Geeta Novotny

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Geeta Novotny
Birth nameGeeta Bhatnagar
BornSt. Louis, Missouri
Occupation(s)Musician, actor, journalist
Years activesince 1994

Geeta Novotny (born Geeta Bhatnagar) is an American mezzo-soprano, actor, published writer and columnist. As a classical singer, Novotny has performed principal roles nationally with opera companies and symphony orchestras from the stages of New York City's Carnegie Hall and the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera to the stages of the Los Angeles Opera and the Aspen Music Festival. Novotny has sung lead vocals on film soundtracks and has a career as a principal stage and film actor. She is also a project leader and roster artist for the charitable organization Sing For Hope.[1] Novotny is an artist on the David Lynch Foundation Music Online Record Label which released an exclusive audio and video track of Novotny performing the beautiful classic song, the Gounod/Bach Ave Maria - with Andy Summers, the guitarist of the band The Police on electric guitar.[2]

David Lynch Foundation Music Online Record Label

Novotny has been chosen to be a launching artist with the David Lynch Foundation Music Online Record Label. The David Lynch Foundation was born from David Lynch, the well-known director, writer, and producer whose credits include such films as Mulholland Drive and the television series Twin Peaks. The label has launched through the "Download for Good" campaign[3] through Pledge Music which includes exclusive, previously unreleased tracks from musical artists donated to DLF Music in support of the mission of the David Lynch Foundation.[4]

DLF Music has released an exclusive audio and video track of Novotny performing the Gounod / Bach Ave Maria with Andy Summers, the guitarist of the band The Police on electric guitar. Novotny and Summers have launched the DLFM Label with these other luminary artists: Maroon 5, Moby, Neon Trees, Peter Gabriel, Ozomatli, Iggy Pop, Ben Folds, Arrested Development, Tom Waits, Slightly Stoopid with Don Carlos, Salman Ahmad featuring Valerie Geffner, Carmen Rizzo with Grant-Lee Phillips, Heather Nova, Mary Hopkin, Au Revoir Simone and Dave Stewart. All funds raised from these downloads will go to support the work of DLF in their global outreach, including teaching stress-reducing, health-promoting meditation to one million at-risk youth and 10,000 veterans with Posttraumatic stress disorder.

Early life and education[edit]

Novotny is the progeny of a South Asian Indian father and an American-Irish mother who both excelled in careers in the medical field. "Geeta" means "Song" in Hindi. Novotny was born in St. Louis, Missouri and was raised in the rural Western Pennsylvania town of Brookville. Novotny is the middle child of two siblings. Her older sister Dana Bhatnagar-Vachharajani, also a classical singer, now owns and operates her own music teaching studio, Dana V. Music in Louisville, Colorado. Her younger brother, Vimal Bhatnagar], is an attorney.

Novotny started studying piano when she was just 4 years old, and then added violin at 7 where she studied the Suzuki Method with Carol Boland at Clarion University. She then went on to study classical violin and fiddling with Kim Thomas of Thomas Music Studio in Sigel, Pennsylvania. Novotny started taking voice lessons when she was 14 from Richard Reed, who was the music teacher and the choral director at Brookville Area High School. And at the age of 16, Novotny began studying voice with Anne Elgar Kopta, New York City Opera soprano and voice professor at Carnegie Mellon University. It was Anne Elgar Kopta who guided Novotny down the path towards classical singing.

Novotny graduated from Brookville Area High School with honors in 1994. While at Brookville Area High School, she played violin in the Brookville Area High School Orchestra, the Clarion University Orchestra, and the Punxsutawney Philharmonic, and was selected and played in the PMEA All State Orchestra through district, and regional, and state competitions.

Novotny was also selected as a chorister for the ACDA Eastern Division Honors Choir. Novotny also sang in the Brookville Area High School concert, jazz, and show choirs, and also played percussion in the concert, jazz, and marching bands.

