A Celebration of Peace Through Music
Delos – a long-standing champion of great music’s therapeutic and healing powers – is delighted to release this remarkable musical celebration of peace.
Distinguished conductor Sir Gilbert Levine’s career is particularly notable for his many concerts with major orchestras that have been widely broadcast on PBS. This Jewish musician’s activities have largely focused upon interfaith concerts of spiritually potent music celebrating universal human themes and values.
All of us at Delos were profoundly saddened to hear of the passing, on May 8, 2015, of Vera Voznesenskaya Orbelian – beloved mother of distinguished conductor and Delos Artists & Repertoire Director Constantine Orbelian. “Sweetie Pie” (her family’s affectionate nickname for her) was 96 years young.
Vera – of Ukrainian birth – and her Armenian-born husband Harry (who predeceased her in 2006) were shining examples of what is perhaps America’s greatest strength: that body of hard-working immigrant citizens who came to our shores and struggled to forge a better life for themselves and their families. Vera and Harry emerged triumphant from the earthly Hell of WW II as “displaced persons” before coming to America and settling in San Francisco, where they were married in 1952.
These very models of the American dream achieved resounding success as distinguished professionals: Vera as a Ukrainian-trained gynecologist/obstetrician; and Harry, who – despite a humble start – worked resolutely (inspired by Vera) to eventually amass a large real estate portfolio in metropolitan San Francisco. But the couple’s greatest achievement – as Vera is reported to have often said – was their family.
Among them, the most conspicuous success story by far is that of Constantine, who began his musical career as a brilliant concert pianist before assuming directorship of the vaunted Moscow Chamber Orchestra (MCO) in 1991. The first American to ever direct a major Russian ensemble, he went on to tour with the MCO throughout Russia and the world, as well as to conduct most of Russia’s other leading orchestras and make nationally televised broadcasts with them.
Since coming to Delos in 1998, Constantine has made nearly 40 critically acclaimed recordings for us, most recently as the newly appointed Chief Conductor of the Kaunas City Symphony in Lithuania. And it is with this ensemble that he has made some of his most successful CDs, in collaboration with top international opera superstars like baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, bass Ildar Abdrazakov and tenor Lawrence Brownlee, among many others. Of these, the Brownlee recording earned the artists (and Delos) a well-deserved GRAMMY nomination. The same recording and his album with Abdrazakov were further nominated for top prizes in the 2014 International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) competition.
Let’s now examine Vera’s vital legacy … one that she shares, of course, with her husband Harry – and one that’s much more important and far-reaching than most people realize. I like to define that legacy in terms of what I’ll call “cultural and musical soul” – because Constantine’s soul encompasses many and wondrously varied cross-cultural aspects.
While essentially proud Americans, Constantine and his siblings (mostly at Vera’s insistence) grew up in a multicultural and multilingual household. Vera hails from a part of Ukraine (Kharkov) that balanced kindred national cultures and languages: her native land’s as well as Russia’s. And, with both Russian and Armenian émigré communities nearby, both Harry and Vera saw to it that their children were thoroughly steeped in their ancestral cultures and traditions.
But it is Constantine who has made the most of the unique international perspectives and cross-cultural insights that only such an upbringing could bless him with. Thanks to Vera, his near-native command of the Russian language enabled him to fit right in when he took over the MCO and began working with Russian cultural institutions all over the country and much of the rest of the world. Perhaps his strongest and most constant aim has ever been – via the universal human language of great music – to reveal to Americans the more positive aspects of Russian people and culture … and vice versa.
Constantine’s secure conviction that art (especially music) has the power to transcend international political differences and tensions has repeatedly been proven correct, considering the numerous and prestigious honors and awards (too many to list here) that he has received, primarily from the Russian and Armenian governments in recognition of his mission to bring people and nations together through music. Many of these honors have never before awarded to an American (See Constantine’s current bio HERE).
Constantine certainly acknowledged that vital “Russian Soul” aspect of his persona when he dedicated his smash-hit album of that very same title (DE 3244) to the person who – more than anyone else – inspired it:
Dedicated to my mother, Vera Voznesenskaya Orbelian, who has given me tremendous love, comfort, happiness, strength — and shown me life through her beautiful Russian soul.
For like reasons, both Constantine and his longtime colleague – recording partner and international operatic icon Dmitri Hvorostovsky – dedicated one of their most recent Delos releases, Wait for Me (DE 3475), to their respective parents. This emotionally wrenching recording of classic Russian wartime songs (the third in a series) is a prime example of the universal appeal of music that – “Russian Soul” or not – resonates in the deepest psychic recesses of any soldier the world over who has served in times of war.
What greater gifts to her child – besides unconditional love – could a mother bestow? And, through him, what greater legacy to the whole world could any mother possibly claim?
