The Haunting of AVA

As Halloween rounds the corner, the city of Philadelphia is coming alive — bright orange, elaborately carved pumpkins sit out on stoops; spooky decorations hang in front yards and adorn the streets; and store aisles boast an enticing selection of candy corn and other sugary treats. A feeling of magic and spookiness pervades the air.

But here at AVA, that feeling is nothing new. Our building on 1920 Spruce Street, built 150 years ago, is the permanent dwelling place of the ghost of Randolph Wood, who owned and resided in the building in the 1870s. Depressed by serious financial losses, Mr. Wood sadly died by suicide here, on the third floor, during the financial crisis known as the Panic of 1873. His spirit has allegedly been haunting the building ever since.

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Our resident ghost has signaled his presence to AVA staff, faculty and students over the years. AVA’s President and Artistic Director, Kevin McDowell, vividly recalls a creepy interaction with him  in the late 1980s. “I stopped by AVA one night on my way home, around 2 a.m. I remember going up to the third floor, getting to the landing and suddenly feeling chills and my hair standing up—I had a strange, eerie feeling that something was there.”

Mr. McDowell is not the only one to have discerned the spirit’s presence on the upper floors of AVA. Master vocal coach Richard Raub, who has been teaching at AVA for 35 years, was once interrupted by the ghost during a coaching session. “I was up in my studio working with a student and I became aware of this big sphere of energy that came into the room,” explains Mr. Raub. “It was invisible, but I could perceive it. My student was a tenor and all of a sudden he felt all tight and couldn’t sing anymore. I slammed down the piano lid and as soon as I got up the ‘thing’ just vanished. I went into the hall screaming after it to get out!”

Both Mr. McDowell and Mr. Raub’s experiences with the ghostly entity date back to before the year 1996, when the room where Mr. Wood passed away was renovated and turned into a library. Mr. McDowell maintains that those renovations led to the ghost’s retreat from AVA. “By converting what we call the ‘ghost room’, which consisted of two rooms, a closet and a bathroom on the third floor in the rear, we think we drove the ghost away,” he says. Mr. Raub agrees: “When the library and bathrooms on that floor were being renovated, there were workers in here all summer long. I think that’s when the ghost decided to pick up and move on.”

However, Resident Artists and staff members claim to have encountered the ghost since then. Mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig, who graduated from AVA last May, says she often became aware of the ghost’s presence in the evenings, when she was working the front desk and preparing to lock up the building for the night. She describes a particularly horrifying experience that took place during her third year: “I was alone in the building and the lights were off. I was coming up the stairs and I heard the chuckle of a male voice. I freaked out and yelled …and I heard it again. To be honest, that’s why I didn’t want to be on desk duty my fourth year.”

AVA’s PR and Communications Manager, Camille Mola, attests to the fact that the ghost is still very much around. She recounts of a mysterious episode last year: “One performance night last season I was sitting in the lobby with a colleague. Everyone was in the theatre, there was no one around. And all of a sudden, the lobby lights went out. I got up and I saw that the light switch in the hall, which is pretty hard to push down, had been switched off.”

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By now, longstanding members of AVA have grown accustomed to the ghost’s mischievous behavior—the ghost has been playing tricks on people since Maestro Christofer Macatsoris first became Music Director of AVA in 1977. Maestro recollects an experience with the ghost from his early years at AVA—perhaps the most bizarre and frightening of them all. One evening, after being the last person to leave the building, Maestro returned upon realizing he had forgotten his sunglasses. “When I came back in, the lights wouldn’t turn on and I heard orchestral music coming from upstairs,” he recalls. “My friends and I called the police. We discovered a boom box on the fourth floor and when we came downstairs we heard the sounds of a typewriter coming from what is currently my office. The police walked toward my office and as soon as we stepped in, the sounds stopped. We left, and it started again. This is all on the police report.”

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the uncanny events that have occurred over the years along AVA’s corridors make it hard to deny that something spooky is lurking in the shadows of 1920 Spruce Street. We respect the spirit of Mr. Wood, and we can only hope he enjoys the beautiful music made here at AVA.

Happy Halloween from all of us here at AVA!

 

Written by AVA Administrative Associate Tania Bagan

 

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AVAround the World: Winter 2017

Welcome to another installment of AVA Alumni Around the World: Winter 2017 Edition. In this segment, we will be taking a look at the upcoming engagements our alumni are performing in all around the globe! Check below to see how our AVA alumni are welcoming in the new year in a big way:

Soprano Angela Meade will be performing the title role in Norma at the Metropolitan Opera through December 16. She will also be singing with Seattle Symphony December 28, 29, 30 in Beethoven: Symphony No. 9. She will perform a recital with Philadelphia Chamber Music Society at the Kimmel Center on January 7 and at Santa Fe on January 14. AVA will be hosting a Young Professionals event for this concert – stay tuned for details! Angela will also perform the title role in Semiramide at the Metropolitan Opera on February  19, 24, 28 and March 3, 6, 10, 14, 18. Lastly, she will perform Mahler: Symphony No. 8 with the Rotterdam Philharmonic on March 23 and 25.

