Category Archives: Performances

Audi Concert, Germany

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that people pay me just to enjoy my life and sing.

A few months ago, I was asked by Maestro Benjamin Shwartz to do a concert of “American Ditties” in Ingolstadt, Germany, as part of a summer concert series present by Audi. These ditties ended up including things like Summertime & I Got Rhythm (Gershwin), I Feel Pretty (Bernstein), and What Good Would the Moon Be? (Weill). Of course I said yes! And it was so much fun. And easy to sing, and just FUN.

The setting was in a vast lawn amidst a beautiful garden, beside the Danube river. There was a huge outdoor stage, constructed for the event, and an equally huge sound system. 30,000 people showed up on the grass that night, and I got to serenade each and every one. :-D

Big plus: there was a ten minute, very fancy firework show afterwards.
Big plus #2: I got to test an Audi A8 for a day. Boo-yeah.

Here’s a clip that I used as inspiration for this concert, and stole a lot from:

Sing for Siteman

This fundraising concert was organized by the talented Carol Wong, whose playing is always a standard of excellence. The program had stars and young artists from the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and each was featured in 2 songs of their choosing. I really enjoyed being able to pick any two songs that I wanted, and chose “Joy”, by Ricky Ian Gordon, and “What Wealth of Rapture”, by Rachmaninov.

The concert was outstanding! Each person shined in a different way, and I was so impressed with how Carol put together all of these different songs to form a cohesive program. We raised $53,000 altogether for the Siteman Cancer Center, which will aid in research. I feel grateful to be able to sing for a good cause. :-)

Siteman Funny Pose

OTSL + Isaac Mizrahi+ Flute

“Soprano Elizabeth Zharoff’s Pamina was well sung and affectingly acted.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 2014

When I learned that Isaac Mizrahi was going to be directing me in the upcoming Flute production at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, I most definitely did do a double-check in the mirror. And decided that I’ve been exercising and eating quite well for the past couple of years- and it shows.

I want to take a paragraph to express how much I love the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. I was Gerdine Young Artist with them for 3 summers, and returned in the lead role of Flute this year. They’ve also brought me back for concerts and special events. Not only are they a joy to work with, but they also break the boundaries between singers and the audience more than any other company I’ve ever seen. The audience is seated close enough to feel our loving spit, and we’re encouraged to mingle after every performance at a candlelit outdoor reception. At the end of the summer, I knew almost all of the regulars by name- and I also liked them all. I think this audience/artist relationship is the largest reason OTSL is so successful.

If one thing stuck out the most to me about this production of Magic Flute, it was the “doubling” that Isaac Mizrahi designed. I had a dancer-double Pamina, and my wig and make-up were designed to look just like her. Of course, she was tiny and, uh blonde. Tee-hee!

OTSLdoubles

How Musical Men See Women

Ana Maria Otamendi and I met in the summer of 2011 at Merola, with the San Francisco Opera. We worked on a few songs together there, and that sparked a collaboration which has been incredibly dear to me. I love her insightfulness and creativity, and her playing is magical.

So, we took this collaboration one step further, to putting on a concert about a subject she and I both found incredibly interesting: songs from the point of view of a woman, but composed by a man. We performed this 4-part program in Houston at the University of St. Thomas in February of 2014.

We designed the program to follow a woman through her progression in life, beginning with childhood, to first love, to marriage & children, late life, and then finally, death. We decided to not be barred by language or time period- just follow the theme. The program lasted nearly 2 hours, with Ana Maria guiding the audience with a thoughtful presentation before each part. We’ll try to cut it down if we do it again. :-)

There are many clips up on youtube, if you want to see the concert.

Im Zimmer (by Alban Berg):

Lucio Silla- Bordeaux, France

Holy. Geez. Goodness. I will never sing a more challenging role.

Giunia, in Lucio Silla. This is an early Mozart opera, written before he really knew how to write. The running melismatic notes just keep going- and they don’t stop for a singer to breath, because prepubescent Mozart knew how to write better for violins. Oh, and he threw in 4 humongous arias, three of which are ten minutes long.

To top it off: sing it in a corset. Really. Not kidding. Can’t breath? Okay, we’ll actually stage a part where you loosen the corset during your aria so that you can hit the high note at the end. … did I mention that I like challenges?

The difficulties this role presented drove me to become a better musician. I should shout out a huge thanks to my cast and Jane Glover, our conductor, who led us through an extraordinarily difficult work of music and theater. My costume was literally dripping from perspiration by the end.

Do check out more photos in the library- the shots and lighting were AMAZING.

copy-0316.jpg

Philly Flute

Who wouldn’t want to be a princess? Who father throws a party in which a play is staged just for her? And then become a part of that play, and weave her way through an enormous hedge-maze and fog on-stage until she finds her one-true-love and prince, Tamino?

This production of the Magic Flute at Opera Philadelphia is my favorite. I may be biased because of the pink dress.

But I also might be biased because Philadelphia is a great house and city to sing in. The company works so smoothly, thanks to a fantastic staff. The opera house and the schools (including Curtis) are incredibly supportive of each other, and members from each always attend performances. And the musical staff always, always delivers excellence. I love working, singing, and being in Philly.

PhillyFlutePinkDress

Semperoper Dresden, Germany

In the fall of 2012, I found myself in intensive German classes in the most beautiful city in Eastern Germany. I spent the next year there as a part of the Semperoper Junges Ensemble, singing my first Violetta, and also sang Pamina, the Dew Fairy, Sandman, and many other small roles and concerts.

