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Local Opera Singer Creates Music Series

Zhanna Alkhazova. Courtesy photo

Zhanna Alkhazova will hold a solo concert in West Hartford on May 19.

Zhanna Alkhazova. Courtesy photo

By Pattie Weiss Levy

Operatic soprano Zhanna Alkhazova has sung internationally, won countless awards, and graced this country’s most illustrious stages, including Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Yet local audiences may never have heard her name. Until now, that is. Those who attend her solo concert in West Hartford on Sunday, May 19, are unlikely to ever forget it – or her roof-raising voice.

“A veritable force of nature, like a hurricane,” is what music website Voce di Meche called it. Others have described it as “an instrument capable of heart-stopping mastery” and “a bright, sword-flashing sound.”

Zhanna Alkhazova. Courtesy photo

Alkhazova (whose first name is pronounced with a soft “J” sound, as in “Zha Zha”), moved to the area in 2019 soon after marrying her husband, West Hartford resident Dmitry Isenberg. Then came the pandemic and the birth of their daughter Amelia, now 4. Although she continued to appear on stages nationally and abroad, the singer is now ready to find her local footing and new fans closer to home.

“This is the first time in a long time that I have settled down,” she notes. “I feel that we all need a home base, and this one is as good as any singer could ever desire.” Along with being halfway between New York and Boston, “it’s a great place to raise children, and there are so many high-caliber musicians to collaborate with.” That includes pianist Blake Hansen, who will accompany her on May 19th.

Her long list of operatic credits includes the title roles in Tosca, Turandot, Aida, Manon Lescaut, and Iolanta, as well as Leonora in Il Travatore, Micaela in Carmen, and Nedda in I Pagliacci. She has sung with Opera New Jersey, Opera Connecticut, Boston Lyric Opera, the Sarasota Opera, Commonwealth Opera, New Rochelle Opera, Long Island Opera, and many others. Internationally, she has appeared in Italy, Ireland, Germany, Russia, and Canada.

Yet even those who are not opera aficionados will find plenty to love at her show, entitled “Encore! Classics to Broadway.” Along with well-known arias from operas ranging from La Boheme to Madama Butterfly, there will be selections from popular musicals, such as “Till There Was You” from The Music Man and “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady. “It’s sort of a ‘greatest hits’ concert,” she explains. A reception with light refreshments will follow.

Zhanna Alkhazova. Courtesy photo

The first of many shows here, Alkhazova says, it will serve as the inaugural concert of her latest venture, the Amelia Classical Music Series, named after her daughter.

“Throughout my career, I have met so many fantastic musicians. My husband and I realized that my greatest value to this community might be if I could serve as a local liaison to world-class performers, along with singing here myself.”

Upcoming guest performers will include cellist Sergey Antonov, a 2007 winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Although the series’ primary focus will be classical music, she hopes to feature other genres as well. Concerts for young listeners may also be on the horizon. “I think children should be involved because it’s never too early to begin cultivating their interest in classical music,” she says. She also intends to tap into the wealth of talent our area has to offer. “There are so many performers locally and around the state who deserve to be heard by discerning audiences.”

And what better place to stage such a series than West Hartford? “People come out here,” she says. “People support the arts.” When she stepped in last month to replace an ailing singer with the GM Chorale in nearby Middletown, she was elated to find the parking lot full. “It was a pleasure to see such a great turnout.”

Her biggest success to date was her Mainstage debut at Carnegie Hall in the summer of 2023 with the New England Symphony Orchestra. Yet she is far from a newcomer to the stage. Her first public performance was at age 5, in her native country of Russia, following which she joined a children’s singing group. She began touring throughout Russia by the time she was 8.

After emigrating with her mother and sister to Worcester, MA, she earned both a BA and MA degree from Clark University. It was while obtaining a second Master’s in Vocal Performance at Boston University that she met her future mentor, Maria Spacagna, a diva who had sung at the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala. That is how she discovered her true calling. She has since won numerous awards and competitions, most recently top prizes in the NJ Verismo Opera Competition and the London International Music Competition. She was also named a semi-finalist in the Montserrat Caballe International Singing Competition and the Elizabeth Connell International Competition for Dramatic Sopranos, among others.

What does it feel like to open your mouth and have so much sound burst forth? “To me, it feels natural,” Alkhazova says. “I feel that this is my gift to share, and I take the best care of it that I can in hopes that it brings joy and peace to other people.”

The sound of peace, however, is not necessarily all that peaceful. Her voice is audible enough to be heard for miles around. “My daughter always says, ‘Daddy, cover your ears,” she admits with a laugh. “Mommy is about to sing!’”

“Encore! Classics to Broadway” will be held at United Church of Christ, 134 Flagg Rd., West Hartford on May 19 at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $40 per person. To reserve or for more information, call 617-290-7599 or go to classicstobroadway.eventbrite.com.

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