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Dido & Aeneas Countertenor John Holiday Talks Sorceresses & Modern Works

Posted By: Arts Alive · 12/4/2014 11:31:00 AM

Los Angeles opera fans met countertenor John Holiday just recently, but he's already made a big impression. He was a 2014 winner of Operalia and performed as the Sorceress in Barrie Kosky's production of Dido & Aeneas at the LA Opera. Writing in the LA Times, critic Mark Swed said:

The cross-dressing sorceress and witches, who connive to send Aeneas on his way, are scene-stealers. John Holiday, G. Thomas Allen and Darryl Taylor are advertised as the first trio of African American countertenors to appear together in an opera production ... this is a trio of vibrant, flexible, funny Baroque singers who might have a road show of their own in their future.

From the road in Texas, Holiday talked to Brian Lauritzen about discovering he was a countertenor, taking the stage as the sorceress and contemporary composing for countertenors.

LA Opera Scores a Big Coup: US Premiere of Barrie Kosky’s Dido & Bluebeard

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 10/22/2014 9:35:00 AM

Bluebeard's Castle

At a meeting in downtown LA in the spring of 2013, a friend and colleague with deep cultural ties to the UK, who knew I was planning a trip to Europe that summer, handed me a brochure for the 2013 Edinburgh International Arts Festival. The sheer variety and depth of presentations was intoxicating, but there was one event I didn’t think I could live without seeing: a bizarre operatic double bill of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, premiered in 1688, and Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartok, premiered 230 years later. I adore both works: the stately beauty of the Purcell, the spellbinding terror of the Bartok, but couldn’t imagine them performed on the same program. There was also the lure of the much-acclaimed director of the double bill, Barrie Kosky, Australian by birth, and creating quite a stir in his first few seasons as artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin. Kosky’s ...

Postcards from China: It's a Wrap in Harbin

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/26/2014 8:00:00 AM

For the twelve members of the Youth and Aficionado Division jury at the Schoenfeld String Competition in Harbin, the contestants who performed for them ranged widely in both talent level and age. Violinist Linda Wang, who studied at the USC Thornton School with Alice Schoenfeld, now teaches at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music when she's not concertizing and appearing at festivals. She tells me it's hard to be objective when brave young children take the stage.

Among a handful of Angelenos competing at the Professional Division level were a pair of USC Thornton School cello students, Benjamin Lash and Hans Kristian Goldstein, both second-year graduate students. Ben made it to the semi-finals. He tells me he was pretty nervous at the beginning of his performance, but relaxed more and more as he dug into the intricacies of Koday's solo cello sonata. Hans Kristian, who powered his way ...

Postcards from China: Rugs and Tigers and Sunsets, Oh My!

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/25/2014 10:44:00 AM

Thursday rug

Jet-lagged upon arrival, I noticed the rug in the elevator had the word "Monday" woven into the fabric. I figured it was one of those somewhat random examples of "Chinglish", and assumed it would be accurate at least one day a week. Didn't really notice the rug again until....you guessed it...Thursday. It is replaced 7 days a week.

Leonard Wang

17 year-old Leonard Chong, a student at Mira Costa High, dazzled the judges with his incendiary rendition in the semi-final round of Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen. But he stalled in the Finals, just missing the top five. Here he's comforted by his accompanist, noted LA pianist Mary Au.

Siberian Tiger Park

At Harbin's Siberian Tiger Park, the people, including violinist And competition juror Linda Wang, are in cages. The tigers roam free....affording some ferociously good views.

Sunset over Harbin Engineering University

Sunset over the campus of Harbin Engineering University, site of the competition, being held for the first time this year in ...

Postcards from China: String Fever in the Final Rounds

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/25/2014 9:00:00 AM

A whirlwind of final rounds in the 2014 Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition here in Harbin, China resulted in a triumphant victor: South Korea.

In both the so-called Professional Divisions, violin and cello, the top two prizes went to musicians from that classical music-obsessed country:  the first prize violinist, Ji-Won Song, studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; the top cello prize went to Ja-Kyoung Huh, incredibly enough, still a student at Seoul Art and Music High School, competing here against graduate students in their mid-20's from top conservatories in China, Germany, England, and the U.S.

As we listened to the high-pressure final rounds, each featuring six or seven poised and  technically brilliant musicians, one thing surprised me: in each case, the winner was so obvious that the announcement was almost anti-climactic.

The phrase I kept hearing repeated by the jurors and other experts in the audience when ...

Postcards from China: A Photo Tour of Harbin From Exotic Food to Young Virtuosi

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/22/2014 11:16:00 AM

This afternoon I travelled with a busload of Schoenfeld String Competition jurors past the Thousand Auspiciousness Sun (not a typo) Department Store on a field trip to see some sights in the bustling city of Harbin, where the competition, the brainchild of LA Philharmonic violinist Suli Xue, a former pupil of Alice Schoenfeld, is taking place.

Suli tells me Harbin's identity as a "music city" really began when Russian émigrés came across the nearby border here in Northeastern China to build the Trans-Siberian Railway at the turn of the 20th century. Harbin was also a base of operations for the Russian military at that time, and soon thereafter became a haven for refugees after the 1917 Revolution. It is this Russian influence that led to the founding here of China's first symphony orchestra and first music school, the Glazounov Conservatory. When Russian-Chinese relations faltered, and many Russians left Harbin, the ...

Postcards from China: Benefits & Drawbacks of the Chinese Conservatory System

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/21/2014 10:57:00 AM

Major classical music competitions are above all a numbers game. Here at the 2014 Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition in Harbin, China, 22 violinists and 20 cellists from around the world took part in the semi-final round of the contest over the last several very intense days. Thirteen jurors, all eminent string players, conductors and teachers (including 93-year-old Alice Schoenfeld herself), attach a single point value from 1 to 10 to each of the three pieces the contestant performs in this round. The musicians are not judged in disparate categories, such as technique, expressivity, quality of sound. That single score encompasses every aspect of their performance. The judges also provide a simple yes or no as to whether the contestant in question should advance to the finals (American Idol meets the Paganini Caprices for Solo Violin!) The six musicians with the highest scores theoretically advance to the finals, ...

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