Faculty - 2019 - 2020

Lucy Arner

Artistic Director

Cuban-born conductor Lucy Arner brings to the podium a special affinity for Italian and French opera that is enhanced by her vast experience working in some of the world’s greatest opera houses such as the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and the Metropolitan Opera.  In the fall of 2015, she was named Music Director and Principal Conductor of New Jersey Verismo Opera, becoming the first female music director for the company. Since 2015, she has conducted La Gioconda, Rigoletto, Tosca,  Aida, Turandot and Norma to critical acclaim. She is also the Artistic Director of Canto Vocal Programs.

Lucy Arner was a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s music staff from 1994 through the 2007-08 season.  Specializing in Italian repertory, she was featured as the recitative accompanist in productions of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Handel’s Guilio Cesare and Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore as well as preparing several Met telecasts such as Giordano’s Fedora with Mirella Freni and Placido Domingo, the spectacular production by the late Anthony Minghella of Madama Butterfly, Verdi’s Macbeth, and Bellini’s I Puritani with Anna Netrebko.  She has worked with many prominent singers in operatic productions including Alfredo Kraus, Montserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Aprile Millo, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Mignon Dunn, José Carreras, Juan Pons, Mirella Freni, Placido Domingo, Giuseppe Giacomini, Sharon Sweet, June Anderson, Jane Eaglen, Anna Netrebko, Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Ben Heppner, Jennifer Larmore, Juan Diego Florez, Rockwell Blake, Paul Plishka, Olga Borodina, Dolora Zajick, Deborah Voigt, Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson.  Ms. Arner was quoted extensively about her experiences with Montserrat Caballé in the November 2002 Opera News cover article about the great Spanish soprano.

Known as “a true singer’s conductor,”Lucy Arner made her professional debut in 1996 conducting Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Menotti’s The Telephone at the Teatro Mancinelli in Orvieto, Italy. Ms. Arner has conducted opera and concerts all over the world, and was the first woman to conduct opera in Mexico City’s historic Palacio de Bellas Artes, making her debut with Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.  She was the Artistic Director of the New York Chamber Opera from 2000-2005 and was the interim Music Director of the University of Houston’s Opera Center in 2008-2009 season, conducting Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and critically acclaimed performances of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. Her extensive conducting experience includes Ned Rorem’s Our TownPagliacci and Suor Angelica for New Zealand’s Canterbury Opera, Die Zauberflöte for the Festival Internacional Tamaulipas (Mexico), Le Nozze di Figaro for Opera Ischia, Cosí fan tutte for Opera Naples, a double bill of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi for the Teatro Nacional Sucre in Ecuador, and Madame ButterflyTosca, and Il Trovatore in Lima, Perú. Ms. Arner conducted a nationally televised performance of the Verdi Requiem in Santo Domingo with the Cathedral Choir and the Orquesta Nacional. She made a sensational debut with Florida Grand Opera as the first Cuban woman to conduct an opera with the company and received the Henry C. Clark Distinguished Conductor Award for her work on Offenbach's Les Contes d’Hoffmann


As a pianist and coach, Ms. Arner has worked with singers of all levels. She has taught young singers in vocal arts programs all over the world, frequently presenting master classes in schools and conservatories. Currently she is on the faculty of Mannes The New School for Music and coaches privately in New York City in addition to her busy conducting schedule.  For more information visit her personal web site at  www.lucyarner.com

Liora Maurer

 Vocal Coach/Pianist - Associate Artistic Director 


Born in Tel Aviv, Liora Maurer joined the Metropolitan Opera as an Assistant Conductor during the 2008-2009 season. She has prepared a wide variety of repertoire at the Met, from the new productions of La Donna del Lago L’elisir d’amore and Rigoletto to Satyagraha by Phillip Glass and the American premiere of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys. She recently appeared in concert with tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak in a benefit for the  Conservatorio de Musica de San Juan in Puerto Rico. Among the highlights of her 2018-2019 season at the Met are the HD telecast of Aida with Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili and the new production of La Traviata conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Liora can be seen playing the rehearsals filmed for the feature on Maestro Nézet-Séguin shown worldwide during the 2018 HD telecast of La Traviata.  The link for the complete film can be found on our Links page. 

