Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program

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Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program

In 2012, VO launched the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program. Made possible through a gift from the family of Yulanda M. Faris, the program engages, enriches, mentors and trains rising young Canadian opera artists and offers a bridge between formal academic educational programs and the professional world in a supportive and encouraging environment.

The program is led by Program Director, Leslie Dala; Principal Coach, Kinza Tyrrell; Coach, Tina Chang and the continued guidance of Vancouver Opera Music Director Emeritus, Jonathan Darlington.

The Young Artists Program provides artists – singers, pianists and stage directors – with the opportunity to train with industry leaders through master classes, one-on-one coachings and performance opportunities as part of a residency program.

Applications to the 2022-2023 season are now closed. Keep an eye out on our audition page for more information on future audition opportunities.

Thank you to our 2020–2021 Program Sponsors


TD Bank


Dr. George Luciuk
Alan and Gwendoline Pyatt Foundation
Patricia Charles

The Edwina and Paul Heller Memorial Fund,
     held at the Vancouver Foundation
Mrs. Ronnie E. Tessler

Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program Staff

Music Director Emeritus
Jonathan Darlington

Sensitivity for depth and balance and an infectious dynamism are the hallmarks of Jonathan Darlington’s work. As music director of the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of Vancouver Opera since 2002, his demand for the highest level of professionalism and precision, infused with genuine enthusiasm, has ever increased the quality and popularity of both orchestras. Born and educated in England, he is fluent in several languages and currently resides in Paris. Maestro Darlington has conducted an impressive array of ensembles in many of the world’s greatest concert halls and opera houses.

Program Director
Leslie Dala

Maestro Leslie Dala is Associate Conductor and Chorus Director of Vancouver Opera, and Music Director of the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra. He recently conducted Vancouver Opera productions of Madama Butterfly, Albert Herring, The Magic Flute, and The Marriage of Figaro, as well as the world premieres of  VO-commissioned operas, Stickboy and The Overcoat – a musical tailoring.

Principal Coach
Kinza Tyrrell

Dr. Kinza Tyrrell is Principal Répétiteur, Assistant Conductor, and Assistant Chorus Director at Vancouver Opera, Lyric Diction and Collaborative Piano Professor at the University of Victoria, and guest faculty at the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Kelowna, and Opera Nuova, among many others.  Dr. Tyrrell’s coaching and performing portfolio make her one of Canada’s leading vocal coaches.

Tina Chang

Pianist and Coach, Tina Chang, is currently on the music staff at Vancouver Opera, and most recently at Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland. Based in Vancouver, she has been involved with various musical organizations in town, including Chor Leoni, re:Naissance Opera, Health Arts Society, and Queer Arts Festival. She is currently on faculty at the Vancouver Academy of Music, and is also on the coaching staff at the University of British Columbia. Tina holds a Bachelor of Music degree from University of British Columbia and a Master of Music degree from University of Minnesota.

2021–2022 Program Participants

Singers receive regular coachings with Vancouver Opera’s resident music staff as well as training in diction, movement, acting, stage combat and a variety of other areas in this comprehensive program.

Pianists, under the guidance of the Vancouver Opera music staff, work with YAP singers in regular coachings and may also act as rehearsal pianists for mainstage productions.

Singers and pianists take part in master classes, sessions with international guest coaches as well as participate in seminars on a range of topics from audition techniques to securing an agent.

The program is performance-oriented and there are numerous performance and understudy opportunities throughout the season. Stage Directors work with YAP singers in dramatic coachings and participate in mainstage productions working closely with production stage directors and Vancouver Opera production staff.

Jonelle Sills, Yulanda M Faris Young Artists Program

Jonelle Sills

Toronto soprano Jonelle Sills is a Dora Award winner for outstanding performance of
an Ensemble in Vivier’s Kopernikus with Against the Grain Theatre. Jonelle has an Artist Diploma in Voice Performance/Opera from The Glenn Gould School and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, Specialized Honours in Music from York University.Jonelle has recently been named as one of CBC Music’s classical “30 under 30” performers for 2020.

Past highlights include her Canadian tour as Mimì in La Bohème with Against the Grain Theatre. During her residence at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity she premiered the role of Esther in composer Paola Prestini’s and librettist Royce Vavreck’s Silent Light also with Against the Grain Theatre. Other performances include Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, the title roles in Cendrillon andLa Cecchina with The Glenn Gould School; Musetta in La Bohème at theMuskoka Opera Festival; Micaëla in Carmen with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre; and Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia with MYOpera.

Jonelle has studied and worked with Stephanie Bogle and Rachel Andrist and performed in masterclasses with Gerald Finley, Liz Upchurch, Adrianne Pieczonka,
Tim Noble, Martin Katz, Catherine Robbin, Dawn Upshaw and Joan Dornemann.

During the 2020–2021 season, Jonelle performed in The Music Shop and Carmen: Up Close and Personal.

