About the Soloists, 2008-09
in order of their scheduled appearances

See also: website for University Chorus, Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Jorja Fleezanis, violin
23 November 2008 | Chausson: Poème

Violinist Jorja Fleezanis has been concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra since 1989, assuming that position after nine years with the San Francisco Symphony, eight of them as associate concertmaster. A frequent soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra, Fleezanis appeared in 2002 in the world premiere of John Tavener's Ikon of Eros, commissioned and written for her, and in 2003 under Osmo Vänskä in the John Adams Violin Concerto, also commissioned and written for her. A master teacher, Fleezanis is on faculty at the University of Minnesota. She began her violin studies with Ara Zerounian while attending public school in Detroit, where she was born. After further studies at the Interlochen Arts Academy, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, she joined the Chicago Symphony at age 23. In fall 2009, it was recently announced, Fleezanis will become Professor of Music at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, holding the Henry A. Upper Chair in Orchestral Studies--one of the most prestigious appointments in the United States. Fleezanis plays a 1700 Matteo Goffriller violin.


 

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Eugene Brancoveanu, baritone (Elijah)
8 March 2009 | Mendelssohn: Elijah

Eugene Brancoveanu’s robust baritone and superior stagecraft have earned him critical acclaim in both North America and Europe. The San Francisco Chronicle has described Brancoveanu as “extravagantly gifted,” citing his “unforced charisma” and “vocal clarity.” Add to this a 2008 San Francisco Classical Voice performance review by Jason Victor Serinus, who describes Brancoveanu as endowed with a uniquely rich, at this point lyric voice that can encompass bass-baritone roles yet sing a high B flat … an extremely intelligent, energized artist who is unafraid to take risks.” Over this page year, Brancoveanu debuted at the Spoleto Festival USA and the New York City Opera. In 2002, Brancoveanu won an honorary Tony Award and a Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for his performance on Broadway in Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème. Brancoveanu is a former Merolini and Adler Fellow.

Robin Fisher, soprano
8 March 2009 | Mendelssohn: Elijah

Lyric coloratura soprano Robin Fisher has performed to critical acclaim in such cities as Paris, Vienna, Prague, Hamburg, Chicago, and Dallas. Reviews remark on her “amazingly precise coloratura, melting diminuendi, splendid high notes and delightful musicality” (Opernwelt) and her “mature timbre and total self-assurance … an extremely exciting singer-actress” (Westdeutsche Zeitung). The Sacramento Bee described her performance at the Mondavi Center in Mendelssohn’s “Lobgesang” Symphony as no less than “thrilling.” In 2007, Fisher performed with the West Bay and Sacramento opera companies. She has also performed locally as guest artist at the Sonora Bach Festival and at Music in the Mountains in Nevada County. Fisher won a Fulbright-Hayes Scholarship and a Rotary Foundation Award to pursue studies in Europe, and she received the Artist's Diploma cum laude from the University of Vienna. A native of California, she began her vocal studies at San José State University. Currently, Fisher is Associate Professor of Voice at California State University, Sacramento.

Catherine Cook, mezzo-soprano
8 March 2009 | Mendelssohn: Elijah

Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook has excelled in a wide range of roles with leading companies throughout the United States, including the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Los Angeles Opera, and the Houston Grand Opera. Cook is a former Merola participant and Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera, where she continues to be a frequent presence. She has performed more than 40 roles to date with the company and in September 2008 created the role of Arlene Kamen in the upcoming world premiere of The Bonesetter's Daughter. Cook is a graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she won the Norman Triegle Award in opera. She has also been a Metropolitan Opera National Council Winner. In addition to maintaining a full voice studio and conducting frequent audition workshops in the Bay Area, Cook holds the position of professor of voice at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Joseph Palarca, tenor
8 March 2009 | Mendelssohn: Elijah

Joseph Palarca, tenor, is a graduate of the UC Davis Department of Music. While here, his interests in music spanned both classical and popular music performance, and he participated in local musical theater productions. His portrayal of Mr. Snow in Carousel earned him an Elly Award for best supporting actor in a musical. After UC Davis, Palarca went on to earn a master’s degree in vocal performance from New York University. He has sung as a soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra and various ensembles in the New York area, including the Vocal Ensemble of Queens College, the Mineola Choral Society, Central City Chorus, and the Choral Symphony Society. He most recently participated in the 2008 Aspen Music Festival and School’s Aspen Opera Theater Center. This fall, he will join Opera Omaha’s Voices in Residence program.

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John Abdallah, violin
2 June 2009 | Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto

Violinist John Abdallah is a fourth-year music performance and economics major. He started his musical studies at age five with piano in his hometown of Fresno. He began playing violin at age nine and has since made it his main musical focus. This year marks Abdallah’s fourth with the UCDSO. He has also participated in CODA, the California All-State Orchestra, and the Fresno Youth Symphony and in quartets, trios, and larger chamber ensembles at UC Davis. Since last fall, his own quartet has been working very closely with the Kronos Quartet. He currently studies violin with Dan Flanagan.

           
 
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