About us

Our Staff



The faculty

Marco Piana

Lecturer in Italian Studies at Smith College (MA)

He holds a PhD from McGill University and a Masters degree in Italian language and culture from the University for Foreigners of Perugia. During the last ten years, he taught in some of the most prestigious academic institutions in Italy, Australia, Canada, and the US. He has been awarded one McGill GREAT Award, two McCall MacBain Fellowship Prizes for outstanding teaching skills, and five McGill Graduate Excellence Awards. He also won several literature prizes, including the national prize for poetry Superba in 1999, the national award for literature Cercatalenti in 2007, and the national prize Giugno in Arte – Poesia in 2011.

Valerio Vittorio Garaffa

Director, actor and Acting teacher

Valerio Vittorio Garaffa is a theatre director, actor and acting teacher based in New York City. His purpose is helping performers to go deeper their creativity. He graduated from the School of Dramatic Arts “Paolo Grassi” (Italy) and completed his training at the Laboratorio Teatrale Santa Cristina (Italy) under the mentorship of Luca Ronconi. He studied Italian poetry and Lectura Dantis with Paul Giuranna and Orazio Costa’s mimic method with Alessandra Niccolini. He has directed numerous theatre and Opera productions both in Italy and Canada. Highlights include: CymbelineThe BacchaeThe AssemblywomenDon Quixote, Trevisan’s Oscillazioni, At the exitThe festival of our Lord of the ShipThe imbecile, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. Acting credits include: A Midsummer Night’s DreamThe Tempest, Strauss’s Ithaca, Angeli’s Welcome in California. He has been involved in several theatre projects which aimed to build understanding between newly arrived refugees and local populations in Italy, such as Nausicaa Waltz and Anatta Project (ArteStudio Company, Rome). Together with Chiara Cimmino, he developed “The Relationship Acting Method” that they now teach to actors, singers, and all other types of performers.


Chiara Cimmino

Actress and acting teacher

Chiara Cimmino is an actress and acting teacher based in New York City. Her focus is helping those she works with to find their own way onstage. She graduated from the Milan School of Dramatic Arts “Paolo Grassi” in 2007. Since then she has been working in cross-disciplinary projects, such as Lavoro Invisibile (International Women’s House – Rome) that explored the transformations of contemporary work and women’s empowerment in the workplace. She won the Award for Best Supporting Actress at the theater Palio of Chiavari (Italy, 2005) and the “Plautus Theater Award” for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Italy, 2017).  Acting credits include: theaters (The seagull, Goldoni’s The fan, Ostrovsky’s The storm, Marivaux’s Harlequin educated by love, The play that goes wrong, Expoi), films, television, web-series, and commercials. Together with Valerio Vittorio Garaffa, she developed “The Relationship Acting Method” that they now teach to actors, singers, and all other types of performers.


Rose Naggar-Tremblay

Mezzo soprano

Rose Naggar-Tremblay is a versatile mezzo-soprano, known for the richness of her voice and the intelligence of her interpretations. She makes use of her creativity and love of languages through varied artistic projects including song writing, composing original librettos and music and dramaturgical conception of staged concerts and of musical workshops for children. She is particularly inclined to perform contemporary opera. She recently took part into the Opera de Montreal production of Svadba (Sokolovic) that won the Opus Prize for musical event of the year. She also sang the lead role of Gertrude Stein in the Atelier Lyrique’s production of Twenty-Sven (Gordon and Vavrek) and she will create the role of Gabrielle in La nuit est ma femme (Côté and Ivy) over the 2019-2020 season. She was recently heard at the Opéra de Montreal, the Halifax Summer Opera Festival, with La Compagnie baroque Mont-Royal, the Opéra de Lévis, Stella Musica, Production point d’arrêt, the Lyric Montreal Ensemble, and Opera McGill, appearing most notably in the roles of Zora (Svadba, Sokolovic),  Tisbe (Cenerentola, Rossini), Carmen (Carmen, Bizet), Dejanira (Hercules, Handel), and Dido (Dido and Aeneas, Purcell). Rose is also a very active chamber music performer, taking part in many concerts and recitals. She is recently heard in the Mozart Requiem (Orchestre philharmonique et chœur des mélomanes), in the Duruflé Requiem (Chœur de l’Orchestre Métropolitain) in the cantatas BWV 7, BWV 89, BWV 21 (Serenata at St-John) and in recital with Festival Montréal Baroque, the Highlands Opera Studio and the Toronto Summer Music festival. Rose has been awarded the Schulich Voice Performance Scholarship, the Maureen Forrester – Montreal Musician’s Guild Scholarship, the Foundation McAbbie Scholarship, the Maureen Forrester Award, the E.M Wirth Scholarship, the Peter and Mary White Award and the Schulich Entrance Scholarship. Her second year at the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal is generously sponsored by Elizabeth Wirth and Lucien Fauteux.

