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Introducing Cossack Beyond the Danube fabulous cast!

Michal Dawson Connor (Ivan Karas, a Zaporozhian Cossack)

Michal Dawson Connor is an accomplished performer and composer of choral, chamber, and solo vocal works, with a particular emphasis on Slave songs created before the Civil War. He was born in Jamestown, New York and is proud alumnus of Carnegie-Mellon University, and L’Ecole Hindemith in Vevey, Switzerland – where he studied voice with Blake Stern and Helen Boatwright. Championing American composers has always been a high priority for him, and Mr. Connor has conceived extensively throughout North America and Europe, specializing in the richvocal repertoire of Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, and many others. Mr. Connor was extremely instrumental in Repertory Opera Company’s ability to Keep the Music Alive during COVID shut down, performing in street block concerts, parking pot and courtyard concerts and it’s current Music at Noon performance.

Mr. Connor’s Broadway credits include featured performances in the Tony-Award winning productions of Ragtime and Showboat, as well as starring roles in productions of The Most Happy Fella, Big River, and Porgy and Bess. In addition to soloing on multiple occasions for President Ronald Reagan, he’s immensely proud of performing for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Reverend Bill Graham, and Elizabeth Dole. And, more recently, Brigadier General Charles McGee of the Tuskeegee Airmen and Billy Jean King. Mr. Connor is a published author of “The Slave Letters”, currently available on On network television, he was a guest star on “Friens”, as well as a several appearances on the Emmy.Award winning show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “The Surprise Gardener”.

Mr Connor takes a plight of Ukrainian people in their fight for independence and freedom very close to his heart. He is thrilled to sing the title role of Ivan Karas in Independent Opera Company’s production of “Cossack Beyond the Danube”.

Chelsea Obermeier (Odarka, Ivan's wife)

is a Lyric Soprano based out of Los Angeles, California. Chelsea has performed around the country with a variety of companies, including Opera Carolina, Pacific Opera Project, Independent Opera Company, and Opera Omaha. During her time in California, Chelsea has joined IOC as the title role in Little Red Riding Hood, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and the chorus of Snow Maiden. She has also sung several productions with Pacific Opera Project, including Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. Chelsea holds a BM Vocal Performance degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a MM Vocal Performance degree from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Rae Shrum (Oksana, an orphan maiden, raised by Karas and Odarka)

Lyric mezzo-soprano Rae Shrum is gaining increasing notice on both concert and operatic stages, including recent debuts with Landmark Opera as Mercedes (Carmen) and in Santa Monica as Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus). Specializing particularly in “pants parts,” favorite roles include Cherubino, Stéphano, Hansel, and Nicklausse. Her extensive concert repertoire includes the Rossini Stabat Mater, Handel’s Dixit Dominus, and both Mozart’s Mass in C and Requiem. With a voice hailed by critics as “agile and enticing,” the mezzo has been featured in concert series throughout Southern California, including Pacific Symphony’s Outreach Program and with the Long Beach Camerata Singers, Long Beach Symphony, and Los Angeles Chorus. She received her training at Chapman University and was a 2021 semi-finalist in the prestigious Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert Vocal Competition.

Egan Carroll (Andriy, a young Zaporozhian Cossack)

Egan is a graduate of the Santa Monica College Applied Music Program and was recently accepted into California State University, Northridge for Fall of 2022. He’s been singing opera since 2015 and has sung roles such as: Dan Cairo (Carmen), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Tamino (The Magic Flute), and most recently Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus). In 2013, Egan had the privilege of singing under the direction of Eric Whitacre at Carnegie Hall and premiered his work, “After great Pain”. He was also selected to sing for Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Honor Choir for his piece “Glow” that was featured in Disney’s California Adventure “World of Color: Winter Dreams”. Most recently, he sang chorus for Wayne Shorter’s Jazz Opera fusion project “Iphigenia” alongside Esperanza Spalding and others. He currently studies under Shigemi Matsumoto at CSUN.

Ken Simms (Turkish Sultan)

Ken Simms (Baritone) is a proud member of Los Angeles’ opera community. A native of Los Angeles, he began his formal musical training as a youth with the California Boys Choir. After a long break which included attendance at the University of Southern California and several private occupations in the field of Finance, he began studying with William Bohn in 1999 until his retirement in 2001. He continued his vocal development with former New York City Opera and Metropolitan Opera Company baritone, Richard Fredricks. Presently, Mr. Simms works with Gail Gordon and Christopher Luthi. Mr. Simms has performed the principal baritone roles in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, La traviata, Un ballo in maschera, Aida, and Otello, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Cosi fan tutte

and Puccini’s La Boheme and Tosca.

