About Us

The Artists

The Artists

Karen Saillant, Artistic Director/Stage Director
Mi-Kyoung Lee, Art Director
Bernard Bygott, Assistant Artistic Director
Ornella Tiberi, Official Photographer
Studio 54, Official Graphic Design House

Mauro Fabri
Gianmaria Griglio
Bruno Rigacci
Simone Luti

​Adam Silverman
Carlo Pedini
Daniel Shapiro
David Matthew Brown
Efraìn Amaya
Emily Wong
Gianmaria Griglio
Kile Smith
Mena Mark Hanna
Michael Djupstrom
Nicholas Mastripolito
Philp Ashworth

Pierre Thilloy Von deGuzman
Pietro Rigacci
Thomas Whitman
Tony Solitro
Troy Herion
Ya-Jhu Yang

Antonio Fava
Deborah Pioli
Eleonora Gai
Gianmaria Griglio
J. Christian Bygott
Karen Saillant
Lucio Lironi
Romina Minucci
Tommaso Sabbatini

Alisyn Kuntz
David Foss
Karen Saillant
Mi-Kyoung Lee
Nandini Bagchee
Sara Horne

Amanda Matyas
Marni Grambau
Mi-Kyoung Lee
Karen Saillant
Qiang Gong
Rachel Miller
Yunjung Kang

Bernard Bygott
Carl Angiolillo
Ian W. King
J. Christian Bygott
Mary Heffernan
Nicholas Garcia Orellana
Omar Ramos
Sherrice Kelly
Tim Nottage

Ella Marchment, J.Christian Bygott, Katy Stein, Shelby Murrin, Steven Wojciechowski

Beatrice Bartoli, Elizabeth Avery, Vittorio Rosetta, Fabio Bezuti, Reece Revak, Steve Weber and Elona Muca

Joel Schwartz
Lu Szumskyj
Tim Fitts

Susan DeAngelus

Sabrina Rota, Jan Schleiger, Matt DeLuca

Ada Conte, Angela Cingottini, Angela DelCore, Angiola Berzuini, Isabella Cesarini, Maria Pia Cesarini, Filomena Malerba, Flora Alegretti, Francesca Merli, Paolo Valenti

Karen Saillant, Artistic Director

Karen Saillant

Musician, stage director, opera singer, librettist, playwright, actor, commedia dell’arte artist, pianist, choral conductor and voice teacher,  Karen Saillant has decades of experience guiding singers and actors in the creation and performance of classic and original works of art. As a teacher of Breathing Coordination, with first hand ability to resolve all problems related to the holding of breath, Ms. Saillant has worked extensively giving master classes and private sessions to reeducate the diaphragm and return the respiratory system to healthy function for individuals with asthma, emphysema and all types of breathing and vocal disorders.

Starring in regional opera houses in Europe and US,she has received standing ovations and rave reviews for her artistry and ability to communicate.With commissions for original work from numerous institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian Institution, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Constitution Center, The American Composers Forum. As founder and artistic director of International Opera Theater (IOT), 2013 marks the 10th year she has directed and produced a world premiere Italian opera in Italy- most based on texts of Shakespeare. In addition to premieres in Teatro degli Avvaloranti, Citta’ della Pieve, her works have been presented at The International Festival of Culture in Bergamo, Teatro Mancinelli,Orvieto, Teatro Comunale, Citta’ di Saluzzo, Teatro Valle, Rome and in Philadelphia at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Rosenbach Museum, The Ibrahim Theater, Gershman Hall, Prince Music Theater, Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center and The Academy of Music, the oldest opera house in the US still in use, for their 150th anniversary celebration.In 2013, IOT presented the American premiere of “JAGO”, based on an original story by Karen Saillant, in Philadelphia. and also the world premiere of “Camille Claudel” in Italy, followed by its American premiere for Global Philadelphia celebration in the fall. In 2014, IOT presented the world premiere of “AZAIO” for the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare and the 180th anniversary of the death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “AZAIO” is based on an original story by Karen Saillant and Christian Bygott. This year Karen is premiering two world premieres. One is a Cantata about the childhood of Hildegard DeBingem which will be performed in Assisi for the Suono Sacro Festival. The second is “ERROR” based on William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” in Citta Della Pieve.

