August 16, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Closing thoughts on Cal Opera: I attended Sunday afternoon's performance of "Cosi fan Tutte," the closing show of California Opera summer festival.I'm glad I did. This annual opera festival, led with such animation and dedication by Edna Garabedian, has become a local treasure. While my schedule precludes me from attending all the performances, I was able to catch two of them this year -- and talked to several opera lovers who made it to far more than that. Some closing thoughts:
WONDERFUL VENUES. Both the Fresno Art Museum's Bonner Auditorium, where the festival held its smaller productions, and the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis, where two fully staged productions were performed, are perfect fits. This was the first Cal Opera production I'd seen in the Mercedes Edwards Theatre, and the size of the house, the full orchestra pit and the ability to fly backdrops in and out of scenes added tremendously to the experience of "Cosi fan Tutte."
A WARM, COZY "COSI." I loved the nifty set pieces and scenic design for this famous Mozart opera, which Garabedian playfully set in the 1950s. There were two major set pieces: a '50s-style diner (complete with red and yellow plastic dispensers on the table for ketchup and mustard); and a beach scene featuring two ingenious "cabanas" made of camping equipment. I loved the details, from the styrofoam ice chests to the little umbrella drinks. The costumes, too -- from poodle skirts to outrageous biker duds for the scheming Guglielmo and Ferrando -- were very well done. From a visual and technical standpoint, the show looked great, and thanks to conductor Leanna Sterios-Primiani and pianist Aarne Kela, it sounded great, too.
STRONG "COSI" PERFORMERS. My favorite among the talented cast was bass-baritone Matthew Acuff (pictured), whose strong voice and comic acting skills elevated every scene he was in. Suzanna Mizell as Firodiligi and Elisabeth Russ as Despina likewise delivered not only strong vocals but consistently accomplished acting. It was fun to see Fresno State student Constantine Pappas get to goof it up with his hammy (and well sung) Guglielmo, and Christopher Anderson West had some nice moments as the "biker dude" Ferrando and Alexandra Jerinic as the flighty Dorabella.
GREAT VOICEOVERS. I'm not sure who read the synopsis of each act beforehand, but it was a very smart move. Not only was the text witty and informative, it was delivered in a droll tone that matched the feel of the opera...
A THUNDERING "BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE." The other Cal Opera production I caught this festival was Bartok's one-act "Bluebeard's Castle," held at the Fresno Art Museum. Though this was a much smaller and more intimate production than "Cosi," I was impressed by the meticulous preparation of the singers and the obvious care in staging. Baritone Nicolaus Schiffman gave a chilling performance as the gloomy Bluebeard, and Angelina Billington gave a crisp performance as his latest doomed bride. I liked how the creepiness of this psychologically-oriented drama just sort of seeped into the audience.
HISTORIAN EXTRAORDINAIRE: I want to say a few words in appreciation of Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas, the historian and co-director of California Opera, whose fascinating mini-lectures before each production add a whole another intellectual dimension to the experience. It's obvious that Sfekas-Karvelas -- who revels in her "Greekness" -- is a heavy-hitting thinker, and her grasp of aesthetic movements and ability to contextualize different operas within larger chronological and societal trends is really impressive. Every time she gets up to speak, my brain gets excited.
WHAT A GEM. California Opera has a wonderful sense of scale. Even its fully staged shows seem intimate and exciting. I love that Garabedian's commitment to young artists -- and giving them a chance to perform -- has found a niche in Fresno. Each and every year, I encourage first-timers to give a Cal Opera production a try. That's a tune I hope I'll be singing for a long time to come.
August 15, 2011 - The Opera Critic, Jane Snow: Silly, wacky humor with a dose of clever antics …The California Opera performed Cosi fan tutte Sunday, August 14, 2011 at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. Silly, wacky humor with a dose of clever antics was in abundance throughout this finale production, concluding nine different performances of the California Opera’s 12th annual summer festival. The summer opera festival theme was a trip around the world, with fully staged one act operas, concert presentations, and two different mainstage operas, each representing a different country. California Opera’s closing festival finale, Cosi fan tutte, opera buffa from Mozart, was a wonderful twist on his 1790 classic, staged in the Fabulous 50s, with a slice of Americana. In the impressionable age of the 1950s, in which innocence and fidelity were perhaps taken more seriously than they are today, we still find the image of the “good girl” and “bad boy” as iconic figures, which California Opera played up in Cosi fan tutte to retain its comic nature.
The two striking female leads, Suzanna Mizell and Alexandra “Alix” Jerinic, are newcomers to the roles, but performed as stage veteran’s. Soprano Suzanna Mizell easily earned audience approval as the Fiordligi with her expressive passion and stunningly flexible voice. Mezzo-soprano Alix Jerinic as Dorabella is a delightful singer and her comedic acting shined with star quality. There is a magnificence of the two lead voices both with each other, with Despina and with the men that blended together well and they were convincingly naïve and charming. And then there’s the magnificence of the two very funny characters of tenor Christopher Anderson West as Ferrando, and baritone Constantine Pappas as Guglielmo. Constantine Pappas is known for handsome vocals that easily fill a hall, superb timing and a seemingly innate ability to entertain and amuse both on and off a stage, while Christopher Anderson West was very touching as the softer side of the duo, delivering a sympathetic, heart-felt, passionate performance. In disguise as “1950s bikers,” complete with jeans, leather jackets and an Elvis Presley style hairpiece, the two men were sensationally wacky. The cast performed as an expert sextet of fun, slapstick action.
The 1950s era sit-com “Laverne and Shirley” comes to mind when reflecting on the performance. With Suzanna Mizell (Fiordiligi) as Laverne, Alix Jerinic (Dorabella) as Shirley, Christopher Anderson West (Ferrando) as Lenny, and Constantine Pappas (Guglielmo) as Squiggy, Elisabeth Russ as Despina was reminiscent of Mrs. Babish and Matthew Acuff as Don Alfonso was more of the Frank DiFazio type.
California Opera director Edna Garabedian always puts together a talent-balanced cast. This production was delivered in Italian which at first thought might seem to clash with a 1950s Americana theme, but the performance again fondly reminded me of the American sit-coms translated into foreign language for European broadcast. The performance scenes were introduced and narrated by stage-set-technical director Rick Adamson, which informed listeners seamlessly during scene changes, and allowed audiences to enjoy the performers rather than reading supertitles.
August 12, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro -California Opera gears up for its big summer festival finale with performances today, Saturday and Sunday. In today's 7 section I give a rundown of the weekend's big production, "Cosi fan Tutte" which will be performed 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. If you're a musical-theater fan, consider tonight's "From Sea to Shining Sea," 7 p.m. at the Fresno Art Museum, which showcases favorite American works of musical theatre, operetta, and American opera composers.
August 8, 2011 –The Opera Critic, Jane Snow: Marvelous, simply marvelous…. During the first mainstage production of the 2011 Cal Opera Festival, where opera director Edna Garabedian launched nine different opera productions in a three week period, Lucia di Lammermoor made a return to the festival’s fully staged agenda. The grandeur of the performance was made possible by the return of the opera to the MET in Clovis. Avoiding going over the top and being too “operatic,” conductor Leanna Sterios-Primiani led the cast and orchestra masterfully, sensitive to and communicating the “traditions” of the opera’s past. She drove the performance, admirably sustaining the atmosphere of tireless tension throughout.
Lucia — that supremely expressive diva who weeps, collapses, trembles and is often “beside herself with misery and fear” is delivered by a fine, tensely eerie Jamie Bonetto, imploring an empathy for the heroine’s degradation. Jamie Bonetto still impresses in coloratura and rises to the score’s climactic moments, sounding convincingly distraught. The manipulative brother Enrico, sung richly and acted with devious candor by baritone Limuel Forgey, was stylish and Forgey’s silvery tones appeared effortless in the delivery of his heartless demands.
Tenor Zachary Sheely was powerful, warm, and rock-solid in every range as Lucia’s lover, Edgardo. One of the best roles of his youthful career, he surpasses the challenge of showcasing the voice as beautifully trained and perfectly placed. In this performance, Donizetti’s tomb scene ending the opera made sense through Sheely’s vocal elegance, and impassioned delivery. Zachary Sheely compelled the audience to believe this was the story of Edgardo’s tragedy, not just Lucia’s, as he sent home audiences remembering those tenderly eloquent last words.
The supporting roles were also masterfully delivered by newcomers to the stage. Mezzo-soprano Bryn Alisa Riley, developed her character portrayal of the blind handmaiden, Alisa, demonstrating beautifully flexible vocals and an empathetic dramatic performance. Nicolaus Schiffman imparted compassion as the well-meaning chaplain Raimondo. Arturo, the arranged husband Lucia murders, was performed by Korean tenor Seung Beak Shin, making his American mainstage debut as a charming, hopeful young suitor. Nineteen-year-old singing sensation, Ricky Garcia, powered the role of Normando, appearing far beyond his years in vocal ability and stage command.
California Opera’s sets and lighting design conjured a mood reminiscent of a magical world, setting a romantically dark and misty mood. Artistic Director, Edna Garabedian has a way of blending an international cast of distinct voices into an unblemished ensemble. About the setext, opera Historian Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas comments, “the sextet is architecturally impressive and thrilling. Opera's most characteristic convention is the ensemble, in which several protagonists sing together, each one expressing one’s innermost thoughts at the same time. This is a high point in the opera and the strength of that dramatic impact is unparalleled. A fascinating statement made by Victor Hugo who had no special love for opera is especially illuminating. He heard Verdi's Rigoletto for the first time and exclaimed, ‘This is marvelous, simply marvelous! Ah, if I only could in my play, make four people talk simultaneously in a way that the public would understand the words and the varying sentiments!’ In the words of Victor Hugo, California Opera’s most recent production of Lucia di Lammermoor is marvelous, simply marvelous!
August 11, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: The California Opera Association's summer arts and education festival gears up for a strong finish Sunday with a fully staged production of Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutte." Here's a rundown on that show and two other smaller performances this weekend:
"Cosi fan Tutte" is a cheery romp, first staged in 1790, focusing on two men, engaged to two sisters, who place a bet that the women will remain faithful while they're off to war. Things get complicated from there. Let's just say that with the usual translation of the title in terms of the constancy of women -- it loosely means "All women are like that" -- the gender issues are problematic.
This is an example of "opera buffa," which dominated the 18th century. It is characterized by everyday settings, local dialects, and simple vocal writing, often featuring the basso-buffo voice type, often the center of the comedic action, says Diane Nixon, executive director of California Opera. "Whereas 'opera seria' was a lavish entertainment that was both made for and depicted kings and nobility, opera buffa was made for and depicted common people with more common problems"...
Artistic director Edna Garabedian is setting the production in the 1950s, a period of American history "in which innocence and fidelity were perhaps taken more seriously than they are today," Nixon says. "In the impressionable age of the 1950s, we still find the image of the 'good girl' and 'bad boy' as iconic figures." The singers will be in period dress appropriate to the era.
Principal singers include San Francisco-based artists Suzanna Mizell (a coloratura soprano) and Alexandra Jerinic (a mezzo-soprano), Fresno State baritone Constantine Pappas and Southern California tenor Christopher Anderson West.
The festival includes two smaller-scale shows this weekend as part of the Bonner Auditorium Summer Opera Series at the Fresno Art Museum.. showcasing their favorite American works of musical theatre, operetta, and American opera composers. The "Festival Finale" at 7 p.m. Saturday is a tribute to Verdi, with staged excerpts of "Othello," "Aida," "Un Ballo in Maschera," "Macbeth" and "Don Carlos." ...
August 5, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: The big production this weekend is California Opera's "Lucia di Lammermoor," which is 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis... The mainstage production features a cast of more than 40 ...There are also two smaller-scale productions at the Fresno Art Museum this weekend...
August 4, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Opera 'Lammermoor' tells tale of betrayal - California Opera's summer arts and education festival, which is in full swing, thinks both big and small. On one hand, the festival is featuring intimate one-act productions in its series at Fresno Art Museum. (Two such performances are scheduled today and Saturday.) On the other, the festival is presenting two big mainstage shows at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. The first is "Lucia di Lammermoor," a fully staged production that will be performed 2 p.m. Sunday with a 12-piece orchestra.
We caught up with conductor Leanna Sterios-Primiani via email to talk a little about the opera and herself. She tells us "It is a true story told by amazing singers that will leave the audience breathless. It is one of the greatest operatic works ever written."
Give us a brief synopsis.
Basically, Lucia is in love with Edgardo, her brother's arch enemy. Due to mismanagement of the Lammermoor estate, the brother decides to marry her off to a rich land owner, Arturo, to save the family. To do this, they lie to Lucia and tell her that her first love, Edgardo, has betrayed her. Heartbroken, she agrees to the wedding, but at the signing of the marriage contract, Edgardo breaks in. When Lucia realizes she's been lied to, she goes crazy and she kills Arturo in their wedding bed, then she dies of a broken heart. Upon hearing this news, Edgardo kills himself, but not until he sings one killer aria.
Talk a little about the famous "mad scene."
Well, put yourself in Lucia's shoes. She's just been "sold" by her brother to a man she doesn't love based on a lie. When she finds out that her own brother betrayed her, she goes crazy and kills her husband in their wedding bed. The scene begins after his death, when Lucia comes on stage, bloody from her outrageous act, still carrying the knife she killed him with. She starts to sing about the wonderful wedding she just had with Edgardo, as she is hallucinating that she married Edgardo and not Arturo. It just goes downhill from there. [Gaetano] Donizetti was great at writing mad characters, as he himself suffered from bouts of madness throughout his life. I believe that is why this scene is so effective.
For those unfamiliar with your own Fresno background, give us a brief rundown.
My maiden name is Sterios, and my family has been in Fresno since the turn of the century. My grandfather, Dee Sterios, owned the Pleasanton Cafe. (I'm sure many old Fresnans would remember this landmark). I went through the Fresno public school system and got a great education, both academically and musically. I also had fabulous private teachers, Carol Oaks and Janette Erickson especially, who prepared me for my time at the Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Institute and later earning a doctorate at USC.
What has Cal Opera meant to the local scene?
You don't have enough room for me to talk about Cal Opera. The one person who has made this all possible is Edna Garabedian.
She is a marvel how she has grown this opera company into one of the best in California. The level of musicianship is extremely high, and everyone who participates grows immensely as an artist. Edna has given me the chance to conduct major operatic works that conductors my age would never get to perform.
She has helped me so much and has made me who I am today as a musician. I will always be grateful to her.
July 30, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Fresno's cultural scene sizzles for summer - Each year, the California Opera Association's summer arts and education festival brings an astonishing number of public performances to local audiences – and they're all free. (Donations are cheerfully accepted, of course.) Artistic director Edna Garabedian, who through sheer willpower and the myriad connections she still maintains in the opera world after a career as an international diva, manages year after year to bring an intriguing blend of up-and-coming voices to Fresno, often joined by distinguished faculty members with a wealth of performing experience.
This year the festival settles into two venues: the Bonner Auditorium at the Fresno Art Museum; and the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. If you're interested in big-scale, fully-staged works, then the Mercedes Edwards productions are probably for you. "Lucia de Lammermoor," which will be performed 2 p.m. Aug. 7, features two well-known California Opera names in leading roles: Zachary Sheely and Jamie Bonetto. I've listened to both over the years, and they just keep getting better.
"Così fan tutte," which will be performed 2 p.m. Aug. 14, also at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre, will feature San Francisco soprano Suzanna Mizell (who was stellar in last year's "The Medium") in a leading role along with festival newcomer Alix Jerinic.
Along with the fully-staged productions, there's a lot to admire in the more intimate shows staged at the Fresno Art Museum as part of the festival's Free Summer Opera Series. Here you get a chance to experience lesser-known one-act titles.
At 2 p.m. today, you can catch Bela Bartok's only opera, "Bluebeard's Castle," featuring Angelina Billington and Nicolaus Schiffman. This week's schedule includes "Destination Deutschland" at 7 p.m. Friday, highlighting Erich Wolfgang Korngold's 1920 one-act opera "The Dead City," and "An Evening in Memory" at 7 p.m. Saturday, highlighting Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers."
Whatever the performance, I encourage any and all opera fans to experience the homespun warmth and dedication of the participants in this annual festival. And if you aren't an opera fan, consider expanding your horizons. You might like what you hear.
July 29, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: PUT A LITTLE OPERA IN YOUR LIFE - The best opera deal in town returns as California Opera Association's performance-packed summer festival opens 7 p.m. today with a "Festival Artists Showcase" at the Fresno Art Museum...and two fully staged operas at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis ...Below, Zachary Sheely -- who will star in this year's "Lucia de Lamermoor" -- is pictured in last year's "Madama Butterfly."
July 28, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Cal Opera summer fest set to begin - A roster of familiar local faces, international names and up-and-coming students will greet audiences at the 12th annual California Opera Association summer arts and education festival. Here's a rundown:
The premise: Under the artistic direction of Edna Garabedian, Fresno's acclaimed diva, California Opera embarks on an ambitious multiweek schedule of training and public performances for younger artists, collegiate-level standouts and young professional singers hoping to get that extra bit of star firepower to succeed in an intensely competitive market.
The singers: They include local talents such as Zachary Sheely, Jamie Bonetto and Limuel Forgey, regional professionals such as Bay Area-based Suzanna Mizell and Alix Jerinic, and international singers such as Korean tenor Seung Beak Shin and British soprano Angelina Billington.
The faculty: Garabedian, who returned to her hometown of Fresno after a distinguished international career, draws extensively on her ties in the opera world to recruit faculty members. Many return year after year, including such familiar names to festival attendees as Jonathan Khuner, Leanna Sterios-Primiani and Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas. This year the festival has a special collaboration with IUMA Artists Management, based in Rome, represented by Chris Francesconi Catena.
The format: There are two tracks of public performances. The Summer Opera Series, sponsored by the Bonner Family Foundation, will be held at the Fresno Art Museum and includes seven performances starting Friday and running through Aug. 13. The other track is two fully staged performances at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis: "Lucia di Lammermoor" at 2 p.m. Aug. 7; and "Così fan tutte" at 2 p.m. Aug. 14...
MAY 4, 2011 MyShara - Rafu Shimpo - FRESNO — The internment of Japanese Americans has been depicted in a variety of ways, including novels, films and stage plays. A new interpretation — an opera — was recently presented in downtown Fresno.
The West Coast premiere of “The Sisters of Manzanar” played to a packed house at the Warnors Center for the Performing Arts on May 1. Sponsored by the Central California District Council of the JACL and the California Opera Association, it served as a fundraiser for the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial.
Special guests included actor/activist George Takei, who gave a talk about the internment following the performance.
On a stage lined with guard towers like those of the World War II camps, the Clovis Heiwa Taiko Drummers opened the program. Anchor/reporter Monty Torres of KMPH Fox 26 sang the national anthem.
George Takata of CBS 47, a popular sportscaster, welcomed the audience and talked about his own ties to the internment — his grandfather, Tateo, served in the military while his fellow Japanese Americans were being held behind barbed wire. “Can you imagine what he was going through, fighting for our country?” he asked.
Calling the event “a very important day of remembrance for our Japanese American culture,” Takata asked all of the former internees in the audience to stand up and be recognized.
The composer of “Sisters of Manzanar,” Paul Stuart, came from New York to attend the premiere. His operas include “Kill Bear Comes Home” and “The Little Thieves of Bethlehem,” and he previously worked with the California Opera Association as the conductor for “Hansel und Gretel.” In 2003, while developing the Manzanar opera, he wrote, “By understanding history we understand our failures. By understanding our failures we may overcome our failures. And by overcoming our failures we improve our humanity.”
With Dr. Leanna Sterios-Primiani conducting the orchestra, the opera featured dramatic soprano Miwako Isano as Amy Nomura and soprano Lori Rohrs as her sister Lana. Isano, a resident of San Francisco and a graduate of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Vocal Music, played the title role of “Madama Butterfly” in the California Opera’s 2010 festival finale at the Met. Rohrs, who is of Japanese ancestry, is a New York resident and recently made her Carnegie Hall and New City Opera debuts. Her credits include the lead role in “Die Zauberfl?te” (The Magic Flute), which she will be performing in Italy with the Tuscia Operafestival.
The sisters must cope with the injustice of internment despite being loyal Americans. The country’s political climate is conveyed through visuals and voiceovers representing advocates of internment — President Franklin Roosevelt, Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi, Henry McLemore of the San Francisco Examiner, and California Attorney General Earl Warren.
Amy is raising her son, Robby (played by Ethan Nicolas Kuroda), at Manzanar while her husband, Makoto (voiced by KGPE’s Takata), serves with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe. She worries about her husband’s safety and the welfare of her son in the camp, where dust storms are frequent and the food is terrible.
One of the songs is about the many ways to prepare liver, which was often served in camp along with other organ meats. Another song focuses on a camp dance, where internees tried to forget their troubles.
The songs also reveal personal issues between the sisters. Lana was in love with Makoto, but he married Amy when she became pregnant. Amy is fearful that Lana will win Makoto back.
Tragedy strikes when Robby suddenly becomes ill and dies. Amy is overcome with grief, and is convinced that Makoto, who is coming home from the war, unaware of Robby’s death, will leave her when he finds out. Despite Lana’s assurances that she will not interfere in the marriage, the sisters have a falling-out.
In the final aria, Amy asks, “Why do the guns point at me?”
Lana, addressing the audience, says, “And at Camp Manzanar there was dust — everywhere.”
A replica of the memorial maker in the Manzanar cemetery, which had been lowered onto the set during the final part of the opera, served as the backdrop as French-Japanese dancer/choreographer Monique Tajiri-Goldwater performed a Japanese dance.