Giancarlo Scalia

Pianist, vocal coach and composer

Born in Montreal, Giancarlo Scalia is very active as a pianist, vocal coach and composer. He has served as musical director or répétiteur for various companies such as Opéra immédiat (Chauve-SourisCarmenAïdaElisir d’amore, I Capuleti e
I Montecchi, Don Pasquale
), Opéra bouffe du Québec (Les BrigandsVéronique, Le Baron tzigane, Le Chanteur de Mexico, La fille du tambour-major) and the Halifax Summer Opera Festival (Suor AngelicaGianni Schicchi, Carmen, Don Giovanni, Les Contes d’Hoffmann) as well as for Lakeshore Light Opera (The Mikado, Thespis), Light Opera of Montreal (The Tender Land, Sweeney Todd), Snowglobe Theatre (The Medium, Riders to the Sea), Haskell Opera House (La Traviata), Opéra Outside the Box (The Telephone), the Festival Classica and the operetta workshop of the École de musique Vincent d’Indy. He has performed as collaborative pianist throughout Canada as well as in France, Austria, Germany, Italy, the United States and China and has collaborated with the Opéra de Montréal and it’s Atelier lyrique, Opera Atelier in Toronto, 
Gesellschaft für Musiktheater in ViennaJeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques, l’Istituto Italiano di Cultura de Montreal and the Société d’art vocal de MontréalAssociate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, he has composed for various soloists and ensembles (Orchestre de la Francophonie, Ensemble Paramirabo, Ensemble Saxologie, soprano Sophie De Cruz, mezzo soprano Rose Naggar-Tremblay, cellist Julie Hereish, the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre d’Harmonie Leonardo da Vinci) and his works have been performed in Canada, the United States and Europe. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree and a DESS in piano performance under the direction of Jimmy Brière and Marc Durand and a Master’s degree in composition under the direction of Denis Gougeon from the Université de Montréal before pursuing his studies privately with pianists Walter Moore and Norman Shetler in Vienna and Claude Webster in Montréal. He has also participated in vocal accompaniment programs at the Orford Arts Centre, the Académie Francis Poulenc in Tours, the Wiener Musikseminar in Vienna, Vox Musicae in Senigallia and COSI in Sulmona (La bohème).


Our partners

John Mac Master

Tenor, voice professor, adjudicator and clinician

Canadian tenor John Mac Master has performed the most demanding roles of the dramatic repertoire the world over: Cavaradossi (Tosca), Canio (Pagliacci), Otello, Manrico (Trovatore), Calaf (Turandot), Peter Grimes, Florestan (Fidelio), Tristan, Erik (Fliegende Holländer), Bacchus (Ariadne auf Naxos), have been his calling cards at the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra Nationale de Paris, Vienna Volksoper; for the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam, in Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Leipzig, Dresden, Barcelona, Melbourne, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing; for San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Australia, all over the United States, and with every major symphony orchestra and opera company in Canada. He has performed with many of the greatest conductors of our time including Sir Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink, Sir Charles Mackerras, Richard Hickox, James Levine, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Daniel Harding, Mario Bernardi, Bramwell Tovey, Valery Gergiev and Robert Spano. In particular he  has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Montreal’s L’Orchestre Métropolitain and L’Opéra de Montréal. On the concert stage, he has been engaged for Beethoven Symphony No 9, Verdi Requiem, Orff Carmina Burana, Mahler’s Symphony No 8 and Das Lied von der Erde on countless occasions, but also for Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass, Schoenberg Gurrelieder, and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. His recordings include Beethoven Fidelio and Symphony No. 9 with the London Symphony Orchestra (UK); von Weber’s Euryanthe with the Polish Radio Orchestra; Love for Three Oranges on Chandos; the world premiere recording of Langgarrd’s Antikrist (Danachord) and Handel’s Berenice on the Newport Classic label. Appointed Assistant Professor in The Schulich School of Music at McGill University in 2016, and named Associate Dean (Academic & Student Affairs) in 2017, he taught previously at Western University in London ON, and is committed to sharing his knowledge and love for this great art with a new generation of performers and scholars.