Prior to joining the Met, Ms. Maurer was an Assistant Conductor at New York City Opera, beginning with the 1997-98 season. She was the recitative accompanist for several productions, including Don Giovanni, L’Elisir d’amoreLe Nozze di Figaro and Il Viaggio a Reims.  Ms. Maurer has also worked with Seattle Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Company, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Opera Omaha, the New Israeli Opera, and Spoleto Festival USA. She was the official pianist for the 2014 George London Foundation competition.Ms. Maurer is on the faculty of the International Vocal Arts Institute, and has performed all over the world, including Israel, Germany, Spain, Romania, Japan, Italy, Perú, and Puerto Rico. She is a graduate of the Rubin Academy in Tel Aviv and received a Master of Music degree in Accompanying from the Manhattan School of Music.  She has won numerous awards, and a merit scholarship from the America - Israel Cultural Foundation.

Sharon Mohar

Stage Director, Interpretation Coach - Associate Artistic Director

Born in Israel, Sharon Mohar is a stage director and acting teacher who was trained at the prestigious Cours Florent in Paris. She is the founder and artistic director of “Les Maîtres Sonneurs,” an opera company based in Toulouse, France. Founded in 2012, “Les Maîtres Sonneurs” presents operas in productions that appeal to audiences of all ages. As part of its comprehensive outreach program, the company also offers a variety of interactive workshops as companions to their performances. These workshops educate young audiences (3-15 years old) and enhance their first experiences with opera.  The company promotes opera as an accessible theatrical art and also functions as a laboratoire lyrique, training young singers through its Opera Studio, which provides coaching and acting lessons.

Ms. Mohar’s productions of Die Zauberflöte and Le Nozze di Figaro were chosen by the French Minister of Culture as a part of the Young Audiences Program of the Ministry of Education, and have been presented throughout France. Her most recent production of Carmen debuted in Toulouse during the 2018 season will travel to Canto Louisville 2019.


Ms. Mohar is in great demand as a stage director and an interpretation coach. She has been on the faculty of the International Vocal Arts Institute (IVAI) in Tel Aviv and the Institute Canadien d’Art Vocal (ICAV) in Montreal, and staged Bizet’s Le Docteur Miracle and Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore. Both productions were audience favorites, and Bizet’s Le Docteur Miracle became the first production presented by Les Maîtres Sonneurs when it was founded in 2012.

As a teacher, Ms. Mohar has developed a teaching method that she named The Active Triangle. Based on the relationship between body language and the stage, this innovative technique concentrates on how to use text, music and rhythm as the tools of interpretation. The singer establishes a connection with the audience through music and creates The Active Triangle: the three elements of Singer-Music-Audience, energizing and nourishing each other. Sharon Mohar’s way of working reinforces the transition of a singer into an artist. 

Hans Pieter Herman 

Vocal Technique


Dutch baritone Hans Pieter Herman began his musical studies at the conservatory in his hometown Amsterdam. Supported by Dutch government funding and on full scholarship, he continued his vocal and performing studies at Northwestern University where he graduated with honors in voice and opera performance. He attended master classes at the Britten-Pears school in Aldeburgh, and was a young artist at the Steans Institute during the Ravina Festival. In 2010 he was invited by James Levine to appear as a guest artist at 2010 Tanglewood summer festival. 

His opera roles include Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Il Conte d'Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Marcello in La Bohème and Alidor in Nicolo's opera Cendrillon, performed and recorded in Moscow at the invitation by Maestro Richard Bonynge. He also appeared in  Dutch national tours of A Little Night Music and She Loves Me

Hans Pieter Herman was the first prize winner of the Verna Ross-Orndorff Austro-American Music Award Competition for singers, held in Chicago. Among others he has worked with: Joan Sutherland, Galina Vishnevskaya, Benjamin Luxon, Christoph von Dohnányi, Ira Siff and Randolph Mickelson. During the summer of 2014 he was a member of faculty at the IVAI in Tel Aviv. More information can be found by visiting his web site at  (http://www.hanspieterherman.nl