Ms Saillant’s work has received support from many foundations including Hersig Family Foundation, Philadelphia Foundation, Independence Foundation, William Penn Foundation and Presser Foundation. She attended Indiana University,graduating from Temple University with a Bachelor of Music and Combs College of Music, alma mater of Vincent Persichetti, with a Masters of Music. In 1976, Ms. Saillant became the first American to represent the US in The International Opera Competition in Sofia, Bulgaria. She was, the year before, the first singer presented in a New York recital debut by The Stough Institute of Breathing Coordination.

Before his death, Carl Stough, who discovered the authentic function of the respiratory system, designated her as one of a small number of his students to carry on his work. Carl Stough’s legacy was immortalized through 40 years of groundbreaking rehabilitation for thousands of patients in the field of emphysema. Additionally, during  the XIX Olympic Games, held in Mexico City in 1968, his track and field team received more gold medals than in any other other Olympics, setting records that would last 25 years and  becoming the only team to not need oxygen in the high altitudes of Mexico City.

Ms. Saillant teaches Breathing Coordination at The Healing Arts Medical Center in Philadelphia. In 1999 she was able to successfully remove her comatose husband from the ventilator, facilitating his independent respiration until his death one year and a half later. Her writing on Breathing Coordination has been translated into Italian, Portuguese and Chinese and will soon be available in Russian.

Mission Statement

International Opera Theater (IOT) is a non-profit organization based both in Philadelphia and Italy. Founded in 2003, the company is dedicated to the transformative power of spontaneity driven art, specifically in opera and musical theater, taking into consideration in its approach the fundamentals of commedia dell’arte and the principles of complexity, swarm and emergence theories. As concentric ambassador to Italy and the US, IOT draws from both heritages to create contemporary world premiere operas that link the Italian lyric tradition with the innovative spirit of modern America.During its 10 year activity, IOT has commissioned 10 original operas as well as other multicultural works, bringing together artists from more than 36 different countries and collaborating with some of the finest artistic organizations in the world including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The International Festival of Culture in Bergamo, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, The Museum of Modern Art in New York,The American Composers Forum, The Association for the Highest Level of Musical Perfection in Saluzzo and more.Shaping and redefining a new field of interdisciplinary art, the work of IOT exemplifies the virtues of participation, dialogue and respect present in community building and essential in our globally developing world.Committed to a sustainable model, IOT musical and stage directors work concurrently through an intuitive, movement based system to realize a premiere, which often takes years, in less than one month. Costumes and sets are primarily fabricated in Philadelphia under the guidance of Mi-Kyoung Lee, internationally renowned South Korean maker, head of fiber arts at the University of the Arts. 75% remainder fabrics  and mundane objects such as plastic bags, pipe cleaners, paper towels, tissue paper, woven plastic vegetable covers, water bottles, duct tape, plastic fencing, etc. are transformed into objet d’art under the hands of Mi-Kyoung and her UArts assistants.

At the heart of the IOT mission is facilitation of self discovery and nonverbal intercultural communication, provoking the training of a new generation of operatic artist through imagination driven productions, as well as master classes, interactive auditions and international competitions which bring artists from throughout the world to Italy and from Italy and beyond to Philadelphia.

IOT cultural education excites children through an innovative and empowering symbiotic paradigm. Presently IOT and International House Philadelphia are in preparation for a global peace project, a 5 language production that was developed in Philadelphia in 2003 and subsequently presented there for 7 years. This project enlivens ages 6-18 through the recreation of the last performance of an opera given 55 performances by youth in a concentration camp- a camp that held 15,000 children, of which only 150 were able to return home. Honoring youth in all cultures who were never able to return home, the project is envisioned to be presented simultaneously on all continents beginning in The Middle East  where Arabic and Jewish children will gather in Nazareth and Bethlehem to share music in 5 languages: French, German, Italian, English and Czech, as well as Arabic and Hebrew in this historically researched experience which addresses the precept of children as innocent victims of war, unable to return home. Project is planned for UN International Day of Peace, September 21, 2014.