The best time of the year in Dresden is definitely Christmas. The market is splendid! This is also when Hansel und Gretel shows at the opera, and many children attend. One of my favorite moments in the theater was when I flew out onto the stage, and the music was quiet and waiting for my first notes, and a little kid yelled out, “Sandmann!!!” The German children have  a cartoon that looks like the Sandman, and they sing along with it each night to prepare for sleep. It made me smile every time I sang the role.
My first Traviata in Dresden:

Curtis: the hardest school to get into, and the best

Gaining admittance into the Curtis Institute of Music really was a dream come true. I was surrounded by the highest caliber of young musicians for three years, and the performances were magical.  I cannot write enough good about this school.

The most memorable experiences were the operas. Curtis’s Opera Department puts on at least 4 major operas per year. Nothing teaches more than experience, and they were always sure to bring in highly qualified guest conductors and stage directors, as well as provide excellent coaching in various languages. I’m posting pictures below of some of the best moments caught on camera:

Cleopatra, in Antony and Cleopatra, by Samuel Barber

24948_407063776873_744021873_4962146_8119862_n 24948_407064941873_744021873_4962215_5203179_n CleoBed

Plus mp3 of “Give Me Some Music”:

 

The Cunning Little Vixen (in Czech!!! thank you to Milos Repicky, for those coachings)

Cunning Little Vixen (Czech) VixenBlanky

 

And Marguerite, in Faust

335093_529001894590_78900439_30571070_1301312457_o

 

I truly still dream about my time there, maybe because I loved it so much and sometimes wish I was back. Final pic: from graduation, with a much-loved benefactor and brilliant composer.

CurtisGrad2

How to get the most travel out of your degree

So… you’ve finished high school. You want to get a college degree. Phrassertantjasmount Where should you spend the next 4 years of life?

My advice: take 5 years, and learn the most through travel and study abroad.

Just after high school, I went to Rouen, France, with Rotary Club Student Exchange. I attended a French high school part-time and the Conservatoire de Rouen full-time. By the end of year 1, I was fluent in French, and could sing French coloratura with grace and ease.

Then I attended Pacific Lutheran University in Washington for 2 years. This is where my standard liberal arts education took place, so I can write beautifully in English (see this blog), as well as construct a fugue or chorale. I also sang a couple of operas, and learned how to die on stage (Street Scene, Anna Maurrant, 2007).

While at PLU, I signed up for another study-abroad program in Chengdu, China. WOW. Not only were my eyes opened to an entirely non-Western way of living, my heart was also touched by the tenacious humanity I witnessed in rural places like Tibet. And I also learned some much about Chinese music, including extensive work on a set of Chinese folk songs at the Conservatory in Chengdu. The MP3 of one of those is at the bottom of this post. The pictures below are from a trip to Mt. Everest, seen only by the light of the full moon, and a concert in Chengdu.

Everest in Moonlight

ChinaConcert

And after France, PLU, and China, I decided to formally finish my Bachelors degree at Oberlin Conservatory, in Ohio. This school is hardcore training for any would-be opera singer. I was completely immersed in music studies for two years, hardly coming out of them for socializing or free time. The theory and music history classes are fierce, though not nearly as fierce as the opera production auditions. domain info I sang in three operas while at Oberlin, and landed leading roles in all three.  Below is the most amusing of those- myself and Alexandra Roth as Stepsisters in Cendrillon (Cinderella).

StepSisters

 

Undergrad was simply an amazing experience- in which I learned equally about life and music. If you’re going to pay $40,000 a year, then take my advice and get the most bang for your buck: travel, ask questions about everything, and don’t waste a moment.

Extra goody: a recording of my favorite Chinese song that I learned in Chengdu, and will always keep in my repertoire. The English title is “The Rose’s Three Wishes”

Nuvoletta

Taken from a text by James Joyce and turned into music by Samuel Barber, no song has ever meant more to me. Nuvoletta has been my song since I was 16, and it also embraces the very moment I discovered my passion for singing.

It was my senior year of high school, in the WA State competition. My mother was at the piano, and I was singing. Time seemed to slow down, and I could feel my blood pulsing. But I let it pulse into the song, and poured all of my nervous energy into conveying the importance of this story to the audience. Cymehemricomp Towards the end, Nuvoletta jumps off of a balcony with a swirling crescendo/decrescendo. To my astonishment, the audience had become as wrapped-up as I in the music, and some people leaned forward as the music increased intensity. I saw them settle back in as I finished “she was gone…”, and I knew from that moment forward that I would sing. I had been able to touch people with the beauty of music, and it made me glow inside with purpose.

My goal since that day has been to reach the audience. I don’t believe in stagnant beauty in music- rather, I believe in dynamic beauty and contrast, which create an overall story and sense of journey that the singer and audience take.

I’m uploading four versions of Nuvoletta. I wish I had that first time, back in high school, but I don’t. Instead, I give you Nuvoletta: in 2008 at Oberlin, in 2011 at Curtis, in 2013 with Rachel Chao, and 2014 in live concert in Houston, with Ana Maria Ottamendi at the piano.

Oberlin 2008:

 

Curtis 2011, with Don St. Pierre:

 

2013 with Rachel Chao:

 

2014 live performance in Houston, with Ana Maria Ottamendi:     Nuvoletta – Houston