initiatives have included double casting, which has greatly increased the number of students able to perform roles and the use of computer generated surtitles. Ô In fact, UWOPERA was one of the first university programs in North America to make use of this technology.
UWOpera has performed a wide variety of repertoire ranging from operetta to full operatic works, including Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Fledermaus, Candide and Albert Herring. Performances are often sold out before opening night.
In addition, UWOPERA singers have been involved in concerts with Orchestra London and in the annual Opera Gala for Hospice, a community fundraiser organized and created by former UWO Voice Professor Irena Welhasch.

Michele Verheul, clarinet

Michele Verheul joined Orchestra London as principal clarinetist at the beginning of the 2003/04 season. A graduate from the Eastman school of Music, Ms. Verheul spent many years working as a freelance musician in Toronto. She has performed with the Toronto Symphony, the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Windsor Symphony, the National Ballet Orchestra, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
Ms. Verheul has commissioned solo works for the clarinet and bass clarinet through the Ontario Arts Council and has been a featured performer on the CBC’s, Two New Hours, Arts National and Music Around Us. Ms. Verheul is married to fellow clarinetist Martin van de Ven who specializes in klezmer clarinet. The couple has recently moved to London with their son Arie.


  James Westman, baritone

Originally from Stratford, Ontario, James Westman was Baritone in Residence with the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship program until March 2000. His performances at the San Francisco Opera include Guglielmo (Cosi Fan Tutte); Marcello (La Boheme); Germont (La Traviata); Renato (Ballo in Maschera); Sid (Albert Herring); and the First Philosopher (Louise).

Upcoming season appearances include Pose in Verdi’s Don Carlo in Graz, Austria; Sharpless in Madama Butterfly for the Canadian Opera Company and Detroit Opera; Sylvio in Pagliacci with the San Francisco Opera; Ford in Falstaff at Houston Grand Opera; Paolo in Simon Boccanegra at San Diego Opera; Guglielmo in Cosi fan Tutte for his Manitoba Opera debut, and Athanael in Massenet’s rarely heard Thais for Opera Theater of Saint Louis.

In concert , Mr. Westman will sing Messiah with the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir, Carmina Burana with the Cleveland Orchestra, and Berlioz’ seldom performed Romeo and Juliette with the Edmonton Symphony.
Previous season performances included Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore with Opera Hamilton, a concert appearance for the George London Foundation in New York, a solo recital in Toronto for the Aldeburgh Connection, Messiah in Detroit, and a televised concert at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. He reprised his Marcello for the Calgary Opera and sang Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, successively in Pittsburgh and in Saint Louis, James Westman also performed in recital in Bradford, PA, under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.

International competitions include the 1997 George London Competition, D’angelo Competition, the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyrique, and the Licia Albanese-Pucini Foundation. In June 1999, James Westman was a finalist and audience favorite at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.
James Westman has studied with such renowned artists as Dame Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge, Renato Capecchi, Paul Esswood, Régine Crespin, Warren Jones, Martin Katz, Virginia Zeani, Marlena Malas, and Diane Forlano.


Monica Whicher, soprano

Style and musical elegance combined with an intuitive theatrical sense are the hallmarks of soprano Monica Whicher's performances on the concert and opera stage.

Highlights of her 2004-2005 season include performances of Vaughan Williams’ Benedicite with L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the title role in Opera Atelier’s Dido and Aeneas in Toronto and the world premiere of a new work by Christos Hatzis paired with Beethoven’s Mass in C for the St. Lawrence Choir in Montreal and the Ottawa Choral Society.

On the international circuit, Ms. Whicher has performed Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Exultate, Jubilate with Helmuth Rilling in Bilbao, Spain. She has also been heard with the symphonies of Barcelona, Utah, Minnesota, and in Scotland for Music at Blair Athol.

Winner of the George London Award, Ms. Whicher premiered Ryan's Ophélie with the Toronto Symphony and has performed with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa's Thirteen Strings, the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony and the National Ballet.

Ms. Whicher’s concerts are frequently broadcast by CBC Radio 2. Her recordings of Bach, Schubert and Hatzis are available on Marquis Classics and other labels. She was nominated for a 2002 Juno Award for her CD entitled “Singing Somers Theatre” released on the Centredisc label.


Jim Witter, vocalist

Jim hails from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where he lives with his wife Rebecca, son James, and daughter Roslyn.

From a young age, Jim exhibited exceptional skills as a musician, and was quick to pick up the piano and guitar, taught by his mother, and brother Rob. At the age of seven, he began staging performances in local living rooms around Hamilton, and by 14 he had written his first song, "Maybe Someday You'll be Mine". Jim's talent shone through on his debut album, which took off like a shot. The first single, "Everything and More", entered the National Country Chart at 40, a first for any debut Canadian single at the time. Now, with 5 top 10 singles to his credit, along with mass video play on CMT and TNN, Jim's star continues to shine.

Some folks concern themselves with the material things in life. Not Jim Witter. Family and career are his two biggest priorities - in that order - and this earthiness is what keeps his music as grounded as his roots. As a singer-songwriter, Jim is one of those rare, exceptional talents who understands the parameters of good song writing.

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