Matheon Park (Selikh-Aha, a Turkish lord, ensemble)

Matheon Park is a countertenor who has been classically training his voice for two years. He is currently in his sophomore year at the California State University, Northridge, majoring in the Vocal Performance Art program. Throughout his educational journey, he has sung with various choruses, was involved in the school production of the 20th century English opera, Kurt Weil’s “Street Scene,” and played the role of Willie Maurrant. Matheon has also been involved with the Mission Opera company and sang the alto in the chorus for an English opera, “13 Clocks,” which had a world premiere in June 2022. Most recently, he has been a part of an independent opera production that brought Artemovsky’s Ukrainian opera, “Zaporozhets za Dunayem,” as a chorus member.

Eli Katz (Ibrahim-Ali, an Imam, ensemble)

Eli Katz was born into a family of musicians. He studied violin and piano along with his two sisters, and sang with his Dad. In high school he played Drums and sang in a Rock Band, and even schlepped his drums to cover for his teacher on a wedding gig! His computer and art skill, along with his attention to detail landed him in a coveted position as Artist at Exceptional Minds Studio, where he does post production graphic editing for award winning Major Motion Pictures. However, Eli’s love to perform keeps tugging him back into music. He had the great fortune of being mentored by Jeannine Wagner, who invited him to sing in the Wagner Ensemble which has taken him to Japan, Korea, France and the Czech Republic. 2019 opened up new singing opportunities with Galina Barskaya, and the Independent Opera Company. He has been in Romeo & Juliet, The Gipsy Princess, The Snow Maiden, as Toby in the Medium, and The Commendatore in Don Giovanni. In 2021-2022 Mr. Katz also performed several roles, such as Mighty Storm in IOC production of Kaschey the Immortal as well as singing solo work with Wagner Ensemble.

Britta Sterling (Oksana cover, ensemble) is a Los Angeles based soprano, who has performed in operas and operettas with various companies around Los Angeles. She was last seen performing with IOC in Cui’s Little Red Riding Hood as the Narrator/Lead Hunter. She has also performed with Mission Opera, Glendale Centre Theater, Opera en Castellano, Cal State Los Angeles Opera Theater, Celestial Opera Company, and CSU Northridge Opera Theater. Britta was a featured soprano soloist and chorister with the Roger Wagner Chorale on their Goodwill Heritage Tour of Japan and South Korea. She graduated from CSU Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance.

Amanda Mello (ensemble) is so excited about her debut with the Independent Opera Company! She is currently earning her Master of Music in Vocal Arts at California State University Northridge. Her most recent role was Mrs. Fiorentino in CSUN’s Street Scene by Kurt Weill.

Kristin McGinnis (ensemble) is currently a student at California State University Northridge and she is studying Vocal Performance. This will be her first opera, but she has performed in a choral setting in venues across the world such as Carnegie Hall, The Mormon Tabernacle, and the Sydney Opera House!

Kyrian Corona (ensemble) performs with and serves as Vice President on the Executive Board of Independent Opera Company. Kyrian began her musical career as co-founder, multi-keyboardist and lead singer in the award winning band Rocky Road. She advanced her music education at Cal State Long Beach and UCLA Extension studying piano performance, film scoring and composition. She later developed and performed in multimedia projects at LACE, Museum of Art Downtown Los Angeles and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. Kyrian sings with and is President of the Burbank Chorale, one of the oldest musical organizations in the state of California. She also sings with and is on the Executive Board of Wagner Ensemble. She has performed with Los Angeles Korean-American Musicians' Association, Southern California Combined Choirs, and LA Opera’s The the Zarzuela Project, with concerts at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Zipper Hall, Royce Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

Janice Bazdorff (ensemble) mezzo soprano, has performed with the chorus for numerous Independent Opera productions including The Snow Maiden, Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, Aleko, The Tsar’s Bride and Goyescas. She appreciates having the opportunity to show support for the people and culture of Ukraine by singing In The Cossack Beyond the Danube.

Misha Barsky (ensemble) was born at Kiev(Ukraine). He studied cello and piano.

Also he has degree in choral conducting. He has sung with different kind of choirs(from small to big choirs) and vocal ensembles(classical, jazz, arrange of instrumental music). Presently he sings at Wagner Ensemble(Director: Jeannine Wagner) and choir of St.Mary of the Angels Church(Bass section leader). Mr. Barsky has sung several principal roles with IOC including Sobakin in "Tsar's Bride" and Old Gypsy in "Aleko".

Jamie Sanderson (ensemble) possesses a voice that critics have described as “mellifluous” and “commanding.” He recently played the first priest in Opera Neo’s virtual production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. in 2019 he played the Captain in Opera Neo’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Jamie earned a Master of Music from the Peabody Institute and a Bachelor of Music from the University of California, Irvine. At the Peabody Conservatory, Jamie performed as Marco in Gianni Schicchi, Le Baron in Massenet’s Cherubin, the Father in an outreach production of Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel, and covered Manfred in Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness: Two Remain. He was also featured as a street singer in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass under Maestro Marin Alsop.

Tickets to Cossack beyond the Danube are available at


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