Ira Siff

Vocal Technique/Interpretation/Style  

Ira Siff is a native New Yorker who grew up in the standing room line at the old Met worshipping the great singers of the time. His avid interest in opera led to voice lessons, his musical studies, and a debut as a tenor in 1970. Ira performed in many new operas and shows at The New York Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons and other New York venues, as well as in various cabarets where he did a one-man show featuring spoofs of opera. This led to an interest in blending opera with comedy. In 1981 he founded La Gran Scena Opera Co., and the troupe became an instant hit, their musically skilled, hilarious-but-affectionate spoofs of opera divas winning great acclaim from the press, public and music world. Gran Scena performed in major New York venues and toured internationally through 2002 to many of the world’s great opera houses and festivals: Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center Edinburgh Festival, Venice Festival, Munich Festival, Covent Garden Festival, and literally countless others in the U.S., Great Britain, Europe, South America and Australia. Ira continued to perform as Gran Schen’s “prima donna” Madame Vera, in a critically acclaimed solo spin-off of Gran Scena, entitled the Annual Farewell Recital, through 2009.

He has been teaching voice and caching singers on interpretation and style for forty years in New York, as well as giving Master Classes in Israel, Italy, China, Holland and in the U.S. for conservatories, and for the Metropolitan Opera Guild. He is Permanent Guest Teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands, as well as regular guest teacher at the Opera Academy in Amsterdam. Ira began staging opera in 2000, directing two dozen productions since then internationally, and collaborating with such conductors as James Levine, Richard Bonynge and Christoph von Dohnanyi. Ira also lectures on opera and writes for Opera News. He is now in his 12th season as Commentator on the Saturday Afternoon International Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts. Visit his web site at www.irasiff.com

Guest faculty  2019 - 2020

Deborah Birnbaum   

voice teacher and breath support specialist

Deborah Birnbaum is an internationally established voice teacher and breath support specialist.

Ms. Birnbaum is regularly scheduled for guest teaching engagements at The Metropolitan Opera (Lindemann Young Artist Development Program), San Francisco Opera (Merola Opera Program and Adler Fellowship Program), The Santa Fe OperaCarnegie Hall Joyce DiDonato Master Classes, The Lyric Opera of Chicago (The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center), Houston Grand Opera StudioWolf Trap Opera and The Washington National Opera Cafritz Young Artist Program.

Ms. Birnbaum has conducted Master Classes at many Colleges and Conservatories, including Mannes School of MusicRice UniversityIndiana UniversityBoston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), Boston Conservatory OperaNorthwestern University and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

In addition, she was the Master Teacher at the World Voice Day sponsored by NATS at Columbia University.

In addition, Ms. Birnbaum has served as a judge for several prestigious vocal competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, and the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation.

Maurice Lugassy
Professor, French Literature and Culture
Maurice Lugassy is a professor of French literature and French culture in Toulouse, France. He is the head of one of the biggest cultural centers of the city and is creating numerous artistic projects with the municipality of Toulouse every year. In 2012 he created Les Maîtres Sonneurs Opera Company and Opera Studio, offering young french artists a supporting environment, excellent teachers and a  stage to perform.
Teaching the French language throughout its culture has become Mr Lugassy's specialty. Maurice Lugassy  is frequently invited to many cultural centers, universities and conferences throughout France, where he teaches and lectures in front of French and foreign students, professors  and artists.  
His company, Les Maîtres Sonneurs, has been a partner of the Canto Vocal Programs in Toulouse since the founding of Canto in 2015. 

Michele Cacciottolo

Italian teacher and translator 

Born in Italy, Michele Cacciottolo is an Italian teacher and translator who graduated in History and Literature from the University of Florence.

Mr. Cacciottolo taught Italian as a Foreign Language in Florence between 1984 and 1993. He continued teaching Italian in Manhattan when he moved to the United States in 1993.

He taught Italian language and diction at the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy, between 1995 and 1999. Mr. Cacciottolo was an adjunct professor of Italian Language and Literature at Montclair State University and Seton Hall University, New Jersey, U.S.A., between 1996 and 1999.

He worked as a translator from English into Italian on many articles for the magazine The New Yorker and books for the Italian publishing house Mondadori. He has been a teacher of Italian at Kearny High School, in Kearny, NJ, since 1999.

Mr. Cacciottolo loves Italy, its culture and its music, and for the last 20 years he has been bringing his students regularly to Italy and to the Metropolitan Opera.

