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We are

Cowtown Opera.

Not your
Opera -

All Grandmas

Experience the amazing 2017/18 Season!

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About Us

Our Vision

Cowtown Opera has become a signature artistic company of Calgary, surprising audiences with cheeky, English-language interpretations of operatic classics, remarkable vocal calibre, and daring new projects.

Cowtown Opera provides unique and entertaining performances that holler “Calgary!”
At Cowtown, we explore the intersection of classical and popular culture with innovative and contemporary performances.

Our Team

Michelle Minke

Michelle Minke Founder and Artistic Director

In 2011 Cowtown Opera founder and Calgary native Michelle Minke grabbed the bull by the horns and acted on a vision to breathe new life into an art form that has traditionally been misunderstood as elitist and boring. She and business partner Carrie Kalmykov launched Cowtown Opera with a goal of breaking pre-conceived notions about opera and providing performance opportunities for local opera talent.

Under Michelle’s leadership as Artistic Director, Cowtown Opera has developed a reputation for high quality, entertaining, accessible and original productions. She was also instrumental in creating the Cowtown Opera Summer Academy at Mount Royal Conservatory, which has provided world-class training to aspiring opera singers since 2012.

Michelle received her opera training at the Royal Academy of Music in London England, Bachelor of Music and Masters in Vocal Pedagogy from the University of Toronto. Michelle is a recipient of the Mayors Enbridge Emerging Artists Award and was named top 40 Under 40 for Avenue Magazine. She was seen as a headliner for the 2013 Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show and has performed with the Canadian Opera Company, Calgary Opera, Cowtown Opera, the Anghiari Music Festival and numerous high-profile events in Calgary and across Canada.

Bethany Yon Executive Director

Bethany Yon holds a Masters of Music from Western University in London, Ontario and a Bachelor of Music from Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta. Bethany has embraced advanced study opportunities with Accademia Europea Dell’Opera (AEDO), The Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI), as well as Edmonton, Alberta’s Opera NUOVA. Active in the musical community in her home city, Bethany has worked with Concert Opera Company, Cowtown Opera, Calgary Opera Chorus, Classical Revolution, Calgary Pro Arts Society as well as throughout Canada and internationally. A passionate leader and manager, Bethany has, throughout her academic and professional careers, led in a vast array of administrative and business-centered capacities including conference and event planning, sponsorship generation and production management. Bethany has been recognized throughout her career as a recipient of the 2016 Calgary Arts Development Individual Artist Grant, the 2014 London Opera Guild Scholarship as well as the 2011 John Swindells Memorial Music Scholarship.

With a love for the Cowtown Opera Company community and message at the centre of her endeavours as Executive Director, Bethany strives to lead Cowtown to and through new and exciting stages of growth, development, recognition and advancement.

Aaron Coates Associate Artistic Director

A director, writer, and actor, Aaron has worked with Cowtown Opera on many productions including The Phantom of the Opera Sing-Along,
La Bohème, The Bachelor, Archibaldo, Prison Divas, The Secret Lives of Corporate Calgary, and NYC Meets YYC. He was also a co-librettist on Cowtown’s new opera Annie Davidson.


Aaron’s other directing credits include: The Magic Flute, The Scorpions’ Sting, Hansel and Gretel, Hannaraptor (Calgary Opera School Tours), The After Party, The Way of All Fish (Lunchbox Theatre), Dying City (Pangloss), The Old Neighborhood (Rogues Theatre), Iraq and Back (Ghost River Theatre).


Aaron studied acting at Mount Royal University and at École Philippe Gaulier in Paris. For ten years, he was the co-artistic producer and director of Dirty Laundry, Calgary’s live, improvised soap opera, where he directed over 150 episodes.

Lauren Woods Event Manager

Lauren, soprano, was thrilled to return home as one of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artists this past year. Previously, she played the title role in Handel’s Rodelinda with McGill Opera, and was a finalist in the Wirth Vocal Competition. In 2015, Lauren was one of six Canadians invited to the International Belvedere competition in Amsterdam. Lauren completed a bachelor’s degree in Opera at UBC and a Master’s in Voice at McGill under the tutelage of Aline Kutan. Notable performances include Amy in Adamo’s Little Women, Adina in L’Elisir D’amore, Gretel in Hansel und Gretel, the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Susanna in La Nozze di Figaro, Gilda in Rigoletto, Nannetta in Falstaff, and Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte.  Aside from performing, Lauren is currently a voice and piano teacher in Calgary as well as the event coordinator for Cowtown Opera.

