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Noblesse is a Christian classical crossover trio hailing from Romania. The members are Lorena, Evelina and

So how did they all meet? "Well, two of us (Lorena and Evelina) met when Lorena was born, as we are sisters," they joke. "With Ramona we met when we were singing in a choir, 'Voces'." During a break, their former pianist, Anda, started to play the song "In Christ Alone." The girls share that, "All three of us came around the piano and started to sing. That was the moment when we clicked with each other and we thought that we should study that song and sing it in public. `In Christ Alone` was our first song and since then we never stopped singing together."

When searching for their group’s name Lorena's suggest of "Noblesse" and the others "immediately agreed". They explain, "We liked both the meaning (it’s a French word and it means nobleness) and the sound of the word." The girls each have different voice types. Lorena is the highest as soprano, her sister Evelina is a mezzo and Ramona completes the trio with her alto range. This allows for some interesting combinations. "Usually Lorena, as the soprano, has the melodic line. But there are some songs (as `No Orphans of God` or `Yerushalayim`, for example) when the

melodic line is sung by Ramona or by Evelina because they have to sing many solo parts in that song, and Lorena does the harmony with the other girl. Or we have some songs when Evelina sings alto and Ramona mezzo, although the vast majority of the songs have the natural division of the voices: Lorena soprano (and the melodic line), Evelina mezzosoprano and Ramona alto." Their adventures as Noblesse have taken the girls e to the United States as well as Europe. "We have sung in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, and in 2017 we plan to go in Portugal and Sweeden. We have also sang in the United States, in New York, Washington D.C., Florida, Georgia, California, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona." The trio's first album was entitled "In Christ Alone", named after the first song they sang together. "Most of the songs from this album are in English and it was recorded mostly with piano (we were 4 at that time, with Anda) and 3 songs with violin, played by a very good friend of ours and exceptional violinist, Leonard Furda." They quickly followed it up with "Istoria Mantuirii." "The second album has the vast majority of the songs in Romanian and it`s a thematic album. It is called (in translation) `The Story of Salvation'

and the songs are, chronologically, about the creation of our world, original sin, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His life on Earth, His death and Resurrection, the second coming, and Heaven." Next came the Christmas album entitled "Sounds of Joy." It splits half of the songs in English and half in Romanian. English listeners can start off their collection with a bonus record called "Songs from the Heart", which is a compilation of all the girls recorded English songs. "It also features a bonus track, which is a song that we sang with two great Romanian male voices (Andrei Barbu and Claudiu Agapie) and that can be found only on this album. This CD we made especially for our international visits, so the people can buy only our English songs." Luckily for fans, the girls are already planning their next recording venture. "We hope to start working on the songs in 2017 and maybe finish it in 2018." Noblesse is clearly a Christian group but stylistically they appeal to fans of the classical crossover genre. "Lorena and Evelina studied a little bit of classical bel canto so the influence of this type of music in our voices is understandable. But we always liked classical crossover because we perceived it closer to our souls than the pure classical music."

They want to continue moving forward with music videos and have plans to visit Brazil. When asked what their main ambition was they replied, "above all, we want to keep singing for the glory of our God in every project that we do." The girls were further exposed to the public through their appearances on Hope Television. "Our experience with Hope TV United States is very much related to our visit in Washington DC, when we sang at the Annual Council of the Seventh Day Adventist General Conference. As they are in the same building, those from Hope TV invited us to record three of our songs on their show, 'Let`s Pray!`. It was a beautiful experience, they are very professional and we enjoyed working with them." They have been in talks with the Hope TV director about future collaborations but tell us that "we won`t reveal more at this time. We will come in the future with further details."