I never knew Vera personally; I fervently wish I had. Stories from many who cherished her friendship remain yet to be told. But I hope that this overview of her life and gifts to the musical public at large will give you – our cherished readers – some idea of what this remarkable woman’s life has meant to music lovers everywhere, whether they realize it or not.
Vera loved music. Please enjoy the special “Vera playlist” (below) of works that were specially selected to represent elements of her life and provide a few glimmers of her vivid spirit.
Truly, Vera’s was a life well and beautifully lived.Categories Delos Artist News, News
Categories Delos Artist News, featured
YEREVAN, MAY 13, ARMENPRESS. The President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has signed a decree on awarding Constantine Orbelian with Order of Friendship. The Mass Media and Public Relations Department of the Armenian President’s Office informed “Armenpress” that the order is awarded to Constantine Orbelian for his contribution to the strengthening of the Armenian-Russian cultural ties.
The Order of Friendship is awarded for significant services in promoting mutual understanding in the political, scientific and educational, cultural and religious spheres, as well for strengthening and bolstering friendly ties between peoples.
Isabel Leonard opened the Washington National Opera’s Cinderella production last weekend, and critics agree that D.C. area opera fans need to make it out to tonight’s performance, where not only can you hear Isabel Leonard in the title role, you’ll be able to meet her and get an autographed copy of her new Preludios CD! For more information on the post-concert signing, visit the Kennedy Center website.
“[Isabel Leonard] deserves all of her accolades. She is a nuanced actor who can walk the line between a sweetness that is almost too good to be true and amusement at all of the ridiculousness. Plus her voice is heaven. Rossini delights in the bel canto tradition of vocal acrobatics with runs of impossibly fast arpeggios and scales and soaring notes for every character. Leonard excels at this in her arias “Non piu mesta” and the penultimate “Una volta c’era un re 2.” —Jessica Vaughan, DC Metro Theater Arts
Categories Delos Artist News
Before the Washington National Opera’s La Cenerentola opening on Saturday (May 9, 2015), Isabel Leonard spoke with Mandolin Vision‘s Raisa Massuda about the opera, her upcoming Delos CD and more:
Categories Delos Artist News
Mandolin Vision: Isabel, May 9th will mark your WNO debut in the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola. In your opinion, what makes this production stand out?
Isabel Leonard: One of the many fun aspects of this production is the costumes! Lovely geometric and almost surreal interpretations of what would have been period costumes. Very fun!
M.V: Your new solo album of Spanish songs Preludios will be released in a few weeks. Congratulations! What inspired you to choose the genre of Spanish song for your album and what were the joys and challenges of creating this album?
Isabel Leonard: Thank you!!! As I am half Argentine, this music is all very near and dear to me. This album was all joy. Wonderful to put together and to record!
Isabel Leonard sings the title role in Rossini’s Cinderella at WNO from May 9 – May 15, 2015. Her new Delos recording, Preludios, is available at the Kennedy Center Gift Shop even before its official release date of May 12!
Pre-Order Isabel Leonard: Preludios Today!Categories Delos Artist News
Donald George and Lucy Mauro have cultivated quite the fan in MusicWeb International‘s Margarida Mota-Bull. She’s been following their careers ever since she reviewed their Love Is Everywhere CD, and “was extremely interested when I learned of their latest venture” — Master Singers:
“Master Singers: Advice from the Stage rests on the interview concept and it works extremely well. Ms Mauro and Mr George contacted an array of today’s most celebrated opera singers and asked them specific questions about their professional experience, how they manage their careers and repertoire, as well as advice and tips, aimed at young singers who do not yet have an established career. As with everything where Ms Mauro and Mr George have collaborated, the book is a labour of love and genuine desire to create something thoughtful and entertaining. It is structured in six major chapters, each about a specific subject related to or part of the singing profession. Each chapter contains a set of questions which were asked of all singers – in one or two instances these are female or male only. The answers were compiled against each question under the name of each singer. The result is impressive and fascinating. A lot of work went into the compilation of the artists’ answers and, as you progress through the book, you feel as if you were in amiable conversation with some of the greatest names in the operatic business, for example Joyce DiDonato, Joseph Calleja, Thomas Hampson, Simon Keenlyside, Stephanie Blythe, Laurence Brownlee and Jonas Kaufmann to name only a few. … The book is available as paperback, hardback and electronic format for the Kindle. I enjoyed it immensely. It was like going through a long, collective interview with lots of interesting people. I’d recommend it not only if you’re a young singer at the beginning of your career but also if you’re just a keen reader who loves music, opera and would like a glimpse into the world of some of today’s greatest operatic stars. Masters Singers is to my mind a must in the bookshelves or kindle collections of any self-respecting bookworm.” —Margarida Mota-Bull, MusicWeb International
Listen to a playlist of the Delos Master Singers via Spotify:Categories Delos Artist News
Pardon our belated report, but we wanted to let you know that distinguished composer Ben Moore – whose stunning art songs appeared last year in the Delos release, Dear Theo (DE 3437) – has made quite an impression with his first opera, Enemies, A Love Story.