Esther Gonthier

Pianist and vocal coach

Esther Gonthier is recognized as one of the most versatile and sought-after pianists in Canada. During the last 30 years, she pursued a very active career both as a pianist-rehearsalist, vocalist, and concert performer. Due to her vast knowledge of the operatic repertoire, she worked on more than 130 operas to date, positioning herself as one of the most recognized experts in the world of Opera. She is regularly invited as a pianist-rehearsalist by the Opéra de Montréal, the Canadian Opera Company, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Opéra de Québec, the Lanaudière Festival, and the Orchestre Métropolitain, among others. She has assisted great conductors such as Jean-Claude Casadesus, Rafael Frübeck of Burgos, Eliahu Inbal, Michel Plasson, Charles Dutoit, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Jacques Lacombe, and Kent Nagano. As a concert performer, she has been invited several times by the Grands Ballets Canadiens Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. During her concerts, she accompanied high-caliber soloists such as Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Susan Platts, Nathalie Paulin, and Lyne Fortin, not to mention her work as a rehearsal coach with such prestigious names as José Van Dam, Kiri Te Kanawa, Federica Von Stade, and Nancy Argenta. She is also the main coach of many promising singers from the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, and other Universities all over the world.

Daniele Agiman

Conductor and Music Director

Daniele Agiman is one of the most active and recognized Italian conductors in the world.

He is a regular guest of the most prestigious operatic institutions of the globe, including Japan and South Korea. He also directed in Argentina, South Africa, France, Germany, Romania, Switzerland, Georgia, Russia; in December 1992 he made his debut at the Vienna Konzerthaus and at the Brucknerhaus in Linz, under the invitation of the Wiener Kammerorchester.

Winner of the 1999 National Competition of the Italian Ministry of Education, he has held the chair of Orchestral Conducting at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Milan ever since.

Since March 2007 he is also Honorary Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the Kurashiki Sakuyo University in Japan. He is frequently invited by Italian and international Universities (Bologna, Ancona, Teramo, Roma Tre, University of Milan, the Korean University of Art and Chung Ang University of Seoul), cultural associations, and research centers (Stresa Network, Società Gruppo-Analitica Italiana, ISMO) as Visiting Professor.

His most significant productions include:

• Gianni Schicchi and Cavalleria Rusticana at the State Theater of Taegu (South Korea) on the occasion of the twinning between the cities of Milan and Taegu;

• Lucia di Lammermoor in Seoul at the Sejong Opera Festival on the occasion of the A.S.E.M. (Asia–Europe Meeting);

• La Traviata at the Centennial Hall in Nara (Japan).

Together with his international career, Daniele Agiman is also deeply involved in the production of some of the most important Italian orchestras (Orchestra della Toscana, Pomeriggi Musicali, Filarmonica Marchigiana, Sinfonica Abruzzese, Solisti Aquilani, etc.) and theaters (Teatro Regio of Turin, Teatro delle Muse of Ancona, Comunale di Modena, Lauro Rossi of Macerata, Teatro Lirico of Cagliari, Pergolesi di Jesi, Municipal Theaters of Belluno, Corridonia, and Taranto on the occasion of the respective re-openings). He is also involved in the organization of many of the most prestigious seasonal concerts in Italy (among which we find Tosca for the Como Opera Season, Puccini’s Messa di gloria for the summer season of Macerata, and Madama Butterfly for the Festival of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento).

Lately, he has been particularly involved in the discovery and dissemination of contemporary classical music, directing, among other things, many creations of new Italian composers.

His current and past official positions include:

• Artistic and Musical Director of “I Madrigalisti Ambrosiani” in the years 1995/1996

• Music Director of the Fall Opera Season of the Palazzo dei Congressi in Lugano in the years 1995/1998 (Boheme, Barbiere di Siviglia, Traviata, Rigoletto)

• Artistic Director of the Opera Atelier of the Music Conservatory “G. Verdi “in Milan in the years 2000/2002

• Principal Conductor of the Orchestra Benedetto Marcello of Teramo from 2000 to 2005

• Artistic consultant for the Italian Opera of the State Theater of Taegu (South Korea) and Kyushu City Opera (Japan) since 1995

• Music Director for the orchestral productions of the Associazione “Ab Harmoniae”

• Music Director and Artistic Consultant for the operatic projects of the “Pergine Spettacolo Aperto” Festival (Madame Butterfly, Boheme, Traviata, Il Trovatore, Rigoletto)

• Principal Guest Conductor of the Shizuoka Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 2009

• Principal Conductor of the G. Rossini Symphony Orchestra of Pesaro since 2009

Denise Agiman

Director, Acting teacher and drama therapist

Born in Milan and living in Montreal since 1985, Denise holds a master in creative arts therapies, a master in drama and a Ph.D in Performing Arts.   She also trained in psychodrama, sandplay therapy and psychotherapy.