In addition to the 8th production of  the Holocaust opera mentioned above, upcoming in March is the 9th production dedicated to life and works of Maurice Sendak at Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia, master classes in Italy and in May 2013, American premiere of JAGO, sequel to Verdi’s Otello, in celebration of 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth, with winner of International Opera Competition in Citta’ di Saluzzzo, dedicated to Magda Olivero, coming to Media Theatre near Philadelphia for American premiere and returning to Vercelli and Citta’ di Saluzzo to complete the performance circle.

At end of July 2013, IOT will present the world premiere of their 10th Italian opera: premiere Camille Claudel in Citta’ della Pieve followed by tour to Teatro Valle, oldest theater in Rome, Pavia and other Italian cities. IOT is poised, in collaboration with The Alliance Francaise and The Italian Consul in Philadelphia, to bring the story of this brilliant French sculptor,  inspiration for and lover of Rodin, yet completely unrecognized in her own lifetime, presented in the Italian language and written by the young Italian composer, Gianmaria Griglio, to Philadelphia. 2013 marks one hundred years since Claudel was interred in a mental institution where she spent the last 30 years of her life.


Karen Saillant, Founder and Artistic Director

Board of Directors

Annette & Little Joe

Margaret Berczynski, (Poland) President, CEO, Philadelphia International Institute.

Bernard Bygott, (United States) Co-Founder and Assistant Artistic Director, International Opera Theater.

J. Christian Bygott, (United States) Co-Founder and Assistant Director, International Opera Theater.

Tony Rufo (United States)

Carmen Guerra, M.D., (Honduras) Associate Professor of Medicine and Attending Physician , Hospital of University of Pennsylvania.

Laura Rivera, (United States) Senior Financial Analystat at Johnson & Johnson.

Carolynn King Richmond, Esq. (United States) President and CEO, MicroSociety, Inc.

Enrique Rosario, Esq. (Puerto Rico) Immigration law, graduate of University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Giuseppe Russo, Ph.D. (Italy) Research Assistant Professor at Sbarro Institute at Temple University.

Susan Warnock Thomas, Esq. (United States) Attorney and Arbitrator, Court of Common Pleas Arbitration Center, Philadelphia.

Karen Saillant, (United States) Founding Artistic Director, International Opera Theater.

Charles Yang (China) Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania.

Honorary Board:
Roger Saillant, Executive Director, Fowler Center for Sustainable Value, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University.

Maestro Bruno Rigacci, Italian Conductor and Composer.

Città della Pieve, Italy

Our home in Italy…

Italy is known all over the world as the land of beautiful singing, not only for the many glorious voices brought forth from her graceful soil, but for the music of her very language, and the poetic soul of her citizens who made it so.

Città della Pieve is located in Umbria: “The Green Heart of Italy” where rivers, Etruscan ruins, velvety ravines, and peaceful landscapes beckon. This town, which overlooks Lake Trasimeno and the Valdichiana Valley, is the site every year of a 10 day city-wide theatrical tribute to the heyday of Pietro Perugino, her most famous son. Teacher of Raphael and represented in museums across the world, including the Louvre and Sistine Chapel, Perugino’s artistry is reflected in the current residents of his town, as they put on velvet costumes, mount stalwart carts at the side of cannons, twirl banners and ingenuously reenact the ancient Palio dei Terzieri (an archery competition among three neighborhoods).

Equidistant from Rome and Florence (aprox. an hour and twenty minute train ride) Città della Pieve is a beautiful small city, where traditional Italian culture survives to this day. It is a warm, tranquil, nurturing haven in which our artists “feel at home”.

International Opera Theater performs at the end of Palio in the recently restored Teatro Comunale di Città della Pieve, another jewel in the cultural life of the city. Constructed between 1830 and 1834, on a design of Giovanni Santini, one of Umbria’s most renowned architects, its ten year restoration began in 1990 under the meticulous hands of local artisans, Antonio Marroni and his son, Mario. With a grand stage, fully modernized dressing rooms and technical facilities, orchestra pit, rehearsal space and intimate four tiered house, Teatro Comunale di Città della Pieve stands today as one of the most beautiful small theaters in all of Italy.