Who’s Who

An introduction to the fine folks running BIGLAKE Arts.

Elissa Lee

Winner of the 23rd Eckhardt-Gramatté Strings Competition, Elissa Lee has appeared as a soloist with top orchestras across Canada. She has held positions as second concertmaster in both the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestraand the WDR Sinfonie Orchester. Now enjoying a busy freelance career, Elissa tours frequently the greatest concerts halls and festivals in Europe. She has performed as Concertmaster with the Rundfunk Orchester München, the Swedish Radio Orchestra, the KlangVerwaltung Orchestra in Munich, and Festival Strings Luzern, and in leading positions with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Komische Oper Berlin, the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Luxembourg Philhamonic and the Canadian Opera Company. She has also been a guest in world renowned Chamber of Orchestra of Europe, and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and has worked under the baton of Claudio Abaddo, Simon Rattle, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Bernard Haitink and Daniel Harding. As a chamber musician she has performed with Louie Lortie, Augustin Dumay, Anton Kuerti, Pascal Devoyon, Kevin Fitzgerald, Lawrence Lesser, and Shauna Rolston and has been a frequent participant of Open Chamber Music in Prussia Cove, England. Elissa Lee joined Juno award-winning piano quartet Ensemble Made In Canada in 2010, which performs concerts and tours throughout Canada and the United States.

Johannes Debus

© Kaupo Kikkas

Born in 1974, Debus learned his craft at the Frankfurt Opera, where he took a post as a repetiteur in 1998 after finishing his conducting studies in Hamburg. Later promoted to Kapellmeister, he internalized a broad repertoire that came to encompass everything from Mozart and Verdi to Thomas Adès. “I was lucky to be able to continually grow at such an innovative company for nearly ten years,” he says. He also met the composer Hans Werner Henze during his time in Frankfurt; the two remained close friends until Henze’s death.

Debus has been music director of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto since 2009. The diversity and openness of the city appeal to him. Debus is also stimulated artistically by the house’s curiosity and willingness to take risks, qualities which have allowed him to expand his repertoire still further. Under his leadership, the international reputation and visibility of the company—the largest Canadian opera house—have grown continuously. Debus has increasingly dedicated himself to teaching: He is the director of North America’s only orchestral academy specialized in opera, in Toronto, and regularly conducts concerts with students of the Royal Conservatory Orchestra. He also gives masterclasses at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.

The conductor considers himself a transatlantic hybrid. “It’s very enriching to have one foot on each continent,” he says. “I have access to the best of both worlds and try to connect them.” In North America, Debus guest conducts renowned ensembles such as the Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 2016, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera leading a performance of “Salome.” Meanwhile, in Europe, Debus has conducted orchestras such as the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and the Hallé Orchestra. His work in opera has brought him to the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Berlin State Opera, the Frankfurt Opera, the English National Opera, and the Opéra National de Lyon. In 2014, Debus gave his debut at the BBC Proms with the Britten Sinfonia; in 2015 he led a new production of “The Tales of Hoffmann” at the Bregenz Festival. As a guest conductor, he has performed at international festivals such as the Biennale du Venezia, Schwetzinger Festspiele, Festival d’Automne, Lincoln Center Festival, Ruhrtriennale, Suntory Summer Festival, and the Spoleto Festival.

Debus sees himself as a universalist, equally at home in Monteverdi, the Viennese School, Janáček, and the 20th-century repertoire. Another important aspect of his work is his collaborations with prestigious new-music ensembles such as Klangforum Wien, Ensemble intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, and Musikfabrik. “I wouldn’t give up any of this musical variety,” Debus says. “If the boundaries of my language are the boundaries of my world, then every new piece is a passage to somewhere new. The works give us the chance to enter new dimensions, ones less limited than what we encounter in our daily lives.”

Maria Gacesa

bio to come


John Fraser

He is a Canadian journalist, writer and academic. He was editor of Saturday Night magazine from 1987 to 1994, where he pioneered the use of mixed circulation. He started his journalism career as a teen-aged copy boy for the Toronto Telegram, and became a noted dance and theatre critic. He has been a columnist, China correspondent, Ottawa bureau chief, national columnist, national editor and London correspondent at The Globe and Mail. He is the recipient of multiple national journalism awards, and was chair of the Canadian Journalism Foundation until 2008.

John served as Master of Massey College from 1995 until his retirement in 2014, and taught a course on the history of newspapers at the University of Toronto.

Susannah Robinson

Ms. Robinson is an energy executive with over 30 years of experience. She has served on several industry, profit and non for profit boards. She currently serves on the Board of the Electricity Distributors Association and is a Trustee of the Utility of the Future Fund. A strong believer in community involvement, she also serves on the Board of the Toronto Public Library Foundation where she Chairs the Human Resources Committee and sits on the Governance and Nomination Committee. Ms. Robinson has a Bachelor of Political Science from McGill University. In 2017, she was certified by the Institute of Corporate Directors at Rotman School of Business.

Craig Alexander

photo coming soon / bio coming soon

Scott Hart

bio coming soon

Cathy Spoel

photo coming soon / bio coming soon