Natalia Krishtopets is a classical crossover soprano from Russia who is rapidly gaining an online following. "I live 20 km from Moscow in the town of Schelkovo. It is my home town and I love it very much. Moscow is very close so I am able to visit this beautiful city often, especially to attend theaters and concert halls as a spectator. Russia is a huge country, it has so many beautiful towns and places but shame on me I haven't seen much of it. I dream to visit St Petersburg one day."

to make the CD of his songs. I am extremely happy because of it as his songs are absolutely magnificent and exquisite." It was an international collaboration with the instrumentals being recorded in London and vocals in Russia. The final songs were mixed by sound engineer Stefano Galante in Canada! "It is incredible how the Internet helps to make dreams come true! We have such a wonderful international project. I am so honored to work with such absolutely talented people!"

For her "Music has always been in my blood. I remember how happy I was when I heard beautiful songs in my childhood and always tried to remember and sing it." She sang in her church choir, but never had any formal musical education. "It has always been just my hobby. At the age of 14 one my friends taught me to play the guitar a bit, I was extremely happy that I could sing and play my favorite songs. Being a teenager I spent my summer holidays in the village and those times will always stay in my memory when all friends were gathering around the fire and listening to my singing." Her musical tastes changed with age and Natalia no longer plays guitar, but her passion for singing remained.

Natalia's EP "Dreams of Tomorrow" is now available but she promises "We are close to finishing the whole album." It is planned for release later this year.

Her hobby began to blossom under the attention of Chris Broom. "I was lucky to be noticed by the great British composer Chris Broom and he offered

In addition to her musical "hobby" Natalia is a philologist-linguist. "I am a teacher of English, Russian and literature, I graduated from Moscow Pedagogical University in 2004. I've been giving private English lessons for many years already." No doubt her profession assists her when it comes to singing in multiple languages. "My album will contain songs in English and Italian. I also enjoy singing in Spanish. I dream to sing songs in French without an accent one day, I think it is the most difficult task for me," she shares good-naturedly. She advises singers learning new languages, "only zeal and hard work will help you to reach great results.'

Natalia draws aural inspiration from many different genres of music but mostly from her own genre. "I can name some of the singers: Sarah Brightman (she influenced me a lot!), Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca, Eva Cassidy, Hayley Westenra, Sissel, Blackmore's Night, A-HA, Scorpions, Natasha St-Pier, Josh Groban, Loreena Mckennitt, Yanni and many others." As she looks to the future Natalia says, "For sure everyone has dreams, now at the age of 34 I dream of peace in the world, I dream of health and happiness for my family and friends. I dream of

having the opportunity to visit different places in the world and of not to being afraid that something bad will happen." When it comes to music she is excited for the release of her debut album. "It will be indeed an unbelievable event for me." At present she has no plans to perform in concerts. "I have never performed for an audience, so this side of the artist's work is unknown to me and frightens me a bit but who knows, maybe one day I'll have the opportunity to perform for people in different countries."

By Chantelle Constable

When Shirin Asgari, Nasrin Asgari, and Nazanin Ezazi stepped onto the stage of “Supertalent” in 2012, about to give their debut performance of “Nella Fantasia,” they were ushered in to the sound of Adele's “Skyfall.” The drama and energy of the song inspired them as they held hands and stepped up to the microphones. The words “we will stand tall and face it all together” stuck with them – and led them directly into the repertoire of James Bond film songs.

success on Supertalent, the women were approached by Universal Music, whom they had been previously courting through their ex-manager with little success. A seemingly overnight Cinderella story. But such a triumph was hard-earned.

The popular appeal of the sexy secret agent and the dramatic, lyrical content of the songs composed for films throughout the years were a magic fit for this classical-crossover trio.

Growing up in Tehran, the girls' families listened to classical music in the home and encouraged them in their instrumental studies, but for religious reasons (by the law of the country) it was not possible for them to pursue their dreams of being professional singers. According to Nazanin, women were only allowed to sing in a choral setting, and even then there were few teachers of vocal music.