(Angela Meade and Jamie Barton at The Met; Photo Credit: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

Michael Fabiano will be singing the role of The Duke in Rigoletto at the Royal Opera house from Dec 14 -Jan 16. He will be performing the role of Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera starting March 22. Finally, he will sing the role of Carrado in Il corsaro Paulau de at Les Arts Reina Sofia starting March 28.

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(Photo Credit: Opera Australia)

A big congratulations to mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato on another Grammy nomination – this year, 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Classical Vocal Solo! Since November, Joyce has been singing the title role in Semiramide at the Royal Opera House London. She will sing it through December 16.

Joyce will also be singing with Brentano String Quartet at Wigmore Hall, London on December 18 and 21. Also, on December 29, 30, and 31, she will perform in the Silvester Concerts with Berliner Philharmoniker. In January and February, she will sing the role of Sister Helen in Dead Man Walking at Teatro Real and Barbican Theatre.

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Soprano Ailyn Pérez will be performing in Germany from February 16-21 at Bayerische Staatsoper. There, she will sing the role of Micaela in Carmen. Beginning in April, Ailyn will perform the role of Juliette in Roméo et Juliette at the Metropolitan Opera alongside fellow AVA alum Bryan Hymel. Read her recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer here.

Bryan will also be performing in Faust at Deutsche Oper Berlin in Germany this summer! He recently received outstanding reviews from his performances at The Royal Opera – read here and here.

Photo: Dario Acosta

Allegra De Vita, mezzo-soprano, can be seen at the Washington National Opera a fair amount in this upcoming year. She will finish her run as The Fox in The Little Prince on December 17. Several other AVA alums can also be seen in The Little Prince: Christian Bowers and Michael Adams as the Pilot, and Christopher Kenney as the Businessman.

On January 19 and 21, Allegra will sing the role of Zagner Sister 2 in the new opera Proving Up, and starting in March, she will perform in Don Carlo singing the role of Tebaldo. Both performances are with the Washington National Opera.

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Stephen Costello and Joyce El-Khoury are in Madrid performing the Teatro Real’s new production of La bohème! Stephen can be seen as Rodolfo and Joyce as Musetta, both starting next week. In late January, Stephen will begin his run as the Duke in Rigoletto with Canadian Opera Company. Joyce’s album ÉCHO was recently listed as one of The Times and The Sunday Times’ Best Classical Albums of the Year!

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Stephen Costello and Joyce El-Khoury

Soprano Ellie Dehn will be performing as the Soprano Soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the Florida Orchestra on Dec 21, 22, and 23. Starting January 11, Ellie will be singing the role of Musetta in La bohème at Teatro di San Carlo.

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Finally, we have some exciting AVA Resident Artist news!

Please join us in congratulating two AVA Resident Artists and one alum who recently won scholarships from the Mario Lanza Institute!
Third Year Tenor Piotr Buzsewski – First Place
First Year Soprano Alexandra Razskazoff – Second Place
Baritone Jorge Espino (AVA ’17)- Fourth Place

AVA Master Vocal Coach Luke Housner was the competition’s accompanist.

Photo caption: L-R: Jorge Espino (4th place), Siena Licht Miller (3rd place), Alexandra Razskazoff (2nd place), Piotr Buzsewski (1st place) and accompanist Luke Housner.

 

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Four AVA Resident Artists will be heading to the The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to perform for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Region Finals in February. Please join us in congratulating Meryl Dominguez, Matthew White, Ethan Simpson and Brent Michael Smith! AVA Master Vocal Coach Richard A. Raub was once again the official pianist for the competition, and will also play at the Kennedy Center Region Finals.

To see more of what our Resident Artists have been up to recently, please visit this link.

It is never our intention to omit any AVA alumni. If you notice any discrepancies, please contact info@avaopera.org.

Written by AVA Marketing/PR Intern Madison Miner. Madison Miner is a senior Communications major at West Chester University, and an intern in AVA’s Marketing Department.

Fall 2017: A Look Back

So far, this season at AVA has been a most memorable one. As the holiday season and break soon approaches, let’s take a look back at at all of the things our Resident Artists have been up to so far this year…

AVA has put on a number of incredible recitals and performances so far this year! Check below to reminisce:

AVA’s 2017 New Resident Artist Recital: 

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The new Resident Artists displayed their talent in this recital back in September. We were so happy to welcome them and are thrilled to see what they have in store in these next four years! Meet the new Resident Artists here.

