news & press

2021

REVIEWS

Poster for UCSB Don Giovanni

FEB. 26, 2021

UCSB Santa Barbara Opera Theatre presents Don Giovanni by Mozart, directed by Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian

UC Santa Barbara Current: "A Healthy Dose of Mozart: In the age of COVID-19, the music department turns to “Don Giovanni” for its annual opera production" by Jim Logan
> Go to review
Santa Barbara Independent "UCSB Opera Theatre Presents ‘Don Giovanni’: Isabel Bayrakdarian Directs Mozart for the Web" By Joe Woodard
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Montecito Journal "UCSB's Zoom-tastic Don Giovanni: Opera-ting in the 'New Reality'" By Steven Libowitz
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Noozhawk "UCSB Opera Theatre offers new video of 'Don Giovanni'" By Gerald Carpenter
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2020

VIDEOS AND PRESS CLIPS

Oct. 30, 2020 | Video: “Songs for a Winter’s Night” Guest Vocalist with Glass Tiger, Marilyn Denis Show, CTV Television (Canada)

Isabel Bayrakdarian provides guest vocal for Glass Tiger release

REVIEWS

songs for a winter's night

Dec 22, 2020

Songs for a Winter’s Night, Glass Tiger | CD (guest vocalist)

Press LA Downtown News, Christina Fuoco-Karasinski and Rohit Lakshman, Dec 3, 2020 | These artists 'sleigh' their Christmas songs

Glass Tiger, “Songs for a Winter’s Night”

Canadian pop-rockers Glass Tiger tried to make the best of the lockdown and decided to do something constructive–record their first holiday album.

“We had talked about the Christmas stuff, but we were never able to get our heads wrapped around it,” said keyboardist/producer Sam Reid.

“This is going to be a Christmas like no other, so if there’s ever an opportunity when we should do a Christmas record, this is it.”

The album, “Songs for a Winter’s Night,” is a collection of nine original songs written by Glass Tiger, along with a cover of “A Song for a Winter’s Night,” the latter of which sees the band joined by Natalie MacMaster, Isabel Bayrakdarian of Santa Barbara, and the Steve Sidwell Orchestra.

Legendary singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot makes an appearance to voice a poem written by lead singer Alan Frew, “Ode for a Winter’s Night.”

“It’s sad to see it wrap up, because it’s been keeping me mentally occupied for the whole time,” Reid said. “We had to create it over multiple time zones—we had string arrangements done in the U.K.; an opera singer from Santa Barbara, who sang in an empty concert hall in Fresno; and Alan in Italy. Then it was all stitched together.”

Frew was “marooned,” as Reid put it, in Italy while visiting his daughter in a European school.

Christmas is “a big deal” for Reid, who always wanted to record Christmas music. He admits he has a hard time with covers.

“It’s just really difficult to do justice to some of the songs I love,” he said. “You cannot beat Bing Crosby or Dean Martin. I’m a very traditional kind of music guy at Christmastime. It’s kind of like covering the Beatles. You’re not going to knock them off their perch.” Info: glasstiger.ca

 

Cashbox Magazine, Canada, Dec. 11, 2020, | Glass Tiger Release “Songs For A Winter’s Night” With Guest Artists

Glass Tiger Release “Songs For A Winter’s Night” With Guest Artists

“We’ve waited 34 years to create an original release for Christmas and this Christmas is one that most people will never forget.”

Created during the summer of 2020, with the world continuing its fight to recover from the massive impact of a global pandemic, “Songs For A Winter’s Night” is primarily a collection of original Christmas/Holiday songs written by Glass Tiger and joined by guest artists such as Roch Voisine, Natalie MacMaster, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Steve Sidwell Orchestra and of course the legendary Gordon adds his voice to a very special poem written by Alan Frew, “Ode For A Winter’s Night”.

In doing so, the legendary Mr Lightfoot is giving his personal thumbs up to the lads for their covering of his classic hit “A Song for A Winter’s Night”. With this eclectic mix of holiday musich, Songs for A Winter’s Night stirs the spirit and soul with the central theme focussin on gratitude for the things in life that matter most, like love and kindness, equality & friendship, and of course family.  

Vancouver Courier, Oct 30, 2020 | Gordon Lightfood, Natalie Macmaster join Glass Tiger on their first holiday album

TORONTO — Glass Tiger has assembled a cadre of Canadian talent for their !rst full-length Christmas album.

The band from Newmarket, Ont. released “Songs for a Winter’s Night,” a 10-track collection of largely original music for the holidays.

Nova Scotia fiddler Natalie MacMaster, pop singer Roch Voisine and Lebanese-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian all appear on songs. And Gordon Lightfoot briefy ducks in to read the “Ode for a Winter’s Night,” a poem written by lead singer Alan Frew.

“Songs for a Winter’s Night” follows last year’s release of Glass Tiger’s “33,” their frst EP of original material in nearly three decades.

The band is best known for their chart-topping hit “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone,” with backing vocals from Bryan Adams, and other songs including “Someday” and “My Town,” featuring Rod Stewart.

Glass Tiger joins an array of Canadians who’ve unveiled Christmas-themed music this year. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries” and Tegan and Sara’s “Make You Mine This Season” are two songs that have been released in recent days.

Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 30, 2020.

© 2020 Vancouver Courier

March 20, 2020

The Other Cleopatra: Queen of Armenia | CD

Opera News, Sept 2020 | Critic's Choice | Isabel Bayrakdarian: The Other Cleopatra, Queen of Armenia
Opera Now, May/June 2020 | Isabel Bayrakdarian – The Other Cleopatra, Queen of Armenia ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian combines some fascinating Armenian history and rare C18th music combine to make a heady mix in a new album of arias sung by the character of Cleopatra of Pontus

“Cleopatra VII of Egypt has the mononymous Cleopatra market sewn up – if the name is used it usually refers to her – but obviously Egypt boasted six previous Queen Cleopatras. Other countries had them too, such as Armenia, which possessed its own fabled Queen Cleopatra (b110 BC), wife of King Tigranes the Great, a man who through diplomacy and warfare managed to develop his kingdom so that it stretched from the Mediterranean in the West to the Caspian Sea in the East – a fact that will puzzle the more geographically-minded of readers as modern Armenia is landlocked. But it demonstrates the king’s immense power, as he became the biggest threat to the Roman Empire to its East.

In 94 BC Tigranes made a hugely advantageous match by marrying Cleopatra, the daughter of neighbouring monarch Mithridates VI of Pontus, (known operatically through Mozart’s opera, Mitridate, re di Ponto, itself based on a play by Racine). Mithridates had become King of Pontus in 120BC and set about building an empire that stretched right the way around the Black Sea. In a wonderfully operatic twist he had married his younger sister, Laodice: it seems to have been a family tradition, as Laodice’s maternal grandmother had already managed to marry three of her own brothers in succession, surely some sort of dubious record. (Therapists do say that the family that plays together stays together – though I am not convinced that they advocating quite such drastic personal commitment to the idea.)

Cleopatra duly bore Tigranes three sons and two daughters and everything looked set to be happy ever after. The girls were married off to neighbouring rulers and alliances grew stronger. And at this point Cleopatra made a major error of judgement. Tigranes signed an alliance with Rome, and Cleopatra, under the influence of a mutinous Mithridates, persuaded her sons to betray their father. Everything went wrong, as these things do, and ended with the young men being captured and decapitated by Tigranes, and Cleopatra returning to her family in Pontus to end her days. That must have been an interesting conversation when she arrived. She disappears from history at that point, but Mithridates later committed suicide after defeat by Pompey and according to Roman historian Cassius Dio took poison, after first “having removed his wives and children by poison”. It sounds as though Cleopatra had possibly leapt from frying pan to fire.

Tigranes has inspired many opera composers, over twenty, and Cleopatra’s arias from three of them are performed on a new disc by Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian – one wonders why the queen was so popular operatically; she does seem to have played an incredibly poor hand. But for Vivaldi, Hasse and Gluck she proved a heroine for their operas, each called Il Tigrane – Vivaldi only wrote the middle act of his opera (the outer acts were by Micheli and Romaldi); Hasse reused Vivaldi’s libretto; and Gluck’s opera only survives in part.

Bayrakdarian’s soprano is fluent and nimble, but if you know her voice and haven’t heard her for a while be prepared for a surprise. Her tone has understandably developed considerably over the last twenty years, moving away from the light and generally bright soprano that made her name when she was a 1997 winner at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and First Prize winner at Operalia in 2000. Her current timbre is curious and arresting. There is an occluded quality which I like very much, but may divide opinion – it is almost nasal, even congested in sound and dark in hue. The bottom of the voice is fearsome and she nails some astonishingly baritonal notes. If I heard the recording blind, not knowing the artist, I would assume a mezzo was singing. She can certainly steam ahead through some fiendishly tricky fiorature with great confidence – the Gluck aria Nero turbo il ciel imbruna displays all of these attributes over eight minutes of vocal knitting, not least the tricky arpeggios that plumb down into chest voice and sail back up into head. She starts with the Hasse arias, which I find a bit sawing in their relentless string accompaniment, though his Press’all’onde is a good earworm tune. The Vivaldi is more characterful, the Gluck more orchestrally interesting. Constantine Orbelian conducts with vigour, which particularly suits the Hasse. The sound is crisp and very present though occasionally the voice recedes a little at forte, as though Bayrakdarian was encouraged to step back from the microphone.

American Record Guide review, Reynolds, July-August 2020 issue | The Other Cleopatra: Queen of Armenia

Who knew there was another Cleopatra? Isabel Bayrakdarian does. “This project’s Cleopatra ofPontus (110-58 BC) was the daughter of Mithridates VI, and became Queen Consort of King Tigranes II, known as Tigranes the Great of Armenia…(she) was instrumental in making Tigranes II the greatest king in Armenian history, by the alliance through marriage of two mighty nations, Armenia and Pontus”, explains the singer in her detailed notes. This Cleopatra is seen through the eyes of three composers—Hasse, Vivaldi, and Gluck—using the same text byAbate Francesca Silvani (1660-1728). Hasse was well known as an opera composer in his lifetime, described by music historian Charles Burney as “the most natural, elegant, and judicious composer of vocal music”. His reputation has increased in the last three decades as more of his music has been revived. He seems to have written the arias here for a singer who had what we would call today a mezzo-soprano, a term not in use in Hasse’s time. There are no high excursions, andthe vocal line stays mainly in the middle register. Vivaldi and Gluck’s reputations have been more secure in musical history, though much of their opera and vocal writing has come to be reassessed. All three composers respond to the dramatic texts with tuneful, colorful writing, only a little of which requires vocal agility. Their use of the orchestra varies too—Gluck’s the most interesting. It is great to have another record from Bayrakdarian. She has a knack for unearthing music that hasn’t been heard in centuries and brings it to life with her colorful soprano. Most of the music here doesn’t take her very high, though she retains her soprano timbre. I was impressed by her ornamentation that takes her way below the staff in several selections. Constantine Orbelian and the Kaunsas City Symphony are also effective. Delos offers excellent sound, notes, texts, and translations. Any scholar or lover of Baroque and early classical music should hear this. 

Pizzicato, Apr 29, 2020 | Da war ja noch eine Cleopatra...
Beyond Criticism, Matthew Gurewitsch | June 19, 2020

• Press’all’ onde (Hasse)
• Squarciami pure il seno (Vivaldi)
• Presso L’onda (Gluck)

The enterprising Armenian-Canadian soprano Isaberl Bayrakdarian is ever on. thelookout for material that speaks to her heritage. Poking around the archives, she has unearthed a trio of operas entitled Il Tigrane, after an Armenian king whose queen shared a name with the better-known Serpent of the Old Nile. The libretti, it appears, vary little, and the composers, each a star in his own right, represent the transition from the baroque to the early classical period. To roiling Vivaldi, stately Haase, and grandiloquent Gluck, Bayrakdarian brings the same trnsparent, poised musicality, never reaching for pyrotechnic effect. By far the richest of these excerpts is the Gluck, gorgeously orchestrated, depicting an imagined scne by the waters of the ancient underworld. Aficianodos of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and the hero’s harrowing encounter with the Furies, will recognize the sensibility.

Opera Magazine, 2020 | Isabel Bayrakdarian – The Other Cleopatra, Queen of Armenia

“The much-admired Armenian-Canadian lyric soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, who paused a flourishing career to raise a family, is back with an absorbing disc inspired by her Armenian heritage. According to her own liner notes, the Armenian king Tigranes II (140-55 BC) was the subject of at least 24 opers, of which three, based on a libretto by Francesco Silvani, are represented here. The plot, largely fictional, involves the king’s pursuit of his future wife, Cleopatra of Pontus, daughter of Mithridates VI (the Mitridate of Mozart’s opera). In the opera, the countries are at war, and in fact the marriage helped to cement a powerful alliance of the two nations, according to Bayrakdarian.

The arias, all of which are for Cleopatra, make for an appealing selection, although the five by Hasse (Naples, 1729) are uniformly in a crisp, emotionally detached galant style. The inventive overture is a gem, but otherwise this master of opera seria was heard to better advantage in Bayrakdarian’s excellent 2005 disc inspired by the familiar Egyptian Cleopatra. In the most striking of Vivaldi’s three arias (Rome, 1724), Cleopatra urges her father –in tense, highly contrasting phrases–to kill her rather than force her to marry another than Tigrane; Hasse’s version is less dramatic, despite an incisive accompaniment that never lets up. The only bravura aria is the grandly expansive ‘Nero turbo il ciel’ by the young Gluck (Crema, 1743), which has a stormy shipwreck metaphor: operatic reform was still in the distant future.

Bayrakdarian’s voice has lost much of its purity but now has greater weight. She produces a full, rather iridescent sound, an in any case proves up to the challenges here. An aria d’affetto such as Gluck’s ‘Priva del caro bene’ could be sun more meltingly, yet in this and other arias she projects Cleopatra’s regal bearing in her declamation and command of long-spanned phrases while also focusing effectively on details. To her credit, she has done the musicological spadework herself. ‘Nero turbo il ciel’ might have profited from the bite of period instruments, but Constantine Orbelian and Lithuania’s Kaunas City Symphony supply handsome support, with Jory Vinikour’s harpsichord continuo (neither lute nor guitar is missed, thank you) adding authenticity.  

The Armenian Mirror Spectator, Apr 4, 2020 | Isabel Bayrakdarian Is Experiencing a Renaissance
MusicWeb International, Robert Cummings, 2020 | The Other Cleopatra: Queen of Armenia
MusicWeb International, Göran Forsling, 2020 | The Other Cleopatra: Queen of Armenia
INFODAD, APRIL 16, 2020 |Explorations
Planet Hugill, Apr 7, 2020 | The Other Cleopatra: Queen of Armenia
Rafael Music Notes, Mar 17, 2020 | Isabel Bayrakdarian as Cleopatra

2019

VIDEOS AND PRESS CLIPS

Jan. 26, 2019 

Opera Santa Barbara: 25th Anniversary Gala Concert, Lobero Theater

> go to video

REVIEWS

Aug. 11, 2019

Stratford Summer Music Festival

Gypsy-inspired Afternoon at Stratford Summer Music with Bayrakdarian, Kortgaard, and Fewer |Toronto ON, Aug. 11, 2019

Robert Kortgaard (piano) and Mark Fewer (violin), by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.

Isabel Bayrakdarian is a formidable, expressive soprano. Her voice is full, vibrant, resonant, she has a wide range of tonal colours, and her diction is flawless. On Friday afternoon at the Avondale United Church in Stratford, all of those abilities and talents were employed in the service of a program of mostly Romany (‘gypsy’) inspired music. Bayrakdarian performed alongside Robert Kortgaard (piano) and Mark Fewer (violinist and the artistic director of the festival).

The program started with.a strong performance of Johannes Brahm’s Zigeurnerleider op. 103, originally written for four-voice choir and arranged by the composer himself for voice and piano. 

The acoustics of the church turned out to be somewhat of a challenge for the artists in terms of balancing the piano with and against the voice and violin. Pianist Gerald Moore wrote two books that are widely read: The Unashamed Accompanist (today we say ‘collaborative pianist’) and Am I Too Loud? The last is frequently a vexing question. As an acoustic environment, it would seem too much for a piano. When the acoustic of a building is off, the musicians may have trouble knowing how much (or in this case how little) sound they are actually producing.

After Dvorák’s In Folk Tone, op. 73 came the same composer’s Gypsy Songs, op. 55, in the premiere of an imaginative, well designed arrangement for voice, piano, and violin by John Greer. ‘Struna naladena’  (The String is Tuned) was lively and exciting. The very high register of the violin was featured to good effect in ‘Songs my mother taught me.’ 

After the intermission, Bayradkarian surprised us with an additional song: she sang a fine Carmen – the rich, veiled tone of her lower range especially appealing and expressive. There was another premiere of an arrangement, this time by Peter Tiefenbach of Liszt’s Die drei Zigeuner S 320, for piano, violin, and voice. The arrangement juxtaposed the performers in interesting and effective ways, but the piano, again well played, was too much in the background to have the intended effect. 

Fewer and Kortgaard gave a sensitive, diomatic performance of Pable de Sarsate’s Zigeunerweisen. The audience was very pleased with the South American tangos by Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzola that closed the program; especially ‘Por una Cabeza’, well known from the films in which it is featured (Shindler’s List, Scent of a Woman) and ‘La Cumparsita’ made popular by the musical Hernando’s Hideaway.

All in all, this was an excellent concert in a festival that is well worth attending. The Stratford Summer Music festival is here to stay, and as I’m sure the organizers and artists are aware, a better acoustical solution would be ideal.”