April 2019

Friday, April 26th at 7:30 pm at Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center, at 4235 Mar Vista Dr, Camarillo, CA 93010.

Sunday, April 28th 3:00 pm, at Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center, at 4235 Mar Vista Dr, Camarillo, CA 93010.

For the first time, we are combining our two most popular concerts into one gigantic event. Channel Islands Choral Association and outstanding soloists (see below) will join CHICO to present some of the best and most beloved choruses in opera; music by Wagner, Bellini, Puccini and Verdi.


CSU Channel Islands Choir
Hana Chelberg

Czech-born coloratura soprano HANA CHELBERG is lauded for her sparkling agile top and warm timbre. She grew up in Prague performing solos with the renowned Czech Philharmonic Children’s Choir, which sparked her passion for singing. Ms. Chelberg initiated her musical training with years of piano lessons, transitioning into classical voice with the acclaimed Jirina Markova at the Prague Conservatory. 

A frequent performer in Southern California, Ms. Chelberg is a founding member of Ventura’s own Opera by the Glass where she has sung the title roles of Amina in Bellini’s La Sonnambula in the fall of 2016, and recently Anna in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, generously sponsored by Museum of Ventura County. This winter she made her European debut as Mozart’s Queen of the Night at the North Bohemian Theater of Opera and Ballet in the Czech Republic. She will return there this fall to resume the role of Queen of the Night, and will also debut the Queen at the J.K. Tyl Theater Opera in Pilsen, in addition to the role of Anna in Verdi’s Nabucco. 

Ms. Chelberg is an accomplished concert and oratorio singer. She has appeared with the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra (CHICO) in 2015 as Eve in Haydn’s Creation, and performed the soprano solo in Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock, at CHICO’s gala fundraiser in April 2017. Together with her OBTG colleagues she was invited to sing at the Ventura Motor Sports Gathering in September 2017. Ms. Chelberg has sung in a number of solo summer concerts in Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Prague. 

J.J. Lopez

Praised for being an “alluring lyric tenor having ample spinto leanings and an attractive and engaging stage demeanor with stylistic acumen” Mexican-American tenor JJ Lopez was recognized by Opera News for his recent performance of Rodolofo in La Boheme with Pacific Opera Project. Mr. Lopez’ Walt Disney Concert Hall solo debut was in Handel’s Messiah. He is currently a principal artist with the L.A. Opera Education program and will have his L.A. Opera main stage debut in El gato montés starring Plácido Domingo this Spring. JJ is a member of the L.A. Opera Chorus as well as the L.A. Master Chorale where he performs regularly at Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic.

JJ was the Festival Artist for the Taos Opera Institute as well as the Utah Opera Music Festival. His roles include Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Alfredo in La Traviata, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Foresto in Attila, Ferrando in Così fan tutti, Franz and Spalazani in Les contes d’Hoffman, Tanzmeister in Ariadne auf Naxos and Le Doyen de la Faculté in Cendrillon. JJ was a District Winner and a Regional Finalist in The Metropolitan Opera National Competition. He also won First Place in the Center Stage Opera Competition along with being awarded Audience Favorite and the L.A. Opera Encouragement Award. He has been a finalist in the Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition, Zachary Society Vocal Competition and The Pasadena Opera Guild Vocal Competition. JJ holds both Bachelor of Music and Master of Music Degrees from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music.

Kathleen McVicker

Mezzo-soprano Kathleen McVicker is so very delighted to be performing with the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Dr. Liu! Previously, Miss McVicker has sung in past winter concerts produced by The Pacific Shores Philharmonic Foundation and El Coro Maestro under the baton and the direction of Dr. Burns Taft as well as Elizabeth Helms. Miss McVicker has also appeared at the Ventura Music Festival’s Festivo gallery opening at the Museum of Ventura County and it’s subsequent Evening of Note art auction, as well as several fundraisers featuring opera scenes and vignettes through the Young Artist Program at Opera Las Vegas. Kathleen received her Master’s of Music from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, under the tutelage of Dr. Tod Fitzpatrick, in 2013, where she performed in roles including that of Giannetta in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’Amore, the role of Florence in Britten’s Albert Herring, as well as completing her own Master’s of Music recital. Among her other accomplishments, Miss McVicker has performed the title role of Bizet’s Carmen as well as Don Ettore in Haydn’s La Canterina. As a soloist, Kathleen McVicker has performed the Alto Solos from Handel’s Messiah in a complete concertized production, and Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium. Miss McVicker received her Bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music, graduating cum laude. She now studies with Reid Bruton in Hollywood. Miss McVicker is currently preparing for a rigorous audition season!