Paul Saito, chairman of the Sisters of Manzanar Steering Committee, said that in addition to his roles on “Star Trek” and, currently, “Supah Ninjas” on Nickelodeon, “Mr. Takei is also involved in a lot of human rights causes. He’s very supportive of cultural arts, and he’s done PSAs for the Japan relief fund, so he’s kept very busy.”
The day before the premiere, Saito took Takei and his husband, Brad Altman, on a tour that included the former sites of the Fresno Assembly Center and the Pinedale Assembly Center, where some 10,000 local Nikkei were held before being sent to War Relocation Center camps further inland.
The Pinedale memorial was dedicated in 2009. The Fresno memorial, located at the Fresno Fairgrounds, is about 60 percent completed. It includes a plaza, planters, landscaping, an interpretive wall, and banners. According to Dale Ikeda, chair of the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial Upgrade Committee, about $30,000 needs to be raised to complete the storyboards, fountain, iron work and donor brick border. The goal is to dedicate the memorial at the opening of the Big Fresno Fair on Oct. 5...
Takei commented, “I was very impressed by the work that’s been … It’s as beautiful as it is enlightening.” While watching “Sisters of Manzanar,” he said, “I was struck by how far we’ve come from that dark chapter of American history. We saw this magnificent opera, an opera that was very moving … Lori Rohrs, who played the younger sister Lana, is a granddaughter of internees. There’s a direct connection between today and history …
“At the beginning, George Takata asked internees to stand up, and I looked around and I saw a good number of internees. They were the ones who survived all of the anguish and the pain and the loss of that unjust incarceration, and how far they’ve come from those days"...
Edna Garabedian, artistic director of the California Opera Association, called the event “a dream come true. It has taken us 10 years to have this beautiful day happen. I really think that the success is for our community, our country … As long as I’m here on this earth, I will be marching forward for justice."
Marcia Chung, JACL’s Central California District governor, thanked everyone who made the “beautifully told opera” possible and closed by saying, “It is with honor and respect that we acknowledge those brave Issei and Nisei … who paved the way for us today.”
A VIP reception followed down the street at Frank’s Place, where the sopranos sang and Takei signed autographs for his fans.
May 2, 2011 - Donald Munro, Fresno Bee - Remembering Manzanar:
The California Opera Association and the local chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League combined for a notable local even Sunday at the Warmor's Theatre. The topic: the forced internment during World War II of U.S. citizens of Japanese origin. Funds raised went toward a memorial at the Fresno Fairgrounds, which was used as an assembly center to round up internees.
Actor/activist George Takei said it best in a rousing keynote speech when he noted that bad decisions can be made in democracies -- but only by learning from those decisions can we make sure they're never repeated.
Takei's speech -- delivered without notes and with passion -- touched upon his young childhood spent in the camps. (He remembers as a 5-year-old the day soldiers came to take his family away to an assembly center in Los Angeles, and he recalls with a shudder the "vultures" -- neighbors waiting to loot the house -- standing by.) But while his personal memories were powerful, it was his eloquent musings on the nature of U.S. democracy that were most stirring. It's all about change, from the abolition of slavery to the advancement of women, he said. Democracies are only as good as the people who comprise them. In that regard, we're all agents of change. What struck me most about his address was the lack of bitterness. Instead, Takei said, Japanese-Americans have helped make this country great instead of turning their backs on it.
All in all, the afternoon was a rousing mix of art and history -- and one that should make organizers proud....The Clovis Heiwa Taiko Drummers kicked off the program with a rousing "call to seats" program. That was followed by the artistic centerpiece of the afternoon: a performance of "The Sisters of Manzanar," an original one-act opera about the Japanese internment. The opera tells the story of two sisters held at the desolate Manzanar internment camp in California's Owens Valley. Amy (sung by Miwako Isano) is the older, married sister, with a husband in the U.S. Army (one of the great ironies of the internment story is that so many courageous Japanese-American soldiers fought for a country that kept their families behind the bars) and a small son. Lana (Lori Rohrs) is younger and more carefree, but it turns out there's some serious baggage here: She is in love with Amy's husband...
Composer Paul Stuart's music is graceful, lyrical and potent...Rohrs, as the younger sister, was strong and sure in the role, and her diction was clear and precise clear to the back of the Warnors...Isano has a tenderness that works well with supremely sad roles such as this one...set design was simple but evocative, with enormous wooded watchtowers on stage and in the audience establishing a somber, institutional feel. (In a clever touch, one of the watchtowers straddled the center aisle, requiring audience members to pass under it while walking to their seats.)...Two screens on stage featured an ever-changing array of historical photos, including portraits and shots of the camps themselves. It was a grand idea...
April 29, 2011 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Bitter experience becomes art in 'Sisters of Manzanar' - They sent us to Manzanar," the woman sings. "Where gales blow stinging dust and eight machine-gunned turrets tower above barbed wire. They gave us a cot, a blanket, a room in the barracks where dust blows through the cracks. And tar paper covers the roof."
It's not exactly the subject matter of a typical opera you'd see in Fresno.
Paul Stuart's "The Sisters of Manzanar," which has its world premiere Sunday at the Warnors Center for the Performing Arts, tackles a thorny historical issue: the internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in camps during World War II.
The contemporary opera tells the story of two sisters in one of those camps, the notorious Manzanar Relocation Center, located in California's Owens Valley.
Much has been written about the Japanese-American internments, but this opera -- which Stuart published in 2002 -- focuses more tightly on the emotional and family trauma that resulted.
"Everyone always talks about the monetary issues, the materialistic losses, that occurred when people were sent to the camps," says Edna Garabedian, artistic director of the California Opera Association. "But you never hear about the human losses."
California Opera first staged excerpts of the one-act opera, which has a running time of about 50 minutes, at its 2009 summer festival.
Now the company has teamed up with the Fresno Japanese American Citizens League to produce the opera as a fundraiser to benefit the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial, which is in the final phase of completion at the Big Fresno Fairgrounds.
Fresno had two assembly centers -- facilities to which Japanese-Americans were ordered to report in transit to the internment camps.
Along with the opera, Sunday's program includes a pre-show by the Clovis Heiwa Taiko Drummers and a post-show keynote address by actor George Takei.
For Garabedian, "Manzanar" is an opportunity to do one of her favorite things: champion new operas.
"So many composers write their operas and never see the whole thing staged," she says.
Stuart, a composer and conductor whose original operas in English include "Kill Bear Comes Home" and "The Little Thieves of Bethlehem," which was nominated for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize, has participated in California Opera summer events in the past. He's been hands-off in terms of the creative process for the upcoming premiere but does plan to fly in from the East Coast for the performance.
The opera is small, with two singers and three speaking roles. Garabedian tapped soprano Miwako Isano for the lead role of Amy, the older sister. Isano performed the title role in California Opera's "Madama Butterfly" last year and has performed throughout Japan, England, Italy and the U.S.
She's joined by soprano Lori Rohrs, who recently made her Carnegie Hall and New City Opera debuts. She plays Lana, the younger sister.
The story line follows the impact of the internment on Amy, especially, as she worries about her absent husband (a recorded spoken performance from local TV news personality George Takata), who's serving in the U.S. Army, and the welfare of her young son.
"It's very, very emotional," Isano says.
Though the opera is considered contemporary, that shouldn't scare away audience members who might associate that style with "hard to listen to," says music director Leanna Sterios-Primiani, who will be conducting Sunday's 14-piece chamber orchestra at the Warnors.
"It's very tonal, very lyrical," she says. "Think American Puccini."
The most important thing, Garabedian says, is that opera can speak to powerful themes in a way that can heal old wounds.
"I always say that you have to ask what opera can do for the community, not what the community can do for opera," she says.
April 12, 2011 - The California Report - Reporter: Sasha Khokha - Manzanar Opera Opens in Fresno - An unusual opera makes its West Coast debut this weekend in Fresno. Composer Paul Stuart's "The Sisters of Manzanar" tells the story of two sisters held in a California internment camp during World War II...
August 5, 2010 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Notes for the final weekend of the California Opera Association's annual festival ... mounting a full-scale opera with all the attendant hoopla -- principal singers, chorus, costumes, sets, conductor -- is quite a challenge. Try two in one weekend. Edna Garabedian, the indefatigable artistic director of Cal Opera, has always positioned the company's annual summer festival and institute as a training ground for advanced young singers. Many of them already have extensive vocal educations, but Garabedian is trying to prepare them for the next phase of a career: how to prepare for auditions, what to wear, how to choose roles.Part of being a marketable singer is the ability to sing one leading role on one night -- and turn around and sing another one just a couple of days later. That's why Garabedian has programmed two major works for the last weekend of the festival: "La Traviata" tonight; and "Madama Butterfly" on Sunday, both at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. Nearly all the institute's singers are in both fully staged productions.This is the first year the festival has two big titles performing in one weekend. Why wait till this year? Simple. Because she thinks her singers can, Garabedian says. "I felt they were capable of doing this," she says. "If they're going to be successful professionals, it's going to be something they have to do." One of the Valley voices audiences will hear at this weekend's "Traviata" and "Butterfly" is Limuel Forgey, 38, of Visalia. It's his first year at the institute, but his rich Verdi baritone -- he can sing quite high -- is well known, especially in the South Valley, where he sang in Jon Rainbow's original works "The Scarlet Letter" and "Crime and Punishment." Forgey leads the music ministry at Christ Lutheran Church in Visalia. He's tackling the role of Germont in "Traviata" and Sharpless in "Butterfly." This is turning out to be a pivotal year for Forgey. He's been working with Garabedian, who raves about his voice. Opera is a family affair for him: He's been making the trek up to Fresno for 12-hour rehearsal days with his wife, Chavaleh, and three children, ages 6-12. His wife sings in the chorus. "We're all in this together," he says.
Another featured opera "marathoner," if you will, is tenor Zachary Sheely of Lemoore, whom Cal Opera audiences have watched over almost a decade grow from a fresh-faced college grad to a mature singer seriously contemplating auditioning for roles in Europe. "It's time," Garabedian says, like a mama bird preparing to launch her youngster from the nest. Sheely, who graduated from Westmont College, spends part of his time helping run his family farm and part as a singer, which he acknowledges as "an interesting combination." But just think of Verdi and Puccini's time, he says -- of all the folks who combined opera and farming back then. He's just keeping a tradition alive. Sheely will sing the role of Alfredo in "Traviata" and Pinkerton in "Butterfly." Now 28, this is his ninth year participating in the festival. His is the kind of voice, he says, that needed to "age a little" before embarking on a true professional career. "I've made sacrifices to stick with opera," he says. "But I think I'm close." For Cal Opera, Saturday is a break between the weekend's fully staged performances. But there's still music to be made. "A Celebration of Life -- Summer Nights," which will be held 7 p.m. at the Fresno Art Museum's Bonner Auditorium... .Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 2, 2010 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: "... Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Medium," performed at the California Opera Association summer festival, was the story of a charlatan psychic who feels a ghostly hand on her throat in the middle of a seance. Was it really the spirit world -- or her guilt at tricking grieving people into believing they could contact their dead relatives? Greek soprano Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas...gave a wonderfully heaving, caustic performance as her character's psyche seemed to unravel on stage before our eyes. She was joined by young soprano Suzanna Mizell, who gave a ravishing performance as the beleaguered daughter...Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 1, 2010 - Fresno Bee Letters: "I thought is was great -- and yes sexy! The tenor gardener [Christopher Anderson West] was really quite amazing as was the princess [Angelina Billington]. It is wonderful to have these budding world class opera stars here in Fresno. I can't wait to see more of them and it will be very interesting to watch their careers. I am sure both of them will have great success... and what actually came of that provocative rehearsal was amazing. This work is challenging, no doubt about it, but the level of intensity that came off the stage, especially from the shell-shocked daughter-character when her father's final act of rage came -- stunning. High praise to the trio that took on this difficult piece. The applause was earned... Thanks to California Opera for raising the bar for the arts in Fresno... and kudos to the Art Museum for offering a great space to experience it! ... I promise there are some future stars here. I go so I can say "I remember when...."
July 31, 2010 - Fresno Bee - Donald Munro: If I titillated you yesterday with my tease-post titled "Sexy Opera," rest assured: Things are a little tamer today at the California Opera Association summer festival. There are two events: At 2 p.m., festival youth participants ages 4 - 16 entertain through popular music blended with opera, operetta, and musical theatre favorites, including scenes from "Funny Girl," "Cinderella," "Dreamgirls," "The Color Purple" and other Disney, Broadway and pop culture hits in this mix of opera, operetta and popular music style presentation. And at 7 p.m., the company presents Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Telephone." Ben (Constantine Pappas) would desperately like to ask Lucy (Suzanna Mizell) to marry him but she is distracted by a technological love rival. The fully staged one act opera is accompanied by scenes from other Menotti operas, including "The Consul" and "The Old Maid and the Thief."
July 30, 2010 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - Sexy Summer Opera: So there I was yesterday, hanging out at rehearsal for the California Opera Association's summer festival, when I saw a steamy preview of a scene from tonight's performance of Thomas Pasatieri's short opera "Padrevia." Let's just say there's going to be some sizzle on stage at the Fresno Art Museum's Bonner Auditorium. (The show starts at 7 p.m.) We're talking far beyond a chaste kiss or two...The libretto is based on a story from Boccaccio's earthy "Decameron," which helps explains the opera's lusty feel. Gismonda (played by Angelina Billington) is a lonely princess cooped up in a castle without much to do but hang out with her doting father (Nicolaus Schiffman). Then she gets the hots for the royal gardener (Christopher Anderson West). There's nothing like tossing together a repressed, cooped-up royal and a guy with dirt under his fingernails to make sparks fly. And with Daddy lurking around the corner, you just KNOW something really bad is going to happen. (If you're squeamish at the thought of hearts getting cut out of sturdy young men and served up in expensive chalices, consider this your warning. But you must not get out in the opera world much.) In a review of a recent production of "Padrevia" on dctheatrescene.com, Rick Westerkamp writes: Thomas Pasatieri's score takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster, from romance and harmony to deception and dissonance. There is not one moment in the production at which music, text, and vocals aren't all working towards the same goal. The collaboration is impeccable. I'd recommend this one for the over-16 crowd. Also on the program tonight: Allison Saleh, a 2006 graduate of Clovis East High School and Biola University, tackles Pasatieri's "Lady Macbeth," which draws its inspiration from the monologues of Shakespeare's "Macbeth."
July 30, 2010 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Opera singers have keen memories when it comes to remembering nitty-gritty details from past auditions, even ones that happened decades ago. You would, too, if you were scrapping for roles against the literally thousands of amazingly talented singers out there trying to make a living in the field. So it's no surprise that Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas, the Greek dramatic soprano who has become a regular fixture at the California Opera Association's annual summer institute and festival -- and who performs this afternoon in her first leading Fresno role -- remembers very distinctly her audition 20 years ago for the role of Madame Flora in Gian Carlo Menotti's short opera "The Medium." In this English-language production, set in the bleakness of post-World War II Budapest, Madame Flora is a scam artist who tries to eke out a living by doing phony seances. But existential woes start to weigh her down -- in her fight to survive in such a wretched world, has she lost all semblance of humanity? -- and it becomes hard for the character to distinguish between fantasy and reality. She starts to crack under the pressure... Sfekas-Karvelas laughs when she tells that story during a rehearsal break ...Which is nice, because she has a hearty, gracious laugh -- the kind you'd expect to emanate from a gregarious singer of Greek heritage. Along with the charm comes a hefty intellect, peppering a conversation as she does with allusions to existentialism, psychological theory and Plato. She says she didn't think much more about "The Medium" until she got an e-mail from Edna Garabedian, California Opera's artistic director, saying she'd be perfect for the role."Ioanna isn't afraid to expand her emotional, artistic horizons," Garabedian says. Another reason why Garabedian wanted her longtime friend and fellow singer in the role was to give a performance opportunity to young soprano Suzanna Mizell, who plays the daughter in "The Medium." Sfekas-Karvelas returns in another performance Saturday with "A Celebration of Life: Summer Nights," the song cycle by Hector Berlioz. This year's festival and institute, which continues through Aug. 8 with short programs and fully staged versions of "Madama Butterfly" and "La Traviata," includes more than 80 vocal students from as far away as Canada and Nicaragua. For Sfekas-Karvelas, those students are the reason she keeps returning to Fresno from Greece every summer -- even though it's hard to tear herself away from the tiny 200-person village where she lives on the island of Lesvos. She started coming to the festival in 2002 and has missed only one since -- in 2006, when her own opera company in Lesvos presented a rare version of a Verdi libretto she unearthed titled "Orietta di Lesbo." She's made good friends here because of the festival, and she finds herself drawn back every year because of the tight artistic bonds she has formed. Those bonds, she muses, remind her of the closeness of her own small town -- and reflect how the concept of community is essential to the nurturing of the human soul."Watching the festival grow, and seeing the effect on the city of Fresno, gives me great joy," she says... Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 26, 2010 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: Looking forward to summer opera: The first event of the California Opera Association's annual festival, which continues through Aug. 8, takes place this evening -- and it's just a taste of things to come. A "Meet and Greet the Artists" dinner event and reception is 6 p.m. at St. George Greek Orthodox Church...The festival picks up steam Friday with a double-bill performance of two one-act operas by modern-day composer Thomas Pasatieri: "Lady Macbeth" and "Padrevia" ...Highlights of this year's festival include Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Medium" and "The Telephone", Verdi's "La Traviata" on Aug. 6 and Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," featuring Visalia baritone Limuel Forgey's Fresno debut, on Aug. 8....Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 8, 2010 - Visalia Delta Times, Jennifer Rincon: Three women, brute force, sublime control, art song, opera -
Opera is the mysterious blending of brute-force vocal power with sublime control. It is one of the rare crafts that is so technically demanding, students must often learn ‘art song’ before they can even tackle opera literature itself.
Anna Sul [one of three]
Sul’s children, meanwhile, were enjoying their outings to Praise Adventures, a children’s music ministry run by Chavaleh Forgey at Christ Lutheran Church in Visalia. Sul’s younger daughter was so enthralled she announced she wanted to become a “seener” (singer). “I heard that Chavaleh gave singing lessons, so I enrolled the girls,” Sul said. “One year later, I started taking lessons, too.”
Forgey... asked Sul to join the chorus, “and it just grew from there. That’s when the California Opera Association needed a chorus — they were doing Amahl and the Night Visitors...” Sul and her fellow singers — some, like her, new to opera — sang in Fresno and with the Kings Symphony at the Hanford Fox Theatre. “That was the most fun,” says Sul. “To sing with a live orchestra.”
Chavaleh Forgey [two of three]
Forgey’s bond to opera could not be more natural. She met her husband, Limuel, or Lim, at Washington State University, where both were singing in Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera, “The Mikado.
Lisa Howell [three of three]
As a college music major, however, Howell was required to study voice. Her voice teacher’s enthusiasm at Simpson University in Redding, California, “gradually rubbed off on me.” Then, in her last year at Simpson, tenor singer Ross Hauck gave a recital and master class. “While Hauck was working with me during the master class, trying to cajole more emotion out of my singing, he started to sing along with me,” says Howell. “I’m not entirely sure what happened, but as his voice intermingled with mine it took my breath away, and that was when I knew that this is what I wanted to do.”
Is there a future for opera in the Valley?
Forgey: “In the case of my husband and me, we’d like to see more performances in Visalia for the simple reason that we enjoy performing.” But, judging from the huge cast and chorus they attracted for their own production of Amahl, and the crowds filling seats to capacity, “…Lim and I both agree that this is what Visalia really needs. As more people get familiar with opera, there will be more interest.”
Howell: “I think there is a prevailing attitude that opera is about fat singers standing up on stage, bellowing at the top of their lungs, with cheesy, melodramatic gestures. People tend to be surprised when they see real, believable characters in powerful dramas that draw them in. I would love for more people to understand opera as an art form that is still relevant, not an antiquated relic.”
What’s next for these singers?
August 3, 2009 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: The title character in "Suor Angelica" has died many, many times in this opera's long history. But it's hard to imagine a performance sticking with me more solidly than Samantha KnJoi's in Sunday's California Opera production at the Shaghoian Concert Hall.
KnJoi, a recent transplant to Fresno from Huntsville, Ala., shoehorned such angst and passion into those dying moments that I heard several audience members gasp. Singing her final aria, she combined anguish with a placid, beatific resignation to her fate. At one point she ended up flat on her back, singing straight up into the rafters of the Shaghoian, and her full voice still soared. In the most exquisite image of the afternoon, a young boy stood near her feet beckoning the dying Angelica forward. Was this her dead son urging her to heaven or a mere hallucination? In the grasp of the ecstasy of her voice, you were hard-pressed to know the difference.
Stage director Edna Garabedian treats opera as a full body experience, that's for sure. I love the flourish and style of her vision, and the way that she can turn the barest of stages into a full-fledged operatic world. Once again, she managed to mount a full festival in Fresno through what seems at times like little more than sheer force of will. "Suor Angelica" was paired on Sunday with "Pagliacci," which offered its own emotional punch. Tenor Zachary Sheely, as Canio, pumped up the anger and jealousy to the hilt as he, too, did his own share of writhing in anguish on the ground. Stephanie Hower, as Nedda, was a graceful and tragic figure, and the key role of the hunchback Tonio, played by a very strong John Minagro, added a forceful darkness to the show. Another thing occurred to me as I watched these two powerful operas back-to-back: I didn't miss not having supertitles at all. Thanks to scholar-singer Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas's expert and beautifully delivered synopses of each production, I found myself enjoying a complete immersion in the music and the moment rather than constantly glancing up to read literal translations of each phrase. One last thought at this wonderful festival comes to a close: I was touched that Maestro Nicola Iacovetti, one of the founding fathers of Fresno's opera scene, was given such a rousing ovation by the audience. (I'd written about him in my Sunday Spotlight column.) One caller left a message with me today noting that while I'd written that Iacovetti and opera history would be a little richer in the process of having him conduct, I'd forgotten something. "We ALL are richer," she said simply.
