Soprano will pay homage to a favorite composer

By From page B1 | January 17, 2014

FAIRFIELD — The North Bay Opera will celebrate Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birthday with a program of his arias, duets and chamber music.

The performance is just a few weeks shy of the 15th anniversary of guest artist Sevetlana Nikitenko’s first show with the group in 1999.

The Ukranian-born soprano calls Fairfield home and has been featured in a variety of local performances, including singing with the Solano Symphony. A few years ago, she played the lead role in “Lucia di Lammermoor” with North Bay Opera.

She grew up with the idea of being a pop singer and was advised to take singing lessons. The teacher she connected with taught classical music. That was OK.

“I just wanted to have voice lessons,” Nikitenko said.

A few months after she began instruction, Nikitenko discovered her high notes. She recalls that moment as very joyous.

Sonya Gutkina remains her vocal teacher.

“I believe every opera singer must have a voice coach they can trust,” Nikitenko said. Comfort can easily set in and a good voice teacher reminds students when their bad habits are starting to surface, she said.

Nikitenko began her professional career while attending the Mussorgsky in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she spent four years as the Queen of Shemakhan in “Le Coq d’ Or.” The show traveled to Italy, Greece, France and the United States.

During her visit to New York City, Nikitenko realized there were better opportunities here. She came back to New York in search of an agent. She found one and married him 19 years ago.

“He was my soulmate,” she said. “He sometimes demands his 10 percent,” she said in jest about husband Valery Portnov, who sings with the San Francisco Opera Chorus.

The North Bay Opera show has Nikitenko singing one her favorite arias, “Queen of the Night,” from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” It’s also one of the hardest arias in the opera, Nikitenko said.

Nikitenko also performed with San Francisco’s Teatro ZinZanni, playing a diva in the circus dinner show. She sang classical arias. Her first show with them was “Cleopatra.”

Performances with the San Francisco Opera landed her on a DVD of “The Magical Flute for Families.”

At the North Bay Opera show, Nikitenko will duet with Sepp Hammer, a baritone. The two recently performed together for the first time with the Solano Symphony. Hammer has appeared with North Bay Opera in “Don Pasquale.”

Other guests artists include soprano Elizabeth Gentner and former cellist Richard Mix, who directs the choirs at St. David of Wales Church in Richmond.

Phil Kuttner, North Bay Opera’s artistic director, will accompany the whole concert and play the “Quintet for Piano and Winds.” He will be accompanied by the North Bay Opera Chamber Players.

Shortly after its premiere in 1784, Mozart reportedly said to his father, “I myself consider it to be the best work I have ever composed.”

It’s composed for one oboe, one clarinet, one horn, one bassoon and the pianoforte.

“Mozart is one of my favorite composers,” Nikitenko said. “His music is so beautiful, so brilliant. It’s easy to sing if you get his logic.”

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

“Happy Birthday Mozart”

  • 2 p.m. Jan. 26
  • Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, 1035 Texas St.
  • 940-0070
  • www.downtowntheatre.com.
  • www.northbayopera.org
Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

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