She has been invited to some local and international conferences in Europe and in North and Central America, and following her works on the cross-cultural relationships in theater, she won the IFTR-International Federation for Theater Research Award. During the last 10 years , she has been working as  drama therapist, psychotherapist and  psycho dramatist with children and adults  by using the theatre and the arts for a therapeutic and social purpose.  Presently,   she teaches theatre history, acting and commedia dell’arte at Université de Montreal and McGill University.  For the last 30 years, she has been fully involved in the artistic and mass-media field.  She produced and host some TV shows at CFCF TV 12 and CABLE 24  and a weekly show at the International Radio of Montréal. In 1991, she cofounded the Troupe Tealtro for which  she produced  three Canadian tours, wrote four plays, organised  some workshops for actors and  directed more than 50 performances at the Centaur Theater, La Licorne, Quat’Sous, etc. of plays by  Ionesco, Shakespeare,  Machiavelli, Pirandello, Goldoni,  Molière, Nelligan, Danis,  Baricco, Kundera, Benni, Pinter, Tremblay and Fo.

Anna Maria Popescu

Mezzo soprano and professor of voice and Italian diction

Upon completion of her studies at McGill University, the Academy of Vocal Arts and the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, Annamaria Popescu embarked on a distinguished career with roles including Olga in Eugene Onegin and Suzuki in Madame Butterfly throughout Europe and North America. Most notably, she is the Canadian singer who has sung most often at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan with over 100 performances having made her debut in Les Troyens by Berlioz in 1996. Other highlights include concert repertoire in Europe and Asia with the London Symphony Orchestra to our very own Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, in repertoire ranging from works by Sir Michael Tippett’s Mask of Time to Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. She has also worked extensively on the recital stage with Michael McMahon and Esther Gonthier. Since 2010, Annamaria Popescu has been lecturing at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University as assistant professor of voice and Italian diction.

Ariane Girard

Mezzo soprano and vocal pedagogue

For many years now, mezzo-soprano Ariane Girard has earned a reputation among the best vocal pedagogues across Canada.  After more than fifteen years of career, her main professional activities now revolve around recital, sacred and orchestral music and full-time teaching of professional singers as well as aspiring young singers.  Known for the clarity and effectiveness of her teachings as well as for the rapid diagnosis of vocal problems, Ariane is often invited to give masterclasses and regularly sits on competition juries and audition panels; she also acts as an adviser for some artistic agencies. Since September 2016, she is an associate professor at the Atelier lyrique de L’Opéra de Montréal and her private studio has more than fifty students from around the world. A new mom since October 2017, she is looking forward to resume giving concerts in 2020 and a recording around the music of E. Elgar, R. Strauss and R. Wagner is scheduled for the end of 2019.

Claudio Pozzani

Poet, narrator and musician

Claudio Pozzani was born in 1961 in Genoa (Italy).

His poems have been translated and published into more than 10 languages and have appeared in important anthologies and magazines of international contemporary poetry.

Since 1995 Pozzani is the director of  the Genoa International Poetry Festival in Italy and he has created and organized several poetry events in Belgium, France, Japan, Finland, Germany.

He is also the director of the House of Poetry in Genoa, with over than 120 free events every year.

His last CD (poetry and music) “La Marcia dell’ombra”, has been in the top 20 of the Italian independent radio charts.

His last books are: “L’orlo del fastidio”, essay, (Liberodiscrivere, 2017) and “Spalancati spazi – Poesie 1995-2016” (Passigli, 2017).

Italian Institute of Culture - Montreal

The Italian Institute of Culture in Montreal, an official body of the Italian government, has as its aim the promotion of the Italian language and culture in Quebec through the organization of cultural events. The institute is proud to host the International School for Italian Theatre “Giovanni Grasso”.

The Relationship Acting Method

“Stage presence” is not a gift. It is an art that can be learned.

Chiara and Valerio work to help each performer find the key to their power on the stage. They work on the powerful and important relationship to their body and between their actions and the emotions that guide them.

Chiara and Valerio’s ongoing research led, after many years, to the development of: “The Relationship Acting Method.” Developing the relationship with your body, the others, the environment will help you feel a sense of ownership over your presence on the stage!

Teatro del Disìo

Teatro del Disìo is an Italian theatre company founded in 2011 by Valerio Vittorio Garaffa and Chiara Cimmino Sander. The company’s mission is to lead actors and audiences on a journey of rediscovery to a new appreciation of Italian theatre and Italian poetry. They hold classes and workshops on Commedia dell’Arte and Masks, Italian Theatre (Ariosto, Machiavelli, Alberti, Alfieri, Pirandello…), Dante’s ‘Divina Commedia’.