May 5, 2009 -San Francisco Classical Voice, Karen Anderson: Alcina Encore –“…The authenticity from the orchestra more than rubbed off on the cast: There was a magic flood of embellishment, ornamentation, terraced dynamics — the whole nine yards. Alcina veterans Karen Anderson (in the title role), Elspeth Franks (Ruggiero), Heidi Waterman (Bradamante), and Boyd Jarrell (Melisso) were joined by outstanding newcomers Brian Thorsett (Oronte) and Ayelet Cohen (Morgana). Cohen, a recent graduate from the S.F. Conservatory, impressed with a big voice… exceptional technique…remarkable with a performance both fresh-voiced and Baroque-authentic…”
April 23, 2009 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: “When 'The Soloist' opens on big screens today, you won't see Boris Nixon's face. But you'll be sure to see his hands. Nixon, who is music director of the Fresno-based California Opera Association, served as a "hand body double" for Jamie Foxx's character in the film. His hands are featured in several scenes that were filmed on the street outside the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Nixon spent ...several weeks in costume fittings, hand comparisons and make-up sessions during the winter of 2007 and spring of 2008... The cellist will perform, along with other Central Valley student and professional string players...for the movie's opening to bring attention to the needs of the homeless and mentally ill in the community. …Representatives from the National Alliance on the Mentally Ill and Need Help Now publications will be on hand to answer questions and offer information…”Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
April 13, 2009 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Carnegie Hall is a busy place these days when it comes to Fresno connections. Contralto Sharmay Musacchio, a graduate of Roosevelt High School, is making her debut tonight in New York with a concert with the New England Symphonic Ensemble. She'll sing Vivaldi's Gloria in D major. Musacchio has soloed with … California Opera Association…She performed Dido in "Les Troyens," Meg Page in "Falstaff," Pauline in "The Queen of Spades," Tigrana in "Edgar," and Tisbe in "La Cenerentola" …She covered The Dragon role in "Grendel" and debuted (as one of the maidens) in Los Angeles Opera's production of "The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," which won two Grammys in 2009…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
March 6-16, 2009 - Fresno Bee - "Opera Association will host fundraiser meeting - The California Opera Association will hold a fundraiser meeting noon-3 p.m. Saturday at a private residence..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 31, 2008 – Valley Conservatory, Huntsville, Alabama: “…In 2009 she [Samantha Knjoi] will accept a year-round appointment with the California Opera Association, coaching with Edna Garabedian, and debut in a leading role...”
November 14, 2008 – Fresno Bee – Meet the new met “…An estimated 2,000 people crowded into the downtown museum … Those in attendance included local dignitaries, such as Mayor Alan Autry, and students …curious newcomers and old friends...well conceived and well-executed ...California Opera on the outdoor stage, located in the newly redesigned, beautifully landscaped courtyard......Good job to all who had a hand in this project...” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
October 2008 • Vol. 30, No. 1 (103) - Hye Sharzhoom, Staff Report: “…Mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian performed several works. Garabedian is a native Fresnan and an acclaimed performer, who has sung in concerts all over the world...California Opera, founded in May 2000…” View full article at http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/hye_sharzhoom
September 26 - October 24, 2008 - Fresno Bee - Hanford Sentinel - Coalinga Record - "... Leonard Ingrande brings an abundance of experience and knowledge to the podium...He is a native of San Diego and graduated from the University of Southern California, under the mentoring of artists such as Bernardo Segal and Daniel Lewis. Ingrande also is a champion of contemporary music and has premiered works by James Hobbs, David Ward-Steinman, Mark Watters and the late Paul Creston..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive or http://nl.newsbank.com/sites/hsca/
August 29, 2008 - Donald Munro, Fresno Bee: William Saroyan gets a birthday party - "...The highlight of the concert was a performance by the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia led by Aram Gharabekian... Fresno opera icon Edna Garabedian, dolled up in two knockout concert gowns (including a cream-colored beauty whose bodice suggested "Venus on the Half Shell"), offered several strong arias by Xavier Montsalvatge...The audience reception was enthusiastic -- even wildly so, which was no surprise ..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 29, 2008 - Armenian News Bulletin - "...State Senator Dave Cogdill introduced the Senate Resolution to honor ... the many cultural contributions Armenian Americans have made to California over the last 100 years. The resolution was passed unanimously by both chambers of the legislature … world renowned Mezzo Soprano Edna Garabedian ...” View the full article at agbu.org/newsbulletin
August 28, 2008 - Cross Road, Armenian Prelacy - "This evening in Fresno ... the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, with Aram Gharabekian conducting, and featuring mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian… at the William Saroyan Theater at Fresno’s Convention Center, with pre-concert festivities and birthday cake and champagne post-concert. The program includes, among others, works by Khatchaturian, Komitas, Strauss, Brahms, Hovhaness, and Saroyan’s “Come on a My House” …part of a year-long celebration...California Opera Association is a sponsor of the events with the Armenian Museum, the City of Fresno, The Fresno Bee..." View full article at armenianprelacy.org
August 25, 2008 - Opera association to hold luncheon fundraiser – “California Opera Association will hold a luncheon and fundraiser …” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 16, 2008 - Fresno Fusion - 55+ hour Grand Reopening Celebration - "The Fresno Metropolitan Museum will host a grand reopening celebration of programs, activities, performances, concerts and events scheduled over 55 hours...California Opera will be performing on the outdoor stage, located in the Museum’s picturesque courtyard, the subject of a complete makeover..."
August 13, 2008 - Parent Letter - "Thank you" seems such inadequate words for all the kindness California Opera Association extended to our family during the weeks of the California Opera Arts & Education Festival but we send our thankfulness and very heartfelt appreciation and love for our daughter's experience. We truly feel blessed by COA's warmth and hospitality ... Each year, many long hours are worked into the planning and the execution of such a tremendous festival and summer opera program! And then, after weeks of such a rigorous schedule…as a glorious “Grand Finale"… warmly invite everyone to fondly reminisce and to bid adieu... Each event was truly a glorious gift to its audience, participants, and to the entire community. Rightly so, California Opera's reward had to be felt in the applause at each performance and in the beaming faces of each artist. BRAVO!!!! California Opera has given our daughter not only the precious rare gift of genuine friendship, but also the opportunity to truly grow in confidence in a nurturing environment. California Opera's holistic approach feeds singers' entire beings, and as teenagers participating in the program, this exactly what is necessary, for growth into adulthood. Our daughter truly values the close peer relationships established during the summer program and our family knows these will endure for years to come as a tremendous support system for her…”
August 4, 2008 - Donald Munro, Fresno Bee: A rousing finale - "You've got to hand it to Edna Garabedian and her ...world-class training festival in Fresno. The festival ended Sunday afternoon with a fully-staged performance of Puccini's one-act "Il Tabarro" at the Tower Theatre...The audience for "Il Tabarro" was robust indeed... the performance was quite strong. Stage director Michael Philip Davis coaxed a real feeling of intensity and passion from his mostly young performers. Stephanie Hower and Zachary Sheely's voices filled the Tower with a fiery chemistry, and veterans Nikolaus Schiffmann and Roberta Wain-Becker connected with a compelling world-weariness. (I especially liked the way that Wain-Becker sloshed her glass of red wine with a determined slovenly air; this was opera that got the stage dirty.) One of the endearing things about California Opera productions is the juxtaposition of professional and student talent. You always get the sense that it's a wonderful learning and teaching opportunity for everyone involved." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 1, 2008 – Fresno Bee - "The 2008 California Opera Arts and Education Festival concludes this weekend with a lineup of concerts and events in various locations…Greek-American dramatic soprano [Ionna Sfekas-Karvelas] from the National Conservatory of Athens…The showcase features singers from around the world, highlighting a range of traditional classic and international styles, and honoring the visiting Taiwanese professors and outstanding vocal artists attending this summer's festival events…"Il Tabarro," … this fully staged opera is directed by Michael Philip Davis, stage director of California Opera, and conducted by Leonard Ingrande…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 25, 2008 – Donald Munro, Fresno Bee - Opera festival moves to larger venues – “The California Opera Association's annual summer festival has undergone some changes this year… festival organizers are holding events at larger venues in town…because the festival's audience has expanded in recent years…major festival events this weekend...the California Opera Association's …Vocal competition …Audience members will be able to vote for their favorite artists…"Norma," …fully staged version of Bellini's opera …conducted by Berkeley Opera director and Metropolitan Opera veteran Jonathan Khuner…Supporting cast members for the summer productions include visiting professors and students of opera from around the world, including 40 adult vocalists and guests from Taiwan as well as artists from England, Greece, Italy, Armenia, Turkey, Israel, Mexico and Canada. U.S. students represent New York, Alabama, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 1, 2008 - United News Network - Translation - "...Edna Garabedian originally expected from the stage, only one or two publicly elected Taiwan lucky “good news” to give full scholarship to this year’s summer in California, the United States to take part in California Opera Association 2008 opera; at the selection meeting, and after she found that Taiwan’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon she reviewed a lot of vocal talent, it was decided to offer special 12 scholarship gifts, as well as arrangements for the reception to homes so that the selected 12 students from Taiwan can stay in the United States for nearly four weeks. Such an outcome for this lucky 12 selected students! Because of the participation in fellowship selection brings extremely enthusiastic students in Taiwan, a total of 38 students from around Taiwain competed to attend. Professor Chen Ronggui, as well as Univerity of Graz, Austria, Professor Shi Mola (Heimo Smola), said, “Taiwan students have beautiful voices, so she [Edna] decided to increase the United States admittance to more students, and to provide for them during their stay.” For students of vocal music and professionals in Taiwan this bestows from Edna the highest degree of recognition, which is believed to be a result of the long-term cultivation of classical music in Taiwan. Taiwan students have a good foundation, but unfortunately the lack of opportunity to communicate with the international music scene. This trip to the United States will allow students, professionals and Taiwan to make more rapid growth. Selected to attend, Zeng Zhiyaun said, “Dear America, I am ready…”
May 20, 2008 – Visionary – Jean Bartlett - “A number of strong individuals help ... take our company into the future ...Edna Garabedian, opera star and Artistic Director of The California Opera Association and California Opera International Training Institute in Fresno, has lent extraordinary assistance …” View full article at http://www.jeansmagazines.org
May 16 – Jun 27, 2008 – Fresno Bee - "Voices en Vogue featuring Singers in Style, presented by the California Opera Association in May… Mad Hatters Tea Party, benefits California Opera Association, in June…" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
April 10, 2008 - United Daily News, Translation – “…internationally renowned mezzo-soprano and opera production Principal Edna Garabedian invited to guide the first time in May to be performed at the “Family Edition” opera – “Chocolate Factory.” She even said that they want an opera selection of good voices of Taiwan to ...be invited to the United States, California…In addition to providing full scholarships, Edna on behalf of the California Opera Association and the Institute of Performing Arts National Taiwan signed a cooperation agreement for Winter 2009 in Taiwan for start-up winter opera and for Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao partnership to recruit for operas… to lead the production of all-around musicians … students are excited…will be able to make close contact, in addition to studying music interpretation, but also be able to accept the guidance of Master impromptu, improve singing skills…performance and experience, students can broaden horizons…”
March 30, 2008 - Jean Bartlett, Pacifica Tribune: A front row seat to meet Verdi's beloved doomed soprano..."It may end with a fallen woman gasping her last surrounded by a couple of men who have done her wrong, they're sorry now, but by near end Giuseppe Verdi's TB-ridden heroine, Violetta Valery, has become beloved to all on stage and in the room — especially when the part is sung by coloratura soprano Jamie Bonetto. Welcome to the opera La Traviata, directed by tenor Frederick Winthrop and presented by the California Opera Association at Pacifica Performances Sanchez Concert Hall. It will be playing again and it is well worth the price of admission. This Fresno opera company, founded by Edna Garabedian, has made it a point to fill its roles with talent that is a pleasure to watch and hear. Bonetto owns the role of Violetta. She is giddy, she is charming, she is love fulfilled, she is love wounded and she has the courage to ache while traveling intricate, demanding vocal passages. Jamie Bonetto as Violetta has a radiant soprano, full of confidence and strength without borders and she can deliver a real trill. Christopher Wells, Giorgio Germont, has an excellent baritone capable of imposing demands and capturing sympathy and remorse all in a stream of vocal sweets. Christopher Wells, has such a handsome vocal, that undoubtedly all the women in Sunday's audience would have willingly agreed to toss out the family fortune, had he asked and had they a fortune. Tenor Zachary Sheely played Alfredo Germont. His tenor is robust, pretty, very focused and sensitive. Coloratura soprano Deanne Reeder as Flora Beloix took her turns in both acting and in vocal acumen in graceful, polished glides. Soprano Leslie Goldman (Annina) has a dynamic stage presence and an exquisite vocal tone. She should be heard often. Director Frederick Winthrop took on the small role of Gastone so easily presenting a tenor charmer. Very ably conducted by Eric Gjovaag...the strings swept up Verdi's voice with all the perfect colors of a waterfall ...Everyone should have opera in their life especially when its beautiful music is playing right down the street....The thing about opera that hardly anybody ever talks about is it is fun. It is fun because the stories are often over the top. But they are always about the things that make us feel passion: love, beauty, death, great friendships, betrayal and so much more. But the most important thing about opera is, especially in the case of Verdi, it is contained, defined and ultimately set free by gloriously beautiful music that lasts long after the lights have gone down." Visit www.jeansmagazines.org for reviews by Jean Bartlett!
January 20, 2008 - Fresno Bee - “Thirteen-year-old Dilan Ruiz could have slept in, watched television or played video games Monday, a school holiday that commemorates slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Instead, Dilan and about 80 classmates at Wawona Middle School in Fresno took to heart King's message of helping others… in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. annual Music Service… The event honors the contributions made by the civil rights leader…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
January 5, 2008 - Taipei Times, Staff Writer with CNA - Translation - US theater professor visits for lecture and scouting – “…in Taipei beginning yesterday, providing instruction and inspiration to Taiwanese students on impromptu acting and stage direction techniques …Speaking at a news conference in Taipei yesterday…Edna Garabedian, will come to Taiwan in April for a second round. Garabedian, an accomplished opera singer…director of the California Opera Association, is expected to stay in Taiwan for one week…”
January 4, 2008 – Central Network News – Translation - “…apart from opening the awarding Master classes … the people of Taiwan face the future with optimism...Edna Garabedian will come to Taiwan in April to conduct a second casting…”
October 13, 2007 – Armenian Reporter - From the community section – “Fresno's Edna Garabedian and the California Opera is planning a Saroyan theme …” View full article at http://www.reporter.am
September, 2007 - Letter - "After the COA Opera Festival, a million happy thoughts are still running through my mind, even weeks later. Happy memories of music and people and happy thoughts of the future using all of the knowledge I have recently acquired through COA's exquisite training program. I have participated in many summer workshops for opera singers. Never before have I experienced a program so singer friendly. COA has created an environment that is safe and nurturing, yet packed with the information and knowledge that artists require. I have received musical and artistic experience of a very fine quality. I have been surrounded by professional and compassionate faculty and have enjoyed the wholesome company of like-minded artists who have been coached and encouraged to behave in a manner befitting of a professional singer’s lifestyle. The faculty is comprised of top-class artists from around the world. It is a chance to network with other artists and important people in the field who can make things happen. At this summer training program, the very air is charged with the electricity of dreams coming true. It was fabulous to receive such in depth training from so many world-class level professionals. These are trainers of such high caliber they truly bring out the best in all of the COA singers participating in the program. Ms. Garabedian knows that when people are living heir dreams, they are fulfilled. When they are fulfilled, they give freely of themselves for the betterment of society. This is the sort of thinking fostered by COA. They have provided the launching pad for our fulfillment as artists and human beings. The practical knowledge I have gained has been of immeasurable help. Where else would I have learned about how to get any career launched globally? Or, to deal with the New York aspect of being a singer? And, how to carry myself on and off stage as a professional and how to negotiate a contract, how to get around in Germany and where to go for the next steps, etc. We singers don't learn this in school. We have to find a mentor, or in the case of COA, a group of mentors, to share the secrets of how to have a long and fulfilling international career. I am returning to COA next summer - the opportunity is too great to pass up -and most artists return every season. We all come away from the experience each year feeling like a million dollars because Ms. Garabedian and the COA staff give 100% of their energy, heart, and wisdom to helping young and aspiring artists. With her amazing experiences as a dramatic mezzo-soprano, coach, director, and manager, Ms. Garabedian knows better than anyone I have met, how to create an international career. She also knows how to build an artist from the inside out. Through COA's summer program, I have learned how to sing, of course, but more importantly, also have learned how to think and function as an international artist (people just aren't born knowing these things). At COA's summer opera program, we learn the necessary things to make careers happen. COA's summer program is a treasure in the glittering world of opera. Such a program truly deserves attention for their incomparably great work..."
August 20, 2007 – Fresno Bee, Carolyn Romersa - Fine opera season – “Bravos and bravas to the California Opera Association (COA) for its outstanding season … Fresno is so fortunate to have so many dedicated, talented artists who have made these performances and appearances possible. The voices were New York Met-quality. The singers came from various parts of California, from New York and as far away as China. Edna Garabedian dedicates her entire being to helping each performer reach beyond endurance to achieve purity of tone. Because of the COA, opera is made affordable each year…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 3, 2007 – Fresno Bee – Korean Greetings - “One special event of this year's California Opera arts and education festival is an appearance by the Yeodo Children's Orchestral Group from Yeosu, Korea. The 45 junior high school-age children have spent the past week attending a special youth program… where they are working on their music and learning English. They will play traditional Asian compositions on unique percussion, wind and string instruments while performing youthful Korean opera works and songs…" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 3, 2007 – Donald Munro, Fresno Bee - It's madness, I tell you, madness… - "Lucia di Lammermoor" could be called "Mad About You." This opera features one of the greatest "show numbers" for a soprano: a scene in which the title character basically goes bonkers. We caught up with Fred Winthrop, who's directing this weekend's California Opera production, for a preview. The story: It's similar to the Capulet and Montague feud in "Romeo and Juliet," Winthrop says. Two families are mortal enemies, which causes havoc when young Lucia falls in with Edgardo. The inevitable strife ensues, culminating with Lucia's amazingly protracted descent into madness followed by her unexplainable death. (And you thought your life was dramatic.) …Musical highlight: the sextet from "Lucia" is the best-known music, he says. Close behind that is the "mad scene," which was made famous by such opera greats as Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills. ("Sutherland was just pyrotechnic on those high notes," he says.) Speaking of that "mad scene," just why does Lucia die? Winthrop ... says you just have to suspend disbelief and get caught up in the music. "The mad scene goes on for about 20 minutes," he says. "Maybe that's what kills her. Or the high E-flat" …” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 3, 2007 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - “… there's nothing stopping you from kicking in a donation to this worthy organization's coffers… as an audience member you get the advantage of being way-close to the action…Edna Garabedian, the artistic director of California Opera, has always made international cultural ties one of her priorities. Much of that energy she's lavishing these days on China … another international component of this year's festival … the Yeodo Children's Orchestral Group from Yeosu, Korea…They will play traditional Asian compositions on unique percussion, wind and string instruments while performing youthful Korean opera works and songs…” Please visit the Beehive for the full article or to add comments.