Hillary Tufford

Hillary Tufford was raised on a farm in Southwestern Ontario, where she began honing her passion for performance at the ripe young age of 6, by concertizing to chickens and cattle from a stage of strawbales. Hillary completed an Honours Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and a Masters in Voice Literature and Performance from Western University  

Hillary is a recipient of a Jeunesse Musicales du Canada bursary and an RBC Emerging Artist Project Grant. Hillary was a finalist in The Mozart Project Competition and she was part of the Tapestry Opera’s Dora Award winning ensemble (Oksana G). Hillary performed Ramiro (La finta giardiniera), Clara (The Light in the Piazza), Despina (Cosìfan tutte), Nadia (Oksana G),2nd witch (Dido and Aeneas), alto soloist (Messiah) and she performed with Magisterra Soloists Chamber Group. 

Hillary has studied and worked with Elizabeth McDonald, Sophie Roland, Emily Martin, Anita Kraus-Wiebe, Simone Lutì, Tyrone Paterson, John Hess, Lorne Richstone, and David Eliakis

Ian Cleary, Yulanda M Faris Young Artists Program

Ian Cleary

Originally from Chatham, tenor Ian Cleary recently completed an Opera Diploma at the University of British Columbia and has a Bachelor of Music from Wilfred Laurier University.  

Ian has performed Hoffmann in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Armoured Guard in Die Zauberflöte with the UBC Opera Ensemble; Hoffmann in Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Schoolmaster in Cunning Little Vixen with Opera Laurier; Judge Roan in Parade and Giuseppe in The Gondoliers with Opera Nuova. 

He has studied and worked with J. Patrick Raftery, Kimberley Barber, Richard Epp, Leslie Dala, Raffi Armenian, Rosemary Thompson, Nancy Hermiston, Anna Theodosakis, Brian Deedrick and Rob Herriot. During the 2020–2021 season, Ian performed in The Music Shop and Carmen: Up Close and Personal.

Luka Kawabata, Yulanda M Faris Young Artists Program

Luka Kawabata

Nikkei-Canadian baritone, Luka Kawabata returns to the Yulanda M Faris Young Artist’s Program with Vancouver Opera, having appeared as Dmitri in Wargo’s The Music Shop and as Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen: Up Close and Personal in the 2020-2021 Digital Season.  He is an alumnus of the ‘Digital Emerging Artist Program’ with Manitoba Opera and ‘Opera in the 21st Century’ program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.  

Luka recently premiered his self-directed production of “Paueru-Gai” in Vancouver’s IndieFest, celebrating his intersectional lived experience and the history of Japanese immigration to Canada.  He has been selected as a 2021-2022 RBC Artist Fellow with the Association of Opera in Canada and continues to work as a mentor with Opera InReach.  This season, Luka will make two company debuts as Schaunard in La Bohème (Edmonton Opera) and Escamillo in Carmen (Saskatoon Opera). 

Previous credits include the title role in Don Giovanni, Lieutenant Audebert in Silent Night, Dappertutto and Dr. Miracle in Les contes d’Hoffmann, as well as Tadeusz in the Canadian Premiere of Pasazerka (The Passenger).

Amy Seulky Lee, Yulanda M Faris Young Artists Program

Amy Seulky Lee

Vancouver-based pianist Amy Seulky Lee holds a Master of Music in Collaborative Piano from the University of Toronto, where she studied with Professor Steven Philcox, and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of British Columbia where she studied with Dr. Terence Dawson.

Amy made her debut with the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra in 2010 and has since performed in concerts across Canada, United States, South Korea, and Italy. She served as music director for Summer Opera Lyric Theatre and Malfi Productions and has worked with a number of summer festivals including Toronto Summer Music Festival, Vancouver International Song Institute, Accademia Europea Dell’Opera and Orford Music Festival. 

Amy has participated in masterclasses with notable clinicians including Martin Katz, Soile Isokoski, Warren Jones, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Graham Johnson, Katherine Chi, André Laplante, Alain Lefèvre, Leon Fleisher, Christopher Taylor and Lydia Artymiw.

During the 2020–2021 season, Amy played in The Music Shop and Carmen: Up Close and Personal.

Amanda Testini

Amanda Testini (she/her) is a performer, choreographer, director andeducator based on the unceded and ancestral territories of theMusqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. She has worked for the Arts Club, Bard on the Beach, the Cultch, Theatre Replacement, the Firehall, Vancouver Opera, the Belfry, Opera Kelowna, the Gateway, Savage Society, VACT, Carousel Theatre, shameless hussy productions, Electric Theatre Company, the Caravan Farm Theatre, the response, and Axis. Due to the pandemic, Amanda’s time as the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Stage Director for the 2019/2020 season here at Vancouver Opera was cut short, so she is happy and grateful to be returning! Amanda is a Jessie Award nominee and a graduate of Studio58