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Ian Mikyska

(b Bratislava, 16 Oct 1981). Slovak composer, saxophonist, and improviser. Studied composition at the University of Performing arts in Bratislava (VŠMU) (with Jevgenij Iršai and Vladimír Godár) and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (with Michal Rataj), as well as musicology at the Comenius University in Bratislava.

He is unusual in the Czecho-Slovak context for the breadth of his musical and cultural interests – eclecticism and a Schnittkean polystylism are the only unifying elements of his work, perhaps together with relentless demands on the listener’s emotions (in one direction or another). His earlier works betray the influence of Schnittke in their rapid changes and distressed emotiveness interspersed with moments of (ironic?) grandeur, while at other times, his use of explosive improvisation and a range of stylistic contexts brings John Zorn to mind.

He has a close relationship with theatre, both in his operas and video-operas – often made in collaboration with the actor, director, and librettist Marek Kundlák – and in his instrumental music, which doesn’t shy away from theatricality and make-believe. He often treats musics as cultural phenomena, mindful of their history and current position, unafraid to appropriate and explore what he calls the emptied-out or sketched-out worlds that remain in music after the 20th century....

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Ian Mikyska

(b Brno, 13 March 1966). Czech composer, pedagogue, and writer on music, son of zdeněk zouhar. He studied composition at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU) in Brno (with Miloš Ištván and alois piňos) and musicology at the Masaryk University, followed by post-graduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst Graz (with Herman Markus Preßl and younghi pagh-paan) and JAMU. He remains an external pedagogue at both these institutions, as well as being active as a researcher at the Palacký University Olomouc (vice-dean starting in 2010), Ostrava University, and Masaryk University.

His brand of postmodernism is surprisingly respectful, using disparate materials in a serious manner, and generally staying with a few pieces of material for the duration of a piece or movement. Often composed in an additive, evolutionary structure, his works are sonically reminiscent of New York post-minimalism, but are very European in their approach to expressivity and emotional intensity. This approach includes both the intense rhythms of ...

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John C. MacInnis

(b London, England, Dec 27, 1911; d Batemans Bay, Australia, Oct 18, 2006). American English singer, comedienne, and musical parodist. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she aspired to a career as an opera singer. She performed in several opera productions in the UK and sang for the BBC in the 1930s. Initial successes as a musical parodist began in 1940 after Russell moved to Toronto, Canada, with her mother and especially after her famous recital at Town Hall, New York, in 1951.

Through the 1950s Russell performed and recorded extensively. She appeared in opera productions (e.g. New York City Opera, Hansel and Gretel, 1953) and on Broadway (e.g. Anna Russell’s Little Show, 1955). She often styled herself as a mock-music appreciation teacher; for example, she instructed audiences on “How to Write your own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera,” comically explained the plots of famous works like Wagner’s ...

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Megan E. Hill

(b Shanghai, China, 1943). Peking opera performer of Chinese birth. Born to a family of actors, she began learning Peking Opera at the age of four. She later enrolled in the Shanghai Theater School, joining the new Shanghai Youth Peking Drama Troupe following graduation. When she was 18 years old, she was chosen by Chairman Mao’s wife to perform the female lead role in one of the national “model operas” created by China’s communist government. At the age of 22, she was among the artists deemed talented enough to be selected by the government to perform modern Beijing revolutionary operas during the Cultural Revolution, a period when classic and traditional works were banned. Working in those politically dangerous and unstable circumstances, Qi became well known throughout the country. When the sanctions on artistic production became less stringent in the late 1970s, she again began performing in productions of traditional works. She immigrated to the United States in ...

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Kelley Rourke

(b Madison, WI, June 3, 1960). American soprano. She has done her most important work at the extremes of the opera timeline, winning acclaim for interpretations of both early and contemporary repertory. In 1988 she played the roles of Poppea, Fortune, and Minerva in Stephen Wadsworth’s Monteverdi cycle at Skylight Comic Opera. She went on to appear in works by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Handel in venues around the world, including Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera (Cooperstown, NY), Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona, Spain), and the International Handel Festival (Göttingen, Germany). Saffer has collaborated frequently with the composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, beginning with performances of Hans Werner Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers in 1988 at Tanglewood. She has been celebrated for her interpretation of Marie in Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten, a role she has performed at Opéra Bastille, New York City Opera, and the English National Opera. As the title character in Alban Berg’s ...

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Jessica Payette

(Ferrée )

(b New York, NY, Feb 18, 1943). American composer, opera singer, and educator. She studied literature and music at Columbia University, earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her primary voice teachers were soprano Helen Merritt and Marina Ahmed Alam, a Hindustani raga singer. She studied composition with vladimir Ussachevsky , whom she first encountered in an undergraduate counterpoint course, and otto Luening . Ussachevsky eventually taught her the methods he developed for studio electronics and became her principal supervisor. During her student years she collaborated with Ussachevsky on film and television scores, including Line of Apogee and Incredible Voyage, which combined pure electronic and concrète sound sources; Shields also embraced this approach for many of her electronic music-theater pieces and operas. Her DMA in composition was conferred in 1975 with the completion of the third segment of a tripartite opera, begun in 1970, entitled The Odyssey of Ulysses the Palmiped...

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Jonas Westover

(b Sept 10, 1945, Pasadena, CA). American music critic. Von Rhein is best known as the critic for the Chicago Tribune, where he worked from 1977 into the first decade of the 21st century. He began his career as a violinist, playing through college. After receiving his BA in English from UCLA in 1967, he pursued graduate work at California State University in Los Angeles. Von Rhein began working as a critic for the Hollywood Citizen-News (1968–71) until he took a position in Ohio for the Akron Beacon Journal between 1971 and 1977. His interests are centered on classical music, especially on opera. He has contributed to a wide range of classical publications, including Opera magazine, Gramophone, American Record Guide, Opera News, Fanfare, Vanity Fair, Ovation, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Opera Now. Von Rhein has also produced a number of liner notes for labels like Sony BMG, Pro Arte, and Stradivari. In ...

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John Koegel

[Francisco Rafael ]

(b San Antonio, TX, May 16, 1883; d New York, NY, Dec 12, 1943). American operatic tenor and recitalist of Mexican and German heritage. He was the most prominent Mexican American opera singer of his day, although perhaps to advance his career he used the Italian-sounding first name “Rafaelo,” and press reports sometimes identified him as Spanish instead of Mexican American or Mexican. Díaz attended the German-English School and the West Texas Military Academy (now Texas Military Institute) in San Antonio. He studied piano with Amalia Hander, a local music teacher, and at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. After vocal studies with Vincenzo Sabatini in Milan, he returned to the United States and in 1911 began appearing in small roles with the Boston Grand Opera Company, quickly moving up to more prominent assignments. He accompanied the soprano Luisa Tetrazzini on a tour in 1913 and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Massenet’s ...

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Bonnie Elizabeth Fleming

(b Harrisburg, PA, March 2, 1921). American singing actress, producer, stage director, and teacher. Possessing a wide range of performing skills, she is known for undertaking challenging operatic roles such as Birdie and Regina in Mark Blitzstein’s Regina (1949, 1953, and 1958) and Lizzie in Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden (1965). She worked on Broadway, in light opera, on radio and television, and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Lewis attended Penn State University and was encouraged by its Glee Club director to audition for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she went on to study with Emilio de Gogorza. After her teacher suddenly left the Institute, Lewis auditioned and made her debut with the Philadelphia Opera Company at the age of 19 in the role of the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. A remarkably quick study, Lewis absorbed music and words in any language almost on the spot, a gift to which she attributes most of her early success. In ...