July 27, 2007 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro – Opera festival boasts youth and an intimate setting – “You can't slow down Edna Garabedian…In this eighth year of the California Opera Association's annual summer festival, the days leading up to the opening weekend are, as usual, a flurry of activity: students to supervise, guest artists to greet, budgets to consider, conductors to consult, costume details to iron out. Through it all, putting in 16-hour days, Garabedian is indefatigable."They call this singers' heaven," [taking] a few minutes to talk about some of the high points of this year's festival, which includes daily events open to the public. The conductors: They include a Fresno native, Leanna Sterios-Primiani, whose career has included conducting the Dallas Opera Orchestra and the Fort Worth Symphony (she returned to Fresno in December to conduct the Philharmonic in "The Nutcracker"), who will focus on contemporary opera; and Metropolitan Opera veteran Jonathan Khuner, artistic director of Berkeley Opera, who will conduct the festival's full-scale production of "Lucia di Lammermoor”… while the voices can be young, the performers' enthusiasm can be palpable. "When you listen to a professional, they can be on autopilot," Garabedian says. "But young artists work harder. They're hungrier" …Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 22, 2007 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - “I love California Opera's annual arts and education festival because it's such an intimate setting in which to experience opera… If you're a classical music fan and haven't yet experienced California Opera, under the direction of Edna Garabedian, you should give it a try…”
July 20, 2007 – Fresno Bee – “California Opera's annual arts and education festival is ready to kick off with a preview performance featuring its 2007 summer singers. This annual festival, which played to packed and enthusiastic audiences last year … returns this year with two weeks of Verdi, Bizet, Pasatieri, Menotti and … "Lucia di Lammermoor." Special events include a Wagnerian highlights concert, guest artist recitals, outdoor youth concerts and the participation of the Yeodo Children's Orchestral Group from Korea…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 18, 2007 – Fresno Bee - Arte concert will benefit students ... “Opera buffs and music lovers can enjoy the sounds of young talent today at a benefit concert presented by the California Opera Association and the Arte Américas cultural arts center… for opera students from Toluca, Mexico…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
March 22, 2007 – Letter - “ Thank you for…Hansel & Gretel. The witch [Zachary Sheely] was indeed a winner. The way he leapt off the stage, I figured he must also have been a track star at one time, in the high jump event. But, most of all, thanks to all of you for what you are giving the children - an arts experience! …”
March 19, 2007 - Letter - “…Thanks so very much for the lovely gift of tickets to "Hansel & Gretel." It was a wonderful drama and the [retirement] residents enjoyed it so much. They had much to talk about on the way home. They, like myself, thought everyone did such a good job performing, especially the witch [Zachary Sheely]. Wow what a voice range! He was great. Thanks for providing such a wonderful program. It was good for our residents to be able to get away and have fun. You helped us provide that…”
March 19, 2007 - Letter - “…It [Hansel and Gretel] was just great, and the kids sat spellbound. H & G were so cute, and the witch [Zachary Sheely] was a real coup. The ballerina [Amanda Edwards] must have inspired all the girls - she was a gem. A real winning performance. Edna is doing more for opera in Fresno than anyone - she is fostering love for it while the kids are little and impressionable. They will always bring that love with them…”
March 16, 2007 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - Children's opera: “The return of the California Opera Association's production of "Hansel and Gretel" no doubt will be greeted by hundreds of entranced children. The returning cast includes soprano Jennifer Myers, who has performed with the Seattle and Portland operas. Director Edna Garabedian is once again partnering with Fresno's parks department to present a mix of professional singers and local children. Visitors to Rotary Storyland in Roeding Park between now and Sunday will receive a complimentary pass to the performance…” Purchase full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
February 17, 2007 - Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - "Thumbs up to Fresno natives Audra McDonald and Sharmay Musacchio on stage in the L.A. Opera performance of "The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny." Broadway veteran and four-time Tony Award-winner McDonald plays Jenny, a struggling prostitute. Musacchio, who plays one of the "maidens of Mahagonny," studied at ... Fresno's California Opera Association..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 31, 2006: Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - "La Traviata," California Opera: "Thanks to Edna Garabedian… the quality every year of performances … continues to grow…the young voices were big and impressive." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 8, 2006 - Hanford Sentinel - "...Lemoore native Zachary Sheely will be the featured vocal soloist … with orchestra accompaniment. A 2000 graduate of Kings Christian School, Sheely received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Westmont College in 2004. After completing his studies at Westmont, he decided to devote his time and energy to opera. Sheely is winner of the California Opera Association competition, Young Artist Competition in 2004 and 2006. He has performed Rinuccio ("Gianni Schicchi"), Pinkerton ("Madama Butterfly"), Brack Weaver ("Down in the Valley"), Rodolfo ("La Boheme"), Kaspar ("Amahl and the Night Visitors"), the Witch ("Hansel and Gretel"), and Remendado ("Carmen"). In addition, he sang the role of Hermes in the world premiere of "The Silver Swan" by Victor Kiulaphides. In October, Sheeely made his international operatic debut in Hangzhou, China with the role of Remendado, followed by his Don Jose in "Carmen." He is a favored artist in the Bay area's Golden Gate Opera, and will appear in the company's spring gala concert in April. Sheely will be singing a concert tour of Western opera favorites in May and June as an invited guest artist of the Chinese government. He trains with the world-renowned dramatic mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian. Orchestra selections at the concert include "A Christmas Festival" by Leroy Anderson, "Christmas Fugue" by Robert Brown (based on "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"), and "A Rockin' Christmas" by Chuck Sayre. The audience will be invited to sing along on Christmas songs (with words printed in the program) and to join in with selections from Handel's "Messiah",ending with the "Hallelujah Chorus"… Purchase the full article at http://nl.newsbank.com/sites/hsca/
August 20, 2006 – Letter - “…I want to thank you again for all your hard work in helping us enjoy ourselves this past weekend at both productions of Cal Opera [La Traviata and Chip and His Dog] …the [retirement] residents were delighted with both performances and it brought such a bright spot into their lives. They enjoyed the children and the wonderful way they sang and performed. They were so good. "La Travitia" was absolutely wonderful. The singers voices were incredible and the man with the cape [Manuel Paz] was outstanding to say the least. He was really gifted. I especially love opera and for me personally it was magnificent! We had a full van both days. When I came in Sunday to work my Sunday sign up sheet was full! Something I did not anticipate when I left for home on Saturday. … it was wonderful and your association is doing such a wonderful work for our community… this was such a delightful time for us which would not have been possible without your hard work at coordinating the events for us. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart…”
August 19, 2006 – Letter – “…This festival was absolutely wonderful and covered so much…It was fantastic to see all those full houses…What an ambitious undertaking for COA …These last two weeks surpassed anything presented previously. Even those not familiar with opera came not once, twice but tenfold. I have received nothing but very high marks for all performances. My hat is off to you and yours! ..”
August 18, 2006, Donald Munro, Fresno Bee – “An opera singer is an athlete, and there's no better way to be reminded than to sit about 20 feet away from one singing in full performance mode. At the California Opera Association's summer festival and institute, which on Sunday concluded a two-week run … Talk about intimacy: I practically could see Jamie Bonetto's tonsils in all their quivering glory as she emoted as Violetta in "La Traviata." One of the best things about this annual event is … the chance to see both professional artists and advanced institute students practice their craft. We were treated to both with the leads: Bonetto, who began to really hit her vocal stride in the second act; and Manuel Paz, an up-and-coming tenor from Tijuana, Mexico, whose gentle tone and passionate stage presence has a lot of promise. Artistic director Edna Garabedian, whose boundless enthusiasm for all things opera in Fresno makes you wonder whether there are two or three of her running around, delivered another impressive festival… led by Leonard Ingrande and featuring concertmaster Claudia Shiuh (whose solo in the third-act overture was entrancing), the performance suggested what you might have found on a Sunday afternoon in a long-ago Europe… the gentle intimacy of the moment..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 8, 2006 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - 'La Traviata' boasts big voices for a smaller-town production: "Every summer… becomes a world opera center….not the Metropolitan Opera in New York, mind you, or San Francisco Opera, or La Scala… People don't dress up for opening night in tuxedoes and glittering evening gowns…But that's the way Edna Garabedian … wants it. Her California Opera Association summer festival is all about the voices. Whether they're up-and-coming, in the form of students and young singers hungry for careers, or strong and accomplished, in the form of faculty who make the trip to Fresno from points near and far, for two weeks those voices boom …As California Opera gears up for its final week of master classes, workshops and public performances, here are five reasons to check out "La Traviata," its big finale: 1. The principals are easy on the eyes. Yes, opera is all about the voice, and that's still the most important quality any singer can bring to a career. But those days in which portly, middle-aged men and women could play dashing romantic leads -- we all know the stereotype of the big diva with the Viking helmet -- is giving way to what might be called the "svelte" factor, says Frederick Winthrop, stage director for "La Traviata" (and a professional singer himself). Ideally, singers should sound great and look great. That's certainly the case with Jamie Bonetto, a coloratura soprano, who plays Violetta; and Manuel Paz, a lyric tenor, who plays Alfredo. Dressed in flowing white and striking a tragic pose, the couple look radiant together. 2. It's a cozy, tragic tale that makes you feel good about living in an age of antibiotics. Ah, the horrible effects of consumption. It's one of those amazing conceits of the stage that a person can be slowly dying from a disease of the lungs and yet still be able to belt it out to the second balcony. (Nicole Kidman's character in "Moulin Rouge" had that same talent.) Violetta, a courtesan, is coughing from the first act on, but no one's facing the facts. At first the conflict appears to be social standing -- Violetta is a courtesan, and Alfredo, with his higher social class, really should find someone more appropriate to bring to dinner with his parents -- but you know what you're in for: a touching deathbed scene. And can anything be more dramatic than death and opera? 3. The cast of this production has a strong international flair. Every year, Garabedian focuses on a different region of the world when picking students for her institute. Last year she brought a contingent of Chinese singers to Fresno. This year, her emphasis is Mexico, which explains why Paz is in the cast. He's one of eight singers from that country. "My two sisters are singers, too, which makes my parents happy," he says. This year's geographic emphasis is even trendy, Winthrop says. "It's the era of the Spanish tenor," he says. "Most of the big tenors around now are Hispanic"… 4. The talent accompanying the singers is big. Garabedian doesn't skimp on the sound. Choristers for "La Traviata" will be joined by visiting members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus... 5. In opera, it's all about the connections. Garabedian... knows lots of people in the opera world. And that's important at an institute such as this; she brings in well-regarded singers and designers to teach, perform and direct, including conductor Leonard Ingrande, choreographer Anne Cartwright and manager/agent Christian Catena. In other words, Garabedian has a lot of friends and asks a lot of favors. When you talk to those friends, they marvel at her big personality and gung-ho enthusiasm, but most important, they mention her ability to spot and shape talent. Voice coach Roy Stevens, a specialist in Wagnerian music…with his wife, Annalisa Winberg-Stevens… says his training with Garabedian changed his life. "If it wasn't for Edna, I wouldn't have had an international career," he says. And in the same regard, Fresno wouldn't have such intimate summer opera." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 4, 2006 – Letter – “… this year's talent is non pareil to anything previously showcased. That is not to diminish previous talent but this goes beyond belief. Standing ovations, multiple encores...never of which I have experienced in the short few years I have been in Fresno. Congratulations to all of you and, especially, to Edna...a first class act!!”
July 23-30, 2006 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - Get your opera while it's hot: "Over the years, Edna Garabedian and her California Opera Association have established a tradition: When the weather is hottest outside, so is the opera singing inside… If you've always liked opera -- or even if you're just curious -- then the intimate setting of California Opera Association's annual summer festival is the best …Resident opera personality Edna Garabedian works year-round to bring a contingent of professional singers and students from around the world …This summer's festival… continues the tradition of powerhouse performances in an intimate setting. This isn't one of those cases in which the "cheap seats" put you at the back of the second balcony so far that you need binoculars to see the performers…Though the theme this year is Italian and Wagnerian works, the festival this year is as much about Mexico. Opening the festivities is Manuel Paz, who won the title of best tenor in last December's California Opera international vocal competition. He also will perform the lead role of Alfredo in the festival's production of "La Traviata" …Ricardo Lavin, a baritone also from Mexico, likewise won the association's competition and will be featured in festival events including a solo recital and a production of "La Boheme" … Joining Paz and Lavin will be 10 other opera singers from Mexico, along with 20 other career artists and 20 youth artists…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 17, 2006 – Fresno Bee – Kelly Delany – Teen Press Corps – Stage Craft - “…”The thing I like about theater is that the fixed subject matter is life, and if you're in theater, you have to be a student of life … So it helps to be a good, lifelong learner.. you're always working with people, and it helps to know about being a team player… it's amazing how many hats you have to wear... rehearsal is that period where you're trying to slowly assemble all the pieces…by opening night, hopefully all the pieces are in place. It really takes some organizational skills because there's so many elements that you're responsible for: makeup, costumes, props, sets, lighting, sounds, publicity, etc…My favorite part is seeing kids succeed… when all the kids who are in the cast come out and are greeting the audience and just to watch the joy and the sense of triumph and success that kids who've been on stage have a chance to share with their parents, family, and friends -- that moment of glory. I just stand there and revel in watching them feel good about themselves…I think it's also hard sometimes to be in the arts because …the disparity between the kinds of coverage that in our society, say, athletics get compared to theater is just kind of painful … I learn every show I do how to be a better director. I learn how to better motivate students. I try to learn how to make it happen better the next time...evaluations of the show is real important to me…I try to help sharpen my game and make sure I'm doing this the best I know how…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
May 19, 2006 – La Prensa, Paco Zavala - Jóvenes Cantantes Tijuanenses Presentan Concierto en el Seminario Mayor de Tijuana“Los beneficios serán destinados a Pro-estudios para Cantantes de Opera” - "La inquietud artística y el afán de escalar peldaños en la escalinata hacia el éxito, ha interesado a un grupo de jóvenes cantantes tijuanenses, que desean encaminar su talento y sus facultades hacia el sendero de la ópera, cosa nada fácil. Para lograr cristalizar su deseo han organizado una serie de eventos musicales con el propósito de reunir fondos para viajar a la ciudad de Fresno, Ca., sitio en el que de julio 28 al 13 de agosto de 2006, se realizará un curso intensivo de canto operático, dirigido por la mezzosoprano y maestra Edna Garabedian. La técnica del cantante de ópera es muy amplia en diversos campos y necesita llenar y conocer muchos elementos, los cuales se determinarán en el desarrollo y en la exposición y estudio de temas vinculados con esta carrera, que se conocerán en la impartición de este curso.En este marco, han organización algunos eventos: el primero de ellos, concierto “Siglo de los Siglos”, Música Sacra a trávez de los tiempos, se verificará el próximo viernes 2 de junio, a las 8:00 pm. en el Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Sagrado Corazón en el Seminario Mayor de Tijuana, en la esquina de las calles 10ma y Av. Ocampo en el centro de la ciudad de Tijuana. El otro evento, será un conciertocena, para el día 23 de junio, en el Foro Chapultepec de Tijuana, en el que se interpretarán arias de ópera, iniciando con obras de Mozart y Rossini, incluyendo obras de Puccini, Donizetti, Bizet y Verdi.En el primer magno concierto, se interpretará música coral de: Haydn, Mozart, Pergolesi, Vivaldi y otros autores del género. Los beneficios que resulten de este concierto serán destinados para pro-estudios de cantantes de ópera. El acompañamiento al piano lo ejecutará la eminente pianista Aiko Yamada. La cooperación para este primer concierto será de $100 pesos mexicanos. Una de las privilegiadas voces que tomará parte en estos eventos es la joven soprano tijuanense Norma Navarrete, voz de soprano lírica con características “sui generis”, potencia, color, brillo, pastosidad y demás ingredientes de una gran voz, ¡vamos! ¡Hay que escucharla!Tuvimos una pequeña charla con Norma, para que nos proporcionara detalles sobre su vida y sobre estos eventos y esto fue lo que nos comentó:P.- ¿Cuántos eventos se verificarán para esta causa?R.- Se presentarán dos eventos: el Concierto de Música Sacra, que se llama “Siglo de los Siglos” el 2 de junio y el Concierto de ópera que se realizará el día 23 de junio. P.- ¿De dónde eres originaria?R.- Con una sonrisa Norma contesta y nos dice que ella nació en el área de Playas de Tijuana, en el Hospital Del Mar.P.- ¿Desde cuándo decidiste ser cantante de ópera?R.- Norma, no lo piensa y responde enfáticamente, “lo decidí hace cuatro años”.P.- ¿Estás satisfecha con lo que has logrado hasta hoy?R.- Si, me gustaría poder lograr más, pero... si he obtenido algunos logros que no me tienen satisfecha del todo.P.- ¿Cuál es tu meta a lograr?R.- Ser una cantante de ópera profesional, además trabajar muy duro hasta lograr ser considerada una “Diva de la ópera”, aunque se que posiblemente sea una audacia, pero estoy dispuesta a sortearla, porque además deseo ser una virtuosa en lo que hago.P.- ¿Cuántos años tienes estudiando canto y en dónde?R.- Tengo cuatro años estudiando canto; inicié mis estudios en el Conservatorio de Música de Tijuana, con el maestro Salvador Padilla; también tomé clases con el maestro Antonio González; el maestro Ignacio Clapés, me impartio su amplia experiencia y también tomé clases con el tenor José Medina.P.- ¿Cuál es tu autor favorito y tu personaje favorito en la escena?R.- “Bueno”, responde Norma, “mi autor favorito es Giacomo Puccini y mi per-sonaje favorito es Musetta, de la Opera ‘La Boheme’, porque es muy libre y porque además hace cosas que yo no haría”.P.- ¿Tienes aversión por algo?R.- Siento aversión al temor de no lograr mi objetivo, o lo que deseo referente a mi carrera de cantante de ópera, siento temor a no convertirme en la persona que quiero y deseo ser.P.- ¿Algo más que desees agregar?R.- Espero que con este “don”, pueda aportar un servicio a mi comunidad, poder enseñar las virtudes de este arte, erradicar el miedo en la gente cuando escuchen pronunciar la palabra ópera, que no es aburrido, que no es exclusiva de personas de la tercera edad, que no es una actividad artística antigua, que no es algo que se vivió en la historia, que es algo actual, que es para todo tipo de personas, independientemente de su edad, de su sexo y de su credo, es un arte divertido y que aprendan a disfrutarlo.Para concluir la charla Norma Navarrete, nos proporcionó los nombres de sus compañeros que compartirán el escenario y este curso de actualización para cantantes de ópera. Los cantantes que irán a Fresno, incluyen al tenor Manuel Paz, las mezzoso-pranos Ana Laura Rojas, Monserrat Verdugo, la soprano Froziny Brezas y la entrevistada. Norma Navarrete, envía un caluroso y cordial saludo a todos los lectores de La Prensa San Diego y agradece la distinción de esta entrevista..."
March 24, 2006 - Paco Zavala, La Presna - Impartirá la Famosa Cantante de Opera Edna Garabedian Magistral Clase de Canto en Tijuana - La famosa cantante de ópera Edna Garabedian, clasificada como mezzosoprano y contralto, impartirá a un grupo de estudiantes de canto y jóvenes cantantes de ópera tijuanenses, una magistral clase de canto… Casa de la Cultura. Existe indescriptible entusiasmo entre el numeroso grupo de interesados jóvenes cantantes y estudiantes de canto, que asistirán a este Curso Intensivo de Canto, dentro de los que se cuentan a la soprano Norma Navarrete, el tenor Javier Sevilla, Fernando Nuñez, Alma Chávez, Esther González, Samantha García, César Sánchez, Javier Carrillo y otros muchos más…El interés por tomar esta importante clase a la que clasifican de primer nivel relativa al estudio del canto, es porque desean mejorar sus conocimientos interpretativos y su técnica de canto al pararse en un escenario y enfrentar al público, lo que se considera necesario depurar, para lograr un avance en su carrera que les redituará sustanciales beneficios y contando con esta gran oportunidad, no la deben desperdiciar los interesados en tomarla. Edna Garabedian, como contralto ha intervenido en el rol de la Cieca, en la ópera “La Gioconda” de Amilcare Ponchielli y en su voz de mezzo-soprano ha intervenido en la voz de soprano en el rol de Santuzza, de la ópera del género verista “Cavalleria Rusticana” de Pietro Mascagni. Esta singular cantante de ópera es ama y señora de un impresionante rango vocal. Edna, es descendiente de padres armenios, además de ser nacida y residente en la ciudad de Fresno, Ca. Garabedian, en su larga trayectoria artística ha sido aclamada y recibido elogios de la crítica especializada en los EE.UU. Ha sido medallista ganadora del “Concurso Internacional Tchaikovsky” en Moscú, Rusia en 1970, además se ha hecho acreedora a recibir otros importantes premios y reconocimientos. Edna Garabedian, hizo su debut profesional en el rol de Santuzza, con la compañía de Opera de Nueva York City, donde también intervino en las óperas, Julio Caesar y en los Cuentos de Hoffman . En los EE.UU. ella ha realizado e interpretado importantes roles en óperas famosas con las compañías de Opera de San Francisco, Opera del Centro de la Música de Los Angeles, Opera Lírica de Chicago, Opera de Seattle, Opera de Houston, Opera de San Diego, Opera de Baltimore, Opera Lírica de la Ciudad de Kansas y Opera de Portland. Edna, ha cantado con mucho éxito en Stuttgard, Karlsruhe, Kassel, Numberg, las Casas de Opera de Franckfort, de Hannover y el Staatsoper Bonn. Edna Garabedian, ha participado en la dirección de más de 20 producciones operáticas. Actualmente es fundadora y director artístico de la magnífica California Opera Association y Fresno Grand Opera, de Fresno, Ca. Los estudiantes de canto que asistan a esta magistral clase de canto, sin duda alguna que aprenderán las técnicas de canto más avanzadas de la actualidad. Aprenderán las técnicas para desempeñarse en un rol de solista, la participación en un dúo, terceto o cuarteto, o la intervención en un grupo coral. La maestra Edna, es una conocedora profunda de la técnica vocal, además de ser una reconocida terapeuta de la voz…" View full article at www.laprensa-sandiego.org/archieve
March 19, 2006 – George Warren, Fresno Bee – “The spirit of Shostakovich blessed the city of Fresno once again… another audience walked out of the concert in awe at the imagination and complete dominance of the musical language …and Boris Nixon on cello ...ending elegantly and leaving the listener with a sense of a well-composed work…One must hear this work in live performance to fully appreciate the intensity and the transcendence of the music... ” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 12, 2005 – Fresno Bee, Louis Galvan – Cool holiday warm-up draws 15,000 – “…The parade drew 152 entries [including children from the California Opera Association] with nearly 3,000 participants, making it one of the largest ever in the history of the event…police officers estimated spectators at more than 15,000… Fresno Mayor Alan Autry was grand marshal for the parade's Diamond Anniversary. Another special person was Edna Garabedian, Fresno's own mezzo-soprano who has performed internationally at opera houses and concert halls. Her family's roots in parade history run deep. Her father Ed Garabedian, who died in 1983, was the owner of Valley Equipment Co. and for more than 50 years was Santa Claus in the parade. Edna Garabedian revived her father's role, waving at the crowd in a Santa outfit. Most of the participants were children, from kindergarten to high school…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 11, 2005 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro – “…California Opera Association, in conjunction with the city's parks and recreation department, will present …the holiday classic "Amahl and the Night Visitors" …This annual blend of professional opera singers along with children from the community is growing into a holiday tradition. No one will be more excited than Graciela Esquivel, who will perform the title role. A recent graduate of Bullard Talent School, Graciela has understudied the role of Amahl for five years in a row. She's performed the role for two performances out of the total 23 times that California Opera has done the opera. She learned the role under the guidance of her older sister, Susana, who has played Amahl many times in the past. (Talent runs in the family.)" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 4, 2005 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - "Looking ahead, the California Opera Association presents "Amahl and the Night Visitors" … Fresno's parks, recreation & community services department is once again collaborating with California Opera to put on a full-scale production featuring a mix of professional opera singers and local children in supporting roles. Last year's production of "Hansel and Gretel" was handsomely staged and filled with holiday spirit." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September 11, 2005 – Fresno Bee, Marty Berry - Local talent showcased: “… Singer Susana Esquivel, singer-songwriter Merlinda Espinosa, violinist Patrick Contreras, and singer and violinist Beatriz Herrera will take turns performing. Herrera previously performed with Los Angeles female mariachi group Mariachi Mujer 2000 and is a student at Fresno City College. Esquivel, Espinosa and Contreras have performed in Fresno and should be familiar to Fresno music lovers. Esquivel, an aspiring opera singer who attended Roosevelt School of the Arts, has performed with the Fresno Youth Symphony, the California Opera Association, the Tulare County Symphony and other musical groups. Espinosa has performed at the Rogue Festival and other events around town, and she performs Latino folks songs and other popular music. Contreras, who interprets many styles of music, plays with world music band Zambra as well as solo and with other individual artists at venues throughout Fresno…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September, 2005 - Letter - “I attended the California Opera Association Arts & Education Festival in Fresno…I truly enjoyed California Opera's summer program after this first experience and hope to be involved with their upcoming competitions, concerts and operas. Coupled with the performing experience were opportunities to establish contacts and meet outstanding guest artists in the field…During the 2005 California Opera Arts & Education Festival the program gifted all participants with a special concert and lecture appearance of Isabel Bayrakdarian. COA's summer program, featuring experiences as this "front row" concert with Isabel, was truly a gift sent from heaven - Isabel and the staff were fantastic and for myself to have had the opportunity of being there with California Opera and the entire group of outstanding artists, faculties, and performers - priceless…”
September, 2005 - Hangzhou, China -Julie Zhang, Anna Ma, Susan Song, Shengmin Yan, Peggy Xiang- " …We were very thankful for the invitation to participate in Music Festival held by California Opera Association this past summer 2005. We had an opportunity for continuing education in classical and opera music. And the reward for the Chinese artists of Eastern influence was enormous: 1. Gained the knowledge of the process of opera rehearsing and producing; 2. Watched different style of concerts and performances; 3. Attended lessons, workshops, masterclasses, seminars, and performance courses; 4. Moved by the passion and devotion to opera music by the heart and eyes of director Edna Garabedian and the outstanding world-class faculty of distinguished, high regard. The 2005 Music Festival was a success for us. We congratulate Edna Garabedian who created and provided this wonderful opportunity for young singers from China to come to learn and make progress in Western Opera music. At the same time, this opportunity had improved the understanding between people in China and the United States. We hope that the Music Festival Class will continue forever. Therefore, more musicians from China and other countries can come and obtain the huge reward from vocal and opera music trainings as we did in August, 2005..."
