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The Desautels Faculty of Music premieres Roan Shankaruk’s ‘The Fox’

June 24, 2021 — 


The Fox, a new opera by Roan Shankaruk
Based on a short story by D.H. Lawrence and presented by the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music

The University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music is delighted to present Roan Shankaruk’s new opera The Fox, adapted from D.H. Lawrence’s classic novella of the same name.

Lawrence’s The Fox tells the story of two unmarried women, Nelly March and Jill Banford, who are trying to cobble together a living on a farm during World War I. While the two labour tirelessly, a fox sneaks onto the farm and begins to pick off their chickens, one by one, slowly destroying their livelihood and ability to survive independently.

When an unexpected visitor, Henry Grenfell, arrives to help save the failing farm, he also threatens to tear Nelly and Jill apart.

Multi-talented Desautels Faculty of Music Master of Music student and composer Roan Shankaruk has now transformed Lawrence’s tense exploration of gender, sexuality, femininity, and war into a gorgeous opera that makes full use of its performers strong and impassioned voices.

The online opera was filmed in accordance with provincial public health guidelines, observing all social distancing and health measures.


Watch The Fox, by Roan Shankaruk



Jill Banford – Sydney Clarke*
Nelly March – Jacqueline Arthur*
Henry Grenfell – Chris Donlevy*



Piano – Kimberly Lapatha
Violin – Bariah Penner
Cello – Natalie Dawe*



Music Director – Mel Braun
Stage Director – Katherine Twaddle

*= UM Alumni


Cast and Orchestra Biographies


ROAN SHANKARUK: Roan Shankaruk is completing her Master of Music in Opera at the University of Manitoba this summer. She is a UBC School of Music graduate, with a double major in Opera and Composition. Roan has been performing in musicals and operas since age ten and made her professional debut in Vancouver Opera’s Magic Flute. She was selected as a composer and performer in Vancouver Opera’s Spring Festival in 2018-2019. Roan’s first chamber opera “The Woman Who Borrowed Memories” was performed at the 2019 Vancouver Fringe Festival, the first time an opera had been presented in its history. Roan is hard at work on her newest composition, “The Post Office Girl”!


SYDNEY CLARKE: Sydney Clarke is a soprano who performs “all-guns blazing” (Opera Canada). She’s a graduate of the University of Manitoba under the tutelage of Tracy Dahl (CM). Sydney performed the role of HELENA in Opera NUOVA’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Britten, the role of DONNA ANNA in Manitoba Underground Opera’s (MUO) production of Don Giovanni, and FIRST LADY in Opera Nuova’s The Magic Flute. She performed as the soprano soloist for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s staged production of Carmina Burana, and is a winner of the 2020 Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg’s McLellan Competition. Sydney is currently based in Winnipeg, continuing to perform and teach voice.


JACQUELINE ARTHUR: Jacqueline Arthur, mezzo-soprano, began her training in Medicine Hat and at an early age demonstrated passion and commitment in her music. Jacqueline received a Bachelor of Music degree, graduating with great distinction, from University of Lethbridge, and a Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Manitoba. Jacqueline’s vocal versatility has allowed her to perform many operatic roles including Fernando (Rodrigo), Bianca/Rosabella (Angela and her Sisters), La Peinture (Les art’s florissants), Maurya (Riders to the Sea), Mrs. Peachum (The Beggers Opera), Sandman (Hansel and Gretel), and Second Witch (Dido and Aeneas).


CHRIS DONLEVY: Chris Donlevy (He/Him) is a Saskatoon born tenor based in Winnipeg, and is thrilled to have been a part of the workshop for The Fox. Growing up in a musical family, Chris explored performing and composing musical theatre at the beginning of his career. Upon discovering opera, he transitioned to the classical realm and began studying at the University of Manitoba, achieving Bachelors and Post-Bachalaureat degrees with Mel Braun. When it is safe to do so, Chris is excited to get back to making live music again. Selected Credits: It’s a Wonderful Life (Persephone), Gianni Schicchi (MUO), Carousel (Opera Nuova).


KIMBERLY LAPATHA: Kimberly Lapatha is originally from Kentucky, and has lived in Canada since 2001. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in piano from the University of Kentucky and her Master of Church Music degree in piano from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where she met her Canadian husband, Philip. She is currently working toward a Masters in Collaborative Piano at the University of Manitoba. She teaches piano out of her home and also teaches music for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. She accompanies various choirs in the city and is the worship coordinator at her church. When she is not teaching or playing piano, she enjoys knitting, running, biking, board games, and word games. She and her husband, Philip, live in downtown Winnipeg.


BARIAH PENNER: Bariah Penner is a student majoring with the violin in performance. She began violin at age 12 and studied with Albert Bergen, and also attended Providence University College for a year. She is currently in her fourth year studying under Oleg Pokhanovski at the University of Manitoba. Here, she has received scholarships for each year of her degree, including extra scholarships the last two years that have fully paid for tuition. She has also attended Delaware’s Masters Players Festival. In her spare time she enjoys reading, painting and hiking.


NATALIE DAWE: Natalie Dawe (B.Mus, M.Mus) is a freelance cellist and teacher based in Winnipeg whose performances have included the Festival Internacional de Música in Ecuador (2018), a Scandinavian tour with the University of Manitoba Singers (2011), and a tour of China with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra to record an award-winning CD (2007). She recently performed in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and with her piano trio, Trio Loja.


KATHERINE TWADDLE: DFoM Opera Studies Coordinator Katherine Twaddle enjoys a career that is rich in directing and teaching activities. She has worked as a staff director with most of the major opera companies in the UK, including English National Opera, Scottish Opera and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Directing engagements in Canada have included Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for Manitoba Opera, Janacek’s Jenufa in Edmonton and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut for Calgary Opera. Creative activity outside of directing is focused on libretto writing, with the creation of Angela and Her Sisters with composer Dean Burry for the U of M Opera Theatre 2010 school tour. She has also created English performance translations of Hansel and Gretel and Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne.


MEL BRAUN: Mel Braun is a long-time voice teacher and music director for Opera Ensembles at the Desautels Faculty of Music, where he is also the Vocal Area Coordinator. As a singer, he has appeared across the North America in Opera, Oratorio, and Recital. As a conductor and composer, he remains active with Winnipeg’s Camerata Nova, leading all the Indigenous collaborations featuring New Works by Andrew Balfour. As a teacher, he has seen many of his students go on to professional careers as singer, teachers, conductors, and community leaders. He loves nothing better than exploring new works like The Fox.

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