Blessed with a highly impressive staging at the Palm Beach Opera from February 20-22, these performances (the company’s first world premiere in its 54-year history) had critics singing the work’s praises in no uncertain terms. Described as a “light-hearted dark comedy,” the opera is based on Nobel prizewinning novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer’s poignant, yet often comedic tale – in which the “hero,” Holocaust survivor Herman, gets caught in the middle as his three wives discover each other in post-WW II New York City. Read on, and see what the critical fuss is all about!
“The news is that a resurgent opera company has produced an important new work that will find its place among those works that audiences will be moved by.…The libretto, by Nahma Sandrow, is one of the most effective texts I have encountered in a long time and it has been set to music by the excellent Ben Moore. The score is melodic and atmospheric while at the same time being emotional and specific in depicting all of [the] nuanced turns in the plot.…I am convinced that this production, with its sets perfectly geared to play in other theaters, may find itself staged at numerous opera companies in America and abroad.” —Fred Plotkin, WQXR/Operavore
Categories Delos Artist News, featured, News
“This is the first opera by Moore, an American best known for his art songs, which have been performed and recorded by the likes of Deborah Voigt, Lawrence Brownlee, and Susan Graham. His penchant for melody serves him well.…” —John Fleming, MusicalAmerica
Upcoming Preludios artist Isabel Leonard graced the cover of Listen Magazine’s Winter Issue, and her engaging interview, “Finding A Way In” is available on ArkivMusic.com. Below is an excerpt of the interview featuring a discussion on getting into character, Disney’s Let it Go and introducing new generations to opera:
Categories Delos Artist News
Ben Finane: I would think that it’s more common in musical theater to sacrifice beauty for character. That is still tough in opera though, because we’re going to hear a singer, and even if she is playing a character — we want to hear her voice. I think there’s a certain expectation of beauty there.
Isabel Leonard: I think so, too. That’s what opera is and that’s okay. Ultimately, when I say an ‘ugly sound,’ it doesn’t mean an untrained voice, or a voice without technique. Everything still has to be used properly and healthily. I don’t want there to be any misconception there. I guess because I have a four-year-old I think about this a lot, but kids are drawn to the visceral and soulful things! They would never tell you that that’s why, but they love it. They get it! If it’s not real, they’re not interested. I think of all the little kids I know, singing the Idina Menzel song from Frozen [“Let It Go”]. She may not have the most beautiful voice ever, but she sure does have a lot of soul, a lot of passion and sincerity. There’s so much in there that’s really musical, and that’s why all of those kids — boys and girls — are singing that song. That surprised me, because it’s been a while since I’ve heard kids singing Disney tunes, and I was trying to figure out why. I didn’t understand until finally I saw the movie with my son, and I was genuinely touched by the song. The story is whatever….
Ben Finane: It’s a true aria: it sums up what’s happening in the movie, but you can also put it in the larger context of your own life experience.
Isabel Leonard: Yeah, and it’s interesting stuff. My son and all his friends from preschool were singing this song, and I think it relates directly to what we have to do in opera.
Delos artist Sondra Radvanovsky, who graces the cover of Delos CDs and DVDS, has been announced as a 2015 recipient of the Opera News Award for Distinguished Achievement along with Piotr Beczala, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Samuel Ramey and Teresa Stratas. In anticipation of the awards gala presentation this Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Opera News critic Adam Wasserman is celebrating the artistry of Ms. Radvanovsky in the May 2015 issue!
Categories Delos Artist News
“Over the past decade, Sondra Radvanovsky has taken on some of opera’s monumental prima donna roles with one of the most electrifying spinto voices of our time. Superlatives, though, can’t begin to do justice to the glories of her instrument — nor do they provide a full picture of how her artistry has evolved. … Radvanovsky’s bona fide successes have been the result of the soprano’s shepherding her dramatic resources and deepening her craft. Listen to her Verdi Arias disc and hear how the cavatina of Elvira’s “Ernani, involami” sounds like an exquisite sigh before the cabaletta’s tricky filigree suggests a kind of breathless disbelief at her own joy. Her Tosca, first heard in New York in 2011, was remarkable for the way in which her heroine morphed into something more refined as the walls began to close in; “Vissi d’arte” sounded less an ode to self-pity than a realization of how Tosca’s life onstage had prepared her for precisely that moment.…”