Musica Lanterna: Vancouver’s new concert series

Classical music debuts at Tandem Hall in downtown Vancouver

VANCOUVER — When a bright light enters a room of darkness, it immediately changes your perspective of that room. The same could be true for other perspectives and proverbial lights. 

Dimitri Zhgenti performs solo piano at Tandem Hall as part of the opening concert for his classical concert series, Musica Lanterna. Photo courtesy of Heather Finch
Dimitri Zhgenti performs solo piano at Tandem Hall as part of the opening concert for his classical concert series, Musica Lanterna. Photo courtesy of Heather Finch

Classical pianists Anton Zotov and Dimitri Zhgenti are betting on it.

Musica Lanterna, latin for “Music Lantern,” is the name given to the two piano master’s new classical concert series hosted in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Born out of a passion to break stereotypes and bring the art and the artists into people’s lives, Musica Lanterna seeks to reincorporate the piano and the performance in a personal setting.

“I wanted to see a concert space that could have different elements in it. That could have art in it, the audience and an audience that would be able to communicate with the artists in a closer way,” Zotov said. “You’re preparing to perform for months, and then finally you have this special moment when you go on stage and share it with people. That’s something that’s outside of ordinary life.”

Anton Zotov performs solo piano for an audience at Tandem Hall during the opening night of his Musica Lanterna Classical Concert Series. Photo courtesy of Heather Finch

Going back to their years at University, Zotov and Zhgenti had dreamed about a project that would return the audience to the living room concerts and the intimate gatherings of old. After reconnecting in Vancouver, they launched just such a project.

Hosted in Boomerang Bistro’s Tandem Hall, Musica Lanterna debuted on Oct. 19, 2019 with a room full of souls ready to “Listen, Immerse and Discover.” Several performances by both Zotov and Zhgenti echoed through the building; each concluding with steady applause. 

The audience sits on the same level as the artist. There is no stage. There is only the music. “Out of the concert hall, and into the community.”  

“You get to experience a high level of music in an intimate setting that we don’t get very often,” Zhgenti said. “It’s a great feeling to listen to music that is, perhaps, a couple of hundred years old, but in this new, modern kind of setting. It gives you a perspective of what it was like back then.”

During Musica Lanterna performances, the artists will be very close to the audience and not on an elevated stage. Photo courtesy of Heather Finch
During Musica Lanterna performances, the artists will be very close to the audience and not on an elevated stage. Photo courtesy of Heather Finch

Zotov grew up in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. His mother saw from an early age he would excel at music. As early as 6 years old he began studying with his piano teacher, Maryna Matveyeva, and continued with her for 12 years. As part of the schooling in Ukraine, students can attend music schools and then go on to music colleges.

“I think that whoever you’re communicating with, that’s the most important part,” Zotov said. “When I was young, it was about something that you can express yourself through, through the piano, through the music; something that’s your inspiration, what builds inside of you while you’re working on the piece.”

When he was around 20 years old, he moved to the United States and began attending Indiana University under the direction of world-renowned pianist, Alexander Toradze. While there, he met Zhgenti. 

Zhgenti grew up in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. As a child, he began with singing, and his love of music grew more as neighbors and family encouraged him. At the age of 9 he too began studying piano with his teacher, Medea Javahia. In 2002, he moved to Vancouver before being accepted at Indiana. 

“One of the elements of its uniqueness [Musica Lanterna] is the tweaking of the scene,” Zhgenti said. “It’s not a particularly new thing. Back a couple of hundred years ago … we had these chamber concerts that were meant to be done in a smaller setting, even in a house, you know, in a living room.”

Dimitri Zhgenti’s abstract photography is seen here on display as a temporary art gallery part of Musica Lanterna’s Classical Concert Series. Each concert will showcase a different artist’s work. Photo courtesy of Heather Finch
Dimitri Zhgenti’s abstract photography is seen here on display as a temporary art gallery part of Musica Lanterna’s Classical Concert Series. Each concert will showcase a different artist’s work. Photo courtesy of Heather Finch

Both men were born into countries coming to the end of the Soviet Union. Zotov recalls there not being much of an arts scene, but how his mother would still find concerts to take him too. 

Each carries a rich love for art in many forms, and are now pouring their collective ideas into Musica Lanterna. For season one, artists from all over the world will perform through May 2020 with five performances remaining.  

Next in the lineup is world renowned pianist, Svetlana Smolina. The Russian-born artist has performed at Carnegie Hall and with the New York Philharmonic. Zotov and Smolina are long-time friends, and also met at Indiana University. 

“It’s a very bilingual instrument,” Smolina said of the piano and performing. “It can sound like a whole orchestra, it can sound like a voice, it can sound like a cello … the possibilities are really endless. We’re going back to the roots of where it all started, and I think it’s very special … Concerts like that, they always stay in my mind as the most memorable.”       

In addition to the cascading melodies of the piano, cello, clarient, and guitar, concerts will feature local visual artists. At Oct. 19th’s performance, Zhgenti ‘s own abstract photography was on display. Photographs, paintings and woodworks are soon to follow.

Tickets for all performances are on sale now, and can be found at musicalanterna.com/shows. You can also find a full schedule of the 2019-2020 season online. Follow Musica Lanterna on Facebook and Instagram for updates. 

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a graduate of WSU Pullman’s Edward R. Murrow College where he studied journalism and media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and abroad in Argentina. He has won a regional Emmy and Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his film work. His passions range from sharing the love of Jesus, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife and son in Vancouver, WA. Proverbs 16:3

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