Singer Profiles

Soprano Laura Bumgardner (she/her/hers) is excited to be collaborating with Evanston Chamber Opera as Madam Popov in the world premiere of Francis Lynch’s The Boor! She has been celebrated for her lovely tone and authentic story-telling on the stage. Ms. Bumgardner’s roles include Rusalka (cover)/Rusalka, Donna Anna (cover)/Don Giovanni, Miss Pinkerton/The Old Maid and the Thief, Ann Putnam/The Crucible, La Bergére/La Chouette/L’enfant et les sortileges, and La maestra delle Novizie/Suor Angelica. Her partial roles include Marschallin/Der Rosenkavalier, Ellen Orford/Peter Grimes, Fiordiligi/Cosi fan tutte, Frasquita/Carmen, Marzelline/Fidelio, and Sandman/Hänsel und Gretel. Ms. Bumgardner is soprano in the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Grant Park Chorus in Chicago, and she has sung in the opera choruses of Don Giovanni, L’incoronazione di Poppea, Susannah, and Suor Angelica. Her awards include the Farwell Trust Award with the Musicians Club of Women and First Place in the Lower Advanced College/Independent Studio Women division in the Chicago Chapter of the N.A.T.S. Ms. Bumgardner has participated in master classes with Michelle DeYoung, Craig Terry, Darren K. Woods, and Rebecca Schorsch. Her formal education includes a Master’s Degree in Voice from Roosevelt University (2017) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance, with a minor in Musical Theatre from Southern Methodist University (2015). Ms. Bumgardner resides in Chicago and is a student of Alexandra LoBianco.

Baritone Spencer Greene (he/him/his) appears as Max in The Chalet. Greene is a first-year master’s student, studying with Professor W. Stephen Smith at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. His previous roles have included Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, The Pilot in The Little Prince, Emperor Überall in The Emperor of Atlantis, and just last weekend, Vater in Northwestern Opera’s production of Hänsel und Gretel. In the spring, he will sing Don Alfonso in Northwestern Opera’s production of Cosi fan tutte, and this summer, the titular role of Gianni Schicchi with the Berlin Opera Academy. When not singing, Greene is an avid reader of fantasy novels and a player of Dungeons and Dragons. He hopes to bring his love of storytelling to the stage in this evening’s production of Something Old, Something New.

Soprano Marissa Howard (she/her/hers) appears as Bettly in The Chalet. A Colorado native, she has been heralded for her “silvery coloratura voice” and comedic interpretation. This past year she joined Mousaverse Opera in their productions of Cavalleria Rusticana and Ariadne auf Naxos, was a featured artist with Cecilia Opera in the crossover cabaret concert series, was a featured recording artist with GIA Productions, and most recently joined MIOpera’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. In previous seasons she’s worked with Utah Festival Opera, La Musica Lirica, Memphis Light Opera, Cedar Summerstock Theater, Varna International, Up North Vocal Institute, Miami Classical Music Festival, and Memphis Youth Symphony. In addition, she was a semifinalist in the NATSAA National Competition in 2022 as well as a finalist for the Harold Haugh Light Opera Competition. She received her bachelor’s degree at Roosevelt University where she sang alongside the Chicago Sinfonietta and Chicago Symphony Chorus alike under the tutelage of Thomas Studebaker and Cynthia Clarey. Marissa went on to receive her master’s degree at the University of Memphis where she made her professional debut with Opera Memphis as Cousin in Madama Butterfly. Marissa currently resides in Chicago where she studies under Amy Owens. 

Tenor Brian Pember (they/them/theirs) is delighted to be making their Evanston Chamber Opera debut as Daniel in The Chalet in this exciting double bill! Brian is an alumnus of Westminster Choir College where they studied with Charles Walker. They most recently appeared on stage with Thompson Street Opera Company in the world premiere of We’ve Got our Eye on You. Other credits include G&S Opera Company of Chicago’s Pirates of Penzance (Frederic), KJR Studio Productions’ Die Fledermaus (Eisenstein), Thompson Street Opera Company’s Michigan Trees (Mother of Trees), The Boy Who Wanted to be a Robot (Cleano) and The Death of Ivan Ilych (Gerasim) and Chicago Opera Theater for their past productions of The Nose, The Life and Death(s) of Alan TuringQuamino’s Map, Moby Dick, and Iolanta. Look out for Brian this coming April 18th and 19th as a guest artist in NEIU’s production of The Grand Duchess of Gérolstein (Fritz).

