Artists

Amy Owens

Praised in Opera News for her “pristine soprano and vivacious enthusiasm,” “engaging bell-like soprano,” and “open top notes and trills that match her sparkling wit,” Amy Owens has been gaining national attention for her performances around the country. She was most recently seen with the Santa Fe Opera, and she has made many appearances with Utah Opera, Central City Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, and Utah Festival Opera. She is the recent winner of a 2014 Sullivan Foundation Award and the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in the NYC district. In 2015 she will sing with Opera Naples as Despina in Così fan tutte, the New York Festival of Song in their new music series NYFOS Next, Wolf Trap Opera in Le Nozze di Figaro and The Ghosts of Versailles, and the Utah Symphony in L’enfant et les sortilèges. She is a versatile performer of opera and musical theater, early music and new music, with repertoire including The Nightingale in Le Rossignol, Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Emily in Our Town, Ellie in Showboat, Flora in Turn of the Screw, Olympia in Tales of Hoffmann, and Johanna in Sweeney Todd. Amy Owens is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Rice University.

Bright Sheng

Read more about Bright Sheng here.

Cong Zhao

Cong Zhao is a world famous Pipa (Chinese lute) player. As a musician, dedication to Pipa has rewarded her with top prizes in national competitions. As a teacher, deep love for teaching has won her awards of education.

Cong Zhao was born in a family of musicians. She studied Pipa with her mother at very early age, and developed an extraordinary interest in this ancient Chinese instrument. At the age of 13, she won the First Prize in the Jilin Provincial Competition for Traditional Instrumental Music. At the age of 16, she won the Second Prize in the National Competition. In 1996, she entered the Central Conservatory of Music for her excellent performance, and followed Professor Guanghua Li, a renowned music educator in China. In 1998, Cong Zhao held her first solo concert in Beijing. After graduating in 2000, she won the First Place in a professional qualification test hosted by the Ministry of Culture and was then recruited as First Pipa Soloist in the Central Orchestra for Chinese Music in Beijing. She was later elected as a committee member of Young Excellent Artists by the Chinese Culture Ministry.

Cong Zhao has toured some 20 countries with a dozen of state leaders watching her performances and her music echoing on world-famous stages. In August 2000, she toured the United States and performed in the headquarters of United Nations. In November 2000, she accompanied the Ensemble in France and participated in the “China Cultural Season in France”. In February 2002, she toured in 13 Spanish cities and in April, she toured Japan and gave performances in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations. In June, she performed in the “China Cultural Season” in Athens, Greece; In October, she played in the Egypt Music Festival. In October 2004, she accompanied Mr. Jintao Hu, the president of China, in his visit to Ukraine and performed for eight other presidents. In February 2005, she visited Denmark and was warmly welcomed by the Danish Princess in person. In July of the same year, she was invited as a unique Chinese representative artist to perform in Korean International Music Festival. In November, she performed in a four-woman group with Richard Clayderman and toured in Asia.

From Lincoln Centre to Tokyo Concert Hall, from Carnegie Music Hall to Champs Elysees Theatre, from Athens Acropolis theatre to Amsterdam Music Hall, Cong Zhao has conveyed her understand of Chinese traditional music as well as her confidence and smile to every audience member who loves her beautiful Pipa sound. Her innovative Pipa was recognized as a patent. Her CD album Carman was distributed worldwide. Her latest production Dance in the Moon was made in Denmark. She embraces Pipa with great sentiments and spreads traditional Chinese music with deep patriotism.

David Gockley

Considered one of the major innovators in American opera, David Gockley has been general director of San Francisco Opera since 2006 and is passionately committed to the premise that opera is a living art form that speaks to a variety of audiences.

Under his leadership, San Francisco Opera has already presented six world premieres (Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton’s Appomattox; Stewart Wallace and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter; Christopher Theofanidis and Donna Di Novelli’s Heart of a Soldier; Nolan Gasser and Carey Harrison's The Secret Garden; Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene; and Tobias Picker and J.D. McClatchy's Dolores Claiborne). At his direction, San Francisco Opera has commissioned three additional world premiere works including Marco Tutino’s Two Women (La Ciociara) to be presented in June 2015; Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang for Dream of the Red Chamber, scheduled for fall 2016; and a new work to be announced by Jake Heggie. By the end of his tenure with San Francisco Opera in July 2016, Gockley will have been responsible for the creation of 44 new works including the 35 operas he commissioned while serving as general director for Houston Grand Opera.

Among his many notable repertory credits, the Company presented a new production of Wagner’s epic four- opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, in June 2011 directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Donald Runnicles. Equally impressive is the Company’s upcoming presentation of Hector Berlioz’s monumental Les Troyens in a new production by Sir David McVicar.

Gockley is committed to broadening and diversifying audiences for San Francisco Opera. In his first months as general director he took opera to the center of the community with a free outdoor simulcast—the first in the Company’s history—of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in May 2006. The subsequent nine simulcasts throughout the Bay Area, including seven at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, have collectively drawn more than 200,000 opera fans. These simulcasts are made possible by the Company’s Koret-Taube Media Suite, which Gockley led San Francisco Opera to create in 2007. A string of successful and innovative new media efforts followed including the Company’s Grand Cinema Series that regularly shows San Francisco Opera performances in cinemas throughout the West Coast and Europe; a six year relationship with KQED Public Television to show four Company presentations a year; a return to national PBS Television with such recent works as Moby-Dick and Porgy and Bess; the production and commercial release of six DVD/Blu-ray presentations including Mefistofele and upcoming Show Boat; and the creation of local, national and international radio partnerships that broadcast Company performances each month.

David Hwang

David Henry Hwang’s work includes the plays M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Golden Child, Yellow Face, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival) and Disney’s Tarzan. He is also America’s most-produced living opera librettist, who has worked with composers Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Bright Sheng, Unsuk Chin, Huang Ruo, and Howard Shore. Hwang is a Tony Award winner and three-time nominee, a three- time OBIE Award winner and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. His screenplays include Possession (co-writer), Golden Gate, and M. Butterfly, and he is currently developing an original television series for Lionsgate and Bravo. Yellow Face was adapted into a full-length movie for YouTube by the YOMYOMF Network in 2013. Hwang won the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award, the 2012 Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg “Mimi” Award, and a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award. He serves on the boards of the Lark Play Development Center, American Theatre Wing, Actors Fund, and the Dramatists Guild, and is the President of Young Playwrights Inc. David Henry Hwang was the 2012-14 Residency One Playwright at New York’s Signature Theatre, which produced a season of his plays, including the premiere of his newest work, Kung Fu. In 2014, he joined the faculty at Columbia University School of the Arts as Director of the Playwriting Concentration.

Jindong Cai

Jindong Cai joined the Stanford University faculty in 2004 as the first holder of the Gretchen B. Kimball Director of Orchestral Studies’ Chair and Associate Professor of Music in Performance. He is Music Director and Conductor of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, the Stanford Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Stanford New Ensemble. He is also the Artistic Director of the Stanford Pan-Asian Music Festival, which he founded in 2005. Maestro Cai serves as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra in China, and of the Mongolia State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet in Ulan Batar.

Before coming to Stanford, Professor Cai served on the faculties at the Louisiana State University, the University of Arizona, the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, and the University of California at Berkeley. He held assistant conducting positions with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

Born in Beijing, Mr. Cai received his early musical training in China, where he learned to play the violin and the piano. He came to the United States for his graduate studies at the New England Conservatory and the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. In 1989, he was selected to study with famed conductor Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood Music Center, and won the Conducting Fellowship Award at the Aspen Music Festival in 1990 and 1992.

Together with Sheila Melvin, Mr. Cai has co-authored several New York Times articles on the performing arts in China and a book Rhapsody in Red: How Western Classical Music Became Chinese. The book was reviewed by The China Quarterly of Cambridge Journals, as “a delightful book. It opens up a cultural arena much neglected in scholarship on China.”

Joseph Dennis

In a budding career, American tenor Joseph Dennis has already gained recognition for his vocal talent and comedic gifts. In his summer 2013 apprenticeship with the prestigious Santa Fe Opera, he sang the role of Giuseppe in La Traviata and that same year returned to sing as soloist in their Holiday Concert Series. Summer 2014 he rejoined the roster of Santa Fe Opera for the American premiere of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen by composer Huang Ruo, sung completely in Mandarin Chinese. He stepped into the title role at the last moment, to great acclaim. The New York Times noted, “For the American tenor Joseph Dennis, the understudy promoted to leading man at less than two weeks’ notice, it was a trial by fire, which he passed admirably.” In 2014-15 he sings Steva in Janácek’s Jenufa with Des Moines Metro Opera.

Also in 2013-14 he joined the Palm Beach Opera roster in productions of Il barbiere di Siviglia and Les contes d’Hoffman, and to sing the role of Malcolm in Verdi’s Macbeth. He pursued theatre studies at Collin College and vocal performance at Stephen F. Austin State University and at the University of Oklahoma where he performed Pylades in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride and Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff. He is currently pursuing his Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School of Music.

On concert stages he has sung as soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Christ and in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. In March of this year he will sing Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass with the renowned Voices of Ascension Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Dennis Keene.

Joseph was a 2nd prize winner the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition in 2014. In 2012 he was a prize winner of the San Antonio Tuesday Music Club competition. He is currently a Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition. Read more about Joseph here.

