Highlands Opera Studio


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"A summer program unlike any other in Canada and one that is on par with its international counterparts. The level and standard of professional consultants that HOS brings is humbling to say the least." – Robert Clark, tenor




Andrew BalfourOf Cree descent, Andrew Balfour has written a body of more than 30 choral, instrumental and orchestral works, including Take the Indian, Empire Étrange: The Death of Louis Riel, Migiis: A Whiteshell Soundscape, Bawajigaywin, Gregorio’s Nightmare, Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Fantasia on a Poem by Rumi, Missa Brevis and Medieval Inuit. He has been commissioned by the Winnipeg, Regina and Toronto symphony orchestras, Ensemble Caprice, the Winnipeg Singers, the Kingston Chamber Choir and Camerata Nova, among many others. His works have been performed and/or broadcast locally, nationally and internationally.

Andrew is also founder and Artistic Director of the innovative vocal group Camerata Nova. Founded in 1996, the Winnipeg-based singers present an annual concert series, perform at new and early music festivals, have five recordings and a variety of broadcasts. With Camerata Nova, Andrew specializes in creating “concept concerts” (Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Medieval Inuit, Chant!, Tricksters and Troubadours) exploring a theme through an eclectic array of music, including new works, arrangements and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Andrew is passionate about music education and outreach, particularly in schools located in low-income areas of Winnipeg and northern communities. Since 2008 he has worked on behalf of organizations such as the National Arts Centre, Camerata Nova, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and various Manitoba school divisions, offering young students empowering sessions in the joy and freedom of self-expression through music.

Andrew was Curator and Composer-in-Residence of the WSO’s Indigenous Festival in 2009 and 2010, and in 2007 received the Mayor of Winnipeg’s Making a Mark Award, sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council to recognize the most promising midcareer artist in the city.



Maureen CallaghanMaureen Callaghan is a stage manager and educator, who is happy to be in Haliburton for the first time this summer. Recent work has included Same Time, Next Year (Classic Theatre Festival), Pinocchio, Winter Mixed Programme and YOUDance School Tours (National Ballet of Canada); Paul Bunyan and Postcard from Morocco (U of T Opera); Pyramus and Thisbe (Canadian Opera Company) and La Calisto (COSI, Centre for Opera Studies in Italy). Maureen trained at the Banff Centre and teaches drama workshops for the Living Arts Centre. She spent almost 10 years with Canada’s National Ballet School as both Academic Teacher and Production Assistant.



Valerie KuinkaHaving worked within the realm of alternative multi-disciplinary theatre to grand opera for over 25 years, Canadian director Valerie Kuinka brings a wealth of experience and unique creativity to her work. The list of highly accomplished artists with whom she has collaborated is extensive: Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Roberto Alagna, Richard Margison, Jose Cura, Nathan Gunn, Matthew Polenzani, Veronica Tennant, Rex Harrington, Quartetto Gelato, Alannah Myles, Frank Moore, and Shauna Rolston, to name but a few.

August 2017 marks the eleventh season of The Highlands Opera Studio, a summer ensemble and professional training program for highly accomplished emerging operatic artists, in which she acts as General Director along with her husband, Artistic Director and operatic tenor, Richard Margison.

A stage director at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for four seasons (2004–08), Valerie was on the stage directing team of Romeo et Juliette (2005–06) and its revival (2007–08) as well as the revivals of Samson et Dalilah (2004–05, 2005–06), Idomeneo (2006–07) and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci (2006–07).

In 1996, Valerie established her own Toronto-based multi-disciplinary theatre company, COLLABORATIONS, and during its nine-year existence wrote, produced, directed, and often performed in 14 productions. “Kuinka has established no small reputation for creating exciting seamless theatrical collage” – Geoff Chapman (Toronto Star, 2003); “It was Kuinka’s instinct for elision that held everything together.” – William Littler (Toronto Star, 2004)

Valerie has also directed productions for Edmonton Opera, Manitoba Opera, Opera de Quebec, Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Hamilton, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Quartetto Gelato, International Vocal Arts Festival (Tel-Aviv), The Banff Centre, The Glenn Gould School (Toronto), Opera Mississauga, The Canadian Childrens’ Opera Chorus (Toronto), and has assisted at the New York City Opera and the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp.

“In so many ways, that it is hard to know where to begin or end, Kuinka laid bare, framed and illustrated the essence of this drama with exquisite skill and technical savvy... With video and her own consummate inventiveness Kuinka created a fresh, new and vibrantly alive Trovatore.” – Hugh Fraser (Hamilton Spectator, 2012)

Beginning her career as a classical violist, Valerie has been (and continues to be) active as a chamber, orchestral, studio, and performance artist for over thirty years. She was a member of the orchestras of the Canadian Opera Company (since 1986) and the National Ballet of Canada (since 1984), playing every position from section to principal before her retirement from the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra in June 2005.

In recent years, Valerie has been devoting most of her time to working with emerging operatic artists as a dramatic/musicianship coach and career consultant and to building and running Highlands Opera Studio. Often working in tandem with her husband, Richard Margison, she is a regular guest coach and masterclass teacher with L'Atelier Lyrique (L'Opera de Montreal), and other national and international vocal institutions.

In the autumn of 2017, Valerie will be working with American baritone, Nathan Gunn, his wife and pianist, Julie Gunn, and Richard Margison in the creation and direction of their new touring show, based on songs from their youth to the present day.



François RacineCanadian director François Racine is firmly established as one of the most visionary leaders on today’s opera scene, engaged by companies throughout North America and beyond.

Named “Best Artist of 2008/9” by Seattle Opera for his powerful staging of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, Mr. Racine received accolades for Cosi fan Tutte with Pacific Opera Victoria and for his innovative interpretation of Dido and Aeneas in Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland in 2010.


While a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble, Mr. Racine assisted Robert LePage on his productions of Erwartung and Bluebeard’s Castle, and later supervised and restaged performances at Edinburgh, Hong Kong and Melbourne Festivals and later in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Cincinnati, Montreal, Quebec and Seattle.


François Racine has a long association with Pacific Opera Victoria (Carmen, Madama Butterfly, La Bohème) as well as the Canadian Opera Company (Un Ballo in Maschera, Carmen, Norma), and L’Opera de Montréal (Rigoletto, Macbeth, Werther).


In collaboration with Kent Nagano and L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Mr. Racine staged concert versions of Tannhauser, Norma, La Sonnambula and Saint-Francois d’Assise (Messiaen) and with Yannick Nezet-Seguin and Orchestre Metropolitain at Orford Art Centre, he staged La Clemenza di Tito.


François works frequently with young artists, and is a guest professor for the Opera Studio of McGill University, where he directed Tragedie de Carmen, and La Rondine. In 2005 he was awarded the Prix Opus for Evenement de l’annee for his production of Somers’ Louis Riel. He returned to McGill to direct Handel’s Rinaldo, and wote and directed "La recreation de Mozart" for Jeunesses Musicales as well as directed La Tragédie de Carmen for Highlands Opera Studio in  2012. François was also Acting Coach for singers at Centre d'Arts d'Orford.


Mr. Racine works closely with Atelier Lyrique de L’Opera de Montréal, where he has directed productions of Cosi fan Tutte, Dido and Aeneas, and Amelia Goes to the Ball. In 2012, Francois directed La Traviata and Pagliacci for Montreal's Opera Immediat.

As Opera Acting Professor at L’Universite de Montreal, Françcois directed Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande in 2012 and returned for Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.