Baritone Austin Sanders (he/him/his) sings the role of Smirnov in these premiere performances of The Boor. Originally from Onalaska, WI, Austin has sung works ranging from Bach to Cipullo, Mozart to Strauss, Fauré to Barber. He has performed roles such as Ko-Ko in The Mikado, Polypheme in Acis and Galatea, and Aeolus in King Arthur and premiered Dorian Cunningham’s newest work as Prince Algar in Frideswide and the Devil.  Austin has finished his schooling at Roosevelt University where he obtained his Masters in Voice, and still continues his studies with Mark Crayton.  In the summer of 2021, he had the opportunity to join the fellows of Atlantic Music Festival where he performed the role of Don Alfonso in Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte. Later that fall he reprised his role as the bass soloist in Carlos Jaquez Gonzalez’s Immigrant Mass over at the Auditorium Theatre in downtown Chicago. He won first at the 2018 Schubert Club Scholarship Competition in St. Paul, MN, and in 2016 he moved on to the regional round from the District Metropolitan Opera Auditions in Wisconsin.

Mezzo-soprano Jack Whittle (they/them/theirs) is thrilled to be a tenor for the night, singing the role of Luka in the premiere of Francis Lynch’s The Boor. Originally from Lexington, Kentucky, Jack relocated to Chicago in 2016. Jack has received critical acclaim for their comedic prowess and “rich, velvety voice”. Mx. Whittle was recently seen as Nicklausse/Les contes d’Hoffmann, Suor Zelatrice/Suor Angelica, Annina/La Traviata, Isabel&King/Cinderella en España, Polly/The Beggars Opera, Mlle. Balandard/R.S.V.P., Kate/The Pirates of Penzance, and Sailor/Dido and Aeneas. In 2023 Jack was also a guest artist in the chorus of NEIU’s production of Handel’s Semele. Jack has a degree in Vocal Performance from Roosevelt University (2018). In addition to their work on stage, Jack is a stage manager, costumer, traditional fiber artist, and drag performer. 

Player Profiles


Cindy Fudala is currently principal flutist of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Northwest Indiana Symphony, the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra, and is the flutist with Evanston Chamber Opera. She is currently the Instructor of Flute at Valparaiso University, Concordia University Chicago, and Lyons Township High School in La Grange, IL. She enjoys performing as the flutist in the Kaia Wind Quintet, and the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra Quintet, which did a concert tour of northern Italy in March 2013, and were guest artists at the International DiffWinds Festival July 2016 in Luxembourg. She has performed with many distinguished American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Sarasota Opera, the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, and several regional orchestras. Ms. Fudala has been a Concerto Competition winner and featured soloist with university and professional orchestras in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and enjoys an active freelance career in the Chicagoland area, in addition to being a regular soloist on the Bach Cantata series at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL.


Jennifer Woodrum’s career as a clarinetist, improviser, creativity facilitator and citizen artist has brought her to world-renowned venues across the country including Bennett Gordon Hall at Ravinia, Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion and National Sawdust and Miller Theatre in New York.  A “gutsy” performer (Elliot Mandel), her 2012 recording with Fifth House Ensemble of Mason Bates’ Red River, earned her the unofficial title the “Queen of Swing” (David Abrams).  

Jennifer was a founding member of Fifth House Ensemble and has been a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Rockford Symphony. As a freelancer, she has performed most recently with the Chicago Sinfonietta, International Chamber Artists and the Elgin Symphony.

Jennifer currently directs the community engagement and Artist-in-Residence activities within the Performance Program at the University of Chicago. Previous to her role at the University of Chicago, she supported the launching of the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, a program dedicated to supporting underrepresented youth studying music, in their pre-college pathway.

