Tag Archives: LA Opera Orchestra

In the Pit: Olivia Tsui

Olivia Tsui; Photo: Gary Eisenberg

Olivia Tsui; Photo: Gary Eisenberg

A proud member of the first violin section in Los Angeles Opera Orchestra for a quarter century, Olivia Tsui has been successfully pursuing her career ever since completing her violin studies at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

Her westward journey began in 1986, when Olivia arrived in the U.S. to continue her studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, followed by USC where she studied under Alice Schönfeld. Quickly becoming active in the Los Angeles music scene, she joined the LA Opera (LAO) Orchestra in 1992, followed by appearances with other local orchestras and chamber groups.
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What’s a heckelphone and why did William May learn to play it for Salome?

William May and the hecklephone

William May and the heckelphone

Salome is one of the most challenging operas to play. Musicians are tasked with a score that pushes the limits of what’s considered playable for an orchestra. LA Opera Orchestra Principal Bassoonist William May had a further challenge. In less than a year, May learned a rare instrument to play in Salome – the heckelphone.

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In the Pit: David Washburn

David Washburn

David Washburn

The story of how David Washburn found the trumpet has become a family legend.

David’s father, an engineering professor, played cornet. He eventually gave that cornet to a friend. One evening, while the Washburns were visiting this friend, someone brought out the cornet. Little David gave it a go. After one lesson, his father’s friend exclaimed: “You’d better get him a trumpet!”

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Tony’s Bike

CONLON APPROVED TONY BIKE

For 20 years, LA Opera Orchestra members have been greeted by a very special fan on their way to nearly every performance. Near the Artists Entrance, Tony stands as a sentinel watching and wishing each member well before they enter the opera house and the pit.

“It’s almost a pre-show ritual for some of us,” says Brady Steel, Orchestra Personnel Manager.

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Pittance Takes the LA Opera Orchestra from the Pit to the Stage

Members of Pittance Chamber Music

Members of Pittance Chamber Music

What happens when members of the LA Opera Orchestra rise up and break out of the depths of the orchestra pit?

A Pittance concert!

Pittance Chamber Music was created in 2013 by LA Opera Orchestra Assistant Concertmaster Lisa Sutton, who wanted to showcase the gifted artists who perform below the stage, where they are heard but mostly unseen. Since then, Pittance has expanded its ranks to include members of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, as well as members of the Los Angeles Opera Chorus.

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Daniel Kelley Has Played for Hero John Williams and the LA Opera Orchestra

Daniel Kelley

Daniel Kelley

Like many musicians in the LA Opera Orchestra, French horn player Daniel Kelley plays on the soundtracks for some of the world’s major films. He’s played in the orchestra for scores of blockbuster movies from Star Wars to Pirates of the Caribbean, and even worked with his hero, composer John Williams, on ten films including the Academy Award-winning JFK. Since the 1993, Kelley has worked at LA Opera first as a freelance French horn player and then as a full member of the LA Opera Orchestra.

“Out of all the jobs I do, opera has become my favorite,” says Kelley. “I just love being here and all the members of the horn section get along. It’s almost like going home to work with the other three players.”

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In the Pit: Jennifer Johnson – Passion and Perseverance

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

“I love the oboe for its many colors and expressiveness. On very rare occasions, when the reed and the instrument are working just right, the instrument becomes an extension of myself. I feel vulnerable, yet I stay in the moment as nerves and distractions disappear. It is an incredible experience!”

The oboe itself is finicky. A screw can come loose, a crack can form, a pad can break off or an adjustment may shift. During performances, Jennifer keeps a tool bag under her chair with screwdrivers and superglue for just those occasions.

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