About Us


Based in Toronto, Shoestring Opera casts are comprised of four musical artists (one soprano, one baritone, one pianist and one cellist) bringing the glory and magic of opera to school children and families.  Since 2004, the company has performed to sold-out audiences across Canada, successfully adapting classic operas in an exuberant, child-friendly format with an emphasis on storytelling and musical excellence.

Shoestring Operas are 45 minutes long, are accessible, relevant and a stretch to the imagination.  Glorious music, madcap humour and great storytelling. Irresistible to all ages!



Kathryn Rose Johnston – soprano, The Shoestring Magic Flute

With a voice that has “melted the hearts of many” (Kingston Snapd), Kathryn Rose Johnston is an up-and-coming soprano in the Canadian opera scene.

She was a recent finalist with the Atelier lyrique at l’Opéra de Montréal and performed in their Gala Talent 2022. Kathryn has studied across the country with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto and a Master of Music at the University of British Columbia.

Some of her recent roles include Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, First Wood Sprite in Rusalka (UBC Opera); Servilia in La clemenza di Tito, and Musetta in La bohème (COSA Canada). 

Leslie Higgins – soprano, The Shoestring Magic Flute

Leslie Higgins is a soprano from Uxbridge, Ontario. She completed her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance at Western University in 2020 and went on to completing her Masters in Vocal Performance at the University of Toronto.

Leslie discovered her passion for classical music while singing in choir and has performed professionally with many choirs in Ontario including Chorus Niagara, the Elora Festival Singers, and is currently a Sidgwick Scholar with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto. 

Leslie also loves the stage and has a long history in Musical Theatre having performed in over 15 musical and opera productions.  She recently returned to the genre playing Johanna in Doctor Bird’s production of Sweeney Todd

Dante Mullin-Santone – baritone, The Shoestring Magic Flute

A native of Sudbury with a background encompassing theatre, Jazz, Blues, Country, and classical music, Dante Mullin-Santone is a model of the modern versatile singer.

He completed his Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, studying under Wendy Nielsen. There he sang small roles such as Il Ufficer in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Man #1 in Copland’s The Tender Land.

Dante sings with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto as a Sidgwick Scholar for their 2022/2023 season.

Mélisande Sinsoulier – pianist

French pianist Mélisande Sinsoulier is a versatile and sought-after artist in Canadian and European music scenes. Recent appearances include performances at the 21C Music Festival, Toronto Summer Music Festival, the Sacred Music Festival in Quebec City, the Casa dei Mezzo Chamber Music Festival in Greece.

After graduating in Piano Performance, Pedagogy and Chamber Music in France and Belgium, her fascination with poetry and the marriage of words and music led her to study Collaborative Piano at the University of Toronto, where she received the Gwendolyn Williams Koldovsky Prize for “the kind of accompaniment that transcends piano accompaniment and puts the piano part on a level with the singing without fighting the singer”.

Natasha Zado – cellist

A graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University, Natasha Zado holds an Honours Bachelor of Music Degree in History, Theory, and Critical Analysis. On top of her studies, she regularly performs in solo and chamber music recitals, as well as orchestral concerts and opera performances as principal cello.

Natasha is a trained cello teacher in the Suzuki method and currently teaches at Etobicoke Suzuki Music, as well as maintaining an active career as a performer at weddings and other events.

When not teaching or performing, she enjoys experimenting with vegan cooking and practicing yoga.

Tessa Laengert – soprano, Shoestring Opera’s Hansel and Gretel

Lyric soprano Tessa Laengert is an active performer based in Toronto.  She earned her degree in Voice Performance from the University of Toronto, and was a recipient of the Robert William Bygrave full tuition scholarship.

Tessa made her principal role debut with the Summer Opera Lyric Theatre in the title role of Mimi in La Bohème, as well as her role debut with Opera In Concert in Impresario.  She has also performed with Against The Grain Theatre, Opera Atelier, Tapestry Opera, Brott Music Festival and the Canadian Opera Company.

Tessa is a voice teacher and vocal coach at Branksome Hall in Toronto.

Anthony Rodrigues – baritone, Shoestring Magic Flute-La Flûte enchantée

Baritone Anthony Rodrigues is a graduate of Western University and McGill University where he obtained his Masters of Music and Bachelors of Music in Performance and Literature. He has been engaged by festivals and companies including Shoestring Opera, Golden Classical Music Society, Opera Nuova, Halifax Summer Opera Festival, Vox Musicae, Accademia Europea dell’Opera and Abridged Opera.

Anthony is a second place winner of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Ontario chapter and holds an Ontario Graduates Scholarship for an art song recital concept and performance.

Creative Team

Molly Thom – Resident Director and Producer

Molly began her lifelong love affair with theatre at the age of eight when she joined the Toronto Children Players, performing plays for children acted by children at Eaton Auditorium. At University, she began again the work of being an actor and shortly after graduation, began her work as a director.

She has worked professionally all over Ontario, and is best known as the author/director of the much-loved play about Canadian pioneer writers, The Bush-Ladies. She has directed many plays by women, including the Toronto premiere of Carol Shields’ Thirteen Hands, which appeared on the Best Of Lists of The Toronto Star, NOW Magazine and CBC Radio.

She began working with Shoestring Opera in 2005 to develop the company’s first opera, The Shoestring Magic Flute. Since then, she has directed all the other Shoestring projects.

Shirley Barrie – playwright for Shoestring Opera’s Puccini opera, Bozo’s Fortune

The late Shirley Barrie wrote plays for young family and adult audiences for many years. Her interest in writing for opera was sparked when she participated as a librettist in the Lib/Lab at Tapestry New Opera Works in 2003.

