2014 Festival Performers

Meet our world-class participating artists — Singers and instrumentalists from across America and beyond, bring their rich voices, sparkling talents and expressive Russian souls to San Francisco Bay area stages.

List of Festival Performers

Alexander Prokhorov

Andrey Nemzer

Choir of Church of All Saints

Choir of Holy Virgin Cathedral

Donna Stoering

Elena Gurevich

Festival Choir

Irina Shachneva

Kitka

Kostroma

Mikhail Svetlov

Olga Bykhovsky

Olga France

Slavyanka Chorus

Yale Russian Chorus Alumni

Alexander Prokhorov

Alexander Prokhorov graduated from the Music Academy of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow in 1989 with a diploma in piano performance, and from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2002 with a Master of Music degree in opera performance. He also received an opera performance diploma from the Boston Opera Institute in 2004. Mr. Prokhorov was among the finalists in the Schubert and Bach vocal competition in Moscow in 1995; one of the finalist-winners of the new Hampshire Operafest! Competition in January, 2001; and the winner of the Longy School of Music Honors competition in Boston in June, 2000, June, 2001 and June 2002. 
He has appeared in the Boston area with the Handel & Haydn Society, the Boston Lyric Opera, the Boston Early Music Festival, the Boston Academy of Music, the Lowell House opera in Cambridge, and the Boston Bel Canto opera company among others, and was the assistant conductor of the Boston Russian Chorus from 2001-2006. In addition to his own career as a singer, he is known internationally as an outstanding vocal coach, and has developed a new and effective method of teaching singing called “1, 2, 3, Sing!”

Andrey Nemzer

Still in the early years of his career, countertenor Andrey Nemzer has already become distinguished for the unique size, flexibility, and range of his voice. A Winner of the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals, Nemzer returned to the Met stage in 2013-2014 to perform the role of the Guardian in Die Frau ohne Schatten, and also covered the role of Orlofsky in its new production of Die Fledermaus. His 2013-2014 season engagements also included the Pittsburgh Symphony for Orff’s Carmina Burana. Future engagements bring him to San Francisco Opera, where he will cover for countertenor David Daniels as Arsace in Partenope in October 2014, and the role of Agnes the Digger in Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox at Opera San Antonio in September 2014, during its inaugural season. Nemzer covered the title role of Giulio Cesare in a new production for the Metropolitan Opera, and joined the Rhode Island Philharmonic for Handel’s Messiah. The artist, who is a native of Moscow, recently completed studies for an Artist Diploma at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Andrey Nemzer began his studies at Moscow Choir College, after which he became a touring soloist with the Moscow Choir under the direction of Viktor Popov. Nemzer frequently collaborates with many vocal and instrumental ensembles of Russia, including The Pocket Symphony, under the direction of Nazar Kozhukhar, Intrada Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of Ekaterina Antonenko, and the Moscow Sacred Music Ensemble under the direction of Galina Koltsova. He is the principal soloist of The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. Andrey Nemzer was the winner of the 2011 Mildred Miller International Vocal Competition, a Second Prize winner of the 2012 Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition, and a prizewinner in the 2010 Pittsburgh Baroque Competition.

CHURCH OF ALL RUSSIAN SAINTS CHOIR

The all-volunteer Church of All Russian Saints Choir draws its members from within the parish. The ensemble ranges from high school-age student to veteran singers in their 80s. Past and present choir members from all walks of life have dedicated themselves to fulfilling their role as responsorial leaders of the congregation in All-Night Vigil, Liturgy, Passion, Easter and other Holiday services. Members of the Choir have individually participated in a variety of local concerts, including those presented by the Holy Virgin Cathedral Choir, Cantabile Chorale, the San Francisco Christ the Savior Church Male Chorus, the St. John of San Francisco Male Chorus, Slavyanka and Viva la Musica. From 1952, twelve conductors have labored to maintain the centuries-old traditions of Russian Orthodox Church music with the Choir. Among the unique challenges that founding conductors faced included the fact that it was difficult to acquire church sheet music and prepare copies for each singer. The Cold War, official policy of atheism in the Soviet Union, and no copy machines, personal computers, internet or music notation software required many hours of painstaking production of music manuscripts. Today, thanks to the efforts of its founders and veterans, a warm, friendly family of singers looks forward to participating in rehearsals and services, for many the high points of their week. In November 2004, the Choir made its concert debut in Burlingame and subsequently has produced several CD and and DVD recordings of their concerts. Andrei Roudenko is the twelfth Conductor of the Church of All Russian Saints Choir. Prior to his appointment in June 2001, he was founder and Music Director of the Russian Chamber Chorus in Boston, was a long-time performing member of Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus and Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society. He was guest conductor of the Karelsky Academic Chorus in Russia in 1991, and in 1992, conducted members of his Russian Chamber Chorus and Voskreseniye Choir in a joint performance and recording of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil in Moscow. In 1996, Roudenko collaborated with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Shostakovich’s 13th symphony, featuring baritone Sergei Leiferkus and the men of the Russian Chamber Chorus. He made his Boston Symphony Hall conducting debut in 1995 in a concert of Russian liturgical and folk music that featured baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Roudenko has served as language and style consultant to Boston-area choruses in their exploration of Russian vocal music and made his solo debut in Gretchaninov’s Sugubaya Ekteniya with Boston’s Chorus pro Musica. He began singing in church services at the age of seven. His interest in church choir conducting was nurtured and guided by his father, Vladimir Roudenko. He describes his appointment to his current church choir post as a lifelong dream come true.