Grace E. Kim

Korean-American Soprano Grace E. Kim is an exciting developing artist to watch. Ms. Kim has appeared as a soloist on numerous international stages, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Broad Stage, the National Opera Center (New York), and the ancient opera theater of Narni, Italy. She is also a recurring artist in Southern California’s preeminent regional opera companies such as Landmark Opera; Marina Summer Opera; Independent Opera Company; and, Lyric Opera of Orange County. Ms Kim’s recent roles include- Mimi, La Bohème (Puccini); Santuzza, Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni); Adalgisa, Norma (Bellini); Dido, Dido and Aeneas (Purcell); Giulietta, Les contes d’Hoffmann (Offenbach); Giovanna, Anna Bolena (Donizetti); and Annina, La Traviata (Verdi). Her future engagements include First Lady in The Magic Flute (Mozart) with Santa Monica College Symphony Orchestra and Gerhilde in Die Walkure (Wagner) with Manhattan Opera Studio Summer Festival.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)                                          

Wagner was born in Leipzig, Germany.  At a young age, he became interested in theater arts and upon seeing an opera featuring a dramatic soprano, he developed the concept of opera as a dramatic, rather than musical form.  At one point in his career, he insisted that his works be called “music dramas” and not operas.

Wagner was a mercurial and narcissistic genius.  In 1849 he was exiled from Germany for revolutionary left-wing activities. In a complete 180 degree shift, he later became the inspiration of national socialism and anti-Semitism in Germany,  a shameful and destructive part of his legacy.  He spent much of his life tangled in sordid love affairs, fleeing from creditors and alienating his colleagues and sometime friends.

He found a patron in King Ludwig of Bavaria (later called Mad King Ludwig), and thus found some financial stability from which to produce operas and built the opera house of his dreams.

His works are distinguished by “leitmotifs” which are musical passages that represent characters, places, objects or even ideas within the story. These are repeated often during the work and become the signatures of those characters or concepts.

Wagner departed from the operatic convention of using solos, duets and ensembles. These “set pieces” are often followed by recitative and applause. Wagner wanted no interruptions. He wanted the music to build and flow continuously, creating dramatic power throughout the performance.

Wagner’s impact on opera, indeed on the entire world, has been immense. His music and writings are voluminous and will be the subject of debate and examination for all generations.

Favorite LohengrinJoke – The knight Lohengrin makes his first appearance on stage in a boat being drawn by a swan.  The great tenor Leo Slezak once missed his cue, and the swan boat departed across the stage without him. Slezak is said to have addressed the audience from the side curtain with the inquiry:  What time is the next swan?

Vincenzo Bellini  (1801-1835)

Bellini was a foremost composer of Italian “bel canto” opera.  It is characterized by long, flowing, soaring melodic lines and colorful flourishes of vocal brilliance and agility. He was admired by Verdi, Liszt and Chopin. Even Wagner, who rarely praised anyone but himself, appreciated Bellini’s work.

Bellini was the eldest of seven children and born into a musical family in Catania, Sicily.  He is remembered for numerous operas still in the standard repertoire today, althoughNormais the most celebrated, recorded and produced.

The hit tune from Normais the “Casta Diva” being performed today. The aria is a real challenge for the singer.  It was almost cut from the opera at the premiere performance when the soprano Guidetta Pasta initially refused to attempt singing it. After personal coaching from Bellini, she became more comfortable with “Casta Diva” and performed it beautifully.

Bellini composed with sensitivity to the relationship between poetry and music.  His works are graceful, melodic and powerful.  He died suddenly at age 33 and his beautiful tomb rests in the Cathedral of his birthplace in Catania.

Giuseppe Verdi   (1813-1901)

Verdi was the preeminent Italian opera composer of the 19th Century and his popular operas remain constants in performance houses all over the world.

Nabuccowas the first opera to establish his dominance. At the time, he had been reluctant to compose it.  He was suffering from great personal tragedies, having lost both his young children and then his beloved wife Margherita in rapid succession.

Legend has it that when the libretto was forced on him, the composer tossed it across the room and it fell open to the words “Va, pensiero, sull’ ali dorate”. The line, meaning “go, thoughts, on golden wings” so moved him that he began work on the opera and made those the first words to the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”.  This chorus became a touchstone in Verdi’s life. The Italian public embraced the chorus as they were then engaged in freeing themselves from Austrian domination and the words and music so beautifully echoed their struggles.

After Nabucco, Verdi was much in demand and later lamented:  “SinceNabucco, I have never had one hour of peace.  Sixteen years in the galleys”.

Verdi was nearly 60 years old when he composed Aida.  It is based on a story unearthed by Egyptologist Mariette Bey during his archeological excavations at Memphis.  Verdi became fascinated by it and co-wrote the libretto. The opera was commissioned by Egypt to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal, but was not ready on time, so Rigolettowas performed instead. Aidawas premiered in Cairo in 1871, on Christmas Eve.

Aidais considered a milestone in the composer’s musical development, marked by new richness in orchestral scoring and surprising modulations.  He was accused of copying Wagner, but Verdi’s operas always remained true to Italian sensibilities, with the voices never being submerged by the orchestrations.

