Tag Archives: Opera League of Los Angeles

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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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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Beyond Boundaries: An Interview with Christopher Koelsch

Christopher Koelsch; Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Christopher Koelsch; Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera’s President and Chief Executive Officer, is either astonishingly modest or tremendously reverential to those who have gone before him… or both.

Mr. Koelsch is this year’s recipient of the Opera League’s Peter Hemmings Award – given to individuals “who have made significant contributions to the development of opera in the greater Los Angeles area.” He speaks of the achievements of LA Opera in his four years at the helm as little more than the naturalension of ideas and programs put forth by his predecessors – and by “the incredible team we have here.”

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A Volunteer For All Seasons

Alma Guzman

Alma Guzman

Alma Guzman has three great passions in life: volunteering, photography and travel.

Her Opera League volunteerism dates back to the League’s very inception almost thirty years ago. Since her retirement, she has been able to volunteer a whopping 450 plus hours a year. This coming season, she will serve on the Opera League board of directors for the third time. The League, and by extension LA Opera, benefit greatly from Alma’s huge contribution of time, as have over 40 citywide organizations where she has volunteered since 1973.

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Kihun Yoon: The Seoul of the Young Artist Program

Kihun Yoon

Kihun Yoon

Imagine being invited by a world-renowned opera legend to move to a country where you don’t speak the language.

Would you hesitate? Or embrace the opportunity?

This is how the powerful and sonorous baritone Kihun Yoon, a native of Seoul, South Korea, answers the question.

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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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In the Pit: Roberto Cani, Concertmaster

Roberto Cani; Photo: Robert Millard

Roberto Cani; Photo: Robert Millard

Experiencing a violinist on stage performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in Milan, Italy, 7-year-old Roberto Cani determined then and there he would someday play that concerto. Attending Milan Conservatory, he practiced diligently to fulfill his dream. It was there that he remembers meeting Plácido Domingo, who was recording Otello but still took time out to greet young Roberto.

Moving to Moscow at age 20, he studied violin at the Gnessin Institute. He also traveled throughout Europe as a concert soloist, his repertoire including the Tchaikovsky Concerto, which he still enjoys playing. During the Paganini Competition, which he won, Abram Shtern heard Roberto perform and invited him to become his student. Roberto followed Mr. Shtern to Los Angeles in December 1992. Eventually receiving an Artist Diploma from the University of Southern California, Roberto continued to perform concerts in Europe and also served as guest concertmaster at La Scala, the London Philharmonic, and the Radio and Television Orchestra in Milan.

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Like and Share: Meet LA Opera’s Social Media Dynamic Duo

Amisha Patankar and Karen Bacellar at Opera at the Beach (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Amisha Patankar and Karen Bacellar at Opera at the Beach (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

If an organization is to stay relevant in this wireless, hyperlinked, hashtagged world, social media is key. Thankfully, LA Opera nipped the relevancy problem in the bud last summer when it “Liked” Karen Bacellar and Amisha Patankar.

“I manage LA Opera’s content,” Karen says. “That includes the blog. I would say I write and edit the vast majority of the articles for the blog, and that nine times out of ten, they are determined by upcoming operas. After articles are published, I work with Amisha to promote the content through social media.”

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Mary Johnston: Why I Became an LA Opera Community Educator

Mary Johnston volunteering with LA Opera

Mary Johnston volunteering with LA Opera

Close your eyes and imagine the most spectacular fireworks display you’ve ever seen. It’s probably filled with starbursts and various different colors that light up the sky, and brings back fond memories and leaves you in awe.

How you feel about that amazing fireworks display you’re picturing right now is how I have always felt about opera.

I have attended opera for more than 40 years in some of the greatest cities for the art form in the country, including New York and Los Angeles. Before becoming a Community Educator, I went to hear the singer’s beautiful voices and did not worry so much about the background on the opera or the composers. I sat and enjoyed the experience.

This all changed when I learned that as the member of the Opera League of Los Angeles, I could be trained by LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement department to be a Community Educator. It sounded like a great way to give back to the community, while also having fun, and teaching people about opera. So, I decided to join the program.