HOLY VIRGIN CATHEDRAL CHOIR

The fifty-voice Holy Virgin Cathedral Choir sings at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the same name. The choir consists primarily of Russian singers whose parents have immigrated to the United States from Russia, China, and various European countries. It has been formed into a well-tuned instrument by the artistry of Mikhail S. Konstantinov, who had vast experience as an opera singer and conductor of a Cathedral Choir, the Symphony, and the Opera in Kiev, Ukraine (then Russia). This artistry prompted the San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen, to write of the choir that it is “….the best church choir in town. OPERATIC!” The choir has sung many concerts in the Bay Area with such great artists as Metropolitan Opera tenor Nicolai Gedda. Retiring in 1979, Konstantinov turned over the choir to his young student, Vladimir Krassovsky, who has kept prominent the high quality of singing and artistry within the chorus. Vladimir Krassovsky, conductor of the Holy Virgin Cathedral Choir, studied piano under V.N. Kostevich for thirteen years. Continuing his musical education in San Francisco State University, Mr. Krassovsky was also tutored by the Cathedral Choir Director, Mikhail Konstantinov (1904-1982) for 12 years in conducting and in the art of Russian choral singing. Becoming conductor of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Youth Choir in 1970, Mr. Krassovsky built it from a ten-voice to a strong seventy-voice chorus. Mr. Krassovsky relinquished his post in 1979 upon his appointment to the Holy Virgin Cathedral Choir. In 1987, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia appointed Vladimir Krassovsky to its Synodal Liturgical Music Commission whose mission is to preserve the Russian Orthodox Liturgical Music tradition for future generations. Vladimir Krassovsky has lectured on Orthodox Liturgical Music throughout the United States and Canada and in 2008, was invited to give a lecture at the Liturgical Music Symposium in Moscow, Russia. Vladimir Krassovsky has been a choir director for 45 years and actively continues performing his duties to this day.

IRINA SHACHNEVA, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

For more than a quarter of a century, Slavyanka’s Artistic Director Irina Shachneva has brightened the world as a musician with a broad-based, outstanding international record of success as conductor, teacher, performer and manager. Irina wanted to be a choral conductor since she was a teenager in Russia. She received her Bachelor of Music with Honor from the Penza Music College and a Master of Music from the Gorky (Nizhni Novgorod) State Conservatory. She founded and was the first Artistic Director of the Municipal Choral School, “Rhapsodie,” which has since become one of the largest Children’s Choral-Music Schools in Greater Moscow. Ms. Shachneva toured with her choirs in France, Bulgaria, Poland and Russia, and recorded a CD. As an innovative advocate of music education for all ages, Irina still loves teaching piano, voice and music theory to children as well as adults, which she continued to do when she moved to Boston in 1994 and San Jose in 2011. After coming to the United States, Irina continued her education by taking three years of conducting classes with Tamara Brooks at the New England Conservatory of Music. She established the Boston Russian Chorus and has been a guest conductor of the New England Conservatory Chorus, the Jordan Hall Festival Chorus, and the Plymouth Festival Chorus. Irina also worked as an organist, pianist and conductor in her capacity as Music Director at Mt. Calvary Church in Acton, MA, where she led its choir and orchestra in performances of masterpieces by Bach, Fauré, Mozart and other works ranging from the German Renaissance to modern American composers. This ensemble performed to acclaim at the International Music Festival in Würzburg, Germany, in 2011. In 2010 Mrs. Shachneva founded and became the Artistic Director of the International Rachmaninoff Russian Music Festival in Boston. Its success led to a prestigious invitation to Russia, where she led the Festival Choir at an International Choral Festival celebrating the 450th anniversary of the famed St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square. In 2012 Irina also led the Second International Rachmaninoff Russian Music in Boston. In 2011 Irina’s family moved to California and she applied for the position of Artistic Director of Slavyanka. Reflecting on her selection as Slavyanka’s new director in June 2012, Mrs. Shachneva says, “It has long been my dream to work with music written for and sung by male choirs in Russia and other Slavic countries for over 800 years, so I’m delighted and excited that Slavyanka has given me an opportunity to fulfill that dream.”

