The gala series was founded by Alexa Lengyel in 2014 with the help of Co-founder, Mr. Thomas Jackovics. The production has made an impression, gaining recognition from the Ambassador of Hungary and the Russian American Media. Among other world renowned artists Hungarian Connection welcomed Mr. Bela Mavrak - Star Tenor of Andre Rieu, and continues to expand giving hope and brining unity.
Artists can make bigger differences in the world than we might imagine. High art, culture and ethnic traditions are very powerful. Together we can bring unity and inspire many who will not only find hope, but also go on inspire others.
We are all different, and finding the beauty in our diversity might lead us to a better understanding and greater respect toward one and other, both on an individual level and on a larger scale.
While the gala series is proud to work with amazing professionals, it is also proud to give opportunities to young and upcoming talents who will shape the culture of our future.
Alexandra Lengyel was born in New York but raised in Hungary where she started her dance education at the Hungarian Dance Academy in Budapest. After attending Youth America Grand Prix, Alexandra continued her dance education at the Nutmeg Conservatory of the arts in Torrington CT. Where she had the opportunity to train under Eleanor D' Antuono, legendary prima ballerina of American Ballet Theater and partner of Rudolf Nureyev. Alexandra was also coached by Viktoria Mazzarelli, Scott Thyberg, Alexi Tchernichov among other wonderful teachers.
Later, at the New England Ballet Conservatory Alexandra become assistant to the artistic director Vanina Wilson, author of the major educational manual "The French School of Ballet". Alexandra then continued her career in California as associate artistic director and soloist at Black Diamond Ballet, and Parthenon Classical Arts Center.
Alexandra founded her own dance academy in 2015, since then Bellissima European Dance Academy had the pleasure to collaborate with Camellia Symphony Orchestra presenting the Nutcracker suite in 2016 and the Sleeping Beauty Suite early 2018. Dancers of the academy have been invited to perform at the Mayoral Celebration of Steve Ly, as well as the State of the City Address. The young ballerinas have been awarded by dignitaries and have taken home countless awards from dance competitions. The academy was voted "BEST dance school" by the Slavic speaking community and the Russian American Media. BEDA was delighted to welcome world-renowned guest artists, such as Alexey Kulpin, Mate Szentes, Fabrice Calmes and more, over the past few years.
The Hungarian Connection Gala was founded by Alexandra in 2014 with co-founder Thomas Jackovics, greatest Hungarian benefactor of art and culture in California. Mr Jackovics has been awarded by the Knight Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit.
The gala continues to evolve and grow each year, inviting more and more artists, building cultural competence and awareness in the region, as well as internationally through the diverse and one of a kind artistic concept that has become the trademark of the gala series. Alexandra is passionate about involving the youth and leading them to realize how important high art, as well as ethnic culture is to the world and all human beings.
Bela Mavrak was born of Hungarian parents, in Austria in the city of Baden Bei Wien, but grew up in Serbia, former Yugoslavia.
He started to take music and piano lessons as young as four, however his parents wanted him to pursue a career at the medical field, as a doctor, Following his parents wishes he studied at a secondary school specialized in medicine and health care before seeking acceptance to the university of medicine.
Famous Serbian music teacher, professor Bursac discovered his talent and encouraged the young Mavrak to take the audition exam at the Music Academy of Belgrade. The young talent was accepted and started his professional studies in 1989. In 1991 he moved to Cologne, Germany, and enrolled at the prestigious Music Academy of Cologne, where he attended the classes of professor Jochims. Only two years after he started his studies in Cologne, in 1993 he won the gold medal and first prize of the International Singing Competition in Santa Margarita Ligure in Italy, where he sang Rodolfo's aria from Puccini's La Boheme. The competition opened up new doors for the young singer. Soon, he was invited to participate at master courses of great XX. century bel canto legends. In Milan Franco Corelli, "the prince of tenor", in Bologna, Gianni Raimondi introduced young Mavrak to the noble tradition of bel canto singing. In addition, he also participated at the legendary Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda's master classes in Germany.
Following his competition success in Santa Maria Ligure, the Belgrade State Opera hired him for his first full operatic role in 1994. He debuted in the la Boheme production.
Later several wonderful roles followed in Germany and all over the world in numerous prestigious opera houses and concert halls. Just mentioning a few of his career milestones, in Cologne he sang world premier of Marianna Martinez' in Exitus Izrael, and Dixit Dominus. Verdi's Requiem took him to the famous Beethowen Hall in Bonn, in a joint concert with Philharmonica Hungarica. One year later he sang Requiem again in the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, and at the Teatro Municipal in San Paolo, Brazil. In the same year of 1995 he appeared in the role of Faust in Hector Hector Berlioz's opera, the Damnation of Faust, at one of the most prestigious halls of classical music, the Salzburg Festspiel House, Austria. For two more years he continued to sing the Faust role and ten different roles at the German National Theater in the city of Weimar. During the second year when Weimar was "Cultural Capitol of Europe".