In 1992, as a high school sophomore honors student, Novotny was selected as an ambassador to represent Brookville Area High School at the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Conference of Pennsylvania.

In 1998, Novotny graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Vocal Performance from Carnegie Mellon University[5] in Pittsburgh, PA, where she was a two-time recipient of the Harry G. Archer Award Scholarship and the Charlotte Black Memorial Scholarship.[6] She studied voice with Anne Elgar Kopta and performed under the baton of Dr. Robert Page in the roles of: The Third Lady in The Magic Flute, Ottavia in L'incoronazione di Poppea, Vera Boronel in The Consul, and Nun II in Suor Isabella, having the opportunity to work with directing talents such as: Stephen Schwartz, Elizabeth Bachman, Rhoda Levine, Dorothy Danner, Peter Frisch, Greg Lehane, and Janet Bookspan.

In 1999, Novotny went on to pursue her Master of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of North Texas where she was awarded a full teaching fellowship. She studied voice with Dr. Linda Di Fiore and coached under Harold Heiberg. She performed under the baton of Dr. Steven Dubberly and the direction of Paula Homer in the roles of Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible, Margot in the ballet The Merry Widow, and the Prioress in Dialogues of the Carmelites.

During the summers of 2000 and 2001, Novotny studied and performed at the Aspen Music Festival; studying voice with Irene Gubrud and coaching under William Hobbs and Sylvia Plyler. While also working under the direction of Edward Berkeley and Garnett Bruce, while singing under the baton of James Conlon and David Zinman.[citation needed]

In the summers of 1995 and 1997, Novotny also performed and studied with the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria, where she was a finalist in the AIMS International Meistersinger Competition under the baton of Cornelius Eberhardt.

Novotny has also studied voice with Fred Carama. She studied acting with David Nathan Schwartz and with the Howard Fine Acting Studio under Laura Gardner.

Career highlights[edit]

2010 to present[edit]

Novotny is a winner of the 2010 Beverly Hills Chamber Music Auditions which has led her to being contracted for solo recital engagements around Southern California.

Thus far in 2011, Novotny has performed concerts at venues such as The Music in the Mansion Recital Series at the historical Beverly Hills Greystone Mansion and The Previews Concerts Series in Manhattan Beach, California, and at California State University at Bakersfield.[7]

Novotny performed as a featured soloist in Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and the Bakersfield Masterworks Chorale under the baton of John Farrer.

Upcoming in 2011, Novotny will also be headlining [8] at a concert at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona.

2009 to 2010[edit]

Highlights from Novotny's performance season include performing as the alto soloist in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and performing as a featured soloist in a concert of music Music from the French Revolution both with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra.[9]

Also in that season, Novotny generated much buzz[10] for her portrayal of Carmen with the Intimate Opera under the baton of Kristof Van Gryspeer and the direction of Mark Lamanna.[11]

2007 to 2008[edit]

Highlights from Novotny's performance season include performing as a featured soloist as the character of Magdalene in Splendor of Wagner with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, the Roswell Symphony Orchestra, and the Santa Maria Philharmonic. She also performed the title role in the Handel opera Flavio with Pocket Opera in San Francisco.[12][13]

That same year, Novotny garnered significant reviews performing the title role in Carmen alongside tenor Christopher Campbell as Don José, with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, the Roswell Symphony Orchestra, and the Santa Maria Philharmonic under the baton of John Farrer.[14][full citation needed][15]

In 2008, Novotny reprised her Carmen with Christopher Campbell as Don José, along with pianist Victoria Kirsch and flutist Pamela Vliek Martchev for concerts with the Trinity Lutheran Manhattan Beach Concert Series and the RHUMC Concert Series in Southern California.[16]

Also that year, Novotny performed as a featured soloist for the annual Holiday Concert at the Hearst Castle under the auspices of the Pacific Repertory Opera.[17]