Jennifer has a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree with a Cognate in Music Education from Northwestern University. Her research topics were centered on improvisation in higher education curriculum and addressing equity and belonging in the classical music field.  Jennifer loves spending time with her two kids, dogs and husband and depending on the time of year, you can find her listening to an audiobook on a long walk, gardening, doing yoga, knitting or skiing.


Born in Kiev, Ukraine, pianist Anatoliy Torchinskiy began his piano studies nearly forty years ago. As a small child, he won numerous competitions and eventually studied at the Central Ukrainian Music High School for Gifted Children. He studied with Olga Liforenko, Violetta Chernyshova, and Boris Archimovich. He performed as a concert pianist with both the Ukrainian Chamber Orchestra and the Ukrainian Symphony Orchestra on Soviet television. After immigrating to the United States in 1992, Mr. Torchinskiy continued his studies at the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University under Pawel Checinski, earning both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Piano Performance. He began accompanying professionally in 1996 and has been heard in Italy, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the Chicago area, with companies such as da Corneto Opera, Chamber Opera Company Chicago, Genesis Opera, Bellissima Opera, as well as playing live on WFMT radio.

Although known primarily as an accompanist, Mr. Torchinskiy has also developed a reputation as a versatile pianist who coaches instrumentalists and singers alike. In 2018 he released a CD recording of his January performance at Skokie Central United Methodist Church, entitled A Winter Evening of Classical Music. Mr. Torchinskiy is currently dividing his time between teaching, accompanying, and performance.

Production Profiles


Music Director/

James Janssen made his debut as a pianist at age 13 performing Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major with the Anderson (Indiana) Symphony Orchestra. A native of Indianapolis, he received his education from Indiana University and Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute, where he studied with such luminaries as Penelope Crawford, Patrick Allen, and Lisa Goode Crawford. He is the artistic director and co-founder of Haydn by the Lake, a period instrument chamber ensemble specializing in music of the Baroque and Classical periods. James has toured extensively in recital with Mark Crayton, countertenor. He has been broadcast on Chicago’s WFMT in recital with Crayton and in concert with Haydn by the Lake. He has appeared in the Chicago area with Music of the Baroque, Ars Antigua, and the St. Clement Orchestra. Outside Chicagoland, he has performed across the country, including appearances at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC and in recital at Carnegie Hall’s Wells Recital Hall. Internationally, he has played on the Amstelrande Concerten series (Amsterdam), Grosvenor Hall (London), and at the Handel & Hendrix in London. Musically, he most enjoys collaborating with singers, playing Classical chamber music, and supporting the choir and congregation from the organ bench. Equally at home at the piano, fortepiano harpsichord, and organ, James is also a composer, and can occasionally be found playing the musical saw.


Stage Director
(The Chalet)

Sally Craige Christensen has worked as an actor, director, and teacher for many years. As a member of both Actor’s Equity and SAG-AFTRA unions, Craige has enjoyed working in regional theaters in the Northwest, Southeast and Midwest. She has also worked in local schools, grades 1-12 as an artist in residence, an instructor and a director. A proud founding member of EChO and the production team, she has directed nine different operas and is extremely grateful once again to be working with such a creative team and these talented performers.


Stage Director
(The Boor)

Angela Torres-Kutkuhn, Chicago based contralto, has had the immense privilege to work on productions such as Jake Heggie’s Again, Daron Hagen’s Amelia (Chicago premiere), Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Menotti’s The Consul, Verdi’s Falstaff, The Hermit in Weber’s Der Freischütz, and as back-up for The Rolling Stones. She has appeared with the Chicago Sinfonietta, Main Street Opera, Evanston Chamber Opera, Transgressive Theater Opera, Forte Chicago, as performer and COO, and most recently in a collaboration with Ouroboros Opera and The Valkyrie Ensemble in their production of La Femme Boheme. In the last few years Angela has entered the production side of the opera world, working with Ouroboros Opera, Evanston Chamber Opera, and Third Eye Theater Ensemble in roles such as director, assistant director, stage manager, and production manager. Currently Angela is working with the amazing students at the Chicago College of Performing Arts as assistant director for the graduate opera. Angela is passionate about the magic of storytelling and is thrilled to be working once again on a world premiere with EChO. When not immersed in opera, Angela works as head chef and food manager at Spoken Cafe in Ravenswood, where she also holds such titles as Jam Sorceress, Brinemaiden, and Gluten Free Goddess. You can find her tasty creations @retrobrinemaiden on instagram and Facebook.



