Christina Wright-Ivanova, hailed by critics as “a brilliant collaborative pianist" (Wiener Zeitung, Vienna) and “an ideal partner" (Huffington Post), is currently Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her professional performances have allowed her to travel to over twelve countries throughout Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia.
She has served on the faculty of the Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, BU Tanglewood Institute Opera Intensive (BUTI), AIMS in Graz, Austria, and FAVA in Salzburg. As an art song pianist, she has collaborated with singers from the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Greek National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Calgary Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera. She is currently Head Opera Coach for the University of Nevada Las Vegas Opera Theatre, and frequently performs for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. She also enjoys an active chamber music career, and a critically acclaimed CD with fellow NEC-alumni, violinist Kathrin ten Hagen, entitled 'Eastern Impresssions' was recently released under the German label, ARS Produktion.
She continues to act as Artistic Director for the ‘North End Performing Arts Professional Artists Concert Series’ in Boston. www.christinajwright.com
What projects are you working on now? I’m currently in the final stages of musical preparation for UNLV’s Spring Opera production of Britten’s Midsummer Nights Dream, which promises to be a rewarding production.
In a few weeks, I will be collaborating on an instructional/performance CD with oboist Stephen Caplan (Principal Oboe, Las Vegas Philharmonic). Later this month, fellow NEC-Alumni Stephanie Weiss, mezzo-soprano, and I will be performing a World Premiere in Opera America, NY, of Jonathan Stark’s “Passageway”, and art song cycle similar to a modern-day Winterreise, with powerful English texts based on the stories and emotions of refugees. Later in the summer, Stephanie and I will be traveling to Sydney, Australia to give a lecture-recital about the refugee crisis through music. I’m completing work on a CD of sonatas by Poulenc, Hadjiev, and Walton, with violinist Egle Jarkova. Finally, I’m working on lots of new music for upcoming recitals and to prepare as a vocal coach at NEC’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice in June, which is always my favorite week of the year.
What does a typical day look like for you? Honestly, for a collaborative pianist, there is no typical day!
Usually, I get up around 6:30am and practice at home for an hour or so. I try to play something on the piano that is not work-related for about a half hour, then I go to the office. I will usually either practice or prepare for the day until about 11am, when I teach during the day until 5 or 6pm. Some evenings I have rehearsals for the opera, or I meet with other musicians to prepare for upcoming recitals. I try to separate my ‘piano time’ from my ‘computer time’ so I can focus on one aspect as effectively as possible.
There is a lot of travel involved in being a collaborative pianist, so it’s important for me to go for a swim or the gym once in a while to stay healthy, and to try to find a balance between my noisy office and a quiet place!
How does your work as a teacher and coach influence the way you approach your own performances? For me, working with singers has brought out an inspired and freer approach to my piano playing. There is such a naturalness and physicality in the way a singer approaches a phrase, and I have tried to incorporate that into the way I make phrases at the piano.
Generally speaking, I am learning something new every day from all my piano students and the singers I coach. I am constantly asking myself why a piece ‘has’ to be a certain way, and continuing to define my own ideas of how style and language create meaning in a work. I’m currently fascinated with language, music and the brain, and am thinking a lot about why and how a composer writes in a certain style or musical language, and what responsibility we have as performers to find the inner language in a piece.
What would be your dream collaboration? There are so many amazing artists out there right now, but it would be one of my dreams to collaborate with mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly. I’ve followed her career the past few years, and have seen her in performance live at Tanglewood and in Aix-en-Provence. To me, she is one of the most powerful and meaningful artists living today. I feel there is something incredibly spiritual about working in a collaborative pianist capacity with someone on stage, especially in an art song environment. It is a truly vulnerable and powerful feeling, and I feel the best collaborations are ones where all people on stage have open channels and are listening to each other. I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with many dear friends and wonderful artists in this capacity.