Evan Mounce Resident Music Director

Pianist Evan Mounce enjoys a close association with Calgary Opera, Cowtown Opera, Cantaré Children’s Choir, and the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus. He also works as a freelancer; vocal coaching aspiring stars and fully-fledged ones including k.d. lang. Primarily a self-taught pianist (Piano for Dummies circa 2003), in 2015 Evan decided to get serious about lessons and currently studies with Kathleen van Mourik. Evan holds a MMus from the University of Toronto in saxophone performance. His favourite artistic collaboration is with his wife, soprano Laura Brandt, and may soon include music-making with their son – born July 29th!

Sara Staples COSA (Cowtown Opera Summer Academy) Artistic Director

Sara Staples, Mezzo-Soprano is an active performer across North America specializing in opera, concert work and in professional ensembles. She has performed the roles of Annie Davidson (Annie Davidson), Maria (The Sound of Music), La Suora Zelatrice (Suor Angelica), Fiamma with Mercury Opera, Hansel (Hansel and Gretel), Mercédès (Carmen), Doris Whithers (Mr. Moreover’s Magic), The Foreign Princess (Rusalka), Nancy (Albert Herring), Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Hora (Egisto). Equally at home on the concert stage, Sara has been featured as the Mezzo-Soprano soloist with The Richard Eaton Singers, The Bow Valley Chorus, The Wild West New Music Ensemble, The Calgary Bach Society, Symphony of the Vines, Luminous Voices, Spiritus Chamber Choir, Voicescapes and La Vie. She has also performed as a soloist at the Taipei International Choral Festival and the Boston Early Music Festival. Also an active recitalist, Ms. Staples has performed as a part of the Mountain View International Festival of Song, Chamber Music, The Paso Robles Paderewski Festival, The Sunday’s Live Concert series at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Casalmaggiore International Festival. Ms. Staples holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of North Texas and a Master of Music in Vocal Arts from the University of Southern California. Also a voice teacher in Calgary, Sara is passionate about arts education and the next generation of performing artists. She is thrilled to be the Artistic Director of the Cowtown Opera Summer Academy (COSA).

Ainsley Soutiere COSA (Cowtown Opera Summer Academy) Education Coordinator

Ainsley Soutiere is proud to be the Education Coordinator for the Cowtown Opera Summer Academy, as well as filling in some other administrative duties for Cowtown Opera in her spare time. She also works for the Rozsa Foundation, and for the Calgary Chapter of the International Women’s Form. Ainsley is thrilled to be keeping her feet wet in Calgary’s arts scene and is even more thrilled she gets to do it with Calgary’s only indie opera company!

Board of Directors

  • Matthew Burd

    Matthew Burd


  • John Mostowich

    Vice President

  • Kris Matthews


  • Andrea Wettstein


  • Del Simon


Committee Members

Cindy Royer - Accounting

Lorie Francescut - Box Office Manager

Aneta Pietras - Front of House Manager

Heleen Joubert - Volunteer Coordinator/Operational Support

Kaylee Somerville - Social Media Manager

Our Roster

Experience the amazing 2017/18 Season!
Individual Shows $15-42 Buy Tickets today!

Expect the Unexpected: A CTO Fundraiser and Michelle Minke Album Release

Kick off the season with a Cowtown Opera fundraiser and the launch of our visionary, Michelle Minke's first album “Expect the Unexpected”.  A performance that collides with genres you have never imagined featuring some of the city’s finest, Juno Award winning Jazz artist Al Muirhead, Hip Hop Artist James Noble and Canadian Country Music Award Nominee Denis Dufrense of Ghostboy. This unforgettable evening at the creative DJD studio will be sprinkled with surprising entertainment as well as well as a silent auction, hors-d'oeuvres and bar. Be among the first to hear opera with the unexpected all while supporting Cowtown Opera! 

