Contemporary Opera Lab - The Faculty


Program Director: Movement Coach: Voice:
Mel Braun TBA Mel Braun
    Tracy Dahl
Stage Director/Acting Coach: Yoga Coach: Donna Fletcher
Ann Hodges Donna Lewis Robert MacLaren
    Valdine Anderson
Music Director/Coach
Collaborative Piano:
Vocal Coach/Collaborative Piano:  
Karl Paulnack Laura Loewen  

Program Director

Mel Braun

Mel Braun

Baritone Mel Braun is a versatile singer, equally at home on the concert or opera stage. He is well known to Canadian audiences for his Early Music performances and broadcasts with Tafelmusik and Opera Atelier. In the field of New Music, he has premiered numerous works with the Banff Centre, New Music Toronto, Saskatoon Symphony, Groundswell, the Manitoba Opera, and Chamber Opera West. He has also appeared throughout Canada in the Baroque Masterworks of Bach and Handel, including performances with Pro Coro Edmonton, the Calgary Bach Festival, Guelph Chamber Choir, Symphony Nova Scotia, Aradia Baroque Ensemble, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Carmina Burana and Magic Flute (Papageno) are among his many engagements with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

As a recitalist he has been particularly acclaimed for his performances of Schubert, Wolf, and British Art Song. When not working as a soloist, he performs with Emerado, a chamber group that combines faculty from three of Manitoba's universities, in programs that range from opera to cabaret. Mel is a dedicated voice teacher, many of whose students at the Faculty of Music have gone on to professional careers. He directs the Faculty of Music Cantata Singers, as well as the Opera Workshop, an active ensemble that presents an annual show of opera excerpts at the Gas Station Theatre. The Contemporary Opera Lab, a summer training program he founded in 2002 to foster the development of contemporary opera skills, continues to bring together faculty and students from all across North America each August. Another initiative is the University of Manitoba Opera Apprenticeship (UMOA), a post-graduate training program in opera he developed in collaboration with Opera Workshop stage director Katherine Twaddle and Manitoba Opera. Each spring, thousands of Manitoba school children first encounter opera through the UMOA School Tour. Mel also serves as vocal coach to a number of the young rock bands that are part of Winnipeg's burgeoning indie music scene.

Braun received his Master and Bachelor of Music for Vocal Performance from the University of Toronto, and his Bachelor of Church Music from Canadian Mennonite Bible College. He studied with Patricia Kern, Greta Kraus, Douglas Bodle, Rosemary Landry, Mary Morrison, Richard Armstrong, Martin Isepp, Colin Graham, and Keith Turnbull. He has received University of Manitoba Outreach and Merit awards for his teaching.

Stage Director/Acting Coach  

Ann Hodges

Ann HodgesAnn Hodges is an opera and theatre director who works across Canada. Selected credits include directing Madama Butterfly, Die Fledermaus and The Elixir of Love (Manitoba Opera), Idomeneo (Pacific Opera Victoria), Bremen Town Musicians (Opera Lyra Ottawa), Jitters, Top Girls (Manitoba Theatre Centre), Urinetown (Dry Cold), Anne (Neptune Theatre), Beauty and the Beast, Strike! (Persephone Theatre), Strike! (Danny Schur Productions) Moonlight and Magnolias, Marion Bridge, The Rez Sisters, (Prairie Theatre Exchange), and four productions for Shakespeare in the Ruins.

Career highlights include directing over 1,000 performers in the Opening Ceremonies of the North American Indigenous Games, and being one of 10 international directors invited to participate in a workshop with Peter Brook at England’s National Theatre.  Also an accomplished librettist, Ann’s new adaptations of Cenerentola, Hansel and Gretel, and The Barber of Barkerville have been produced by Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera, Saskatoon Opera, with 3 more productions across Canada in the coming season. Ann wrote and directed Vancouver Opera's acclaimed Naomi’s Road (composed by Ramona Luengen) which toured Western Canada and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Ann has extensive experience teaching and coaching actors and opera singers, and has taught or directed at the National Theatre School of Canada, Victoria Conservatory’s Summer Vocal Academy, as well as numerous university theatre and music departments across the country. Ann is a directing graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada and the University of Winnipeg, and has been on faculty at the Contemporary Opera Lab since its inception.

Music Director/Coach/Collaborative Piano

Karl Paulnack

Karl PaulnackHailed by the Boston Globe as “a firecracker of a pianist” and “master of his instrument,” Karl Paulnack has partnered vocal and instrumental soloists, chamber groups, orchestras, conductors and opera companies in nearly a thousand concerts throughout North America, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Macedonia, Norway, Romania, and Russia. Engagements of recent and current seasons include the festivals of Bard College, Madeline Island, Round Top, Royaumont, Sonic Boom and Tanglewood, as well as the Bridge, Noe Valley, Stillwater, Walker Museum, Williams College, UC Davis, UT Austin and University of Oregon concert series. He has appeared in concert at Alice Tully, CAMI, Carnegie, Merkin and Weil recital halls; Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, the Library of Congress and the Hollywood Bowl. His regular recital partners include violinist Jorja Fleezanis, soprano Lucy Shelton, and numerous chamber ensembles.

