As we we prepare for our inaugural James K. Berg Award gala, we asked singers who had worked with us in the past 17 years to tell us about their experience of how AOT helped them to achieve their current success. Personally, as a co-founder, fellow singer, and artist, I knew how much I have learned and grown through leading the artistic endeavors of this organization; but I was overwhelmed to receive these responses and stories. It made me reflect on how we as individuals can create something from our personal passion that grows far beyond ourselves and touches infinite numbers of lives. I'm proud that the mission of AOT has focused (and will continue to focus) on helping artists to establish their careers and pursue their dreams, and despite the day to day struggles of running an arts non-profit, that this organization has made a difference in many individual lives. I also believe that Jim Berg, whom we remember with a new award bearing his name, would be so happy to hear these stories: of debuts, of encouragement, of camaraderie and family, of fresh starts and new chances, and JOY.
Arbor Opera Theater hopes that the art we create TOGETHER uplifts and enriches your life, and that you will encourage others to join us on a fabulous music-(and drama)-filled journey.

- Shawn McDonald, Artistic Director


Tanya Roberts


Arbor Opera Theater holds a very special place in my heart and career. When I graduated from McGill University in 2009, it was AOT who gave me not only my first professional role as Ida in Die Fledermaus, but my professional debut in the United States. I still remember getting the call from Shawn - I took it in the stairwell of the music building at McGill, and screamed so loudly when I got off the phone that my opera director thought I had fallen and tumbled the length of the stairwell!

Since immigrating to the states and beginning my career with AOT, I have performed over 45 opera, operetta and musical theatre roles throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. I most recently made my solo debut at Carnegie Hall with the New York City Chamber Orchestra in Mozart's Solemn Vespers. The role of Ida, surprisingly, has opened many doors in my career. I made my professional debut in Canada with Edmonton Opera as Ida in 2013, and it has fostered a wonderful relationship with the company. I look forward to returning for my fourth consecutive season in 2017 as Fünfte Magd in Elektra
- my first dramatic role!

I can't thank Shawn and the AOT family enough for setting the momentum of my career in motion and for believing in a young Canadian soprano with little experience and big dreams. May AOT continue to foster the careers of many aspiring and hard-working singers
for generations to come!

  – Tanya Roberts, Die Fledermaus - 2009, Dido and Aeneas - 2010

My relationship with Arbor Opera Theater began in 2011 with their production of Carmen, in which I sang the lead role. I must say that this was an awesome experience for me. I had already sung the complete role before with another companybut it was the process of putting the show together in rehearsals, culminating in two performances with AOT, that truly allowed me tofully flush the character out. I was thankful to have the opportunity to be involved with a company that has great leadership, and offers a supportive, flexible, encouraging and dynamic environment inwhich I could flourish. An artist craves this and I received all ofthis and more. My colleagues in Carmen and the instrumentalists were spectacular, talented artists in their own right. Robert Swedberg, director, was amazing to work with, challenging me as a singing actress and heightening my passion and commitmentto the character. Warren Puffer Jones was fantastic as our conductor, leading the artists and orchestra with clarity, sensitivityand utmost control. And Shawn McDonald, along with the rest of the AOT administration and staff, always providing a strong back bone and leading the company with surety and a clear sense of purpose. My time spent performing in Carmen was definitely a time in my life that I will always remember. AOT is a local treasure and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future. Congratulations and “In bocca al lupo!”

– Leah Dexter, Carmen - 2011

Leah Dexter


Edward Hanlon


In 2008 and 2009 Arbor Opera Theatre provided my first two professional operatic experiences. The roles I sang (Masetto and Frank) would become keys to my development and I would go on to perform them with Des Moines Metro Opera, Ash Lawn Opera, and Edmonton Opera. Working in that exciting and supportive environment set me up perfectly for a career that has led me (after many fantastic twists and turns)
to a full time position in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. Thanks AOT!

– Edward Hanlon, Don Giovanni - 2008, Die Fledermaus - 2009

AOT offered me my first professional opera role, giving me much needed experience at a crucial time in my career. Jim Berg directed me in the role of Schaunard in La Bohème and I was impressed with how he brought us together as a team and treated us all (beginners and veterans) like pros and inspired us to give our best. I will never forget that production and what an important part in played in my career.

– Stephen Lancaster, La Bohème - 2006, Die Fledermaus - 2009, Carmen - 2011

Stephen Lancaster


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