That same year, Novotny produced and sang the theme song, accompanied by violinist Andrea Hammond, for the soundtrack for the penultimate edit of the documentary film Nancy KwanTo Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen's Journey produced by Brian Jamieson and Redwind Productions.[18]

2005 to 2006[edit]

In 2006 Novotny completed her third consecutive year with the Los Angeles Opera portraying the lead female role of Rosina in their nationally acclaimed tour of Figaro's American Adventure, an original children's adaptation of the opera The Barber of Seville. This production gained national recognition when chosen as a feature on ABC News' Nightline. Novotny believes in the paramount responsibility of keeping classical music alive through educational and community outreach. When interviewed by Nightline's journalist Dave Marash, Novotny remarked of this production, "They (the children) are engrossed in the show…if you build upon teaching these children art and different forms of art at a young age, they'll develop a taste for it when they're older. And we hope that we're looking at our future audience.".[19] In 2005, Novotny made her mainstage principal role debut with the Los Angeles Opera as the Third Noble Orphan in Der Rosenkavalier. This production was conducted by Kent Nagano and directed by the Academy Award-winning actor Maximilian Schell.

That same year, Novotny sang the theme song and lead vocal solos for the soundtrack of the film Shanghai Red starring Vivian Wu and Richard Burgi, with original music composed by Randy Miller and produced and directed by Oscar Luis Costo and MARdeORO Films. Shanghai Red received rave reviews as an official selection for the Montreal World Film Festival (2006), the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (2007), the Newport Beach Film Festival (2007), and was in competition for the Jin Jue Award at the Shanghai International Film Festival (2007).

Also in these years, Novotny's endeavors as an actor included starring in three independent films: Mended Spectacle, A Mellow Apple, and A.S.K..[20][21] She has also performed off-Broadway as a principal actor and music composer with the South Asian Rasa Theater Company at the Theatre Row Theater in New York City under artistic direction of actor and singer Manu Narayan. A review of their inaugural production of Eugene O'Neill's 1914 one-act play Abortion stated: "Adding to the Asian atmosphere was the seductive and original Indian music composed and sung by Geeta Bhatnagar.".[full citation needed]

2002 to 2004[edit]

Since making her solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 2002 as a featured soloist in Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Novotny has had the opportunity to sing with several symphony orchestras throughout the United States.

Some highlights include performances as the alto soloist, along with her soprano sister, Dana Bhatnagar-Vachharajani, in Mozart's Requiem with the Pro Arte Chorale and the Haddonfield Symphony (2004). Prior to that, Novotny made her New Jersey Symphony Orchestra debut as a featured soloist in Much Ado About Shakespeare. These performances she reprised with her sister, and the Emmy Award-nominated actress Claire Bloom as the narrator; performing as the soloists in Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream; along with performing the vocal solos of: Thomas Arne's Three Shakespeare Songs and Chilcot's Orpheus With His Lute. They performed under the baton of Nicholas McGegan and were accompanied by The Women of the Pro Arte Chorale.[22][full citation needed]

Novotny and her sister were the Grand Prize Winners of the 2003 International Young Artist Peninsula Music Festival Competition in Palos Verdes, California.[23][24]

For Novotny and her sister, this achievement had been an addition to the above-mentioned honor of their Carnegie Hall debuts as the featured soloists in Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In these performances Jaime Laredo conducted the New York String Orchestra and the Young People's Chorus of New York City, along with Claire Bloom as the narrator. The Sisters first performed this work with Claire Bloom at the Aspen Music Festival with the Aspen Chamber Symphony under the baton of David Zinman.

In 2003, Novotny performed as the mezzo-soprano soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, under the baton of Ormsby Wilkins, with the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House in Frederick Ashton's ballet The Dream.[25]

That same year, Novotny performed the role of Maddalena in Rigoletto with the Amarillo Opera.

In 2002, Novotny completed the apprenticeship with the Utah Opera where she toured extensively under the coaching of Jeremy Frank and the direction of Patricia Wienmann and Douglas Kinney-Frost.