August 25, 2005 – Fresno Bee, Raymond F. Ensher - Fresno at its best: “There are many wonderful things about Fresno and its residents. Two of these are Children's Musical Theater and the California Opera Association, founded by Edna Garabedian. I recently attended both offerings and am thoroughly sold on attending future performances. The professional performances top those in New York and San Francisco. We are fortunate to have such local and international talent who come to Fresno… The young people come across as adult performers and are extraordinarily talented. Thanks to founding director… [and] thumbs up for Edna Garabedian…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 10, 2005 – Fresno Bee, Ara Avakian - Opera presentations a delight for audiences: “I commend the California Opera Association, and especially its founder and artistic director, Edna Garabedian, for a superb Opera Arts and Education Festival just completed. Held for the general public... the series of almost daily concerts provided sheer delight for audiences. This was the sixth of Ms. Garabedian's annual offerings, and showed her skill at bringing highly competent musical artists of national and international fame together here in Fresno. Not only were the musical offerings of very high quality, but so also was the visual offering. The performers were beautiful in their stunning costumes. Adding to the intellectual quality of the festival were the educational commentaries offered on the presentations from operas of very good scope. Especially pleasing and exciting were the young singers brought here from China through arrangements made by Ms. Garabedian. If there were any disappointment in the festival, it would be that it should have been held in the largest hall in Fresno, so that thousands might have enjoyed the superb artistry. Fresno is fortunate to have been able to enjoy a musical presentation worthy of a large metropolitan area." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 31, 2005 – Donald Munro, Fresno Bee - Toss around the opera: “It's amazing how much you can learn about opera just by expanding your horizons a bit. You'll have the chance to do that Wednesday at "Early Music and the Historically Informed Performance," an intimate concert that is part of the California Opera Association's summer arts and education festival, which continues through Sunday. Gerry Anne Prody hosts lead singers of the festival, including soprano Florencia Tinoco Barone, a featured soloist and vocal instructor of the Baja California Orchestra & Conservatory of Music, in an evening that focuses on early music favorites…Other festival events still to come include an introduction to Wagner and "The Ring," a special Greek night at St. Goerge Greek Orthodox Church... Kurt Weill's "Down in the Valley..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 24, 2005 - Fresno Bee, Marty Berry - Isabel Bayrakdarian to sing in Fresno – “… Bayrakdarian has performed in some of the world's great opera houses, and has received notice for her roles in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," "The Magic Flute" and "Le Nozze di Figaro," which she will perform in to open the New York Metropolitan Opera's 2005-06 season in September. She also sang on the soundtrack of the movie "Ararat." She will be accompanied in Fresno by pianist Serouj Kradjian…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 24, 2005 – Donald Munro, Fresno Bee – Grand plans take opera goddess around the globe – “By its very nature, opera is big. Big sets, big music, big voices. Big dreams. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Edna Garabedian, Fresno's resident opera dreamer, has come up with a doozy of an angle in conjunction with California Opera Association's sixth annual Summer Opera Arts & Education Festival, which runs today through Aug. 7: She's set her sights on China, the biggest potential opera audience in the world. So far she's making good on her goal: She'll direct a new opera, "The Peacock Princess," next year in the Chinese city of Hangzhou -- a contract with the government that requires her to travel to China every two months through its full-scale premiere in January. As founding director of a new opera company in the city, she'll go on to direct "Carmen" and "Turandot" later in the year. Fresno audiences will get a sneak peek of selections from "The Peacock Princess" at the festival when up to seven Chinese singers (two are confirmed; the rest are waiting for their visas to come through) perform Aug. 5. These ambitious plans shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows Garabedian, who's had a 50-year professional career that included winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1970. She's always cooking up something new. Always projecting, planning, thinking ahead. She likes to do things with a flourish -- right down to her sweeping penmanship. Garabedian has had her ups and downs over the years, but her resilience and enthusiasm are remarkable… ever-faithful to her beloved Fresno, started California Opera in 1999. Does Garabedian think small? Once you know her, it's hard to imagine. But [for] a first-time visitor to the festival …There's an intimate, relaxed, hometown feel to the proceedings, from the cheerful volunteers sitting at the welcoming table to the approachability of the guest artists. Garabedian acknowledges that it's taken several years to build the festival from the ground up. "It might seem we've been a little slow in our delivery and our growth," she says. "But it's all been part of the long-term plan. Part of my business plan for opera development has been to develop an international-opera center in Fresno year-round. China was one of the sites I had targeted for the last five years." Laying the groundwork is a necessary part of any opera career, she says, and the same applies to an opera festival. "You prepare for 10 years in the lifetime of a performer to perform 10 minutes on stage. But it's the greatest 10 minutes that makes your career." In the case of "The Peacock Princess," Garabedian used one of her many contacts in the opera world -- festival accompanist Chen Lu -- as a way to connect with composer Zong Jiang, a native of China. As director of the Bay Area Chinese Opera Center and a San Francisco resident since 1987, Zong was conductor of the Guangzhou Symphony and Chorus until he moved to the United States to teach. He's also a prolific composer whose works include operas, symphonies, chamber music and concertos. "The Peacock Princess" is a Western-style opera, Zong explains in a telephone interview, but it uses many motifs found in Chinese folk music. It's based on a well-known Yunnan Province fairy tale about a prince from a neighboring kingdom who falls in love with a beautiful maiden wearing magical peacock feathers -- and the fallout from their forbidden love. Like Puccini's "Turandot," which also incorporates Chinese folk songs, "The Peacock Princess" is an intriguing hybrid: a collision between a Western musical style and a Chinese storyline and motifs. "I think it will appeal to Chinese audiences," Zong says. And that's the point. The Chinese government is keenly interested in Western-style opera, particularly as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing near, and it has embarked on a campaign to train singers and stage operas in such cities as Hangzhou (which is about two hours from Shanghai). That's where Garabedian comes in. She spent two and a half weeks in China in June conducting master classes and making arrangements for the opera premiere. She returned with a framed proclamation from the Zhejiang Musicians Association thanking her for "contributions to the vocal music in our province" and promoting "the friendship of the people of China and the United States!" Yet even though China will be very much on her mind for the next year, Garabedian says that won't keep her from other aspects of the Fresno festival. In addition to the Chinese opera, the festival slate includes such highlights as Vincenzo Bellini's "La Sonnambula," Kurt Weill's "Down in the Valley," a program titled "Disney on Parade," a staging of "Madame Butterfly," an introduction to Wagner's Ring Cycle and a special "Greek night" at St. George Greek Orthodox Church featuring the premiere of Victor Kioulaphides' "The Silver Swan"... All events are free except "Greek night," which is a fundraiser. Fifteen faculty members and 50 students are expected to participate in this year's festival. You might think that Garabedian has her hands full with all these events, but she's already thinking ahead. Next year, she'll split her focus between China and Greece, where she will work with an early Verdi festival in Athens and on the island of Lesbos. After that, she's hoping to do the same thing she's doing in China in Egypt, India and Odessa, Russia. (By that time, she's going to need her own private jet.) Her goal: to spread opera far and wide. "We're all on this Earth to do what we can do," she says, "and to give what we can give." Thinking big, indeed.” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 10, 2005, Fresno Bee - Want to compete in opera? "The California Opera Association is scheduling auditions for its 2005 international vocal competition. Central California finalists in three age divisions will be selected from preliminary auditions during the California Opera Arts & Education Festival on July 23 through Aug. 7. Limited admission also is available for solo vocalists and ensemble participation in the summer festival performance events..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 2, 2005 – The Armenian Reporter – “…exclusive West Coast appearance of internationally renowned soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. Ms. Bayrakdarian, accompanied by pianist Serouj Kradjian… will take place in the historic Tower Theatre of the Performing Arts… A reception honoring Ms. Bayrakdarian and her pianist, Mr. Kradjian, will be held …"The recital [a component of the 2005 California Opera Arts & Education Festival as a benefit for the Armenian Museum of Fresno] promises to be an exciting event for the community...” Access full article at www.reporter.am
January 19, 2005 – Douglass Dowty, Bee Washington Bureau - Fresno boy calls the shots in capital: Fifth-grader with his own radio, TV shows interviews Radanovich in D.C. - "A Fresno multimedia personality touched down in Washington for the inauguration ceremonies this week -- chaperoned by his parents. Ricky Andrew High, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Mountain View Christian School, got a chance Tuesday to fire questions at Mariposa Republican George Radanovich in his congressional office. But Ricky is not the usual Capitol Hill reporter. The precocious preteen also hosts television and radio shows in the Fresno area, while pursuing a singing career and releasing three CDs. "I keep a very busy schedule," Ricky said. As a California Opera performer, Ricky has traveled the country and the Caribbean over the past two years. He already has assembled an impressive resume, from public performances of the national anthem to promoting his own record label, RAH Entertainment. Two of his CDs are available at Amazon.com. Ricky's radio show, the self-titled "Ricky Andrew High Radio Show," broadcasts at 11 a.m. every Sunday on KBIF-900 AM, while his TV gig, "Kids Can!" airs semimonthly at varying times on WB, UPN and Fox networks in Fresno. Ricky began singing at age 3 and aired his first show at age 9. In August 2003 he was awarded "Outstanding Youth Artist" by the California Opera Association for his performance in the Broadway musical "Peter Pan." But despite successes at a tender age, Ricky has more lofty goals. He hopes to pile a political career on top of his interest to "become a worldwide famous singer and actor"… Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 17, 2004 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro - For the kids: “There was something exhilarating about watching Edna Garabedian, an enduring figure in Fresno's opera scene, bounding up the aisle with a bevy of children at the Tower Theatre Wednesday during the public performance of the children's opera "Hansel and Gretel." With her elegant fringed black gown flapping in the breeze, Garabedian set an impressive pace as the excited children (playing captives in the infamous gingerbread house), most of whom have never appeared on stage before or even seen an opera, whooshed by. This California Opera Association production, in partnership with the city's parks department, took the raw talent of 35 children ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade and molded it into an ambitious performance. The key is Garabedian's ability to attract professional artists in the principal roles. Christopher Wells, as Father Peter, and Elizabeth King, as Mother Gertrude, were buoyant additions to the cast, and Zachary Sheely's high-curdled rendition of the Witch delighted the audience. The best part, however, was watching those kids up there with professional singers on the same stage; it's an experience they'll likely never forget.” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 12, 2004 – Donald Munro, Fresno Bee – Tower Theatre hosts an opera and a revue – “From a 6-foot-3-inch witch with bright-green curly hair to the statuesque form of '40s-glam sex symbol Betty Grable, you won't have to go far to find impressive women on the stage of the Tower Theatre this week. And it's all because of the magic of theater. In fact, one of these women isn't really a woman at all. When the California Opera Association on Wednesday presents a public performance of the classic children's opera "Hansel and Gretel," the role of the witch will be played -- in traditional German fashion -- by a man. Zachary Sheely, a tenor who has studied under California Opera's artistic director Edna Garabedian, will be almost unrecognizable beneath layers of billowing, witch-fashionable fabric. Joining a cast of 60, including 35 children enrolled in a joint after-school performing-arts program with the city of Fresno, the witch will spread her -- his? -- arms and frighten Hansel and Gretel in typical fairy-tale fashion…Witch opera? "Hansel and Gretel," with music by the German composer Engelbert Humperdinck, was a big deal when it made its 1893 debut. Think of it as a historical pop-culture phenomenon. "When this opera came out, it was the 'Harry Potter' of its time," says visiting conductor Paul Stuart, the artistic director of the Mostly Mozart Festival in Rochester, N.Y. For children back then, the magical elements made it a must-see ticket, while adults warmed to the Wagner- inspired music. This is the sixth annual holiday presentation by California Opera. Garabedian and her artistic crew have been working with children in a program co-sponsored by the city's Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. The children, who range in age from kindergarten to 12th grade, are involved in on-stage and off-stage aspects of the production. For many, it's been their first exposure to opera. They'll be joined by soprano Yukiko Kato of Tokyo as Hansel and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Myers. Garabedian has spiced up the traditional production with what she's calling the "Witch's Rap," an added number performed in contemporary urban style by Caleb Cooks, who attends Carter G. Woodson school. "It's to bring the old world to the new world," Garabedian says. For Sheely, a Westmont College graduate, the role of the Witch was a bit of a hard sell -- it isn't every day that your blond curls get sprayed green -- but it's a plum part that will look good on his resume once he embarks on one of Garabedian's trademark European tours. He was a baritone when Garabedian first discovered him at a California Opera summer workshop, and she says she immediately knew his voice was perfect for a higher range. Meanwhile, Stuart is looking forward to his first time conducting rap in an opera. "That's a new one for me," he says, turning to Garabedian and asking: "Do I need a turntable?" … Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 4, 2004 - From the Office of Mayor Alan Autry - Proclamation - Whereas, performing and visual arts provide unique and deep opportunities to share common human experiences; and Whereas the holiday season presents a time of celebration, unification and caring amongst all people; and Whereas, it is the goal of this City to celebrate the diversity of Fresno and to unite us through our pride and commitment to our youth; and Whereas the California Opera Association has joined with the Mayor's Office and the City of Fresno Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department to create the All City Panorama...Now, therefore be it resolved, that I, Alan Autry, Mayor of the City of Fresno, do hereby proclaim December 13-16 to be "All City Panorama Days" in the City of Fresno..."
October 2, 2004 – Fresno Bee, Kids can get behind the scenes – “You can't beat hands-on training in the arts. And what could top working backstage at an opera? Children ages 7 to 18 will have the opportunity to do just that with the All-City Panorama Project, a collaboration between Fresno's Parks, Recreation & Community Services department and the California Opera Association. Children will have the chance, at eight weekly sessions, to work on a production of the opera "Hansel and Gretel," which will be performed at the Tower Theatre … Those interested in arts, crafts, dancing, gymnastics, singing, acting and the technical aspects of theater production are invited to participate. They will work with professional opera singers and participate in behind-the-scenes set design, costume creation and stage production, as well as performing live..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 2, 2004 – Donald Munro, Fresno Bee - Aria Code: Opera singer's heart and soul reflect her Greek musical roots – “She's definitely Greek. Oh, is she ever Greek. That much is clear the moment Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas squares her shoulders, loosens her hips and sings the opening lines of "Duru Duru," a song about a rebel soldier from Crete. Though Sfekas-Karvelas is a dramatic soprano, when she sings the song it's as if she's channeling the soul of a big, boisterous, randy he-man. In the tradition of those flush with testosterone, the man is telling his sweetheart not to be too possessive. Lots of girls want me, he informs her. And, he continues, if perhaps you've heard around town that I just might care a little about you, don't let it go to your head. When she sings, Sfekas-Karvelas' body seems to strut of its own accord. Her eyebrows, which arch so knowingly they're like little independent flirting entities, suggest lust and laughter. As she wags a finger at the audience, her voice seems almost husky with the rhythm of Greece. "You see, he jiggles when he walks," Sfekas-Karvelas says of the song's narrator. "That's what this music is all about." Yet the soprano, who is lecturing on a recent afternoon to a group of students at the California Opera Association's annual arts and education festival, says there's far more to the Greek musical tradition than dancing the souvlaki. She's made it her life's work, in a sense, to promote what might be called Greek classical music -- songs that marry the essence of Greek folk tradition to classical music and opera. The Dionysian element, with its cheerful connotations of wine, dance and debauchery, has long been associated with Greece, she notes. But there's an Apollonian side -- a more cerebral element -- to the culture as well. "It's fine for the world to think of us as a vibrant people, but let's get serious," she says. To that end, Sfekas-Karvelas, who's made the trek to Fresno from her home on the island of Lesvos, will offer a tribute to Greek composers in a Friday concert at St. George Greek Orthodox Church. One of her favorites is Manolis Kalomiris, and she'll sing the well-known composer's "The Magic Herbs" song cycle. William Yannuzzi, music director of the Baltimore Opera and a longtime collaborator with Sfekas-Karvelas, will play the piano. The concert, preceded by a reception at 5 p.m. Friday at the Fresno Art Museum, is one of the highlights of the opera association's 15-day festival, which continues this week with concerts, lectures and a voice competition. The festival concludes Sunday at San Joaquin Gardens with a staged performance of Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi," conducted by Italian conductor Emanuele Mazzola and directed by Michael Philip Davis, who has staged operas at the American Institute of Musical Studies international festival. For Sfekas-Karvelas, who has a long history working with California Opera artistic director Edna Garabedian, the concert will be a chance to do one of her favorite things: connecting with people in the local Greek-American community and opening their eyes to the sophistication of Greek music. Though she's made a mark in a long career singing the traditional Western opera repertory -- and will perform a selection of standard arias in her concert -- her heart lies in the homeland of her grandparents. "I won't do a concert that doesn't have something Greek in it," she says. "I feel I have a mission to do this." For all her fervor for Greece, Sfekas-Karvelas wasn't actually born there. She grew up in Baltimore. But her Greek roots were deep. She was profoundly influenced by her grandparents, who had immigrated to America. She vacationed there since she was a teenager and eventually married a Greek musicologist. In 1989 they settled in Greece permanently and she continued her opera career, which included recording the title role in the Kalomiris opera "The Mother's Ring" with the Sophia Philharmonic Orchestra, the first Greek opera ever recorded, she says. In many ways her promotion of the music of the Greek national school has been trail-blazing. The song "Duru Duru," for example, a work by Konstantine Sfakianakis, remains unpublished. She found it in a trunk owned by the composer's widow. Back in 1983, Sfekas-Karvelas and Yannuzzi performed the song in a concert at Lincoln Center in New York. Though she's quick to celebrate the diversity of Greek music, she's also careful not to leave the impression that there's anything substandard about the jovial, rhythmic songs so often associated with the culture. If anything, Greek classical music builds on those traditions, creating a distinctive sound, she says. Yannuzzi likens it to the cultural stereotypes often associated with other artistic cultures such as Italy. "As wonderful as it is, Italy is a lot more than pasta, pizza and the tarantella -- though those are all great things," he says. For Sfekas-Karvelas, it's often a case of simply letting people know that Greece's musical repertory is more diverse than they might think. "The problem is that when you're talking about composers, significant doesn't mean the same thing as well-known," she says. For Garabedian -- who returned to Fresno … to found the Fresno Grand Opera and serve as… artistic director -- this fifth installment of California Opera's festival has been a time of growth. She extended the festival to 15 days from one week. She's brought in 75 guest artists, faculty members and aspiring vocalists. Yet she strives for a small-scale approach to the festival, from personalized instruction for students on the practicalities of launching an opera career -- right down to what to wear for an audition ...Garabedian says it's been her goal over the years to build the festival slowly, concentrating on her most important theme: education… Education is also a priority for Sfekas-Karvelas, who started an opera studio on Lesvos and delights in interacting with young singers. She's a big believer in physical conditioning -- in training the body along with the voice. "Physical technique gives you a foundation," she says in an interview after her lecture. "You need strong abdominal muscles. "Here, feel my stomach," she says, offering up her rock-solid abs. "I lift weights. I could lift you -- how much do you weigh?" But most important, an opera singer has to convey a sense of character -- of feeling, of passion, of transformation. She never stops projecting that beckoning sense of Greek openness -- the vaguely flirtatious sense of the rhythm of her culture. Just consider, she says, what a deal the festival's Greek night will be. Not only will the audience get to hear great music, savory homemade delicacies will be available in abundance. "… all that food -- and me," she says with a smile. Her eyebrows vote yes, too..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 25, 2004 – Donald Munro, Fresno Bee – Past and Puccini is just the beginning – “The California Opera Association's arts and educational festival, which got under way Saturday night with a recital by baritone Christopher Wells, continues for the next two weeks with more than a dozen concerts, lectures, staged productions, special events and the finals of the festival's international vocal competition. Now in its fifth year, the festival -- under artistic director Edna Garabedian -- has expanded this year to 15 days of events… Here's the festival schedule: "Pasta and Puccini" …An overview of the works of Puccini, followed by an open rehearsal for "Gianni Schicchi." "Glitter and Be Gay"… The works of Bernstein to Strauss. Artists showcase… "In the Garden" …Free outdoor concert in the San Joaquin Gardens park features festival participants ages 7 to 70..."Opera Espanol”…Opera works in Spanish. "Night by the Baltic Sea"… Works by Russian and Czech composers. "Dream to Broadway"…An evening of Broadway favorites. "Musical Night in Japan" Highlights of "Madame Butterfly" and Japanese art songs. "The Early Masters"… Lecture and master class on early styles of compositions and vocal technique. "The Singer's Soul" … Lecture and master class on the aspects and necessity of the singer's ego. Greek night… An evening featuring Ioanna Sfekas-Karvelas of Greece and William Yannuzzi…Staged performance of Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" and vocal competition finals…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July, 2004 - Classical Singer - "...5th Annual California Opera Arts & Education Festival... events that address the practical aspects of career development with world class trainers... professional audition techniques, achieving peak performance, career planning for the global market, role and repertoire development, performance training, conductor's symposia, vocal competitions... Fresno, California... Edna Garabedian, Artistic Director..."