A frequent performer of new music, Dr. Paulnack has been privileged to work closely with many of the important composers of our time including John Adams, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Karel Husa, Steve Reich and Joan Tower in preparing performances of their works. In describing the Tanglewood premiere of Elliott Carter’s “Of Challenge and of Love” with Lucy Shelton, the Boston Globe’s Richard Dyer cited Paulnack’s “commanding” performance as “a standard to aspire to.” Dr. Paulnack has appeared as a featured guest on such public radio programs as St. Paul Sunday, Performance Today, and Morning Pro Musica, as well as on Minnesota Public Radio and BBC television. Recordings of his performances may be found on the Koch, Seamus, Innova and Capstone Labels.

Early in his career, Dr. Paulnack served as rehearsal pianist and musical assistant to conductors Sir Charles Groves, Christopher Hogwood, Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, Otto Werner Mueller and Michael Tilson Thomas. With the Los Angeles Opera Theater, he was assistant/cover conductor for his mentor Henry Holt, and served on the opera coaching and conducting staff of USC and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute. His work in opera includes conducting and coaching positions at several universities as well as the Tanglewood Music Center, where he was a member of the team responsible for the historic 50th anniversary performance of Peter Grimes, an event marking Tanglewood’s renewed commitment to opera in its Fellowship programs.

Committed to a diverse, comprehensive practice of collaborative musicianship as an artist/teacher for more than two decades, Karl Paulnack has served as Director of the Boston Conservatory’s Music Division since 2002. He also serves as music director and conductor of the Contemporary Opera Lab of Winnipeg, and chef de chant of the Orchestra de Picardie in Amiens, France. He co-chaired the highly acclaimed accompanying and coaching department of the University of Minnesota, and served on the faculties of the Tanglewood Music Center, University of Southern California, Ithaca College and Music Academy of the West. He holds an undergraduate degree in solo piano from Eastman, and completed the MM and DMA degrees at USC, where his teachers included Gwendolyn Koldofsky and Brooks Smith.

Movement Coach


Yoga Coach

Donna Lewis

Donna LewisDonna Lewis has been dedicated to and impassioned by yoga since 1989. Educated by renowned West Coast yoga teacher trainer Sandra Sammartino, Donna has passed on her expertise to many other yoga teachers in Winnipeg.

An award winning performer in film and theatre, Donna uses physical and vocal yoga techniques in her approach to her performance work. Donna brings people together to creativity empower and challenge them to move beyond their limitations. Her deepening appreciation for yoga and performance is reflected in the clarity and warmth of her teaching.

This will be Donna’s fifth year with The Contemporary Opera Lab.


Vocal Coach/Collaborative Piano

Laura Loewen

loewen b&wHailed as “exceptional” (Winnipeg Free Press), “fiercely committed” (Vancouver Sun), “virtuosic”, with “fingers that have no idea of what is possible on a keyboard, so they just go ahead and play what isn’t” (Halifax Chronicle Herald), Winnipeg collaborative pianist Laura Loewen has appeared in concerts throughout North America and in Europe and Asia. Dedicated to sharing her passion for ensemble playing and coaching, she is a professor of Collaborative Piano and the Vocal Coach at the University of Manitoba’s Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music. She is on the faculties of the NUOVA opera training program in Edmonton, Alberta, the Contemporary Opera Lab in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and VISI (Vancouver International Song Institute).

Dr. Loewen has performed extensively with singers, instrumentalists and chamber ensembles. She has appeared in concert with artists such as Charles Castleman, Tracy Dahl, Wendy Nielsen, Jasper Wood, Eugene Rousseau, and William Bennett, and is a regular recital partner of baritone Mel Braun and tenor Robert MacLaren.

Loewen and duo partner, saxophonist Allen Harrington, have been performing together for the last seven years. Praised for their combination of virtuosity, musicality, and ensemble, the Harrington/Loewen duo has performed throughout North America and in Europe and Asia, including a Debut Atlantic tour of the Maritime provinces in February 2007. They were in residency at The Banff Centre in 2007 where they recorded a CD of Canadian Music for Saxophone and Piano, which includes two pieces commissioned by the duo. In July 2009 they presented the world premiere of Ice Fog by Örjan Sandred in at The World Saxophone Congress in Bangkok, Thailand and performed concerts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Loewen is a founding member of The Galileo Trio (“an enlightened idea” – Winnipeg Free Press) and Emerado (“true camaraderie and rapport” – Winnipeg Free Press). Her recordings include She Sings, She Screams, with saxophonist Richard Dirlam, and Roundabout (music of composer Robert Carl), with saxophonist Mark Engebretson.

Ms. Loewen holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Accompanying/Coaching from the University of Minnesota, where she was a fellowship student of Margo Garrett and Karl Paulnack. In addition to her studies there, she spent two summers at the Music Academy of the West studying vocal accompanying with Warren Jones, and worked with Martin Katz and Graham Johnson at SongFest ’98.


2013 Contemporary Opera Lab

June 17 to July 6