Opera Divas at The Church of Saint Blaise Dubrovnik

Opera Divas Church of St. Blaise

Four Opera Divas performed at the Church of Saint Blaise last night. They were fantastic!! The Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra String Quintet and pianist Alberto Frka accompanied them in a concert to honor St. Blaise. They sang songs by Croatian composers Pejačević and Jusić as well as Saint-Saëns, Rossini, Bellini, Gounod, Bach, and Mozart! The String Quintet played Haydn’s “Serenada” and it was lovely!

Alberto Frka Pianist – evarasdin.hr

Tanja Ruzdjak Soprano – kiklop portfolio

The church is small and I had no idea what to expect but arrived about 30 minutes before the performance. There were maybe 300 people and few if any tourists except me. It was a very special experience! The concert ended with the “Himna Sv Vlaha” – Hymn of St. Blaise – and everyone stood to sing it.

Altar St. Blaise Church

Jelena Stefanic Soprano – truelinked

The four divas had stunning voices:

Đelo Jusić Composer, Conductor, Guitarist – dubrovačke ljetne igre

Dora  Pejačević Composer, Pianist, and Violinist – croatia.org

I’m sad to have missed the Klapa Vocal Group Festival in Marin Drzic Theater the day before. Popular klapa groups like Maestral, Folklore Ensemble Lindo, Kumpanji, and Osjak performed. Klapa singing is a “multi part cappella homophonic singing tradition of the southern Croatian regions of Dalmatia”.

St. Blaise Festival concerts are minimally advertised by flyers posted throughout Dubrovnik. There was confusion about some of the dates and times. Luckily, I double checked on the Opera Divas concert and found out it was not on the day shown in the flyer. The charitable aspect of the festival is for the Anti-Cancer League and renovation of the Church of Saint Blaise

Terezija Kusanović Mezzo-Soprano – bbimagehandler

It was a memorable evening in Dubrovnik!

St. Blaise – Total Croatia News

Karajan Academy Mendelssohn and Bach Concert – Berlin Philharmonic

Students Karajan Academy

I enjoyed more incredible music last night during a Karajan Academy concert at Berliner Philharmoniker. Exceptional students attend the Academy to learn from distinguished members of the Philharmonic.

It was cold with fat snowflakes falling all around, so I stopped for a hot drink at the Potsdamer Platz Christmas Market which was full of merrymakers. The performance hall was packed with several concerts appearing in the Philharmonie Building. The Chamber Music Hall was cozy and comfortable.

Carolin Widmann Violinist – carolinwidmann.com

Karajan Academy

Popular conductor Herbert von Karajan founded the Karajan Academy 40 years ago. It’s funded by private donors. Berliner Philharmoniker concertmasters and symphony leaders teach young musicians about life as professional orchestral members. Karajan graduates perform in symphonies worldwide, and almost a third of Berlin Philharmonic musicians are former Academy students.


Each season, students participate in five public concerts at the Berlin Philharmonie. The concerts are about “getting to know highly talented young musicians”.


The training program is both a postgraduate course and an internship. Students learn to “listen carefully to their colleagues, become aware of what the other musicians are doing, exercise critical self-reflection, and constantly strive to be better”. The Berliner Philharmoniker makes those concepts its own.

Chamber Music

“Chamber music occupies a prominent place at the Academy and promotes the whole instrumental culture.” Students learn the “specific repertoire of their respective instrument” and focus on early and contemporary music.

Herbert von Karajan – Shazam


The Karajan Academy’s moto is “learn from the pros”.


Johann Sebastian Bach – classicalfm.ca

Mendelssohn and Bach

Last night students were led by internationally renowned violinist Carolin Widmann (Mendelssohn) and Elina Albach (Bach) who substituted for Raphael Alpermann on harpsichord. Alpermann, a conductor and harpsichordist, teaches at the Berlin University of Music and is artistic director of the youth baroque orchestra “Bachs Erben” – Bach’s Heirs.

Raphael Alpermann – Bachs Erben

The solos were outstanding! Other than Widmann and Albach a fantastic flute soloist performed during Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, but I don’t know her name. I was at a disadvantage since the programs was in German only.

Peter Riegelbauer – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra


According to Peter Riegelbauer, Philharmonic double-bass player and head of the Karajan Academy, young instrumentalists get a sense of what it means to be a “complete musician”.


Felix Mendelssohn – James Warren Childe 1839

Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas and Brandenburg Concertos

Felix Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra in D minor is “framed by works written by Mendelssohn’s most venerated composer – Johann Sebastian Bach”. The concerto is relatively unknown and rarely performed. Mendelssohn composed it at the age of 13! Last night it featured violinist Carolin Widmann whose performance was indescribably beautiful. Bach’s Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life Cantata and Brandenburg Concert No. 5 in D major were brilliantly performed and well received. The Philharmonic Choir joined the musicians and members and sang several spectacular solos.

Berliner Philharmonie Chamber Music Hall – HSchindler

Concerts at Berliner Philharmoniker have been a special highlight during my time in Berlin!

Baroque Masterpieces Charlottenburg Palace Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg Berlin

Last night I enjoyed an interesting concert at Charlottenburg Palace. Dressed in period costumes, the Berlin Residence Orchestra performed baroque masterpieces by Vivaldi, Händel, Bach, and others.

Scholss Charollotenberg

Before the concert, some savored a three-course “themed candlelight dinner”. Years ago, I experienced a similar but disappointing dinner in Salzburg, so I opted for the concert only. Charlottenburg Palace is in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf District and easily accessible via U-Bahn. From November 26 through December 27 a popular Christmas market is set up on Palace grounds.

Queen Charlotte – by Johann Georg Ziesenis


Today Charlottenburg is a working palace and one of Berlin’s most “grandiose event venues”. It’s a great place for concerts.


Schloss Charlottenburg During Blood Moon – U. Gernhoefer Photocase

Charlottenburg Palace History

Charlottenburg is Berlin’s last remaining palace “reflecting the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern Family“. The complex covers several blocks along the banks of River Spree. Restaurants, hotels, and cafés near the Palace feature paintings of the grounds and Queen Charlotte. The Palace is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden best visited during the day, but also lovely at night.

Queen Sophia Charlotte

In 1696, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, wife of Prussian Friedrich III, commissioned construction of Lützenburg, a “summer residence in Lützow”.

King Frederick I – Emerson Kent


“Originally a petite summer retreat, Lützenburg grew into an exquisite baroque palace with opulent apartments, festival halls, collections of precious porcelain, and paintings by French 18th century masters.”


Orangery Garden – Pinterest

Soon after his coronation in 1701, King Frederick and Queen Sophie Charlotte expanded their Lützenburg residence. Tragically, Charlotte died of pneumonia in 1705 at the young age of 37. After her death, Frederick renamed the residence Charlottenburg Palace, built a magnificent dome, and added an “elongated building” named the Great Orangery.

Great Orangery Schloss Charlottenburg – Qiez.de


“Loud against quiet, solo against ensemble, a competition of instruments dominates the Baroque period…”


Baroque Masterpieces Compère – Pixel and Dot Photography

Berlin Residence Orchestra

In 2006, the Berlin Residence Orchestra began staging classical music concerts in Charlottenburg’s Great Orangery. The chamber music ensembles formed within the orchestra play at events throughout Berlin. The staged atmosphere transports audiences beck in time to when kings listened to Baroque music.

Berliner Residenz Konzerte Schloss Charlottenburg – Berlin Welcome Card

“Derived from the Portuguese barroco, or ‘oddly shaped pearl,’ since the nineteenth century, the term baroque describes the period in Western European music from 1600 to 1750.” The concerts are popular with locals as well as tourists.

Chamber Music Players

Last night, the chamber orchestra consisted of a harpsichord, cello, bass, flute, violin, and four violas. There were flute, viola, and cello solos. Soprano Sara Gouzy and countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow were the featured vocalists, and their operatic solos and duos were fantastic.

Charlottenburg Palace Dome – Framepool

For a while, the commentator (compère) presented parts of the narrative in English and German – it was obvious he didn’t care for it. Later he spoke German only, so I missed the nuances and jokes that made others in the audience laugh….The program was slightly confusing to follow, but the music was wonderful.

Berlin Residence Concerts – Image Berlin

The program included well-known German and Italian composers, kings, and friends of kings:

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster – ResearchGate

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster

Multi-talented Russian Anna Fedotova studied at the Far East Art Academy in Vladivostok and later at Moscow’s Gnessin Academy. She’s participated in Salzburg masterclasses and is a “laureate of competitions in many countries”. Fedotova co-founded the Tango Ensemble Coamorous” and toured with the group throughout Europe. Last night she played a lovely violin solo.

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann is from Minsk Belarus, where she studied piano and became a teacher and accompanist. She performed at international festivals and made her début at the Belarusian Philharmonic at the age of 17. Rossmann moved to Germany and studied at the Musikhochschule Munich. Currently she lives in Potsdam and teaches piano. Alexandra played harpsichord during the performance.

Sara Gouzy Soprano

Sara Gouzy Soprano

French soprano Sara Gouzy completed her piano studies at the Conservatoire de Toulouse. She studied voice at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin and attended masterclasses in France and Germany. In 2012 Gouzy participated in projects at the “Hanns Eisler” and Berlin’s Komische Oper (Comic Opera). Gouzy is a scholarship holder of the association “Yehudi Menuhin Live Music Now” and soloist with the Berlin Residence Orchestra.

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

The German-Russian countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow began his career as a chorister in the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and received Canada’s Saint Nicolas Award from the Royal School of Church Music. He began vocal studies at the “Hanns Eisler” in 2011 and took masterclasses. Bochow appeared with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the world première of Evan Gardner’s Die Unterhändlerin (The Negotiator).

Great Orangery at Night


“There are many misconceptions and mysteries about the countertenor. Some take it for a whim of nature, though this type of voice has nothing mysterious about it.”


Charlottenburg Palace Courtyard

This is the first time I’ve experienced a countertenor in close quarters – a beautiful but most unusual voice!