She often worked with Molly Thom, most recently on I am Marguerite produced at Alumnae Theatre in Toronto in 2015, one of several plays she wrote about fascinating women from history whose stories still speak to us today.

Mark Brownell – librettist, The Schoolyard Carmen and Shoestring’s Hansel and Gretel

Mark Brownell is a Toronto-based playwright, librettist, teacher and co-artistic director of the Pea Green Theatre Group with his wife and partner Sue Miner. 

Awards: Nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award for his play Monsieur d’Eon. He also received a Dora Mavor Moore Award for his libretto Iron Road (with composer Chan Ka Nin), a Dora Mavor Moore Award Nomination for his play Medici Slot Machine and a Capital Critics Award nomination for his new adaptation of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. He is also the recipient of the Harold Indie Theatre Award.

Other musical/opera related projects include: The Chevalier St. George (Tafelmusik), Ice Time (with Chan Ka Nin/Tapestry Music) The Weaving Maiden (with Chan Ka Nin/Soundstreams), The Barbecue King (with composer Steve Thomas), Harmonious Interest (with Chan Ka Nin/Victoria Symphony) and Dragon’s Tale (with Chan Ka Nin/Soundstreams/Tapestry/Luminato).

Doug Price – musical arranger for Shoestring Opera’s Hansel and Gretel and The Schoolyard Carmen

Doug Price began arranging and composing at age 17 on his own show titled “Socks: The Musical”, produced by his high school. He has produced two complete concerts of original music (one of them featuring over 60 performers), and is a recipient of a Top 20 Under 20 Award in Canada.

In 2013 Doug completed the 7-month Music Directing Internship at the Shaw Festival under Dr. Paul Sportelli. He completed his Masters in Music Direction from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and he is currently the Co-Head of Music at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. Doug has also been the writer/arranger for several companies in Toronto including Suitcase Theatre (3 touring TYA shows), and MyPopChoir for which he’s contributed over 60 vocal arrangements.

Angela Thomas – costume and set designer for Shoestring Opera’s Hansel and Gretel, and The Schoolyard Carmen

Angela Thomas is a designer and visual artist who has been working in theatre, film and television, for 25 years. She has received eight Dora Mavor Moore nominations and one win for her work in Toronto theatre costumes.

Some of her most inspiring and rewarding theatre experiences have been spent working alongside Jerrard and Diana Smith and Chris Clifford, on Murray Schafer’s extraordinary environmental operas. She is especially thrilled to participate in bringing opera to young audiences through the brilliant talents of Shoestring Opera.

Recent projects include Dora award winning, ‘Blood Wedding’, with Modern Times Stage and Aluna Theatre, as well as assisting designer Julie Whitfield on television shows, ‘The Music Room’ and The Next Step’ for Temple Street Productions.

Robert McCollum (Ballet Bob) – choreographer for Shoestring Opera’s Hansel and Gretel

Robert McCollum (Ballet Bob) trained in New York City and went on to dance professionally in both the US and Canada.

Mr. McCollum is the coordinator of the Adult Ballet Program of the National Ballet School and also teaches for the Professional Program at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre and George Brown Theatre School as well as company class for the Toronto Dance Theatre.

He has choreographed for professional theatre and opera, most recently with Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre.

Dominique Denis – translator

Dominique Denis is a Toronto-based translator who works predominantly in the cultural field. His clients include the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

He is French Editorial Director at the Art Canada Institute, which publishes online art books on Canadian artists. As a freelancer, he has translated plays, songs, poetry as well as operas.

Dominique also teaches French as a second language, having created Parlons chanson, a course teaching French to adult learners through the use of songs.

The Board

Anne Rankin – Founder and former Executive Producer

Anne Rankin is trained as a cellist.  She received her Bachelor of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music and her Artist Diploma from McGill University.

She has freelanced with the Vancouver CBC Radio Orchestra and the Boston Lyric Opera.  She is a certified Suzuki Method Cello teacher and has held teaching studios in London, North York, Peterborough and Boston.

Inspired by a similar outreach program she was exposed to while living in Boston, she founded Shoestring Opera in 2004.

Jiayin Liu – founding member and former company pianist

Jiayin Liu is a founding member pianist of Shoestring Opera.  She grew up in Beijing and studied piano there at the Central Conservatory of Music. She completed her Bachelor of Music at Wesleyan College in Georgia and her Masters at the University of Toronto.

In addition to performing actively in chamber and solo settings over the years, Jiayin has more than 20 years of teaching experience in North America and Asia. Her students have won many awards and scholarships in competitions and music festivals.

Katy Clark – member

Soprano Katy Clark has sung as a soloist with companies across North America including the Amici Chamber Ensemble, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Windsor Symphony, Michigan Opera Theatre, and the Indian River and Stratford Summer Music Festivals.

She appears as a featured soloist on the recently released album A Woman’s Voice, which showcases the vocal works of Canadian composer Alice Ping Yee Ho. As a chorister, she has worked with the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, Opus 8, and the Canadian Opera Company Chorus. She has been a member of the Elora Singers for seven seasons.

Katy was the 2019 winner of the Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song and was a recipient of the 2017/18 Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency from the Glenn Gould School. She holds a DMA in Voice Performance from the University of Toronto, where her research explored the operas of John Beckwith and James Reaney.

Katy teaches Singing and Voice Pedagogy at McMaster University, and runs a private voice studio in London, ON. In addition to her work as a performer and teacher, Katy is the founder and artistic producer of the London-based opera company Village Opera.