A native of Fergus, Ontario, Donna Ellen, daughter of the late well-known mezzo-soprano Marianne Trifunovich grew up in Guelph and began her singing lessons under Arleen Barnum and Roberta Hoy. She then studied at Wilfrid Laurier University with Professor Victor Martens and graduated with a Bachelor of Music - Honours Performance in Voice Degree.1984 she was accepted as one of ten Canadian singers chosen by Leopold Simoneau and Pierrette Alarie for the CANADA OPERA PICCOLA in Victoria, B.C. for two summers.
Following these 2 seasons she was chosen to sing THE TELEPHONE by Menotti in the Bell Pavilion at the World Expo in Vancouver, B.C.. In 1986 Donna was accepted as one of fifteen singers from around the world for the prestigious ZÜRICH OPERA STUDIO in Switzerland which was then made possible for her to attend through a generous grant from Canada Council and many generous donations of citizens in the Guelph area. This was followed by a contract at the Linz Opera House in Austria, where she sang over 35 roles as the leading lyrical coloratura for the following 10 years. These roles ranged from "Susanna" in THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO; "Blonde" in THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, Gretel in HANSEL AND GRETEL, Marie in DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT, "Oscar" in MASKED BALL etc. to the "Queen of the Night" in THE MAGIC FLUTE.
She has also sung many world premieres of contemporary
composers in opera and concert. She was engaged by Pamela Rosenberg for
the role of "Die Gefährtin" in INTOLLERANZA by Luigi Nono,
which led to her appearance as the "Protagonist" in UN RE IN
ASCOLTA by Luciano Berio, who attended performances in Geneva, Switzerland.
Donna was then immediately engaged for another production of the Nono
Opera in Saarbrücken, Germany for the 2004 season with stage designer
Daniel Libeskind, the newly appointed architect for the World Trade Center
in New York.
Donna has travelled extensively through China, Japan, Armenia, Greece, Germany, Holland, Belgium, England, Serbia, Kasachstan, Azerbaidchan and France as "Ambassador" for the City of Vienna's CULTURAL EXCHANGE DAYS representing the music of Johann Strauss and his contemporaries. In this role, she also had the experience of being the first woman to sing in public in Teheran, Iran since 1979.
Donna Ellen gave her Debut in the GOLDEN HALL in Vienna with the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra in the World Premiere of THALASSE by Jack Brimberg of New York and performances of Orff's CARMINA BURANA and Beethoven's 9th SYMPHONY. Donna Ellen gave her debut at the VIENNA STATE OPERA as "Helmwige" in Wagner's DIE WALKÜRE under the direction of Donald Runnicles and consequently sang the following season's series.
A generous Canada Council Grant in 2004 enabled her to study intensively with the famous KS Renate Holm to change her vocal category. She then debuted successfully in 2004 at the VIENNA VOLKSOPERA as Donna Anna in DON GIOVANNI, the 1st lady in THE MAGIC FLUTE and this season in THE BARTERED BRIDE. After jumping in on one day's notice as Donna Anna at the BERLIN KOMISCHE OPERA in Germany, they immediately hired her for the next two seasons as Donna Anna in DON GIOVANNI and as Rosalinde in THE FLEDERMAUS.
In 2007 Donna Ellen appeared at the prestigious Theater an der Wien as Kitty Hart in an operatic production of "Dead Man Walking" composed by Jack Heggie.
Donna resides in Vienna, Austria and has been a resident soloist of the Vienna State Opera since 2008.
She is married to Ernst Dunshirn, Chorus Director of the Vienna State Opera until his retirement
in 2007 and has two daughters, Katharina and Christina.