Mr Mavrak considers the year of 1999 to be the one of the brightest ones in his life, as he had the exceptional opportunity to work together with one of the greatest violinists ever, Lord Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin himself conducted an aid concert of the Menuhin Foundation, in which Mavrak sang as guest tenor.
In 2000 together with Gary Bennett and Thomas Gruel he became one of Andre Rieu's "Platin Tenors" , however he still carried on singing as a guest at several German theaters. Few of his roles from this period included; Sou Chong in Lehar's Land of Smiles, Sandor Barinkay in Joahann Strauss' Der Ziguenerbaron, and Edwin in Imre Kalman's Die Czardas Furstin.
In 2003, he sang the first Berlin performance of Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratario, in the Konzerthaus Gendarmenmarkt. Since 2005, Mr Mavrak has been intensively touring with Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra, appearing in about hundred concerts each year, all over the world, including historical opera houses such as the Semper Oper in Dresden, the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, or the legendary American Radio City Music Hall in New York.
In 2008, the city of Maastricht / The Netherlands, awarded Mavrak the gold honorary medal of merit in recognitions to his contributions to the international fame of the city, as a member of the Andre Rieu concert productions.
Mate was born in Budapest, Hungary, began studying ballet at the age of 6. By the age of 10 he was accepted at the Hungarian Dance Academy where he graduated in 2009. In 2007 & 2008 he attended the summer intensive programs at the School of North Carolina Dance Theatre on full scholarship. After graduation he joined the Hungarian National Ballet. In 2012 he moved to California and started working with the Sacramento Ballet. He joined Richmond Ballet for its 2015-2016 season. Mate was part of the Hungarian Connection Galas from the start and he feels really special to be involved in a production that represents his county. Mr. Szentes always enjoys to work with the pre-professional artists of the gala and to see the astonishing diversity of various folk and ethic dancers coming together on one stage.
Katy Sue Marfil, born in El Paso, Texas, Katy Sue earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Honors Fellow cum laude at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a graduate of the Nutmeg Conservatory Pre-professional program and was a member of New Jersey Ballet’s Junior Company for six years. While earning her degree at BU she has had the opportunity to perform works such as David Bintley’s Galantries, Mikhail Folkine’s Les Sylphides, Martha Graham’s historic ballet, Panorama and the role of “Russian Girl” in George Balanchine’s Serenade. In the years previous to her college career, Katy Sue received private coaching from Nina Sorokina, Elena Chegleva, Eleanor D’Antuono, Natasha Girshov, Kirk Peterson, and Edward Villella. At age 15, under the direction of Nina Sorokina at GITIS (Russian Academy Theatre Arts School), Katy Sue performed the “Princess Florine” solo variation from Sleeping Beauty at a venue in Siergev Pasad, Russia for the Russian Minister of Culture alongside prima ballerinas from the Bolshoi and the Russian National Ballet. While at GITIS, Katy Sue was also instructed by world-renowned Character Dance instructor Elena Chegleva. Katy Sue has appeared on several Russian television spots, one being on the Kulture channel. Katy Sue is also known for her rare coaching in Character Dance as
well as her unique choreography of ballets such as Courage (a short ballet based on the Battle of the Alamo), Stars and Stripes, excerpts from The Nutcracker, almost entire production of an original ballet entitled The Magic of the Lamp to music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Khachaturian, and a re-staging of the classic ballet Coppélia. She was instructor at Bellissia European Dance Academy under the direction of Alexa Lengyel Bain and continues to work at the studio which is now named Galaxy Dance Arts under the leadership of Tori Lee.
Aniko and Imre Ragoncza are professional folk dancers, choreographers and teachers. Earlier, they have been members of some of Hungary's most prestigious,world renowned folk ensembles, such as the Budapest Folk Ensemble, the BM-Duna Folk Ensemble, and the InterOperett Concerts.
Currently , they are dancing in Company Canario, a historical dance ensemble specializing in music and dances of the XVI-XIX. century.
Since 2014, the inception of the Hungarian Connection Gala they have been performing, choreographing and teaching young performers in California.