Guest faculty  2018-2019

Simón Saad

Stage Director, Interpretation Coach 

With an encyclopedic knowledge of the art form and expert communicative abilities, Simón Saad has worked with opera companies in three continents always in search of maximizing the expressive output of opera singers. Whether in his role as regisseur, or as a coach, his contribution has always centered in enhancing the character definition in the mind of the performer and finding ways for the singer to convey this definition, and detonate it in the minds of their audience. The exploration of the dramatic character as expressed in song (regardless of genre, both in classical, or in popular singing) has been the focus of his career for more than three decades. Historical background, socio-cultural implications, and psychological detailing are all brought together in the pursuit of rounded and impactful performance, always with the specificset of skills of singers in mind. Acting and movement, and their specific relationship with the art of song, as well as the adroit projection of the words—skills that often remain by the wayside in contemporary operatic training are some of the abilities he seeks to help performers develop, in order to serve their singing.

After studying medicine, Simón focused on his operatic passion, attending the National School of Dramatic arts in his native Colombia, and then the Stage Production Development Program started in Florence, Italy, by the Accademia Filodrammatica and the Teatro Communale, and the Theater Department of the State University of New York, both in Purchase and Stony Brook. Since then, he has assisted, collaborated, and conferred with some of the greatest figures in operatic production: Michael Hampe, Willy Decker, Piero Faggioni, Franco Zeffirelli, Patrice Chereau, Karen Stone, and Peter Sellars, are among the ones that most influenced his career and his work. He was named Head of the Stage Production department by the Opera Company of Colombia, which brought him in close relationship to theaters as far apart as the Colón, in Buenos Aires, and the Teatro Nacional de la Zarzuela, in Madrid. He has been a docent and a lecturer, with both Ansonia Music Outreach, where he is also the Docent Program Director, and the 92nd Street Y, where he is engaged in the challenge of creating new audiences, both young and adult, for the classical performing arts, and opera in particular. During the years, Mr. Saad has worked with a veritable constellation of operatic luminaries, from Carlo Bergonzi, Martina Arroyo, and Shirley Verrett, to his close association with Veronica Villarroel, with whom he has worked steadily, over the years, and advanced a fruitful, tandem exploration of the vibrant relationship between word and music.

Damien Francoeur-Krzyzek


Pianist Damien Francoeur-Krzyzek holds faculty positions at the New England Conservatory (NEC) and the Boston Conservatory.  As a member of NEC’s collaborative piano department, he educates young pianists in the art of playing operatic literature and coaching singers.  He has served on the music staff at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis since 2008, and can be heard alongside members of the Saint Louis Symphony in the 2014 world premiere recording of Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27, starring Stephanie Blythe and conducted by Michael Christie.  An avid linguist, Damien has studied and coached more than a dozen languages, and frequently coaches singers and pianists in Russian and Czech song repertoire for NEC’s Liederabend series.

A passionate devotee of instrumental and vocal chamber music, Damien has performed at the Tanglewood Music Festival with members of the Boston Symphony, and made his German debut alongside saxophonist Kenneth Radnofsky and violinist Elmira Darvarova in a program of David Amram’s chamber music at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe.  He can be heard in collaboration with Radnofsky, trumpeter Seelan Manickam, soprano Margot Rood and composer Heather Gilligan on the 2017 Albany Records release Living in Light. 

 Elizabeth Gonçalves

 French diction and Prosody coach

Elizabeth Gonçalves currently teaches French diction and the InternationalPhonetic Alphabet for singers in the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs at the Fontys University of the Arts in the Netherlands. She is also a professor of French at the University of Amsterdam in the prestigious Amsterdam University College. Recently, she was offered a five-year position by the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Beginning in 2019, she will teach the first world seminar on the rhetoric and prosody of the French language as applied to French opera.

Elizabeth Gonçalves has worked for some of the most important French institutions in the areas of French opera and French diction & literature, including the Blibilothèque Nationale de France (National French Library in Paris), the Institute de Recherche en Musicologie (IreMus), the Paris-Sorbonne University Research Department, and the Opéra-Comique in Paris. In 2018, Gonçalves was accepted into two PhD programs, one at the Sorbonne in French Literature and the other at Geneva University in Music. She received a merit scholarship for her studies from the French Ministry of Culture.

© 2023 by Canto Vocal Programs. Created with Wix.com