March 29, 2004 – Marty Berry, Fresno Bee - Spring blossoms at Fresno park: Perfect weather lures 100 to festival, bonsai in Japanese garden - "The season was in full bloom Sunday at the Spring Blossom Festival and Fresno Bonsai Society Spring Show in Woodward Park, where about 100 people took in the soothing sights and sounds of Shinzen Friendship Garden…"This is a great time of year to come here," Brooke Frost of Fresno said of the park. "I live in southeast Fresno, and I don't come up here enough." …"It's so serene here. It makes you feel so calm…People even talk more softly here." Magee Hoskins of Kingsburg said she heard about the festival at the California Opera’s "A Musical Night in Japan" on Saturday night at the United Japanese Christian Church, which was part of the festival. "I didn't want to miss it," she said. "It's really beautiful..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
March 21, 2004 – Fresno Bee – Japan is the theme of Saturday event: “California Opera presents 'A Musical Night in Japan,' described as a requiem peace concert, at 7 p.m. Saturday at United Japanese Christian Church. The concert is in affiliation with the Shin Zen Garden Spring Blossom Festival. The performance will include selections from "The Mikado," "Madame Butterfly" and Paul Stuart's "The Sisters of Manzanar" -- the West Coast premiere of a production illuminating the experiences of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Singers include Yukiko Kato, Robert Wain-Becker, Deanne Reeder, Kimberly Gracey, Zachary Sheely, Harvey Edmonds and Steve Wall... " Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
March 21, 2004 – Fresno Bee – “The Fresno Arts Council will honor six individuals and businesses with the 19th annual Horizon Awards 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Fresno City Hall. The Arts Council's Horizon Awards honors individuals and organizations for their contribution to the arts in Fresno… Susana [Ramos-Esquivel], 16, and a student at Roosevelt School of the Arts...with Edna Garabedian, founder of the Fresno Grand Opera and California Opera Association…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
February 3-14, 2004: Fresno Bee - "California Opera: An Evening of Romance -- 5:30 p.m. Saturday, benefits the California Opera. Valet parking, social hour, dining, dance and auction shopping..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 7, 2003 – Fresno Bee, Jami Gordillo-Kerby Teen Press Corps - Rising star: Young soprano finds her true voice in music – “For a bride's entrance, little can rival the exhilarating sound of a church organ combined with the voice of soprano Susana Ramos-Esquivel. "Weddings are such a happy time," says Susana, a student at Roosevelt School of the Arts. Susana's voice emotes a sweetness that is both poignant and sensual. The way she sings is memorable as she captures the essence of her songs and their emotions. Susana has performed not only at weddings, but also with the California Opera Association. She studies voice under Edna Garabedian, founder of the Fresno Grand Opera. Garabedian has said that her student sings flawlessly. "I couldn't do it without Edna; she is an extraordinary voice teacher," Susana says. Susana works toward her goal of finding joy and creative expression by integrating healthy singing techniques that enhance her distinctive, pure voice. She rehearses every day for nearly two hours. Her typical rehearsal includes warm-up and preparation exercises. "My only wish, my only desire, is to share my joy of singing with people. I never want to let them down," she says. When you listen to her sing, you can hear distinctive vocal color and beauty with startling power as well as elegance. This rising star has a rich, commanding voice. Behind this "angel voice" is a very supportive family. Her mother, Madeline Ramos-Esquivel, and her father, Nickolas Esquivel, are her strongest supporters. This past summer, Susana sang with Daniel Rodriguez, the Singing Cop from New York. Their performance of "The Prayer," sung as a duet in Italian and English, received five standing ovations. Susanna has also captivated audiences with her performance as Amahl in the California Opera Association's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." She also has performed with another talented member of her family, her younger sister, Graciela Ramos-Esquivel, who attends Tenaya Middle School. The sisters and the Youth Symphony performed for the annual benefit dinner and show for the Youth Orchestras of Fresno. "Graciela's voice is definitely mature for her age. Graciela doesn't see me as the big sister but thinks of us as equals," Susana says. Estella Ramos-Esquivel, the oldest of the three sisters, is always there for Graciela and Susana with her unwavering support. Susana is rapidly claiming her place among the emerging singers of our community. She is planning to complement her singing career with a career in medicine. She would like to attend either the University of California at Irvine or Davis. She is an extremely focused and devoted young lady. Being one of the most promising young singers attempting the operatic repertoire keeps her busy along with her love for singing at weddings. She is indeed a very beautiful, talented and sweet rising star. Jami attends McLane High School." Purchase full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September 7, 2003 - Fresno Bee - Fall Classics - "...Nonprofit association, artistic director Edna Garabedian… "Amahl and the Night Visitors," in association with the Fresno Youth Symphony…" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 10, 2003 – Fresno Bee, Donald Munro –“When Deanne Reeder was a little girl, she thought it would be fun to be an opera singer. She loved the idea of the costumes, the glamour, the chance to sing at the top of your lungs. But it was never more than an idle dream. "I sang in a couple of musicals in high school," she says. "But I had such a big, unwieldy voice. I didn't know how to control it." When she went to Humboldt State University, she pursued a degree in piano instead. Funny how some things work out. The 32-year-old is about to embark on her first overseas audition tour of some of the grandest opera houses in Europe. But first Reeder, a lyric-coloratura soprano who makes her home in Sebastapol, will perform in a solo recital Monday as part of the California Opera Association's Arts & Education Festival [that] includes opera scenes staged by Italian director Michael Phillip Davis, artist showcase performances, Bach's "Coffee Cantata" featuring Reeder as Lieschen, Zachary Sheely as the Narrator and Harvey Edmonds as Schlendrian, preceded by "Words on Bach & Haydn" by Gerry Anne Prody and followed by a reception co-sponsored by Fabiano's Coffee Company, and an international vocal competition. Among this year's competitors are Hovhannes Nazaryan of the Armenian National Opera and Florencia Tinoco Barone of Guadalajara, Mexico. Two pivotal events occurred in Reeder's life after college that gave her a new career trajectory. The first was bumping into a vocal coach named Raymond Salazar -- while she was competing in the Miss San Francisco Pageant, of all places -- who realized her raw talent. "When he heard me sing, he told me, 'I think you could do something with that voice.' I won a vocal scholarship to study with him, and that's where it all started. I stumbled into the whole thing." After years of studying voice while supporting herself teaching piano, the second pivotal event was hooking up three years ago with Edna Garabedian -- who in local opera circles needs no introduction. "When she auditioned, I knew that her nature, her instrument [voice] and her potential was the perfect candidate for our training," Garabedian says. The Fresno-based California Opera Association, with Garabedian at the helm, prides itself not only on training singers musically but in the all-important skills of planning a career. For opera singers, what they sing -- building a repertoire ideally suited to the voice -- is as important as how they sing it. Garabedian returned to her Fresno roots to work with new singers after a long and illustrious international opera career. That career, incidentally, left her with a wealth of connections and a street-smart insight into how the opera world works behind the scenes. About 30 artists in training are involved at different stages of the opera association's individually tailored courses of study. Some of the preparation helps them grapple with the more mundane details of life as an opera singer, including the all-important questions: How do you make enough money to survive as a musician while building a career? And how do you pay for that all-important audition trip? (Opera companies don't pay audition expenses.) When working with Reeder, Garabedian suggested that the singer concentrate on coloratura soprano roles that demand a higher, more agile, more flexible voice with a great deal of elasticity. If you're a coloratura, you often play more light-hearted, physical, funny roles -- your character, say, isn't likely to die a prolonged and overly dramatic Act III death. To that end, Garabedian helped Reeder develop several highlight roles: Gilda in "Rigoletto," Sophie in "Der Rosenkavalier" and Zerbinetta in "Ariane ? Naxos." With her small frame and background in gymnastics, Reeder is a natural for such roles. She also can sing lyric soprano roles -- those requiring a fuller middle sound and the ability to sustain long phrases. But she stays away from what she calls the "big, buttery Puccini heroines." Then there's the matter of her exuberant stage presence -- a product of her outgoing personality. "I have a black belt in tae kwon do and I've done sky diving," she says. "But nothing compares to the rush you get on stage." This is Reeder's third year with the opera association festival, having previously performed in "Hansel & Gretel" and "The Medium and the Impresario." Now, Garabedian says, the singer is ready for Europe. "We've hand-trained Deanne to the point that this is her year to springboard into the audition process," Garabedian says. "The idea is to get her into the hands of the managers and get her into the opera houses of Europe for auditions." Reeder will travel to Germany and Austria in September, auditioning for about 30 casting agents. She hopes that they'll in turn send her to opera companies looking for new coloraturas. In November she'll return to New York City for auditions there. Is she nervous? "No, I'm not. I feel like it's something that's meant to be…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 8, 2002, Fresno Bee – Amahl makes a visit Friday night: "Amahl and the Night Visitors, a children's favorite among 20th-century operas, returns Friday evening as California Opera Association's Christmas gift to the community… The Fresno Youth Symphony, conducted by Eric Gratz, will be in the pit. Edna Garabedian, founding director of California Opera, staged the biennial production of Menotti's holiday classic, a tender one-act drama with a message about faith, selflessness and good deeds. Susana Esquivel, 15, is featured as the crippled Amahl, an impoverished boy who is miraculously cured of his lameness after giving his only possession, his walking stick, to the visiting three Kings as a birthday gift to the newborn Jesus. Like most Menotti operas, the story is based upon a real-life incident. Menotti, born in a mountain village in Italy, was lame as a child. He recovered after being blessed at Sacro Monte, a chapel at Lake Orta. Menotti created the opera on commission from NBC Television in 1950, inspired by seeing the sacred painting, "Adoration of the Magi." Besides Susana, the players in California Opera's version are Kimberly Gracey as the mother and Dr. Harvey Edmonds, Gerald Lee and Jeff Seaward as the Three Kings. Ramon Martinez appears as the page. "Amahl" is scheduled to tour Northern California in January." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
November 22, 2002 - Visalia Delta Times, Marsha Peltzer - "Amahl & the Night Visitors," composed by Gian-Carlo Minotti, is a delightfully and touching mini opera that appeals to children and adults of all ages and cultures..." Purchase the full article at http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com
November 22, 2002 – Fresno Bee, Mary Lou Aguirre: Singer to put her spin on ‘Amahl’ - "Television isn't all bad. It was a source of inspiration for Susana Esquivel of Fresno when she was a 9-year-old. "I had wanted to be a pop star in the fifth grade," 15-year-old Susana remembered last week. "Then I saw Cecilia Bartoli on television and wanted to be an opera star." Susana, a sophomore at Roosevelt School of the Arts, will sing the role of Amahl in the Tulare County Symphony's production of "Amahl & the Night Visitors" this weekend at the Visalia Fox Theatre. "The symphony has never really staged a full opera or even a mini opera," says David Andre, the music director and conductor. "This is a complete full production." Edna Garabedian, artistic director for the California Opera Association in Fresno, is the stage director for the holiday opera by Gian Carlo Menotti. The plot revolves around Amahl, a poor shepherd who is a habitual liar. He also has to use a crutch to walk. His mother loves him, but doesn't believe him when he tells her about seeing an enormous star. She gets angrier when Amahl says three kings are at their home. The American opera was first written expressly for television. It aired for many years on NBC until the original recording was lost. "I feel privileged to be on stage with the other soloists," Susana says. "It's a beautiful opera. It's a family opera that will keep the kids in the audience entertained." The [Tulare] soloists include Jeff Seaward as Kaspar, Wendy Culbreth as Amahl's mother, Charles Culbreth as Melchior, Paul Raheb as Balthazar and Eric Farrenkopf as the page. Wendy and Charles Culbreth, who live in Visalia, last appeared on stage together in a production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Wendy Culbreth is familiar with Menotti, having appeared in a performance of the composer's first full-length work, "The Consul." "I'm honored to be invited to play the mother," Culbreth says. "I had worked with Edna when we did 'Carmen.' We worked well together. Edna and David are very much open to what the soloists feel. I appreciate the kindness and all the emotions that Edna sees in the mother. Menotti expresses those things in the notes." Susana studied with Garabedian at the California Opera Association and is a former member of the Central California Children's Choir. "Susana is absolutely the finest Amahl I can image," Garabedian says. " She has sung 11 performances flawlessly throughout Fresno County. She has a remarkably steady set of nerves and is a very astute musician and dancer." Susana's sister, Graciela, 11, is her understudy. "Graciela doesn't see me as the big sister," Susana says. "She thinks of us as equals. Her voice is definitely mature for her age." Culbreth says Susana "has a beautiful, bell-like soprano sound. She's a beautiful young woman, so there will no more little boy roles for her. Susana is a very talented young woman." In fact, the only challenge for Susana has been to act the part of a rude 12-year-old boy. "Amahl lies and is kind of ornery," Susana says. "Susana is not a snotty kid," Culbreth says. "I asked her if she watches 'The Simpsons.' I told her to be more like Bart." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 24, 2002 – Fresno Bee, David Hale - Rising Stars: Opera institute blends new and proven talent - "Twenty-five young singers trying to climb the opera career ladder will gain another rung in training and experience in the institute of the California Opera Association ... The payoff for opera-lovers will be the opportunity to experience the diverse entertainment in which the aspiring artists will test their progress, Menotti's "The Medium" and Mozart's "The Impresario" and "The Magic Flute." The student body will consist of newcomers and returnees from last summer's institute, several of whom performed in subsequent operas for California Opera. Artistic director Edna Garabedian, founder of California Opera Association and Fresno Grand Opera, heads a seasoned faculty that includes pianist William Yannuzzi, accompanist/coach of the Baltimore Opera, Gregory Buchalter, assistant principal conductor and choir maestro of the Metropolitan Opera; Russian pianist-vocal coach Ludmila Pilatova; and Gerry Anne Prody, early music specialist on the faculty at Washington State University. The institute will begin with a reception at 7 p.m. Friday, a mixer for singers and teachers that will allow the public to meet the participants. The first full-blown performance will be the Artist Showcase at 6 p.m. July 31 …The program, selections from Broadway, operetta and opera, will give the singers a break from five days of lectures on performance and career development, audition workshops, rehearsals and master classes. Other performances will be in the theater: "The Impresario" and "The Medium," as a double bill at 7 p.m. Aug. 2-3, and "The Magic Flute" at 3 p.m. Aug. 4. The production of Mozart's comedic "The Impresario" ("Der Shauspielddirecktor)" will be a premiere. Garabedian commissioned Joseph Tatner, a Los Angeles-based opera manager/producer, to rewrite a 100-year-old English translation of Mozart's 1786 German production. "The Impresario" is Mozart's satire on the business of opera, about an impresario threatened with bankruptcy. A banker agrees to finance his recovery on the condition that his favorite young singer, untried in opera, be given the leading role -- one the impresario has already filled with his own favorite diva. "The English translation is so stilted that it loses the humor and meaning of Mozart's German version," Tatner says. "That's the reason it has been so seldom performed. We've modernized the language so the dialogue flows better, leaving the two best-known arias in the German. Mozart used topical references for humor; so do we." The casting of "Impresario," as Tatner points out, "is a perfect example of life reflecting art." Tatner, modern-day impresario -- an entertainment world veteran whose career dates back to boyhood roles on television's "The Brady Bunch" and "Partridge Family" -- will appear in the title role. Madame Silverpeal, the novice diva, will be portrayed by Arianna, a 24-year-old pop/musical theater singer from Los Angeles, making her debut on the opera stage. Arianna is a new student of Garabedian. Soprano DeAnne Reeder of San Francisco, Gretel in last season's "Hansel and Gretel," will portray the Impresario's fading diva, Madame Goldentrill. In Menotti's "The Medium," a two-act musical drama, contralto Roberta Wain-Becker of San Francisco, new on the faculty, will bow as Madame Flora, the fraudulent psychic so disturbed by a séance gone awry that she commits murder. Soprano Cheryl Stark of Clovis, winner of the Fresno Opera League scholarship competition, will appear as Monica. "The Magic Flute," the fantastic two-act comedy that is the last and one of the most popular of Mozart's major operas, will be the summation of the 2002 Institute. It's the story of two young lovers who undergo all kinds of magic adventures to be together. Tenor Matthew Kessell will be Prince Tamino; Meredith Durett, his beloved Pamina; Philip Meyers, the Sorcerer; John McConnell, Papageno the Birdcatcher, and Jamie Bonetto, Queen of the Night. Buchalter of the Metropolitan Opera will conduct …" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 6, 2002 – Fresno Bee - Spots open for opera festival: Program for aspiring singers starts July 26 - "The California Opera Association ...third annual Arts and Education Festival... institute for aspiring singers beginning July 26. The program of workshops, master classes, coaching sessions and performances ..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
May 31, 2002 – La Presna - "...The California Opera Association …3rd Annual California Opera Arts & Education Festival… workshops offer masterclasses, including Achieving Peak Performance, Professional Audition Techniques, and Opera Theater in a Changing Global Market… with members of the Metropolitan Opera, Baltimore Opera…” View full article at www.laprensa-sandiego.org
April 19, 2002, Fresno Bee – “The California Opera presents: "The Magic Flute," the fantastic two-act comedy that is the last and one of the most popular of Mozart's major operas… It's the story of two young lovers who undergo all kinds of magic adventures to be together. Tenor Matthew Kessell will be Prince Tamino; Meredith Durett, his beloved Pamina; Philip Meyers, the Sorcerer; John McConnell, Papageno the Birdcatcher, and Jamie Bonetto, Queen of the Night. Buchalter of the Metropolitan Opera will conduct the single performance…" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
March 5, 2002 –Fresno Bee Neighbors, Bethany Clough - Classroom Concerto - “Boris Nixon, a cellist and California Opera Association member …has played in concert halls around the country. Recently, he gave an intimate performance in Fresno – the venue – a classroom full of sixth graders in basketball uniforms and sweatshirts, with a picture of George Washington and the solar system hanging on the wall. Nixon visited Bruce Lundberg’s sixth grade class last month. Two of Lundberg’s students… were winners of California Opera Association art contest… to win a classroom visit from Nixon. Part of the association’s goal is to make students comfortable with opera…Classroom visits where an aspect of opera is explained in sixth-grade terms, make opera understandable... Students from six schools who won the contest [and classroom visits] also attended a performance of Hansel and Gretel at Tower Theatre. Their artwork was displayed…at first glance, the bellowing tones of opera may seem as foreign to elementary students as the languages in which they’re sung. “I respect what they can do with their voice," said winner Taylor [Torrence]…Their association’ performance of Hansel and Gretel is geared toward children, with children performing in it…making it understandable and enjoyable..” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
February 19, 2002 – Fresno Bee, Peter Robertson: Valentine’s Day benefit has a musical touch – “… Artistic director Edna Garabedian welcomed guests and introduced the evening's hosts, Dee Middione Stonebraker and Wendell Raymond Phillips... chef Rick Valeri and pastry chef Tracy Kriegler prepared a buffet dinner that included baked ham with raisin sauce and roasted turkey with all the trimmings. Desserts were tiramisu, New York cheesecake with mixed berries and bananas Foster, flambeed in the dining room. Following dinner, Brittany Shiralian sang "Remember Me" from "Phantom of the Opera," Susana Esquivel performed "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" and Cheryl Stark sang "My Funny Valentine" from "Babes in Arms." Stark also was the recipient of a 2001 Fresno Opera League award medal. The highlight of the musical program was Giuseppe Verdi's opera "The Masked Ball." Considered one of Verdi's finest works, it deals with events surrounding the assassination of Sweden's King Gustavus II. Censorship forced the composer to move the action to 17th-century Boston and change the king to English Gov. Richard Earl of Warwick. Most productions today use the Swedish setting. The plot involves languished love, mistaken identities, a fortune teller, a masked ball and finally murder. Abenda Davis, Matthew Kessell, Gennadi Badasov, Irina Johnson and Drucilla Heywood-Boone effectively portrayed the roles in the three-act piece…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
February 6-10, 2002 – Fresno Bee – It’ll be Verdi on Valentine’s for opera fans: Valentine's Day party features a performance of Verdi's Masked Ball: “…Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" ("Masked Ball") will be featured at the California Opera Association's Valentine dinner/dance at 6 p.m. Feb. 14 …centering on a triangle in the court of an 18th-century king…Tenor Matthew Kessell, a newcomer to the association from Los Angeles, will sing the role of Renato, the king's secretary, and baritone Gennadi Badasov, the toreador of California Opera’s "Carmen," will be the king. Soprano Abrenda Davis, Dew Fairy in "Hansel and Gretel," will portray Amelia, the heroine, the central figure in the fatal love triangle. Irina Johnson, a Russian-born soprano, will perform as Oscar the page. Johnson was Mercedes in the Opera's "Carmen." Several young singers will also appear… to introduce outstanding members of California Opera's youth education program… Wendell Raymond Phillips, artistic director of Golden West Opera in Los Angeles, will be the master of ceremonies for this second annual "Evening of Romance."…The opera is a melodrama based on a true story, the assassination of Sweden's flamboyant King Gustav III, who was slain at a masked ball in his opera house in 1792. In 1859, when the opera had its premiere, the plot was still considered so politically dangerous that Verdi felt compelled to transfer the story to Boston, making Gustav governor of the city. Still, as Garabedian says, "A Masked Ball" is a "traditional Verdi romantic opera." The romance is a triangle. Typically, the characters and history represent an operatic tangle. In California Opera's version, baritone Badasov, as Renato, is secretary to tenor Kessell, who is Riccardo, not a governor but the Count of Warwick. A count as governor of Boston? Never mind; melody and emotional expression are what counts. All the audience cares about is that Renato stabs the count to death, suspecting that he has trifled with his beloved Amelia, played by Davis. Heywood-Boone is a fortune-teller accused of witchcraft… The Opera Lites, auxiliary of the California Opera Association, is presenting the dinner party as a benefit. Proceeds from sales of tickets, $60 each, will go to the Fresno Opera League's scholarship auditions and next summer's Arts and Education Festival, California Opera’s training institute…"The program has two goals," she [Garabedian] says. "It gives young singers who are ready to begin professional careers an opportunity to perform music they have prepared, and it familiarizes the public with new repertory"… Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