A Cowtown Christmas

Do you hear what I hear? It’s your annual get-together with your opera-singing relatives! This year dress in your pajamas’! Most festive onesie receives a prize! Baby, it’s cold outside and Cowtown is the musical equivalent of a warm cup of cocoa. You’ll laugh, sigh, and sing-along (of course!) to your favourite Christmas tunes. Hosted by Calgary’s beloved Heebee-Jeebees, and featuring Calgary’s top musical talent, come celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The hit family opera from the UK comes to Canada. Ignoring everything she was told about Stranger Danger, Alice follows a talking rabbit into Wonderland and ends up on a zany adventure. All the classic characters come to life in a fun-filled musical journey. Performed in London annually, Cowtown is delighted to bring you the Canadian premiere.

Figaro's Wedding presented by Peloton Computer Enterprises

Mozart’s hilarious tale of love and marriage in a fresh English adaptation by Joel Ivany of Against the Grain Theatre in Toronto. Figaro and Susanna are getting married. There’s just a few problems: the bills are stacking up, the bachelorette party is turning into a nightmare, and the best man is hitting on the bride. Will love triumph or will “I Do” turn to “I Dunno”?

Opera Disrupted

Opera Disrupted – Submissions Currently Under Review

Cowtown Opera is thrilled to announce a call for submissions to Opera Disrupted: A Series of New Mini-Operas

We are looking for three teams of composers and lyricists to create 3 separate short new operatic works of about 15-20 minutes each to be presented as part of a cabaret evening. The pieces should work as standalone stories, though they may be from a longer work. The works will be presented in a semi-staged format in a cabaret evening on April 20, 2018.

At Cowtown Opera, we are all about accessibility and breaking operatic stereotypes. We aspire to create modern stories and lyrics that are relatableand tend to lean more towards memorable melodic phrases and beautiful harmonies . We would like our audiences to be able to hum every song walking out of the theatre and to understand the plot and words easily while experiencing emotional impact, whether comedic or serious . Please read more about Cowtown Operas previous productions in order to see what our brand is and our company vision is. If you haven’t written an opera before we’d still love to hear your work. If you have a background of Musical Theatre or Jazz and you have always wondered what it would be like to create an opera, we welcome it!  We’re interested in hearing music that creates an emotional impact and not fixed ideas of what operatic music is. We are open, we are experimenting and learning through this process. We believe that the future of the operatic art form relies on this type of experiment for survival and lasting through the modern generation.

We are looking for submissions with the following guidelines:

  • melodic and catchy music that might turn someone on to opera

  • stories about contemporary life

  • Relatable libretto

  • not previously produced

Submissions should include:

  1. a cover letter explaining what interests you about the project

  2. a five minute sample of the proposed work (mp3 file), with lyrics included.

  3. a synopsis of the proposed story

  4. A resume for each team member

What we will provide:

  1. a $500 honorarium per team

  2. a pianist to play the completed work at the cabaret

  3. up to four singers (we can provide one each of the following voice types: soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass-baritone) to sing the completed work

  4. an evening of rehearsal for each piece, which you are welcome to attend, although we are not able to provide travel costs

  5. a feedback session with Cowtown’s Artistic team

  6. Marketing and showcasing of your endeavors through our social media streams and newsletter contacts.

Support Us

Cowtown Opera relies on the generous support of sponsors and donors to help us produce high quality entertainment and fulfill our mandate of Bringing Opera to the People. You can help us achieve our vision by becoming a sponsor, donor or volunteer.


We value our sponsors for their support of the arts in our city and province and want to build great, long-lasting partnerships. Let us create the perfect sponsorship package for your business including recognition, advertising and perks such as tickets and private performances.

Please contact us to discuss sponsorship opportunities.


Individual donors are the lifeblood of our company and a direct connection to our audience. As a donor you will receive a charitable tax receipt in addition to great karma!



We’re always looking for enthusiastic volunteers. Contact us for more information!