Giargiari Bel Canto Competition

In early October, AVA’s Resident Artists competed in the annual Giargiari Bel Canto Competition, held at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. AVA alumnus and world-renowned bass-baritone James Morris, The Metropolitan Opera’s Joshua Winograde and Palm Beach Opera’s Scott Guzielek presided as the evening’s judges and award the prizes. The audience also had the opportunity to vote for their favorite singer! Philadelphia blogger Marissa Baum recapped the evening on her blog here.

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Congratulations to:
Claire de Monteil and Alexandra Razskazoff – First Prize Winners (tie)
Piotr Buszewski – Second Prize
Meryl Dominguez – Audience Favorite Prize

WRTI Winners
Roy Hage – First Place
Alexandra Nowakowski – Second Place
Piotr Buszewski
 – Third Place

Congratulations to all!

Verdi’s Il trovatore 

Next up, AVA’s stunning performances of Verdi’s classic Il trovatore in November. This was AVA’s first production of Verdi’s immortal classic in 20 years. This extraordinary opera started off AVA’s season in just the right way!

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Claire de monteil and Mackenzie Gotcher

With raving reviews from the Philadelphia Inquirer and DC Metro Theater, Il trovatore was definitely one to remember.

Along with performing here at AVA, many of our Resident Artists are experiencing amazing opportunities outside of these walls! Here are a few:

Resident Artist Roy Hage deserves congratulations on his performance as First Armored Man back in September in Opera Philadelphia‘s Die Zauberflöte!

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In October we congratulated fourth-year Resident Artist soprano Alexandra Nowakowski who won the Second Prize in the 2017 Gerda Lissner Lieder/Song Competition!

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Also, third-year Resident Artist soprano Meryl Dominguez won the Alfonso Cavaliere Memorial Scholarship this past October! Bravo!

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Resident Artist tenor Marco Cammarota sang the role of Cavaradossi in Arizona Opera‘s production of Puccini’s Tosca in November. You can check out the full cast here.

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Another artist to make an exciting debut was John Matthew Myers who performed as the tenor soloist a few weeks ago at Carnegie Hall with the Canterbury Choral Society!

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AVA Resident Artist Claire de Monteil will be making her French debut this December, as she will be singing the role of Simone in the comic opera Les Mousquetaires au couvent at Opéra Grand Avignon!

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Hannah Ludwig, mezzo-soprano will make her debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Handel’s Messiah!

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Vanessa Vasquez earned a great review in Opera News for her performance of Liù in Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly.

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Congratulations to all of our Resident Artists for all of their hard work.

Even though the beginning of the season is coming to a close, the new year is just around the corner!

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Still to come this December: an evening of Russian Romances at AVA. The December 14th performance includes an event for young professionals!

Join us at AVA for three more incredible operas and three more incredible chances to see our Resident Artists shine! The first opera we will be performing is Das Rheingold opening on January 20. The next is Ariadne auf Naxos opening on February 24. And opening on April 21 Verdi’s classic, La traviata.

You do not want to miss out on this opportunity to see our Resident Artists take on these operas. We hope to see you in the new year!

Written by AVA PR/Marketing Intern Madison Miner

AVA’s Favorite Winter Activities

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The weather outside is getting frightful…which means one thing; winter is almost upon us! To celebrate the season of cuddling up by fires listening to your favorite opera score, we asked some of the AVA Resident Artists what their favorite winter time activity is! Keep reading for a peek into what some of our artists enjoy doing during the cold months!

Daniel Noyola: Fifth-Year Bass-Baritone

Favorite winter activity? “I like having ponche, which is a traditional Mexican winter hot beverage. It’s made of tamarindo, cinnamon sticks, guava, and sugar cane. For parties we like to add tequila. It tastes really good and keeps you warm!”

Oliver Sewell: First-Year Tenor

Favorite winter activity? “I like a hearty stew and mulled wine after a day of outdoor activities in the cutting cold of the American winter!”

Piotr Buszewski: Third-Year Tenor

Favorite winter activity? “I like to wear my Lensky’s fur coat, riding on a horse drawn sleigh, then spending an evening by the fire drinking a hot beer and looking at my portrait on the wall.”

Abraham Bretón: Second-Year Tenor

Favorite winter activity? “I love to do anything in the snow; I have never built a snowman or gone skiing but I really want to! I also love Christmas songs!”

Hannah Ludwig: Fourth-Year Mezzo-Soprano

Favorite winter activity? “Sitting on the couch with a nice hot cup of tea and turning on the fireplace.”

Alexandra Nowakowski: Fourth-Year Soprano

Favorite winter activity? “Making fall and wintery soups like pumpkin soup, and chili.”

Roy Hage: Second-Year Tenor

Favorite winter activity? “Visiting family and skiing in New Hampshire at Lake Sunapee. I’ve been skiing since I was a kid; I learned when I was in Lebanon. Also, binge watching the Harry Potter series!”