February 5, 2002 – Fresno Bee - Patriotic theme tops off an evening of music ... “Nearly 300 people filled Pardini's ballroom Friday evening … auctions, dinner and, of course, music…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
November 18, 2001 – David Hale, Fresno Bee: Fairy Tale Opera is a German Tradition - "In America, to millions of children of all ages, "The Nutcracker" and Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" are synonymous with the magic of Christmas. Elsewhere, 'tis the season for "Hansel and Gretel," that beloved children's opera by Engelbert Humperdinck. "In Germany, opera houses all over the country are filled. You cannot get a ticket," says Edna Garabedian, the artistic director of the California Opera Association, whose singing career includes many years in Europe. " 'Hansel and Gretel' is tradition at Christmas." Hence, California Opera's production of "Hansel and Gretel," next Sunday afternoon at the Tower Theatre, with four repeats for children Monday and Tuesday. "We're starting a new tradition for Fresno," Garabedian says. Also new to the company will be a bilingual format. The singing will interweave German and English. "Hansel and Gretel" will feature a band of blossoming professionals: mezzo-soprano Nancy Endres-Eaton of San Clemente as Hansel, soprano DeAnne Reeder of Sebastopol as Gretel and mezzo-soprano Lyria Pegram of Los Angeles as the Witch. Supporting roles will be filled by soprano Cynthia Snyder of Palm Springs as the mother, baritone Milton Friesen of Visalia as the father, soprano Irina Johnson as the Dew Fairy and soprano Susana Esquivel of Fresno as the Sandman. A children's chorus joins in…The first performance of "Hansel and Gretel" was in 1893 in Weimar, Germany. Based on a fairy tale by the brothers Grimm, the story begins when a mother, worn down by the restless behavior of her children, sends them off to pick strawberries. Their search for the fruit leads them into dark woods inhabited by fanciful creatures. One of the beings is particularly treacherous: a broomstick-wielding witch who entices the children with strawberries and holds them captive in her gingerbread house. Her intent is to fatten up the innocent kids for her oven, though in Shakespearean tradition, all's well that ends well. It's a simple tale with fantastic elements, including a bit of magic, and more than a little suspense for children -- and adults willing to suspend disbelief. As the Witch, mezzo-soprano Pegram, a Los Angeles native schooled at the University of California at Northridge, is responsible for the scary component and also some of the magic. "It's a character I adore. She is so terribly, wonderfully bad," says Pegram, who first played the Witch last year in a Los Angeles Music Theater production. "I'm kind of Amazon-ish [5 feet 9 inches tall] with a darkish voice that lends itself to the idea of being scary. Did you know in Fresno I'll be disguised as a tree?" Vocally and physically, Endres-Eaton and Reeder are also perfect fits, says Garabedian, for their roles as the immortal tykes. "I've had lots of dance experience," says Endres-Eaton, a Midwesterner who once danced with a Boston modern dance troupe. "That's very useful for opera or as an actor; you learn to move easily on stage. For me, Hansel is a wonderful role. I have the right physicality [slight build] to look like a young boy, and there's a lot of acting, moving and stage business. Plus, it's always great to get out and sing a principal role." "My students tell me I'm too old to be 8," says Reeder, who balances her life between singing with small Bay Area operas and teaching piano in her hometown. "I tell them nobody is too old to play Hansel and Gretel. We're the eternal children." Reeder characterizes herself as "an aspiring singer," gaining the experience to try out her talents in Europe. It's one reason she's spent six months learning her role in the original German. That makes Fresno's bilingual "Hansel and Gretel" a bonus, reason enough for her to bypass the role of the Dew Fairy in a Golden Gate Opera production in San Francisco. In keeping with California Opera's educational outreach goals, "Hansel and Gretel" will also feature Christine Gough, a professional interpreter, to let the deaf "hear" the music and libretto through American Sign Language..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
October 30 to November 22, 2001, Fresno Bee, David Hale: Opera group seeks children's art ..." 'Hansel and Gretel' inspires students for art contest ...” The California Opera Association will conduct an art contest for children based on Engelbert Humperdinck's fairy tale opera "Hansel and Gretel." Artwork entries must be based on some part of the story or theme of the brother and sister, a witch and a gingerbread house. Six entrants will receive California Opera Association 2001 Creative Young Artist Recognition Awards and a personal appearance by association musicians at their school…The California Opera Association has announced the winners in its art contest for children based on Engelbert Humperdinck's fairy-tale opera "Hansel and Gretel." They are: Amber Cozad, a kindergartner at Eaton Elementary. Zoe Arriaga, a first-grader at McCardle Elementary, Spencer Brown, a second-grader at Forkner Elementary, Sixth-graders Philip Goolkasian of St. Anthony's, and Fernando Pedroza and Taylor Torrence of Forkner…" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
October 3, 2001 – J. Riley, Rampage Entertainment (a student publication of Fresno City College):"On Sunday, the California Opera Association held an opera at the Tower Theater titled Bizet’s Carmen…The opera cast had people from all over California. Some were from Fresno City College, including FCC’s director of opera Melissa Wolfmann as Micaela. FCC’s Larry Honda plays the clarinet …which was superb. The opera had some lovely…unique style, bringing all of the emotions to the surface without pushing it too far…giving them 4 ½ stars…”
September 24, 2001 – Fresno Bee, Dorina K. Lazo: Song in her heart; International opera singer exposes others to her art - “"Life," says Edna Garabedian, "is an opera unto itself." Looking into her piercing, dark eyes, it's clear she's serious. Whether she's talking about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center or telling stories about living in Europe, everything is somehow related to the opera. "Opera is about everyone's lives," she sums up. For more than five decades, the Fresno-born Garabedian has toured the world as an international opera singer and stage director. This fall, she will be the stage director for performances of "Carmen" by the California Opera Association in Fresno and by Opera by the Bay and Golden Gate Opera in Sausalito. Garabedian also has a new project. She recently started a group called Opera Lites -- primarily made up of local seniors who get together for brunches or potluck dinners and chat about opera. They also do volunteer work for the opera productions that come to Fresno. Garabedian's mission in creating Opera Lites is to educate community members about the beauty and fun of opera -- a goal the Opera Lites call "fun raising." They work behind the scenes preparing meals for the opera singers, setting up rehearsals and housing the performers. "It enhances their [performers'] cultural environment," says Garabedian. "It enlightens their spirit of learning." Patricia Gebs, an Opera Lites member, says the group also helps local young people who are interested in opera. "I also support Edna's group because she is helping young people who are aspiring to become opera singers," says Gebs. "With her background, she is able to steer them in the right direction." Garabedian says opera is an art form that reaches across generational and cultural lines. Her vision is to bring opera to the Valley in a way that everyone can afford to enjoy it. "So many people are being neglected because of what they can afford," says Garabedian. "Opera is not just for the financially stable individuals. It started in the streets." Through grants, Garabedian's group will make tickets available for $10 for seniors in local retirement communities and students. These prices will be available for the upcoming performances of "Carmen" on Sunday and "Hansel and Gretel" on Nov. 25. "It's getting people to understand that opera is not just for stuffed shirts," says Garabedian. "It's not just high-priced tickets." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September 23, 2001 – Fresno Bee, David Hale: Brava, Carmen - "Bizet's "Carmen," one of the few operas so popular it is virtually a household word, will begin the season Sept. 30 for the California Opera Association. Mezzo-soprano Lyutsina Kazachenko will be featured as Carmen, the tempestuous Spanish Gypsy girl who leads men astray with her beauty and manipulative ways. The Russian-born singer heads an international cast that includes American tenor Daniel Hendrick as Don Jose, Carmen's fatefully jealous soldier lover; Gennadi Badasov, a Russian-Armenian baritone, as the toreador Escamillo, whom Carmen ultimately chooses; soprano Melissa Wolfmann as Micaela, Carmen's rival for Jose's affections, and Irina Johnson, a Russian-born soprano, as Mercedes, Gypsy friend to Carmen… The language will be French… narration also will be signed for the hearing impaired. Artistic director Edna Garabedian designed the unusual staging of "Carmen" to suit the California Opera Association outreach goal: to produce opera that creates a larger audience by educating the newcomer even as it entertains. Mezzo Kazachenko, who lives in San Francisco, is a native of St. Petersburg, Russia. She first played Carmen in 1995 with Opera Theatre in Volgograd. Her performing background includes roles in a number of operas in St. Petersburg's Marinsky Theatre, in Moscow, Munich and Buenos Aires, and concert tours of Italy. Hendrick has appeared with the New York City Opera as Pinkerton in "Madama Butterfly" and Rodolfo in "La Boheme;" as Laertes in "Hamlet" for the San Francisco Opera and as Tamino in Mozart's "The Magic Flute," with conductor Richard Boynge and the Minnesota Opera. Baritone Badasov has 20 roles under his belt, including performances in Europe and with the San Francisco Opera. He has been Germont in "La Traviata," Igor in "Prince Igor," Onegin in "Eugene Onegin," Scarpia in "Tosca" and Sharpless in "Madama Butterfly" …Soprano Irina Johnson (Mercedes), a native of Vladimir, Russia, is a newcomer to Fresno music circles. She participated in the California Opera institute last summer as Garabedian's student and will be seen as Papageno in the company's spring production of "The Magic Flute." "Carmen's" forces include a children's chorus and an adult chorus, directed by Susan Moore and Dimitri Kostiw, respectively. Cuadro Espanol, the Spanish dance troupe, will add the Latin element to an opera that is essentially French. Patrons are advised to look both ways before using the aisles. Underwriters of "Carmen" include the Harry C. Mitchell Trust, Fresno Opera League, the Armenian American Faith Charity and the Daniel R. Martin Family Foundation." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September 22, 2001 – Fresno Bee, Pablo Lopez: Standing Together; Fresnans gather to mourn victims and show their faith in America: "Candles flickered Friday night at Fresno City Hall. Flags flew at half-staff. In a solemn display of patriotism... Fresno remembers victims who died Sept. 11 in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history… Fresnans gathered to mourn the fallen and ponder what's ahead. "This is our job to come together and show that those 6,000 people did not die in vain," Mayor Alan Autry told the crowd at City Hall. People -- young, old, of different races, colors and creeds -- did just that. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and led by Edna Garabedian and the California Opera Association, sang patriotic songs. Autry and other dignitaries painted Fresno as a diverse but united community. "God bless America" was often their conclusion. "It's time to stand with our neighbor," said Dan Ronquillo, a City Council member. "It's our strength that built the foundation of this community and this nation. It will be our strength that will see us through." …[Kham Dy] Yang sang, "We are in a spiritual odyssey. We must open our hearts, our minds and open doors. It's time to seek the Lord." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September 19, 2001 – Fresno Bee - …”There will be an opportunity for people to stand up visibly for national solidarity with thousands of others for a candlelight remembrance for all the victims of the tragedy on Friday night around the fountain at Fresno's City Hall. Among the participants coordinating the event are an eclectic collection of people: the city's Human Relations Commission, law enforcement and opera executive Edna Garabedian… [with] the California Opera Association…It's a sure emblem of hope…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 3, 2001 – Fresno Bee– Final Curtain: Opera hopefuls wrap up sessions with three performances – “ …emerging opera singers, students in the California Opera Association's institute, will show off their talents in one-act operas … The programs will conclude the association's second annual summer school for opera hopefuls, led by an international faculty. Menotti's opera-buffa "The Telephone" will be the full-dress opera in all three programs. Soprano Cheryl Stark of Fresno will be featured as Lucy, the young woman fixated on the telephone. Baritone Kenneth Godbille of Los Angeles will appear as Ben, the suitor who can't get a word in edgewise. Thomas Pasatieri's comic opera, "La Divina," about the tumult surrounding an aging diva's farewell performance, will be represented by soprano Kimberly Gracey of Clovis …Performances tonight and Saturday evening are designed strictly as young artist showcases. Besides "The Telephone" and Gracey's "La Divina" turn, a dozen students from the weeklong institute will "graduate" from the institute with aria presentations. Mezzo-soprano soloists will be Lyria Pegram of Los Angeles, Lyutsina Kazachenko of Baku, Russia and Daun DeVore of Los Angeles. Sopranos include Nelli Hovakimyan of Yerevan, Armenia; Irina Johnson of Vladimir, Russia, and Kingsburg; Cynthia Snyder of Yorba Linda; Adrienne Stapp of Newport Beach; Deanne Reeder of Sebastapol; Kara Masek of Rancho Mirage; and Katherine Schmidt of Perris. The arias will represent Puccini's "La Boheme" and "Suor Angelica," Rossini's "William Tell," Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet," Verdi's "Don Carlo," Dvorak's "Song to the Moon," Bizet's "Carmen," Puccini's "Turandot" and Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Comic interest will be represented by Sigmund Spaeth's operatic send-up "Jack and Jill," with 14-year-olds Susana Esquivel of Fresno and Inez Galvez of Stockton. Faculty members and the California Opera Youth Chorus will augment Saturday afternoon's program. The instructor/soloists will be … Terry Estabrook, Stephen Wall, Sue Moore and Ann Cartwright. Eva Amador will contribute a flamenco dance….” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 29, 2001 – Fresno Bee, David Hale: New festival helps singers hit all the right notes - "Once upon a time, baritone Roy Stevens was a singer in the doldrums, dissatisfied with his vocal production and career progress. Then, almost by happenstance, he met Edna Garabedian, a singer known for her success as a vocal trainer and career adviser. "My natural vocal sound is shallow and breathy, not good at all for an operatic sound," says Stevens. "I'd had other teachers, but Edna was able to analyze the things that weren't working about my natural setup and correct them. In effect, she taught me how to maintain my violin, and more important, do it on my own. All of a sudden at 43, I'm instantly valuable." Stevens has since become a regular at La Scala and at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, and his "Otello" for the International Music Festival in Macau was televised internationally. He'll make his debut at the Metropolitan Opera early in 2002 as Gen. Belliard in Prokofiev's massive "War and Peace," and he'll be doing the title in "Nabucco" in Boston. In Barcelona, he is signed to do "Siegfried" in Wagner's Ring Cycle and Balstrode in "Peter Grimes." "I wouldn't have had an international career without Edna," Stevens says. It's why he and his wife, Annalisa Winberg, a soprano whose career has also benefited from training with Garabedian, are lending their talent this week to the California Arts and Education Festival. They'll be among several artist/teachers contributing to a recital at 2:30 p.m. today in the Tower Theatre, the first of four public concerts in the festival/institute festival Garabedian founded last year. Stevens and Winberg will perform the third act duet of Aida and Amonasaro from "Aida." The other artists include Norman Mittelmann, a Canadian-born baritone who has sung in just about every opera house of note in Europe, who will sing Iago's "Credo" from "Otello"; Garabedian, who will represent a signature role in Kostelnicha's aria from Janacek's opera "Jenufa"; and Russian pianist Ludmila Filatova and cellist Boris Nixon, who will perform the second movement of Kabalevsky's "Sonata for Cello and Piano, Opus 2." After today's recital will be a question-and-answer session among the teachers and the singers attending the institute. About 30 vocalists, from around the United States, Russia, Armenia and Spain, are enrolled in the institute. Besides studying aspects of opera performance and career management, many of them will appear in the final concerts of the weeklong program, One-act operas…and mini-concerts of arias will be presented … in the Tower Theatre. The Institute exists, according to organizers, to provide "assistance to participants in acquiring levels of performance skills and general competence commensurate with the demands and requirements of a chosen area of performance." Besides Garabedian, Stevens and Winberg, the faculty includes baritone Mittelmann; William Yannuzzi, renowned coach/accompanist of the Baltimore Opera; Alim Shakmametyev, conductor from St. Petersburg, Russia, who'll be back again to conduct during California Opera’s season; and several experienced hands, local and otherwise, in technical theater, voice, acting and dance. Garabedian describes the institute as a "reality check" for young artists in the things conservatories don't always teach. "We'll do some coaching, teaching singers to control the instrument," she says. "I love helping singers sculpt their sound and build characterization. But we're also about educating them in what is expected of them in the opera world. Singers need to know about the costs [financial and emotional], 'what I have to do and what I have to become to be a success as an opera singer.' " Besides all the "little details" of voice and career management, Mittelmann says would-be opera singers must contend with something he calls the "unknown factor." "To this day, I don't know what the formula is," says Canadian-born Mittelmann, who has sung Falstaff, Rigoletto, Macbeth, Mefistofele, Eugene Onegin and every other major baritone role in a 40-year career. "I can tell people my own experience, that I always knew what I wanted to do, that I just happened to meet somebody who said I should go to Curtis Institute where I had some great teachers, and that I went to Europe in my mid-20s and immediately I was engaged and I've worked ever since. I never went through the hardships that so many opera people go through. "The most important thing I can tell people is, be prepared. The biggest problem of singers today is that they listen to the [Luciano] Pavarottis and the Placidos [Domingo] -- people who have taken the time to really work on their instrument -- and they expect to step right in and do the same thing." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 22, 2001 – Fresno Bee, David Hale: It's all about opera... - "The Tower Theatre will become a school for young singers beginning Friday in the second summer institute of the California Opera Association. A faculty of 11, headed by mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian and baritone Norman Mittelmann of the Metropolitan Opera, will spend a week coaching 30 vocalists in the artistic and business details of opera… The training for most of the singers will revolve around their roles in the [summer] showcases or parts in four opera concerts the California Opera Association has scheduled for the upcoming season... Bizet's Carmen…Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" …Verdi's "A Masked Ball" …and Mozart's "The Magic Flute" …Topics for training will include "Opera Theater in a Changing Global Market," with baritone Roy Stevens and soprano Annalisa Winberg; "Life at the Metropolitan Opera" with Mittelmann; "The German Opera System," … "Putting Your Best Foot Forward," dance in opera with Kay Bernard; "Early Vocal Techniques," Gerry Prody; "Stage Grooming," Dee M. Stonebraker; languages with William Yannuzzi and Ludmila Filatova; and Edna Garabedian, "Vocal Health and the Career Business Plan." …Key performers and teachers on the faculty are Garabedian, Mittelmann and Modesto-based Stevens and Winberg… Garabedian, artistic director of California Opera has performed as diverse an opera repertory as is available to a mezzo-soprano with most major companies in the United States and in Europe. She's had particular success in German opera houses in cities such as Frankfurt, Kassel, Bonn, Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Hanover. Garabedian is directing Thomas Pasatieri's "La Divina," a comic opera about a temperamental diva and the tumult she stirs as she prepares for her final performance. Baritone Mittelmann has sung opera and concerts in this country, Latin America and Canada, but he, too, is best known for the success of his European career. He was leading baritone of the Zurich Opera for 20 years and has 50 roles to his credit. He recently returned to America to settle in the San Diego area. California Opera’s second educational festival and institute will involve a number of area talents. Steve Wall, a veteran actor-director of community theater, will stage "The Telephone," Menotti's farce about a young man frustrated because his lady love seems to have a telephone receiver permanently attached to her head. He finally gets her attention by leaving and calling her from another phone. Leonard Ingrande, former music director of the Merced Symphony, is resident conductor...cellist Boris Nixon teaches musicianship; Eva Amador teaches Spanish dance, and Sandy Gostanian coaches body movement. Tom Brownell, a Mariposa high-school principal, is the company's outreach director in that foothill community. The festival singers, include tenor Jeffrey Bohn and sopranos Melissa Wolfmann, Lisa Aronson, Susana Esquivel and Katia Kazazian, are all Fresnans; soprano Kimberly Gracey is from Clovis. Underwriters of the event are the Fresno Opera League, the Harry C. Mitchell Trust; Valley Public Radio; the Armenian American Faith Charity and individual donors...” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 17, 2001 – Fresno Bee, Sound of Mozart aids opera group: "Baritone Mark Almy and sopranos Melissa Wolfmann and Lilian Roberts will perform Mozart arias for the benefit of the California Opera Association …"Mozart, Champagne & Chocolade," a reception and concert, will serve to introduce the association's future activities…Roberts, a dramatic soprano, is a Las Vegas-based performer due to sing in the Aspen Festival in Colorado this summer. She will open Sunday with the Countess Almaviva's aria "Porgi Amor" ("God of Love") from "The Marriage of Figaro" and close with "Exsultate, jubilate." In the 1980s, Almy won the first statewide competition sponsored by the Lyric Opera Theatre of Fresno. He will be heard in arias from "Don Giovanni," "Cosi fan Tutti" and "Figaro." He's a voice professor at California State University, San Bernardino, and a veteran opera performer…"Champagne and Chocolade" is a clue to the hors d'oeuvres, both sugar and sugar-free. There will be a cash bar. A silent auction will support the California Opera's institute in opera performance…introducing young artists who will appear during the 2001-02 season…" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
January 30, 2001 – California House of Representatives – Honorable George Radanovich – “… honor Edna Garabedian, Boris Nixon, and Diane Nixon for their contributions to the California Opera Association… dedicated to enhance public awareness of the role of arts in California through activities and services in the field. In addition to forming partnerships with community organizations, California Opera Association …[is] designed to enhance good will and to support and encourage civic and community growth. Edna Garabedian … is a world-renowned Mezzo-Soprano who has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe…has held the distinction of chairperson of voice and opera at several major universities. Boris Nixon is a featured cellist … throughout the United States and …has collaborated with … keeping music in the schools and expanding work and career opportunities for professional musicians. Diane Nixon …[focuses] on integrating and embracing the often-neglected populations, such as the disabled, disadvantaged and elderly, into the creation and consumption of the performing arts. Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate … California Opera Association…” View full article at bulk.resource.org