Past Seasons

Annie Davidson
Annie Davidson
Barber of Cowtown
Ella (La Cenerentola)
Hansel and Gretl
Hansel and Gretel
La Boheme
Love Potion #9
Magic Flute
Mary Poppins
Phantom of the Opera
Revenge of the Bat
Revenge of the Bat
Sound of Music
The Bachelor
The Bachelor
The Cougar
Wrecking Balls the Opera
Wrecking Balls the Opera
Secret Lives of Corporate Calgary
Prison Divas

Can’t get enough Cowtown?

Book Cowtown Opera

…to make your event a memorable occasion!

  • Surprise a loved one with a Birthday Opera Bomb
  • Add the beauty of the human voice to your wedding or special occasion
  • Let us write you a personalized song or anthem set to your favourite aria
  • Spice up your event with our talented ‘undercover waiters’

Let us create the perfect musical experience for you, singing Broadway to Opera! Contact us to get started!

“Amanda and Maria were awesome - they were fun, engaging and our guests were delighted with the performance, as were we....It was a special treat for our Christmas party and was a great way to put us all in the right spirit for the "reason for the season”

“Taylor was absolutely fabulous! She was undoubtedly the hit of the party - it was so very special. I appreciate having had the opportunity to have her here as it really made our party a smashing success.”

“Words cannot describe how wonderfully those 2 women sang. Their opening duet drew gasps and then dead silence. Beautiful!...Thank you, thank you for putting together that superb program for me...it brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.”

Summer Academy

Cowtown Opera Summer Academy

An International Vision for Aspiring Singers

The Cowtown Opera Summer Academy offers intensive short-term studies for singers who wish to hone their skills in the areas of opera, art song, stagecraft and career development. Our inspirational faculty of professionals with international experience will assist you with all aspects of vocal and artistic development. COSA is geared towards singers who are entering into, currently enrolled in, or finished their post-secondary education in vocal studies. A performance opportunity in the closing concert will be offered to every student.

The program includes:

  • Yoga for the Voice & Breath and Body Work Private and Group Sessions
  • Individual Voice Lessons & Coachings
  • Private Aria Staging Sessions
  • Stagecraft & Improvisation Classes
  • Straight Theatre Scene Coachings
  • Masterclasses in French Melodie, German Lieder, Opera Arias and more
  • Classes on Vocal Health, Career Development, Opera History and Aesthetics, IPA
  • Art Song Recital and Opera Scene Showcase


Watch our COSA highlight video HERE.


If you don’t think you’re quite ready to take the full COSA plunge, this is a great way to get your feet wet! The OutRider program is a wonderful opportunity for actors, dancers, choral singers, instrumentalists or anyone looking for a taste of an opera singer’s world! OutRiders tuition includes participation in the following classes & seminars:

  • Yoga and Breath Therapy for the Voice (5)
  • Stagecraft & Improvisation Classes
  • Seminars on Vocal Health, Career Development (2), Opera History and Aesthetics, and The Wilson Method for Voice: Singing with Ease, Power & Support

Please note that OutRiders are not required to audition for COSA, however they must still submit a completed application form (including all fields that apply) by Friday, June 22, 2018.


COSA is proud to present the opportunity for the Calgary community to observe and learn from our excellent Faculty Members at our 2018 Masterclasses.  All classes are open to voice students, teachers and the general public who are interested in catching a glimpse into the world of classical singing.  We remind all guests that the focus of these sessions is furthering the vocal and educational journey of our COSA participants and proper masterclass etiquette must be adhered to. We welcome guests to enjoy the teachings of our internationally recognized instructors for $10 per session, with all proceeds funding scholarships for future COSA students.


Application Information

Please visit our page on the Mount Royal University Conservatory website.

Please note: Your application to attend Cowtown Opera Summer Academy is not a registration or notice of acceptance — all applicants must audition prior to acceptance.



One aria selection
One art song selection
(any two languages must be represented)
There is no audition process for OutRiders.
A completed application & tuition must be received by Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Audition in person on March 24 & 25th at MRU or send an electronic video submission of your audition as an email attachment or YouTube link to COSA@CowtownOpera.com . Deadline for electronic submissions is Friday, March 9, 2018.

Please note that the Cowtown Opera Summer Academy is an Intensive and students are expected to attend the entire length and participate in all aspects of the course. We cannot accept applications from persons with scheduled conflicts during the outlined dates.


Questions? email cosa@cowtownopera.com