Kitka

Kitka is an American women’s vocal arts ensemble inspired by traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe. Dedicated to developing new audiences for music rooted in Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian women’s vocal traditions, Kitka also strives to expand the boundaries of folk song as a living and evolving expressive art form. Kitka’s activities include an Oakland-based home series of concerts and vocal workshops; regional, national, and international touring; programs in the schools; recording, publication, and broadcast projects; master artist residencies; commissioning; community service work; and adventuresome collaborations. Founded in 1979, Kitka began as a grassroots group of amateur singers from diverse backgrounds who met regularly to share their passion for the stunning dissonances, asymmetric rhythms, intricate ornamentation, lush harmonies, and resonant strength of Eastern European women’s vocal music. Under the direction of Bon Singer from 1981 to 1996, Kitka blossomed into a refined professional ensemble earning international renown for its artistry, versatility, and mastery of the demanding techniques of traditional and contemporary Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian vocal styling. Under the co-direction of Shira Cion, Juliana Graffagna, and Janet Kutulas from 1997 to 2010, Kitka grew to earn recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, Chorus America, and the American Choral Directors’ Association as one of this country’s premier touring vocal ensembles. Now functioning as a creative collective, many international musical authorities consider Kitka the foremost interpreter of Balkan and Slavic choral repertoire working in the United States. www.kitka.org

kostroma

Appearing in museum-quality handmade regional costumes, Kostroma presents authentic renditions of folksongs and dances rarely heard outside of Russia’s remote rural villages. It is directed by Tanya Teodorovich, and takes its name from the pagan Russian goddess of fertility and springtime renewal. Kostroma is the vocal ensemble of Russian House Kedry(Cedars), a non-profit organization in the Bay Area dedicated to the development and support of linguistic and artistic traditions in households where Russian language is a part of family culture. Kedry’s activities include organizing seasonal festivals rooted in old folk traditions, and teaching Russian-language classes for children in which traditional songs, circle games, and handcrafts are passed on. Through its performances and workshops, Kostroma also shares Russian culture with the multicultural community of Northern California.

Slavyanka Chorus

Slavyanka is a 35-year-old San Francisco men’s a cappella chorus specializing in Russian and Eastern European choral music, and taking its name from the old Russian name for Northern California’s Russian River. The chorus was formed in 1979 by a group of former Yale Russian Chorus members and others interested in singing Russian music. Slavyanka initially drew its repertoire from the Yale Russian Chorus, and over the years has developed additional sources for its music through its contact with choruses and choirs in Russia. Slavyanka has also premiered works of contemporary Russian composers, and the recent formation of a women’s ensemble, Slavyanka Women Singers, has greatly expanded the repertoire available to the Chorus. Since June 2012, Slavyanka has been led by Artistic Director Irina Shachneva, with Assistant Directors Paul Andrews and Elena Stepanova. Slavyanka toured the Soviet Union in 1986 and 1989. During its first tour, it was the first American chorus ever invited to sing in Leningrad’s (now St. Petersburg’s) historic M.I. Glinka Kapella Hall, and over 900 Soviet choral musicians gave the group a standing ovation. During Slavyanka’s second tour the chorus performed sold-out concerts in Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, and Vladimir. The group also participated in a wide variety of “people to people” and “choral exchange” concerts with choruses from the Soviet Union, and performed for Mikhail Gorbachev, then Premier of the Soviet Union, when he visited San Francisco in 1990. In 1986 and again in 1990, the chorus won the honor of performing at the Western Regional Convention of the American Choral Directors Association, where it received standing ovations. Slavyanka has also sung in the soundtracks for several movies, as well as for special events, including a performance of the Rachmaninoff Vespers in celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church. The group performs fifteen to twenty concerts a year, with a repertoire of secular (from folk to classical) and sacred music. Slavyanka’s ten recordings are available on CDs at retail outlets, and can be ordered directly via email to sales@slavyanka.org. For further information about the chorus, please contact Paul Andrews, 510-798-7966, or paulandrews@earthlink.net.