Christian Baldini has been the Music Director of the Camellia Symphony Orchestra since 2012. He has served as an assistant conductor with the BBC Symphony in London and the San Francisco Symphony. He is a dynamic artist with a pure and warm sense of musicality and “a keen ear for detail” (The Scotsman, Edinburgh). When he recently conducted Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Argentina, the Buenos Aires Herald praised Baldini for bringing a “Symphonic Revival” to the country. His Mozart CD conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra received 5-star reviews from the BBC Music Magazine (Recording of the Month), Music Web International, Gramophone, The Guardian, Sinfini, Classic FM, etc. In 2014-15 Baldini conducted eleven concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, and he returned for guest conducting engagements in Buenos Aires and London. He guest conducts regularly several international orchestras including the Munich Radio Orchestra, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra (D.C.), Orquestra Sinfonica do Porto (National Symphony of Portugal), Orquesta de Cámara de Chile, San Francisco Symphony, and opera for the Aldeburgh Festival (United Kingdom) and the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires). Equally at home in the core symphonic and operatic repertoire as in the most imaginative and daring corners of contemporary music, he has presented world premières of over 80 works. When he made his debut conducting in South Africa, Moira de Swardt stated that “Passion and dedication intersect for a fabulous orchestral concert.” After conducting the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP, Brazil), critic Arthur Nestrovski from the Folha de Sao Paulo praised this “charismatic young conductor” who “conducted by heart Brahms’s First Symphony, lavishing his musicality and leaving sighs all over the hall and the rows of the orchestra….”
Baldini was a featured composer at the Acanthes Festival in France and the Ginastera Festival in London. His compositions have been performed by orchestras and ensembles including the Orchestre National de Lorraine (France), Southbank Sinfonia (London), Munich Radio Orchestra (Germany), New York New Music Ensemble, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Daegu Chamber Orchestra (South Korea), Chronophonie Ensemble (Freiburg) and the Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt). His music appears on CD on the Pretal Label, and has been broadcast on the Southwest German, Austrian and Bayern Radios, as well as on the National Classical Music Radio of Argentina. He has also conducted and recorded contemporary Italian music for the RAI Trade and Tactus labels. His compositions are published by Babel Scores in Paris. As a conductor, Baldini was privileged to learn from Kurt Masur, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, Peter Eötvös and Martyn Brabbins. He holds degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo (Ph.D. in Composition), the Pennsylvania State University (Master’s in Conducting), and the Catholic University of Argentina (Bachelor’s Degree in Conducting and Composition). In 2012 Baldini made his conducting debut in Salzburg, when he was selected as one of three conductors out of 91 submissions worldwide for the Nestlé/Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award. Baldini’s work has received awards in several competitions including the top prize at the Seoul International Competition for Composers (South Korea, 2005), the Tribune of Music (UNESCO, 2005), the Ossia International Competition (Rochester, NY, 2008), the Daegu Chamber Orchestra International Competition (South Korea, 2008), and the Sao Paulo Orchestra International Conducting Competition (Brazil, 2006). He has been an assistant conductor with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Britten-Pears Orchestra (England) and a cover conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, DC) and the San Francisco Symphony. After teaching and conducting at the State University of New York in Buffalo, Baldini became the Music Director of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra in 2009. Since 2012, he has also served as Music Director of the 54-year-old Camellia Symphony Orchestra in Sacramento.
Bio coming soon!
Mr Thomas Jackovics is among the most successful business persons of Hungarian heritage in the state of California. He is also a generous benefactor, without him the landscape of Hungarian culture would not be be as rich and vibrant as it is now.
He has been the most significant supporter and benefactor of the Hungarian Scouts, the Hungarian Catholic Mission in Portola valley, the Eszterlanc Folk Ensemble, and many more artistic and cultural projects representing Hungary.
Driven by his love of his homeland,the language and Hungary's unique, rich cultural values he has been the Hungarian Connection Gala's title sponsor since 2014. Under has tutelage, the gala gradually has evolved into a global cultural production, with Mr Jackovics becoming the most significant private benefactor of Hungarian culture in the entire United States.
As an acknowledgment of his generous and selfless support, in 2016 Mr Jackovics has been awarded with the Knight Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit.
Honorary consul of Sacramento and Northern Nevada
For several decades Mr Bartsch have been the leading figure in the life of the Hungarian community in the Greater Sacramento region. As a consul he is always busy with executing several official duties. In addition, as a former member of the California State Senate he continues being an important facilitator of diplomatic relations between Hungary and California.
With his wife Peggy, he is one of the visionaries, as well as the dignitary patron of the Hungarian Connection Gala Series .
As an acknowledgement of his several decade long service of the diaspora Hungarian community, and Hungary, in 2015 Mr Bartsch have been awarded with the Middle Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit.