Benjamin Bliss Makes MET Opera Debut
Also a member of Los Angeles Opera’s Young Artist Program, tenor Benjamin Bliss made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Vogelgesang in “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” with Maestro Levine in the pit, in November and December 2014. In April 2014, Benjamin entered the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation’s Annual International Vocal Competition in New York City, where he won the top prize – the Rose Braverman Trust Prize. The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation’s Annual International Vocal Competition is regarded as a major American competition, requiring the highest standard of vocal performance. Since 1974, this fine organization has given awards to hundreds of young singers, many of whom have since risen to international stardom.
Master Classes by David Roode
In 2013, grant recipient and trombonist David Roode returned to Memphis from London to hold a series of free master classes at Memphis area high schools and colleges. IFS assisted with a $2,000 grant. David, accompanied by his wife, pianist Mika Komuro, found the students to be especially curious about life outside the USA. David states that moving abroad was a life-changing experience for him, and he is passionate about sharing the benefits of international exchange.
We are terribly sad to announce that Marie Hadji, the Executive Director of the International Festival Society passed away on Saturday, April 9th, 2016.
We've published some remembrances of Marie and hope you can take the time to read about her, who she was and what she accomplished.
Also, we need to inform you that we are no longer accepting applications for Grants.
by Arthur Reynolds
For many years gone by, mid-summer meant a week at the Salzburg Festival, and Salzburg Festival Week meant reunion with my same-time-next-year friend Marie Hadji.
I lived in London then, so the direct ﬂight from Stansted to Salzburg Airport was cheap and quick. So was the taxi ride from the airport to Anif, where the aptly-named Point Hotel functioned as the meeting point for Marie, Lee Edwards, Betty Gates, Joe Piropato and many other superb friends united by their love of the music for which the Festival provides an annual showcase.
Unhappily, I was never able to spend more than a week at the Festival, but Marie always made sure I made the best of what time I had there. Preparations always began with a telephone call to Marie, whose knowledge of each year’s program was encyclopedic. I would begin the conversation by offering to rent a car, whereupon Marie’s response would be no, she would rent a car, so we could go into town together.
I can't begin to count the number of Wienerschnitzels Marie and I consumed in the Point Hotel diningroom. Or the number of stories she would tell about the music she loved and life she lived before any of us knew her.
Marie’s endearing bon ami had its roots in her birthplace: Kempten. The largest town in the beautiful Allgäu region of Bavaria, Kempten must have been the picture of Gemütlichkeit harmony when Marie was born there on July 23, 1940. As with many moments in Marie’s life, the happy-go-lucky years of her infancy were not meant to last.
Once, over a shared bottle of Grüner Veltliner Marie described how in the spring of 1945, she and her mother, Anna né Deufel had joined a group of a dozen or so refugees ﬂeeing the wartime chaos when an Allied ﬁghter plane swooped down to strafe the ﬁeld they were crossing. Everybody in the little party fell to the ground in the hope of survival. Marie remembers holding tightly on to her mother’s hand as they stood up when the attacker had gone. She also remembers looking around to see that all of the their fellow travelers were killed.
Marie lost her father before she was a year old. Not long later, Anna met and married Marie’s beloved stepfather. Relatives moved to New York in 1950. Then in 1952, Marie found herself in California, when her mother and step-father moved to the United States.
After earning her bachelor’s degree at UCLA, Marie married and gave birth to her son Eric in 1972. They lived in Santa Monica for more than 40 years, where Marie embarked on a long, successful career as a paralegal. From time to time her work brought Marie to the Troy & Gould law ﬁrm, where she met Joe and Brig Troy, who were then launching the American Friends of the Salzburg Festival together with Richard Colburn. The rest as they say is history.
I’ve always thought that Marie’s married name - Hadji - was supremely appropriate. She was the head pilgrim who made possible my annual pilgrimage to Salzburg, and that of so many cherished friends. There were other times of the year when we talked, but only by telephone. The last conversations concerned our preparations for a fund-raising recital/drinks party Betty and I gave in New York this past February. Marie and I made plans to see each other the day before and after the party; I reserved a room for her and thought to myself, at last we will meet on American soil.
Alas it was not meant to be. Shortly before the event was to take place, Marie telephoned to say she could not join us owing to the return of the cancer that had stalked her several years ago. My prayers that remission would come again went unanswered. She left us on April 9th.
Consider how much poorer our lives would have been had that 1945 straﬁng run put an end to Marie’s life when she was not yet ﬁve years old. Certainly my life is immeasurably richer because I knew her and will be immeasurably poorer because I will not see her or hear her cheery voice again.
Marie was a dear and close friend to Robyn Rothstein, a former member of Angel City Chorale, who initially introduced her to ACC back during the early days at McCabe's. Marie was also a close friend and benefactor to Christopher Tin and her organization funded a lot of his work. She was so excited about ACC performing Calling All Dawns that she, through Christopher, urged us to apply for a grant which was approved for our LA performance of Calling All Dawns. We were also recipients of a second grant. She was a very kind and generous person and always a loyal patron of ACC. She will be missed.
Frances James of the Angel City Chorale
A dear friend of mine passed away this morning, Marie Hadji. I met Marie in 2006. That summer, I had the opportunity to study and perform The Magic Flute in Salzburg. I had heard the Salzburg Festival Society gave out scholarships to young singers to study and perform in Salzburg so I thought I would inquire. Marie responded to my inquiry and told me to send her a bio to be considered, and so I did. A couple months went by and I wrote a follow up inquiry. The next day, I received an email from Marie telling me the Society decided to grant me $2,000. I was dumbfounded!! It wasn’t nearly enough to cover the entire trip; tuition, airfare, living expenses for six weeks, but it surely was going to be a great help. As the months rolled by, my finances struggled to improve and I was unable to save anywhere near enough to make the trip possible. I emailed Marie to find out what I needed to do, assuming I would need to return the grant if I wasn’t going to be able to go. She asked me how much more I needed, which was roughly $3,500.
The next morning, I received a phone call from Marie herself informing me the Society had decided to grant me $4,000 MORE!! So, $6,000 total!! I was flabbergasted, absolutely speechless. All I could do was simply giggle from sheer joy, which in turn made Marie giggle right along with me. Being a grant recipient, I was invited to numerous lectures and events where I got to meet Thomas Hampson, Diana Damrau, Feruccio Furlanetto, Valery Gergiev, and senior editor of Nation Review Jay Nordlinger. I was also invited to a birthday party for Count Möy where I met numerous opera singers and European politicians, as well as Karl von Habsburg, head of the Habsburg family (my elbows were red for a week). Marie and several members of the Society came to our performance. I was quite nervous. I playfully said “well, they basically bought a $6,000 ticket; I hope they think it was worth it”. Marie and her colleagues were so delighted and entertained by our performance. I stayed in touch with Marie over the following year and when I was invited back to Salzburg the following summer, she helped secure me a grant for $3,000.
Marie was a delightful person to know. She loved music and opera, loved the conglomeration of German and American culture. She loved seeing people succeed and find happiness and joy in their craft. I owe her so much, she provided me with the opportunity to do and experience some wonderful things that have defined me and made my life a story worth remembering and cherishing. I will never forget her. Godspeed Marie.
We recently produced a Musicale in New York City at the Union Club on East 69th Street. Tasty hors d'oeuvres, lucious cocktails and a special program of gorgeous music featuring three of our talented Grant Recipiants.
Our Musicale was held on Feb 23, 2016 and was hosted by Arthur Reynolds and Betty Gates with Performances by Zsolt Bognar Pianist, Christina Parsons Mezzo-Soprano and Michelle Trovato, Soprano.
What an exciting evening as we welcomed a diverse audience of Art Patrons and friends of the IFS to this magical and intimate performance in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable. Pianist Zolt Bognar performed a selection of pieces by Edvard Grieg and followed up with a showpiece by Schubert. Our singers, Christina and Michelle performed both Art Song and Aria in a perfect acoustic environment to fully experience these voices up close and personal. Zolt accompanied them both and showed that he is not only a gifted soloist but has a unique ability to accompany a singer and provide a perfect balance and support for their performance. All three of our grant recipients spoke about how the IFS grant had made it possible for them to further their careers.
We look forward to the next opportunity we have to present the talents of the Artists that we have supported with our grants.