Mikhail Svetlov

The distinguished bass Mikhail Svetlov was a winner of the Viotti International Competition and was nominated for a Grammy award for his recording of Stravinsky. He was also honored with two Telerama Awards (France) on Le Chant du Monde for the world première of works by Rachmaninoff and Serov. A principal soloist of the legendary Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow for more than a decade, he has also performed to great acclaim on its international tours at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and Royal Albert Hall. He has been an acclaimed guest with many of the world’s opera companies, festivals and orchestras, including performances at Carnegie Hall, the Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg Staatsoper, Bavarian State Opera, Teatro Colón, the Salzburg, Edinburgh, Bregenz, Santa Fe and Britten festivals, Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice, the Opéra de Montréal, New York City Opera, Houston and Florida Grand Operas, Baltimore, the San Diego and Palm Beach Operas, Opera de Bellas Artes (Mexico), and many others.

Yale Russian Chorus Alumni

The Yale Russian Chorus Alumni are singers who sang with the Yale Russian Chorus, founded in 1953 at the height of the Cold War by Denis Mickiewicz, a student at the Yale Music School, and George Litton, president of the Yale Russian Club. With its unique repertoire of religious and secular music from Russia and neighboring lands, the Chorus quickly established a prominent place in the pantheon of Yale singing groups. It thrives to this day, transcending dramatic changes in the political climate. Throughout its 60-year history, the Chorus has fostered international understanding. It pioneered the first person-to-person cultural exchanges between the US and USSR, singing informal concerts on Moscow street corners as early as 1958. The Chorus has won prizes at international choral competitions, serenaded government leaders at international functions and recorded extensively. Through their own organization, the YRC Alumni Association, Chorus alumni continue to present concerts throughout the United States, including a 60th Anniversary concert at Yale’s Woolsey Hall in November of 2013.

Olga Bykhovsky, Mezzo-soprano

Born in Moscow, Olga studied voice, piano, and organ at the Myaskovsky School of Music and then continued her studies at the Moscow Conservatory, where she performed operatic roles including Lel in Snow Maiden, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice. After moving to the United States, she majored in linguistics at Columbia University, and pursued further operatic training at the New England Conservatory of Music and the Longy School of Music. She has performed such diverse roles as Mignon, the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, Olga in Eugen Onegin, and Nicklausse in Les Contes d’Hoffman. Olga was invited by the Roman Music Festival to perform with the prize winning children’s choir EDERA of Rome, Italy. Her recent performances include the title role in Prokofiev’s Duenna with Metropolitan Opera bass Mikhail Svetlov at the Summit Music Festival in New York, and Magdalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto with Boston’s New American Vocal Arts Group. She has presented concerts of rarely performed music for voice and viola with acclaimed Boston Symphony Orchestra violist Michael Zaretsky. Her future engagements include the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola with the NAVA Group in Boston in the fall of 2014, and Elena in Rossini’s Donna del Lago in New York in the spring of 2015.

Olga France

Olga France was born in Irkutsk, Russia. She earned degrees from the College of Arts in Irkutsk, and from the State Moscow Pedagogical University in Choir Conducting. In Russia she engaged in a number of musical pursuits, including performing, choir conducting and teaching piano and voice. Olga moved to the United States in 2000, and has been actively involved in a wide array of musical activities in the New York and Boston areas. She performed as a soloist and was a choirmaster of both the Boston Russian Choir and Boston’s Rachmaninoff Festival, as well as serving as a regent (music director) in a local Russian Orthodox church. Her love of music and performing keeps Olga busy: currently she teaches children at “The Lucky Ten” studio, gives private voice and piano lessons, and serves as chorus master for the Commonwealth Lyric Theater, and as the music director of the Mt Calvary Church in Acton, Massachusetts.

Elena Stepanova-Gurevich, Guest Soprano

Elena Stepanova started her singing career when she was 8 years old. From 1976 to 1986, she was the soloist with the famous Loktev Children Ensemble, performing songs for children and youth all over the former Soviet Union, making recordings, and performing on most stages in Moscow.
Elena graduated from the State Institute of Theater Arts (GITIS) in Moscow, and received her Masters degree in 1991. She sang with the Moscow Musical Theater in performances of classic Russian operas, including “The Snow Maiden” and “The Tale of Tzar Saltan” by Rimsky-Korsakov.
In 1997 Elena moved to San Francisco Bay Area. She has performed with the Inna Chalis Opera Ensemble and San Francisco Community Music Center (where she sang the role of First Lady in Magic Flute, and Musetta in La Bohème ), and with the San Francisco Lyric Opera (Woglinde in Das Rheingold). She has also given solo performances at San Francisco’s Russian Center, and at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco .