May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and as part of our continued celebration of those who have made invaluable contributions to the opera world, we’re taking a moment to spotlight some of our own staff who keep the opera wheels turning right here in Los Angeles.
Grace Oh | First Violin, LA Opera Orchestra
I'm Grace Oh, and I'm a First Violin in the LA Opera Orchestra.
How long have you been working at LAO?
Officially, I have been a member of the orchestra since 2017, however, I have been performing as a substitute or an extra musician since 2003.
What does your typical performance day look like?
I try to arrive at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion about 30-45 minutes before downbeat. It just gives me time to get settled in the pit and warm up. If I’m arriving from another gig, and depending on how much time I have, I’ll grab dinner on the Plaza or somewhere nearby and take the time to relax and refocus for the evening's performance.
What do you like most about PERFORMING?
I love feeling the energy of the audience members making their way into the hall. There’s a buzz of excitement. Whether people are coming to their first opera performance, or long time season ticket holders, the anticipation for the performance is palpable.
What sets opera apart from more orchestral or symphonic music?
In symphonic music, the orchestra is the “star” and the lone actor in telling a musical story. Opera has many more moving parts. The orchestra supports everything that is happening on stage with the soloists and chorus. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. In opera, the orchestra isn’t necessarily the “star,” but you would notice if we were not there!
How did you get into your craft?
I started playing the violin when I was five. In my family, it was just a given that you would learn a musical instrument. I would have to tag along to my older brother’s violin lessons, so eventually I started. It wasn’t really until high school that I began to consider the possibility of playing the violin professionally. I never had aspirations to be a soloist, but absolutely fell in love with playing in ensembles.
Do you have an overall favorite production or project you’ve worked on here? Why?
It’s difficult to pick just one favorite production, but the Ring Cycle will always stand out just because it was such an enormous undertaking. As a violinist, there were a lot of notes to play! I hope to tackle the Cycle again in my career, but to even have been apart of it once will always be a highlight. I also have fond memories of Der Rosenkavalier. It was one of the first productions I played with the opera when I first started subbing in the orchestra. The final trio gave me goosebumps every performance and is still one of my all time favorite moments in music.
What was it like to reunite with your LAO Orchestra colleagues for Oedipus Rex?
When the full orchestra reunited for Oedipus Rex, it felt like the first day of school. There was such a positive energy. Everyone just seemed thrilled to be back “home” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion making music together. Yes, COVID protocols had us physically spread further apart, but it did not take long for everyone to adapt and get back to making music together. Even though it had been over a year since the entire orchestra had played a note together, it felt like almost no time had passed. The only thing missing was having the soloists and chorus with us. I cannot wait for the company to be “whole” again.
Is there anything else you want our audiences to know about you or the orchestra?
I hope our audiences know how much we miss performing for them. It’s been an extended “intermission,” but we cannot wait to feel the energy of a live audience again!