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Why I Give: Murray Aronson

Murray Aronson has been donating to LA Opera since the 1990s. In fact, one of his favorite LA Opera memories is seeing Plácido Domingo in Stiffelio in 1996. His life-long love for opera began long before that, in his New Jersey high school’s auditorium at an educational production of Così fan tutte. Although the singers were only accompanied by a pianist, Mr. Aronson was mesmerized. “I remember the colored lights on the stage with Mozart’s eternally beautiful music,” he recalled.  “This gave me a vision of a world that can be wonderful. I was 14 years old, and that did it for me.”

Elena Prokina as Lina and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Stiffelio (1996); Photo: Ken Howard

Elena Prokina as Lina and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Stiffelio (1996); Photo: Ken Howard

Mr. Aronson has now seen close to 400 opera performances over the course of his lifetime. However, there are still a few operas he hasn’t seen performed live, like Phillip Glass’ Akhnaten, which will be performed in LA Opera’s 2016/17 season.  “When the LA Opera puts on a new work, or one that is relatively rare like Norma, that gets me hook, line and sinker.”

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In the Pit: John Walz, Principal Cellist, LA Opera Orchestra

John Walz, Principal Cellist LA Opera

John Walz, Principal Cellist LA Opera

Born and raised in Pasadena, John Walz felt he was always wired for music, attending concerts as a youngster with his music teacher mother. He began cello at 10 in public school, and the next year began studying with Eleonore Schoenfeld and performing in chamber groups. This early training forced him to play and listen at the same time, a skill that has served him well as principal cellist for the LA Opera Orchestra.

John began his professional life when he met Pierre Fournier, the great French cellist, who invited him to study with him in Geneva. During these two years, John was introduced to many legendary players and performed in great halls in Europe, launching his career.

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Captain’s Log: Reporting For Duty

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Jay Hunter Morris first appeared in Los Angeles in 1994 at the Mark Taper Forum in Terrence McNally’s Master Class, with Zoe Caldwell portraying Maria Callas. There, as the character Anthony Candolini, he sang the aria from Tosca, “Recondita armonia”. He first sang it (as scripted) somewhat affectedly (and was marked down), but then repeated it with such purity of feeling that his mentor, overcome with emotion, admitted, “I have never really listened to it before.” An enduring memory of Morris’ is that of him, with Ms. Caldwell on his arm, regularly patronizing (what was then) Otto’s Restaurant after performances and schmoozing with the likes of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

Moving ahead to 2005, Mr. Morris, in the role of Mario Cavaradossi, sang not only that aria, but the entire opera for LAO’s student matinee performances of Tosca, also covering that role for the regular performances. Interestingly enough, Morris had never sung the complete opera until he returned here for that revival of this LAO favorite.

For the 2005 stagings, Jay Hunter, mindful of the operatic lore associated with various on-stage anomalous happenings during performances of Tosca (the springy trampoline, the suicidal firing squad, etc.), took whatever precautions he could think of to assure that nothing untoward would happen to him. In Tosca the firing squad is typically composed of six to eight supers. In LAO’s production, some of the firing squad fire loud blanks; the rest fire wads of material that go, “Poof!” Jay Hunter recognized that, given the close quarters separating Cavaradossi from the Firing Squad and observing the high exit velocity of the Poofing material, reasoned that, if the Poofing material hit him below the waist, there was a finite possibility of an accidental impact transmogrifying him (at least on a temporary basis) from voice type tenor to that of countertenor. So, during rehearsals, Jay Hunter gave firm instructions to his Firing Squad, “Aim high, fellas!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-Z4-3Ip_Q

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The Technician: Rita Pudenz

Rita PudenzYou don’t always associate opera with the Olympics, but we should be grateful the Games of the XXIII Olympiad took place in Los Angeles or else you might not be reading this article right now. And I might not be sitting in the living room of this beautiful single-story house in Pasadena, right around the corner from the Rose Bowl, with the sounds of KUSC drifting across the polished wooden floors.

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