Manhua Gao

Ms. Manhua Gao is a soprano of critical acclaim in the world showing world class qualities with her artistry, intelligence and musicality. Her charming, clear voice and wide voice range, strong expressiveness and artistic appeal have won the hearts of numerous audiences the world over. Manhua Gao has performed more than twenty leading roles with many opera companies in the world . As a soloist Ms. Gao has performed with many major symphony orchestras and leading musicians in the world. Her performance is praised as an “excellent musician” with on-button technique and tone,” Ms. Gao graduated from Shanghai conservatory of Music and Boston University. Gao is the recipient of numerous accolades and awards, including the first prize in the Beijing National Voice Competition, the Benard Poetz Memorial Award, and the coveted Schwabacher Award. She was presented with the Shanghai ‘White Magnolia’ Award for Lead performer in the Theatre and Performing Arts and the Grand Wenhua Award for Individual Performance, which is the highest accolade for performing arts presented by the Ministry of China.

Sheila Melvin

Sheila Melvin is a writer and consultant who specializes in China. She is a regular contributor to the International Herald Tribune, Caixin, and ChinaFile, writing primarily on the arts in China. Her writing on China has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The San Jose Mercury News, The Wilson Quarterly, and other publications. She is the co-author of Rhapsody in Red: How Western Classical Music Became Chinese, which was short-listed for the Saroyan Prize in 2005, and the author of The Little Red Book of China Business. Ms. Melvin is at work on a new book that explores China’s quest to become a cultural superpower. Her blog, The Great Flourishing, is hosted by the Arts Journal website. She is married to the conductor Jindong Cai, has two children, and splits her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and Beijing.

Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra

Read more about the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra here.

Stan Lai

Stan Lai (Lai Shengchuan) is the most celebrated Chinese language playwright and director in the world. Asiaweek hails him as “Asia's Top Theatre Director,” and the BBC calls him "The best Chinese language playwright and director in the world, and pretty prolific too." Lai's epic A Dream Like A Dream (2000) has been acclaimed as "possibly the greatest Chinese-language play since time immemorial" and "the most elaborate theater work in Chinese history" (China Daily). His Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land (1986) has been described by the New York Times as "the most popular contemporary play in China." His The Village (2008) has been praised by the Beijing News as "the pinnacle of our era of theatre."

Lai's works, over 30 original plays, 2 feature films, 4 operas, an Olympics-scale opening ceremony, an alternative television series, among others, have continually pioneered new horizons, and profoundly transformed the path of the performing arts in the Chinese speaking world today. Lai started his writing and directing his own works in Taiwan in the 1980s, when he founded the influential theatre group Performance Workshop. The Orange County Register says “Few theater artists can claim the kind of far-reaching impact Stan Lai has achieved." In 2010, Lai was chosen by Newsweek China as the Most Influential Man of the Year in the field of Culture.

In 2013, Lai co-founded the Wuzhen Theatre Festival in Wuzhen China, for which he serves as Festival Director. He has received Taiwan’s highest award for the arts, the National Arts Award, an unprecedented two times (1988, 2001). In 2007, Lai was elected into the Chinese theatre Hall of Fame. In 2011 he received Taiwan’s highest civilian award, the Grand Cordon, Order of the Brilliant Star Medal.

Lai was Professor and Founding Dean of the College of Theatre at Taipei National University of the Arts. He holds a PhD in Dramatic Art from U.C. Berkeley, and has taught at Berkeley and Stanford as Visiting Professor and Artist in Residence. In 2015, his Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land will have its professional premiere in the West at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Lai’s plays have been published in numerous Chinese editions in both Taiwan and China, as well as in English versions from Oxford and Columbia University Press. His books include a best-selling book on creativity, Stan Lai on Creativity (only available in Chinese), which has been of great influence on the creative industries.

Suli Xue

One of the most outstanding Chinese-American violinists, Suli Xue enjoys an active career on today’s international music stage. A member of Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Artistic Director of Schoenfeld International String Competition, the Artistic Director of Hong Kong International Music Festival, the Chairman of Schoenfeld International String Society, the Artistic Advisor of Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, the founder of Pacific Harmony String Quartet, former Professor of Violin in Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California and concertmaster of the Central Symphony Orchestra of China, Suli Xue has earned high acclaim around the world for his unique artistry.

Suli Xue graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and USC Thornton school of Music - a protégé of world-renowned violin professor, Alice Schoenfeld. He was frequently invited as a guest artist and faculty to teach and perform at International Music Festivals in United States and Europe. Suli Xue has served as a juror for numerous international music competitions. Recently, he performed as a soloist with YMF Debut Orchestra and Moscow State Symphony Orchestra for their New Year's Concert Tour. He also released two CD albums “Melodies of China” and “Golden Melodies.” The albums were received with extraordinary praise and popularity in China as well as internationally.

Suli Xue won both the Award of Excellence on his CD album “Golden Melodies“ and Award of Excellence for his acoustic instrumental solo performance from GMA - GLOBAL MUSIC AWARDS in 2014.

Xue's other accomplishments include:

  • Violinist of Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Artistic Director of Schoenfeld International String Competition
  • Artistic Director of Hong Kong International Music Festival
  • Chairman of Schoenfeld International String Society
  • Artistic Advisor of Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra
  • Former Professor of Violin at USC Thornton School of Music
  • Former Concertmaster of Central Symphony Orchestra of China