Alexandra Razskazoff: First-Year Soprano

Favorite winter activity? “Skiing, since I’m from Minnesota!”

Lukasz Zientarski: First-Year Baritone

Favorite winter activity? “I like ice skating.”

John Matthew Myers: Second-Year Tenor

Favorite winter  activity? “Sitting in front of the fireplace with a hot cup of cocoa or ice skating.”

Timothy Renner: Second-Year Baritone

Favorite winter activity? “Going to Christmas markets.”

Matthew White: Third Year Tenor

Favorite winter activity? “Surfing and bass-fishing on the shore. It’s the best when you show up at 6:00 AM and its totally quiet in the brisk cold salt air and there’s snow on the ground. It’s the best feeling.”

Meryl Dominguez: Third-Year Soprano

Favorite winter activity? “I used to be a figure skater, so I love going ice skating! Baking is also more fun in the winter. Winter is my favorite season!”

Pascale Spinney: First-Year Mezzo-Soprano

Favorite winter activity? “Sitting by the fireplace reading a novel and drinking some eggnog.”

Ethan Simpson: Third-Year Baritone

Favorite winter activity? “I hate winter.” (Thanks for your honesty, Ethan! 😉 )

Anthony Whitson-Martini: Third-Year Baritone

Favorite winter activity? “Baking Christmas cookies.”

Gabriela Flores: First-Year Mezzo-Soprano

Favorite winter activity? “Watching movies and drinking hot chocolate.”

We hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about our Resident Artists and their favorite winter activities. Now it’s your turn; tell us your favorite winter hobby! And don’t forget to get your ticket for our Russian Romances recitals on December 12 and 14 at 7:30 PM! You can purchase tickets by clicking here or calling AVA at 215-735-1685.

 

2017 Giargiari Bel Canto Competition

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We are so excited for the 2017 Giargiari Competition! AVA’s Resident Artists will perform on Saturday, October 7 at 7:30 pm at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. AVA faculty member Richard A. Raub will join the Resident Artists on stage, as both the pianist and music director. They have been working tirelessly and have selected some incredible pieces for the show. Here is a sneak peek of what’s in store:

TIMOTHY RENNER, baritone

             Si può? Si può? | Pagliacci

              Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919)

 

REBECCA GULINELLO, soprano

                Mercé, dilette amiche | I vespri siciliani

                Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

 

MATTHEW WHITE, tenor

                È la solita storia del pastore… Anch’io vorrei dormir così | L’arlesiana

                Francesco Ciléa (1866-1950)

 

PASCALE SPINNEY, mezzo-soprano

                È sgombro il loco… Ah! Parea che per incanto | Anna Bolena

                Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)

 

ETHAN SIMPSON, baritone

                Alzati!… Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima | Un ballo in maschera

                Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

 

CLAIRE DE MONTEIL, soprano

                Robert, toi que j’aime | Robert le diable

                Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)

 

ROY HAGE, tenor

               Il était une fois à la cour d’Eisenach! | Les contes d’Hoffmann

                Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

 

ALEXANDRA RAZSKAZOFF, soprano

               Glück, das mir verblieb | Die tote Stadt

                Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)

 

MARCO CAMMAROTA, tenor

                I know that you all hate me | The Saint of Bleecker Street

                Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)

 

PIOTR BUSZEWSKI, tenor

               Parigi! È la città dei desideri | La rondine

                Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

 

MERYL DOMINGUEZ, soprano

               Oui, pour ce soir… Je suis Titania! | Mignon

                Ambroise Thomas (1811- 1896)

 

ABRAHAM BRETÓN, tenor

               Addio fiorito asil | Madama Butterfly

                Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

 

ANTHONY WHITSON-MARTINI, baritone

                Come un’ape ne’ giorni d’aprile | La cenerentola             

                Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

 

JOANA RUSCHE, soprano

               De cet affreux combat… Pleurez mes yeux | Le Cid

                Jules Massenet (1842-1912)

 

MACKENZIE GOTCHER, tenor

                Cielo e mar! | La gioconda

                Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886)

 

HANNAH LUDWIG, mezzo-soprano

               Où suis-je?… O ma lyre immortelle | Sapho

                Charles Gounod (1818-1893)

 

DANIEL NOYOLA, bass-baritone

               Ça, vous commettez tous… Riez, allez! | Don Quichotte

                Jules Massenet (1842-1912)

 

ALEXANDRA NOWAKOWSKI, soprano

               En proie à la tristesse… O bon hermite | Le Comte Ory    

                Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

 

Tickets to the event are still available but selling quickly! Tickets may be purchased via the Kimmel Center website or by calling their box office at 215-893-1999. Don’t miss your chance to vote for your favorite! We look forward to seeing you there!