After their immediate and resounding

The girls grew up admiring singers

such as Edita Gruberova and Yma Sumac, and Nazanin recalls feeling frustrated, as though she was singing “wrong,� with tension and pain in her throat, and yearned to learn the correct technique for singing classical music. In a fairy-tale twist of fate, one of her school teachers overheard her hiding in a classroom and practicing singing by herself. The professor was stunned by her voice, and arranged an invitation for her to perform at the residence of the German ambassador to Iran. Fast forward a few years later, and Nazanin was auditioning for a professor at a music conservatory in

Germany. The professor failed her in the entrance exam, stating that Nazanin had not had enough previous vocal training. In spite of this blow to her aspirations, Nazanin then applied to school in Vienna, and was accepted. The same German professor who rejected her was to be a judge in the Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, in which Nazanin was a winner. The professor was speechless - nearly moved to tears -- when Nazanin introduced herself! Sticklers and snobs of vocal purity may rest assured -- the women of Sedonia have serious cred in the world

of legitimate opera. After their studies in Vienna and Graz, each has been honored to perform leading roles and premieres at major opera houses in Europe, in addition to winning prestigious classical singing competitions. Some highlights are, Shirin: The Queen of the Night in "The Magic Flute" ("I can perform it already while sleeping.") and world premieres of contemporary operas with Klangforum Wien. "[In] 2006 I received a scholarship from AIMS and qualified for a concert tour with the orchestra of St. Johns/Oxford) and the Holland Festival." Nasrin: "I already performed in Opera houses in Kiew and Tiflis and joined the Steirischer Herbst, a festival of contemporary music." "While studying I joined the Arnold Schรถnberg Chor which gave me the possibility to work with famous conductors like Seiji Ozawa or Nikolaus Harnoncourt. I am grateful for that experience." Nazanin: A contracted soloist with the opera house in Gratz (a process she

describes as very different from the American opera singer's ability to freelance with whichever opera company they choose) gave her the chance to perform in Le Nozze de Figaro, The Magic Flute, L'elisir d'amore, and Falstaff, among others (including operetta and musicals). In addition to winning the Belvedere competition, she also found success in Operalia, and was even offered a two year young artist development contract by Placido Domingo himself. However, it conflicted with her contract with Graz Opera and she chose the path of stability in Europe. Always, even as young girls, the members of Sedonia had their hearts set on modern, classical music. Shirin and Nasrin's brother is a professional musician in Vancouver (CA) where he teaches violin, and their father is a violinist who has arranged many traditional Iranian tunes for the violin. Nazanin's father played the piano and a traditional percussion instrument, and her mother was a very good dancer. Their love of the performing arts was "in their blood." Although they heard the native music of Iran in their homes, were exposed to traditional Persian music, and learned to play traditional instruments in

school, all three agree that they had a passion for classical music early on. They do not play their instruments very much anymore, except to learn a song or to teach, but Nazanin shared that in the role she is currently playing at the National Theatre of Mannheim - Juliet in a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet -- the directors incorporated her skill on the daf, a traditional Iranian percussion instrument, into her character on stage, as Juliet is portrayed as an "oriental girl," and Romeo as a German boy. Nazanin also shares that learning the unique oriental scales and tunings of traditional Persian music has helped her become an excellent singer of baroque music. A pressing question was how all three of them found their way into a popular music career (or even careers as operatic soloists) from a country so restrictive to women as Iran. The resounding answer from all three, when asked in turn to advise those who might be in a similar situation to themselves, was: "Leave the environment and follow your dreams" (Shirin)"And do not give up." (Nasrin) Nazanin was practical in her response: "My advice would be that if you think you can live with it, and if you think

that you can forget your dreams and live there, just do it." However, she continued, with building passion, "But if you think that you really want to live your dreams, if you really want to reach your dreams and make them come true, then stand up... ... if I could do this, you can do it too! Everything that exists in our world was one day just a thought. So, THINK about what you want. Because only like this will you reach it and bring it to reality. If you cannot reach your dreams in the country that you are [in], the only possibility is to find your way out. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE IN THIS LIFE so dream your dreams and really believe, and know that if you want it, it will happen." When the group made the decision to appear on Supertalent, it was a "to be or not to be" (Nazanin) moment for them. They had not met with large success in their crossover career thus far, and were eager to put themselves into the public eye, to receive the honest opinion of a large audience and a panel of judges. While agreeing that they were very nervous, and stating that a live talent show may not be the best option for those who aren't ready to hear an honest critique of their