Verdi was an Italian national hero, both for his transcending music and for his support of political reforms which became associated with his name and with the betterment of his homeland.

Giacomo Puccini  (1858-1924)

Puccini was born in the beautiful coastal town of Lucca, Italy, a walled city of old. Still beautiful today, it is distinguished  by a circular stone town square and is home to a Puccini museum and fine local seafood.

Puccini was inspired at an early age by a performance of Verdi’s Aidaproduced in the neighboring town of Pisa. Puccini, from a poor family, had to walk over four hours to attend the opera.  He wrote that there he received his calling, as if God touched him on the shoulder.

Puccini’s operas are the most performed in the world.  They are beloved for their deeply personal emotional content, the sweep of the melodic composition and the truthfulness of the characters.

Puccini was impressed by the American playwright David Belasco.  In 1900, Puccini was in London to oversee a production of Tosca. There he saw Belasco’s stage play Madame Butterfly. Puccini was so moved that he embraced the author and instantly resolved to compose an opera based on the story.

He started work on it immediately, but was halted in his tracks when he was seriously injured in an automobile accident. During his recovery, he worked at a piano which was modified for use from a wheelchair.

Madama Butterflypremiered in 1904 at the greatest opera house in Europe, La Scala of Milan. It was an unmitigated disaster. Milan audiences were known for being harsh critics, but this was so extreme that an organized plot by Puccini’s rivals was suspected by many.  During the “vigil” music, in which the sounds of birdsong are introduced, the crowd responded with rooster crows and even cow moos.

Puccini, however distressed by the reception, still believed this was his best work.  It was revised and presented several months later in Brescia. It was enthusiastically received and went on to Paris. Puccini declared it the only one of his operas that he never tired of hearing.  The world agrees.

And then there is Turandot(TOO-rahn-doat).  Puccini’s final opera is anything but verismo.  It is Grand Opera.  The characters are mythic, the orchestrations huge, the choruses massive, the spectacle as imposing as the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing. Puccini did not live to finish it.

It premièred in 1926, two years after Puccini’s death. It was completed by composer Franco Alfano, from notes and sketches Puccini left. Toscanini conducted the first performance only to the last note of Puccini’s own hand. The conductor then lay down his baton and announced that this is where the maestro had laid down his pen. Future performances included the completion composed so ably by Alfano.

Georges Bizet    (1838-1875)

Bizet was born in Paris to modest but musically talented parents.  His father was a voice instructor and his mother taught piano.  He absorbed music quickly and was considered a prodigy at the piano. He gained admission to the Paris Conservatoire at age 9.  There he was instructed by Charles Gounod and became fast friends with the 13 year old Camille Saint-Saens.

The young Bizet was awarded the 1857 Prix de Rome competition prize which supported him for five years as he studied, composed and travelled in Rome, Germany and Paris.

Although a skilled pianist, Bizet virtually concealed that talent as if ashamed of it. When he met Franz Liszt at a dinner party, he amazed everyone by flawlessly sight reading one of Liszt’s most difficult pieces.

After his five year sponsorship was over, Bizet found himself accepting piano and composition students as well as arranging the works of other composers in order to make a living. He wrote numerous works not much performed today, but he is known for his L’Arlesienne Suitewhich remains popular around the world. His opera The Pearlfisherswas long neglected, but is enjoying a resurgence.

By far his greatest composition is the operaCarmen, which gained popularity almost immediately and remains a staple of opera houses everywhere.  Bizet himself was convinced of its failure. Sadly, he died three month after the premiere, at age 36, and never knew what a gift to the world he had created with this masterwork.

Pietro Mascagni  (1863-1945)

Mascagni was born in Livorno, Italy, the son of a baker. Although the family was poor they managed to send their gifted son to the Milan Conservatory where he studied for three years.

However, Mascagni found neither steady employment nor wealthy patronage and finally concluded that his music would fail to provide him the necessities of life. He claimed to be subsisting on only plates of macaroni.

Mascagni began taking on conducting jobs and music students, while continuing to compose.  He was inspired by a short story of Giovanni Verga, an Italian realist-verismo writer.  Mascagni himself related how he determined to awake at  dawn to begin writing the day break chorus of Cavalleria Rusticanaas the sun actually rose.

The legend surrounding the success of the opera begins with Mascagni’s loss of faith in his finished opera. His wife however, probably tired of eating macaroni, sent the score into the Sonzogno publishing house competition for one act operas.  The prize was 2,000 francs.  He won.  Cavalleria Rusticanapremiered in Rome in May of 1890.

Mascagni’s hard times were over. The opera created a furor and was an instant success.  Verismo opera was born.

Much like Bizet with his Carmen, Mascagni produced no later works that have remained as performed and beloved.  In each case, one glowing success has been enough.