Francis Lynch  traces the roots of his lifelong passion for classical music to childhood piano lessons. He began composing music while still in high school, but it was during his tenure as organist and choir director at an Episcopal Church in a Chicago suburb that he discovered the joy of writing sacred music, especially for chorus. A member of Chicago Master Singers for 20 seasons, he was privileged to have many of his choral settings premiered by that ensemble at their Christmas concerts, and his a cappella works have been performed from the Baltic to the Balkans as part of the program for two CMS European concert tours. In 2004, he led the orchestration team that adapted Kingsley Day’s sprightly music for the “lost” Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, Thespis, and in 2011, he created an orchestration of Florian Pascal’s setting of Eyes and No Eyes, an early work by Sullivan’s partner W.S. Gilbert. Francis founded Sheet Music Back In Print in 2009 to publish new editions of public domain works that might otherwise be forgotten. He also prepares scores for pianist, actor, and composer Hershey Felder. A resident of Evanston since 2000, Francis continues to compose new works and prepare new editions of neglected works of the past. The Boor is his fourth operatic composition and his first completed comic opera.



Jeremiah Barr is very happy to be joining The Chalet and The Boor team with EChO. Some of his past credits include: Aston Rep’s Language Archive, Burned Child, Equus, When We Were Young and Unafraid, (for which he was Jeff nominated for best Scenic Design 2021), City Lit Theatre’s Night of the Hunter, Playboy of the Western World, Black Button Eye‘s Mary Rose, Evil Dead the Musical, Shockheaded Peter, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, and Nightmares and Nightcaps: the stories of John Collar (for which he was Jeff nominated for best specialized design: puppets). You might have also seen his handiwork at the Chicago Botanic Gardens Lightscapes show, where he helps setup and create the large scale installations. When not designing or building shows Jeremiah enjoys visiting strange and interesting places in search of mystery and adventure with his amazing partner Sam. Huge shout out to the directors, designers and cast of both shows— thanks for making my first show with EChO such an enjoyable one.



Mark Crayton is a highly regarded countertenor, conductor, director, and voice teacher known for his exceptional vocal talent. Mark has garnered international recognition, performing on prestigious concert stages and in renowned opera houses across the United States and Europe.  Mark also loves teaching performance classes for the next generation and is passionate about passing on the incredible information given to him by his teachers (Nina Kor, Sharon Searles, Max van Egmond, Judith Haddon, and, his current teacher, David Jones). His love of theater in all forms has also been expressed by designing lighting for EChO since 2019. When not searching for caffeine, Mark can be found at home playing with his Scottish Terriers, Maisie and Sophie. For a comprehensive overview of Mark Crayton’s career and his current season, please visit his website at



Thomas K. Kieffer is pleased to be is designing costumes for Evanston Chamber Opera for the first time. Tom served for 24 years as costume shop foreman and costume construction instructor at Columbia College Chicago. He has designed more than 150 shows in his three-decade career, ranging from one-person shows and straight plays to large-cast musical extravaganzas. He has worked for such Chicago-area theaters as Chicago Shakespeare, the Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Peninsula Players, and City Lit Theater, where he won a Joseph Jefferson Citation for costume design and the company’s Page Hearn Award. National credits include companies in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, and Washington state.



Kathy Szoke has been the props designer for all of the EChO productions since they began in 2016. Some of her favorite creations have been the woodland scene for Hansel and Gretel, the cooking show setup for Bon Appétit!, and making a fresh omelet every night for Doctor Miracle. She has also been involved with the Evanston-based Gilbert and Sullivan company, The Savoyaires, since 2001, and she has completed the entire G&S canon. Her various roles with The Savoyaires have included props designer, women’s chorus member, Board Secretary, and Board President. Kathy would like to thank her husband, Geza Gyuk, for his assistance and support.