performance, Sedonia is grateful for their talent show experience in giving them exposure to an audience of millions and ultimately drawing the attention of their record label, Universal. Universal. Yet another portentious twist of fate in their fairy tale, because the singers of Sedonia had already decided that they wanted their group name to include the word "universe." The word represented their vision: presenting themselves "to the universe" as three Iranian women who... "couldn't really dream of that -coming to the world with an

international career." (Nazanin) Upon realizing that the terms universe/universal were, pardon the pun, universal... the women decided to pay tribute to their heritage by using the Persian / Farsi words "se" (three) and "donia" (universe) to compose their name. Se-donia. Three universes. For three such talented, determined women, it may seem as if the world truly is not enough. It may take three universes, or even more, to contain the stellar career of Sedonia.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS If you could give a gift or a message to young people in your home country, what would it be? Nasrin: Iran is a beautiful country, but if the soil does not let your talents flourish - there are always other places. Shirin: And maybe in the future we will see flowers of all colors growing in Iran again.

[such as an illness in the family or splitting with a long-term partner] can be even harder to get over; but anyone can get over them and we can get stronger. As residents of Vienna and Graz, what are some of your favorite memories of the towns? What were some of your favorite places to visit, and restaurants to eat at?

What would you say has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome in pursuing your musical dreams?

Nazanin: In Graz "Schlossberg" is a very, very nice place, every tourist should go and see it. The opera house in Graz is, even from the outside, more beautiful than opera house in Vienna. In Vienna, you really have to taste the sachertorte in the Hotel Sacher. [I] love Austrian food; Hühnerstreifen -- chicken slices baked with salad, with very special traditional oil Kürbiskernöl.

Nasrin: The hardest thing is to leave your family and country where you were born.

Nasrin: Well you know the sweet dishes are famous in Austria - visit the Cafe Central in Vienna

Nazanin: If you are kept down as a woman your country that can be overcome, but personal crises

Shirin: Or [if you] need a Tafelspitz (beef) you should try Plachutta in Vienna, too

Shirin, are you still an active painter? Sure. I am regularly on exhibitions with my paintings and usually open my exhibitions with singing. For me Painting is like singing with colors.

Viktoria Tocca is a shining example of a strong woman making waves in the genre of classical crossover music. She began her craft early on and claims, "I can't remember not singing! I was always making up my own songs and putting on shows in the house, forcing everyone to watch!" At the tender age of 10 she was accepted to the Adolf Fredriks School of Music in Stockholm. Viktoria explains that while it is similar to a regular school, music is a part of their everyday classes. "A lot of Sweden's musical talent stems from this school and I had six wonderful years there where I was often the soloist at concerts. Then I did a three year musical theatre program and since graduating, in 1998, I've been working professionally as a singer and actress." Viktoria performed the title roles of Christine in Phantom of the Opera as well as Evita, in the musical of the

same name. Her career's expansion into the classical crossover genre "came rather naturally for me," Viktoria says. "I've always liked to write music and lyrics but never really pursued it until I got pregnant with my daughter. I couldn't do musical theatre during the pregnancy and for a while after having the baby, so that's when I started working on my first album which was in Swedish. Then of course I was hooked and have to date released four albums, a Christmas EP that I'm working on extending to a full album, and lots of singles." Both creating roles on stage and performing as a solo artist "requires me to be very honest on stage. When creating a character I have to highlight certain parts that are more prominent in that other person. I usually do quite a lot of work when creating a character, lots of writing and figuring out who this person is, but ultimately it will all stem from myself and my own

experience and bringing that out in the most honest way possible."