Prior to that, she met notable praise for her performances as the First Prioress in Dialogues des Carmélites with the Aspen Opera Theater Center under the baton of James Conlon and the direction of Edward Berkeley.

That same year, Novotny performed the title role in Rossini's La Cenerentola with the Fort Worth Touring Opera.[26]

Other performance experience[edit]

Novotny's other roles include Le Mort in Stravinsky's Le rossignol under the baton of Julius Rudel and the direction of Garnett Bruce with the Aspen Opera Theater Center; and Mrs. Nolan in The Medium' with the 92nd Street Y in New York City.

Her musical theatre roles include: Anita in West Side Story, Mrs. Jones in Street Scene, Dolly in Hello Dolly!, Baroness Schrader in The Sound of Music, and Lucinda in Into the Woods.

She has also performed as the alto soloist in oratorio works such as: Vivaldi's Gloria, Handel's Messiah, the Bach Magnificat, the Mozart Coronation Mass, Libby Larsen's Eleanor Roosevelt, and has been a featured soloist with Pittsburgh's, River City Brass Band.

Novotny and her sister, Dana, comprise the vocal duo The Bhatnagar Sisters. They have headlined several recitals throughout the U.S. and successfully released their first CD in 2002 entitled Duets. This duo performs everything from opera and art song to musical theatre, pop, and jazz works.

Journalist and teacher[edit]

Novotny is also a published writer as she was a music columnist and contributing writer for the New York City-based magazine The Indian American[27] from 2006 to 2009.

Novotny is also a much sought-after voice teacher whose students include and have included celebrity talents to inner-city children. Novotny has also taught for numerous performing arts schools around the country.

Charitable endeavors[edit]

David Lynch Foundation[edit]

Novotny and Summers in the production of Ave Maria

Sing For Hope[edit]

As an important compliment to her performance career, Novotny donates her time and talent for humanitarian causes.[28] Besides being an artist for the David Lynch Foundation Music, she is a project leader and roster artist for the charitable organization Sing For Hope[29][full citation needed] which was co-founded by opera singers Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora. Novotny has sung under the auspices of Sing For Hope for concerts honoring for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus; and for the 2008 Fortune Most Powerful Women's Summit.[30]

As the West Coast Project Leader for Sing For Hope, Novotny arranged a benefit concert for Sing For Hope in partnership with the 2010 International Women's Festival in Santa Barbara helmed by Patty DeDominic.[31] The concert featured talents such as renowned singer, composer, and double violinist, Gingger Shankar, tabla player Jas Ahluwalia, tenor Daniel Montenegro, and pianist Jeremy Frank.

Columns for The Indian American Magazine[edit]

Notable press[edit]

Date Article/Review Publisher Author
March 25, 2011 'Western Classical Singer Lends Voice to Charity Project'[47] News India Times Sunil Adam
March 10, 2011 'The Wedding March is only the beginning'[48] The Bakersfield Californian Susan Scaffidi
January 27, 2011 '12 Paintings of Women, 12 Studio Visits' The Huffington Post John Seed
May 1, 2009 'Opera Company Presents Nontraditional 'Carmen' Pasadena Star-News John Farrell
February 4, 2007 'Carmen thrills Roswell audience' Roswell Daily Record Ashley Meeks
January 3, 2005 'LA Opera Company Performs for School'[49] Pittsburgh Tribune-Review N/A
May / June 2004 Geeta and Dana Bhatnagar, 'The Sopranos and the Indian American Ensemble' Indian Life & Style Magazine, Cover Story Sunil Adam
June 19, 2003 'Young Artists from Around the World Pay Tribute to Music' Peninsula News Clarence Anderson
January 23, 2003 'My Favorite Weekend: Geeta Bhatnagar- Getting out, getting ahead'[50] Los Angeles Times Carolyn Patricia Scott
December 14, 2002 'Brookville Natives to make Carnegie Hall Debut Dec. 28' Jefferson County Neighbors Kathy Young
December 5, 2002 'Bhatnagar Sisters First CD a Reflection of Family Ties' Jeffersonian Democrat Randy Bartley
November 23, 2002 'Forty Something to host Bhatnagar Sisters' Jefferson County Neighbors Kathy Young
June 6, 2002 'Bhatnagar Sisters to Perform in Brookville' Jeffersonian Democrat Randy Bartley
June 2002 'Bhatnagar Sisters Return Home to Present Concert' Jefferson County Neighbors Kathy Young
December 19, 2001 'Local Students Become Opera aficionados' Jackson Hole Guide Marie Ewald
December 19, 2001 'Vocalists Introduce Students to Opera' Jackson Hole News Richard Anderson
N/A 'University's Talents Fuse in 'The Crucible' Fort Worth Star-Telegram Marilyn Bailey