November 19, 2000 – Fresno Bee, David Hale - California Opera Schedules Classic Amahl Shows - "Amahl and the Night Visitors, Gian Carlo Menotti's opera about a poor, disabled shepherd boy who gives his most precious belonging to the infant Jesus, will be the holiday production of the California Opera Association. A company of about 30...will appear five times Nov. 30-Dec. 1. California Opera Association's second production will feature ...baritone David Kenosian of Los Angeles. He's a two-time winner of the Armenian Allied Arts Voice Competition in Los Angeles with considerable stage experience…Kenosian will portray King Melchior. Tom Brownell, a Mariposa school administrator, will take over the role when "Amahl and the Night Visitors" goes to Mariposa …Susanna Esquivel, a 13-year-old student at Tenaya Middle School, will play Amahl. All other roles will be double-cast. Dramatic soprano Terry Estabrook and lyrical spinto Carolyn Mayes will share the role of Amahl's mother…Gerald Lee and Earl Meyers will take turns as Balthazar and Father Rick Adamson will double with Steve Wall as Kaspar. Bryce Bullock of Oakhurst and Dylan Lindo of Fresno will be the Page…students from Bullard Talent School will make up the children's chorus. Leonard Ingrande is music director." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September 12, 2000 – George Warren, Fresno Bee: “Central California has a new opera company with big ideas and a good deal of community support… [Renee] Souza played a convincing Susannah, a victim of her own innocence and the paranoia of religious leaders in her mid-20th century Tennessee community. She sang playfully in the beginning, before her tragedy began, and with increasing intensity as she acquired enemies and learned of her plight… [David] Feiertag, singing the role of the visiting evangelist, sang with authority and just the right measure of irony to capture the hypocrisy of the religious leader. His voice and his demeanor commanded every scene in which he appeared. Even in dramatically weak moments, such as when he switched from a prophet of God to a pleading, lonely, lusting man, he maintained his demeanor and almost made the switch believable. The comic relief lay in [Craig] Gilmore's Little Bat. This character spent half the performance crouching under Susannah's front porch, hiding and watching the events transpire. When he had an opportunity to participate in a scene, he played a hyperactive, nearly insane young man, plagued with the conflict of admiration for, and fear of, Susannah. He sang with great strength and served as perhaps the most inspired element of the story. [Steven] Plummer, as Susannah's alcoholic brother with whom she lived, also sang his part well…together they created an atmosphere of tragedy appropriate to the story line..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 20, 2000 - David Hale, Fresno Bee: "A new Fresno opera company, the California Opera Association... The director and founder is Edna Garabedian, Fresno's world-traveling mezzo soprano..."I'm working to create an international opera center in Fresno, and the No. 1 step is to establish an educational institute," Garabedian said. The institute would help young artists develop the skills needed to perform on stage. The opera "Susannah" began with a weeklong institute last month at the Episcopal Conference Center at Oakhurst. "Susannah" is the apocryphal biblical tale of Susannah and the Elders transplanted to rural Tennessee... Let somebody mention "folk opera" and the South in the same sentence and you might well conjure up a sentimental tale set in the distant past, where square dancing is good, skinny-dipping sinful and attendance at revival meetings mandatory... Those are bare elements of Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah," which Edna Garabedian's California Opera will present... Lyric soprano Renee Sousa of the Los Angeles Opera heads the principals as the virtuous Susannah, who becomes the center of vicious gossip because she is seen bathing nude in a creek. Bass David Feiertag of New York, who made his stage reputation as a Gilbert and Sullivan performer, has the co-starring role. He will be Preacher Olin Blitch, who counsels Susannah and instead attempts to seduce her. Tenor Steven Plummer...reappears as Susannah's brother Sam, and the role of Little Bat, Susannah's best friend, falls to tenor Craig Gilmore of Los Angeles, who has sung opera in Europe and with various California companies. Garabedian is staging "Susannah." Roger Cantrell of Los Angeles, an opera coach/accompanist/conductor, is the music director..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
July 25, 2000 - Fresno Bee: "Mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian begins a new venture in Oakhurst this week, the California Opera Association Institute, a training program for young singers. She expects about 25 singers, including local and out-of-state talent, to participate ... An international faculty including Gregory Buchalter, assistant conductor and choirmaster of the Metropolitan Opera, will join Garabedian in teaching various aspects of performance. Buchalter will also lead a series of master classes... Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah," ...Other performances are planned in Mariposa, Visalia, Porterville and Bakersfield. Also in the works are "Amahl and the Night Visitors" during the Christmas season and an international vocal competition in January... "I came promising young artists and teachers that I would offer an institute. Organizing the California Opera Institute allows me to focus on that philosophy..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 4, 2000 – Rick Bentley, Fresno Bee – “…When it initially aired in New York, the documentary garnered the biggest premiere of any in the series. The documentary looks at the impact Armenians have had on everything from the arts to business. Interviews with some of today's most influential Armenians are featured in the film and include opera founder, singer Edna Garabedian, actress Andrea Martin, tennis player Andre Agassi and playwright Leslie Ayvazian. Included in the documentary are interviews with actor and Fresno native Mike Connors, California State University, Fresno head basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and Valley farmers Sarkis and Haig Sahardjian. Although each has taken a very different career path, they share a distinct pride in their ethnic roots…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
April 16, 2000 – Fresno Bee, David Hale - " For many local opera and music aficionados, it may be enough to know that "Il Trovatore" … will lead with Fresno-born Edna Garabedian as Azucena, the Gypsy mother whose obsession for revenge drives Verdi's melodrama of passion and violence. Garabedian has traversed the world for 40 years, winning plaudits as a dramatic mezzo-soprano in a wide range of operas and concert performances…Mother figures have been at the heart of Garabedian's repertory …In more recent years, Garabedian has created a niche portraying tragic figures related to Azucena: as example, Klytemnestra, the jealous mother in Strauss's "Elektra" and Kostelnicka, the mother in Janacek's "Jenufa," so shamed by her daughter's illegitimate child that she throws the infant in the Volga. Right after "Il Trovatore," she flies off to Malta to join … Ponchielli's opera, "La Gioconda," playing the blind Cieca, a mother accused of witchcraft. Despite the seeming plethora of "mother" roles, they aren't the reason, Garabedian said, "that I'm called the Mother Superior of opera... I am known all over the world for helping young artists advance their roles," said Garabedian, who has been a voice "doctor" and personal agent. "It is something I was born to do. This excites me very much, to give a future to young artists." That's where tenor Eduardo Villa, who is among the burgeoning number of Latin singers making names in opera, comes in. Garabedian's Azucena and Villa's Manrico are the central figures in the tragedy of "Il Trovatore." She is the vengeful Gypsy who has convinced Manrico (who is the brother of the count) that he is her son and that the count is an enemy who must be slain. "It is wonderful that he [Villa] is willing to share his gift with Fresno," Garabedian said. "For me, this will be a good 'mother-and-son' relationship because I feel like I had a a stake in his future, as any mother must do for a son." …” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
March 5, 2000 - Fresno Bee - “…Once again, youth was served in the Fresno Opera League's annual competition. Danielle White, a 16-year-old soprano, took home the lion's share of the awards in the contest last weekend in St. James' Episcopal Cathedral, just as 16-year-old Elisabeth Rosenberg did in 1999…both students and vocal pupils of Edna Garabedian…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
November 26, 1999 – Fresno Bee – Mastering Her Song… “Soprano Elisabeth Rosenberg used to dream of being a snowflake in a production of Tchaikovsky's ''The Nutcracker.'' But the Visalia teen-ager has, to paraphrase a well-known chef, kicked her dream up several notches. Opera diva will do, thank you. Rosenberg, 17, will sing …” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
October 27, 1999 – Fresno Bee – Fresno County Women Honored…Female Business Honorees…750 set to attend… “…The women chosen as this year's top 10 female business leaders in Fresno County had a few things in common. They all have compassion for fellow employees, encourage young people either in a professional or volunteer setting and donate time to worthy causes…. honoring Edna Garabedian, Tuesday's 16th annual Business and Professional Women of the Year luncheon is a sellout…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
October 21, 1999 – Fresno Bee – Candlelight vigil send message that our community must never tolerate violence against women… “…To America, a country that prides itself on providing opportunities for women and girls, that chastises foreign countries that diminish women…If only there were some magical way that we, as a community, could tenderly hold those young girls and reassure them that we consider them a treasure in this Valley and, most importantly, that it is not their fault. The truth is that in this country, in this state, in this Valley, we still have a long way to go… speakers scheduled at last night's ''Take Back the Night'' march at Fresno State was Edna Garabedian, artistic director …serving the community by speaking out against this crime. We are grateful to her and to all the men and women who are working, writing, speaking, praying, singing and marching to make the statement that violence against women -- particularly domestic violence -- is not OK in Fresno and we are going to do something about it…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
September 19, 1999 – Fresno Bee, David Hale – Opera Director Sets Stage for Fresno – “People who resist opera believing it's an antiquated or somehow elitist form probably haven't encountered…artistic director Edna Garabedian …''There's a special excitement to being able to bring something new and put something together of quality from the start. Fresno has all the ingredients... Right now we're building exposure …” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 1, 1999 – Fresno Bee, David Hale – “… a near-10 minute ovation ...culminated a three-year campaign by Garabedian…Today, her excitement is for the future -- way into the future…''This year we will have an even greater level of artistry -- veteran artists coupled with the excitement of artists who are new in the field,'' she said. ''We have great people and the more of them we can bring the more we will have people saying, "Do you know what's going on in Fresno?''…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
August 1, 1999 – Fresno Bee, David Hale – … Fresno's Garabedian has chosen ''Il Trovatore'' to take her first turn on stage for the Fresno company…''Azucena is Edna's gift to the community… It's important that we surround her with a world-class cast.'' …''More and more people are getting on board,'' Garabedian said…the group will be responsible this season for an outreach program that will include a Christmas presentation of ''Amahl and the Night Visitors.'' ''The chor is the beginning stage of the institute program we're planning to develop singers,'' Garabedian said. ''You never know where the talent will come from...the word is out, we're a company thats growing...'' Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 23, 1999 – Fresno Bee - Head-to-head bid for Miss California tiara starts today ... "The Miss California Pageant returns for the sixth year to Saroyan Theatre tonight with 49 contestants trying for a $10,000 scholarship and a place in September's Miss America Pageant…The five-member panel of judges includes Fresno mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian, an international concert artist…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
April 24, 1999 – Fresno Bee Spectrum - Armenian Martyrs Day Commemoration – “...several events will be held to commemorate the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923: … the 84th anniversary of the genocide of the Armenian people for their faith… by acclaimed mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian...” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
March 5, 1999 – Fresno Bee, David Hale – “Others were older, and others had more experience. But Elizabeth Rosenberg, a 16-year-old coloratura soprano, took home the grand prize in the Fresno Opera League Scholarship Auditions. Elizabeth competed among 14 award-winners in the finals Sunday evening in St. James' Cathedral. She won over the judges with her performance of "Una voce poco fa" ("A little voice I heard just now"), Rosina's opening aria in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." "She just blew everybody's socks off," said Terry Estabrook, one of five adjudicators. "She has a phenomenal voice, and she's very gutsy. She stood up there and just let it fly, and 99% of it was right on. It was an unbelievable performance for a 16-year-old, and she's only been studying three years." "I was really excited to get first …Then they told me I was going up against all the first-place winners for even more money. I just thought well, OK." … teacher is Edna Garabedian, artistic director …” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
January 18, 1999 – Fresno Bee – Valley culture hits a high note: “It's difficult to resist someone who wants to do something wonderful for you, someone who thinks you deserve the very best the world has to offer and is willing to move heaven and earth so you can try something artistically rich - the likes of which you've never seen before. We find ourselves captivated … For almost a year, mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian has been embroidering sequins on a plan to bring world-class opera to Fresno…Their goal, though, is to reach the average Valley person who has never seen great opera …For decades, Fresnans have followed the career of opera diva Edna Garabedian as she traveled the world performing in some of the best productions. Most of us weren't all that familiar with exactly what she did, since opera isn't as common as Andrew Lloyd Webber productions. But we knew that she lived a life more dazzling than many of our dreams, that she counts among her friends international stars and she is very, very good at what she does. And now, we are lucky. Edna Garabedian has come home. But she is not coming empty handed. She's packed her clout… a worldwide pool of talent…the benefits of such a project in Fresno must not be underestimated...the visiting performers and workers coming from around the world will also be exposed to the grandness of the San Joaquin Valley, with its magnificent national parks, multibillion-dollar agriculture industry, reasonable land costs and boom-town potential. Who knows where that could lead? Most important, the Valley needs a rich tapestry of culture to wrap itself in…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
December 13, 1998 – Fresno Bee, David Hale - The debute of Fresno's ambitious: “…The dream venture of mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian starts to get real …Expressions of a bright potential are all around… counting on opera lovers to respond to the appeal…"When I came home [from years of performing], my first thought was generating enthusiasm for opera in the community..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
April 5, 1998 – Fresno Bee, David Hale – Fresno opera project ready to take off – “Rumors have circulated for months about a new regional opera company, founded by Fresno's globe-trotting opera and concert artist Edna Garabedian… The enterprise will go public April 19 with a fund-raising dinner and concert featuring Garabedian…Guests will dine on Italian cuisine, from a menu provided by Carlo Middione, executive chef of San Francisco's Vivande Ristorante. The program will include arias, duets and scenes by the visiting singers and "musical surprises." Actual operations … will begin in early July with a training institute offering a week of hard, concentrated work for singers and a closing concert. For the past year, Garabedian has been recruiting singers through auditions in this country and overseas. She says a faculty of teachers and coaches from American opera houses is committed to the venture. Plans call for the summer festival-institute to be followed by a year of activities. They will include a vocal competition in September, "Amahl and the Night Visitors" at Christmas time… Garabedian says this has been a lifelong project for her. "A city this size, a city that is growing, that is centrally located and a convention city, demands a full-time opera company, and the city should have it," she says. "We have a very sophisticated audience here. People have told us what they want ... what kind of operas and what quality…” The challenges ahead are daunting…Besides singers, opera entails dancers and choruses and conductors and orchestras and stage hands and coaches and scenery and costumes and administrators… program for volunteers, including one to sponsor artists and another to promote a youth-oriented opera club. Garabedian speaks often about the company's "community service" philosophy and the need to recruit local singers and establish alliances with other arts organizations. "There is so much wonderful talent in Fresno," she says. "We want everybody to participate, to unite so that we can make music thrive." Garabedian's goal for the company is to foster presentations of ethnic arts as well as European and American opera, and to emphasize in its casting performers from Eastern Europe, particularly those from Russia, Armenia and the Czech republics…"There are still a lot of "what ifs' going on, but it looks as if they're making solid progress… Garabedian says. "We want people to know we are moving ahead…" Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
January 25, 1998 – Fresno Bee, David Hale – Home at last: Edna Garabedian’s Fresno roots are deep, emotionally and musically: “Ask mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian to reflect on her performing life and she talks about how "blessed" she has been...she has sung in many of the world's major opera houses and concert halls with other opera mega-stars. To describe her singing, critics have drawn upon such adjectives as "sumptuous," "stunning," and "thrilling." They've singled her out as well for the power and persuasiveness of her acting in such roles as Madame Flora in "The Medium," Santuzza in "Cavalleria Rusticana," "Amneris in "Aida," Jenufa in Janacek's "Kostelnicka" and as Carmen. "It has been a long, long wonderful crescendo that goes fast," is Garabedian's characterization of a career that began at 18 in the chorus of the San Francisco Opera…"I've been blessed to be able to accomplish so much"… Her explanation of how much she envisions on her career horizon is enough to set a casual listener's head swimming. She is determined to organize an international opera company, one that would provide stage experience for the "many, many wonderful artists" - singers from Eastern Europe and especially unknown Armenian ones - as well as vocal talent from the Valley…Leaving behind a legacy "I've spent two years thinking about how I might help the city of Fresno," she said. "That's very important to me; I want to leave a legacy of myself to Fresno. "The city needs opera and all the arts. It is steadily growing - people coming here from big cities, and Armenians coming here who are trained. I want to support all of opera in Fresno, and I want that they should all be involved." … In her ambition to "do something for Fresno" she feels she is carrying on, in part, the legacy of her father, the late Ed Garabedian. To the business community, Ed Garabedian, who died in 1983, was the owner of the Valley Equipment Company, but for 50 years he demonstrated his love of his hometown as Santa Claus. He played the role in the city's annual Christmas Parade and devoted a month each year to the guise, visiting children in hospitals, sanitariums, churches and in private homes. Garabedian has had hundreds of mentors during her career, among them Rosa Ponselle, Maria Callas, Tito Gobbi and Lotte Lehmann, idols of the 1920s-1950s, a period Garabedian calls opera's Golden Era. But she credits her first interest in singing to a maternal aunt, Marie Arakian, a concert artist. She remembers, as a 9-year-old, "sitting in the back row in Warnors, hearing my aunt doing a whole concert, on crutches." "She was to have sung in the Metropolitan Opera auditions, until she was hit by a taxi in New York," Garabedian said. "She sang in other recitals, always on crutches. The beauty of her strength, surviving to sing on stage, impressed me. I knew from the beginning I needed some way to carry on for her…” Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive
June 27, 1997 – Fresno Bee, David Hale - Opera star shines in art museum tribute to Armenian culture - "Mezzo-soprano Edna Garabedian finds Fresno a fine jumping-off place for a career in the international world of concert and opera. This weekend she'll make one of her rare appearances on a hometown stage, in a concert that will conclude an Armenian Cultural Festival on Sunday at the Fresno Art Museum… the focal point for a celebration of cultural contributions by persons of Armenian descent. The concert featuring Garabedian… is her way of giving back to the community in which she grew up and also a tribute to "our people, at a time when they felt it was important for me to be here. "I leave Fresno and go into the world, but this is home to me," Garabedian said. "My mother [Mrs. Zee Garabedian] lives here, and my daughters with their husbands. It is family time when I'm here. I try to be here for special days." The concert will also be …It signals the start of a busy year for her… organizing a multi-cultural festival in Fresno for the summer of 1998. The concept is not such a professional leap; she has been an artist's agent for several years. The festival will focus on singers of Armenian descent selected through auditions around the world, but the goal, Garabedian says, is to give equal voice to all the arts represented among all races in the area. The spiritual centerpiece for the concert will be a song cycle by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, based on four poems by Armenian Constant Zarian. The words tell of the Crucifixion, from the viewpoint of Mary, mother of Christ. Garabedian will close the program with a set of popular folk songs by Armenian composers…In Fresno, Garabedian is associated primarily with opera, perhaps because her title role of "Carmen" in a Fresno Opera Association production 25 years ago - and because she has mentored hundreds of professional singers, many of whom specialize in opera. She has sung in most of the major opera houses in the United States but has enjoyed her greatest success in Europe, mainly in Germany. She is known particularly for her performances as Santuzza in "Cavalleria Rusticana," Amneris in "Aida" and Kostelnicka in Janacek's "Jenufa." She is a world-class concert artist and singer of German art songs of the 15th to 19th centuries. Though she's never given a full concert of Armenian songs in Fresno, she hasn't neglected the music of her Armenian heritage. "I close every concert with "Yerevan Erepooni [My Beloved Yerevan]'," a traditional song about going home to the Armenian kingdom," Garabedian said. "I've done full concerts in Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and throughout South America in a series of benefits for the A.G.B.U [Armenian General Benevolent Union]. "Armenian people love their folk music. It's not so much music about love between persons as it is about qualities Armenians represent in the world - loyalty, strength and determination. It's about love for the country, the beauty of the mountains, the trees and the clear air, and the gratitude Armenians feel for the beauty that God has made available to us..." Purchase the full article at http://www.fresnobee.com/archive