Sissi, look it's Sissi", that was very humbling."

Does she have a favorite onstage moment? "There are many," Viktoria shares. "Right now I'm in the middle of working on a character that I really love, Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County and we're doing a couple of songs from the show in the musical theatre concert tour "FrĂĽn Broadway till DuvemĂĽla" that I'm currently in and that's one of my favorite moments on stage every night, because you can feel the character taking form right there and then in the moment and that's a really great feeling. Another favorite is obviously playing Christine in Phantom of the Opera, which had been my dream for so long!"

I ask Viktoria if there are any plays she would like to see made into musicals. Her response is enthusiastic, "Oh wow, that's a great question. When I come up with something really great I'll let you know, because I might want to write my first musical myself!"

Viktoria created the role of Sissi in the world premiere of "Ludwig II." She calls the experience "really special" as well as challenging. "I had never worked in Germany, so the language was new and I had never worked on such a huge stage before. The theatre was more than 2000 seats and the stage was huge! We had real horses on stage as well as a huge pool where Ludwig drowned himself in the end. It was also such an honor to play such an iconic historical figure as Empress Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria. You could hear the audience whisper her name every night at my first entrance, "Sissi,

Viktoria is very supportive of new music. "I think there are plenty of good singers out there who want to do classical crossover, but most of them sing and record the same stuff that has been done before. I think that it's very important to write, create and sing new material for the genre to move forward! I think Jennifer Thomas is doing a lot for the instrumental CC genre and Mary-Jess is one of my favorite singers in the CC genre, both writing a lot of new material and doing a great job!" When I asked if there's one song from the classical crossover repertorie that Viktoria thinks should be retired she replies, "Oh I don't know. I love a lot of this repertoire, but I don't think we need any more recordings of Time to Say Goodbye and Nella Fantasia, unless someone is going to spice it up and do something really different!" Fair enough. Viktoria is currently involved in a tour of Broadway music in Sweden

called FrĂĽn Broadway till DuvemĂĽla. "I'm actually producing this tour myself. I've worked mostly internationally in my career and moving back to Sweden, for family reasons, I realized that it's not so easy to break into the musical theatre scene in Sweden." Still, Viktoria remains undaunted. "Instead of sitting at home moping about, I decided to produce something myself. I had no idea that it would grow so big so quickly, but we're booking shows left and right, getting spectacular reviews and I'm honestly getting more work than I can handle at the moment, but I'm not complaining!"

are very important!"

Of course creating new music and producing shows is expensive and difficult especially for the independent artist. Platforms like Pledge Music and Patreon however are allowing fans to finance the projects they believe in. "For me it's absolutely necessary! I try to offer as much as possible to my patrons and fans, because they're really the people who support all the creative ideas I have. I still spend a lot of my own money that I make at concerts etc., on new recordings, music videos etc, but my Patreons

On her time off Viktoria enjoys reading. "Finding a good book and spending time is like vacation. I also love watching great films and TV series. I really love all the new online options where I can watch TV when I have time. Binge watching series on any of the online services is such a treat! Other than that I love walking my dogs in the woods or going out on our boat. Nature and quiet creates such a perfect balance to my rather hectic life, I love it! And food, yes, I love food! Who doesn't?!"

Viktoria continues to train her voice under the tutelage of Douglas Yates. "I've had the same teacher for a long time. Douglas Yates is basically classical, but he works with all genres since the basic technique is very much the same. I've been with him since 2001. I work with him very intensely 4-5 times a year when he comes to Sweden or I have the time to go see him (he lives in Germany). But usually we work for 4-5 days, very intensely and that's enough at the level I'm at. The rest of the time I work on my own."

Winter 2017  

Our Winter issue featuring Viktoria Tocca, Noblesse, Sedonia and Natalia Kristophets.

Winter 2017  

Our Winter issue featuring Viktoria Tocca, Noblesse, Sedonia and Natalia Kristophets.