CD release[edit]

  • 2002: Duets - Dana and Geeta Bhatnagar


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  5. ^ "Geeta holds a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and pursued her graduate degree at the University of North Texas."
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  11. ^ "Geeta Bhatnagar-Novotny was genuinely enchanting as Carmen, seducing the audience along with each of her operatic victims. She integrated her voice with an alluring rhythm and movement that masterfully conveyed the meaning between her lines...she sang beautifully as she revealed the evolving depth of her fey character."
  12. ^ "Geeta Novotny (Flavio) sang handsomely, her larger voice especially distinguished by its low range."
  13. ^ San Franscico Classical Voice "Flavio, the king of Lombardy was intensely sung by mezzo Geeta Novotny...As the monarch, Novotny displayed a commanding, dark sound...she maintained constant contact with the audience and showed a commitment to her character...her presence was undeniably confident and regal."
  14. ^ The Roswell Daily Record: "The fiery gypsy, Carmen, and her flirtation with all the men was beautifully performed by Geeta Novotny ... a flash of her eyes, and a twirl of her skirt, were seductive enough to attract any male near her and she played both to the hilt…the strains of the Seguidilla were performed beautifully by Novotny.".
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  22. ^ New Jersey Star Telegram: "Dana and Geeta Bhatnagar had appealing stage presence to match their committed singing. But it was mezzo-soprano Geeta Bhatnagar, who showed off a dramatic sound and stage presence in 'Fear no more the heat 'o the sun' (Cymbeline)...her sheer intensity overcame a purist's objections."
  23. ^ Peninsula News: "The Grand Prize Award went to two sisters: mezzo-soprano Geeta Bhatnagar and soprano, Dana Bhatnagar, who introduced duet performance to the Festival with personalities and performances that left no doubt why Carnegie Hall and the Met booked them before YAPMF… With voices superbly matched and with musical interpretive styling that added drama to the songs, the Bhatnagars roamed an emotional and melodic spectrum. Enough said about such glorious music, as also heard from the Bhatnagars amid stand–up applause."
  24. ^ "Fast-rising young Los Angeles Opera mezzo-soprano and actress Geeta Novotny was Grand Prize Winner of the 2003 International Young Artist Peninsula Music Festival in Palos Verdes."
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  26. ^ Ranger Times: "The dark-haired Geeta Bhatnagar was a very believable Cinderella…the singing was generally beautiful and effective from Cinderella's flawless mezzo-soprano."
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  28. ^ " an award-winning mezzo-soprano who has performed principally on stages as varied as Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and the Aspen Music Festival. Geeta has also sung lead vocals on film soundtracks and has a career as a principal stage and film actor. She is also a published music journalist. Geeta became interested in arts activism when as a young child she would perform for the patients in the nursing homes in her hometown and thus realized the healing power of song. As a West Coast-based Sing for Hope Project Leader, Geeta organizes logistics for benefit concerts."
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External links[edit]