San Francisco Opera Orchestra’s Principal Harpist Olga Ortenberg-Rakitchenkov was born in Russia into a family rich in musical tradition. Her mother was an editor of Musica, a major Russian publishing company, and her granduncle was a member of the Budapest Quartet. The former Associate Concertmaster of the San Francisco Opera, Adolf Bruk, is her uncle. Olga started piano lessons at seven at Moscow’s Gnesin School for Musically Gifted Children. At eleven, she began to study harp in the class of Mark Rubin, making it her primary instrument. She graduated with Highest Honors from Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory, studying with Professor Vera Dulova.
Olga won the position of Associate Principal Harp in the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra in 1973 and was promoted to Principal. In 1989, after immigration to the United States, she won the position of Principal Harp for the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.
Olga performs much contemporary chamber music, and she has premiered works by Schnittke, Denisov, and Smirnov.
Olga has participated in international festivals and congresses and was the first prize winner of the 1974 International Competition of Harpists in Geneva. She toured as a soloist with the Orchestra de la Suisse Romaine and with orchestras in Melhause, Basel, and Schauffhausen. Her performances were broadcast on radio and television in Russia, France and Switzerland.
"...harpist Olga Ortenberg Rakitchenkov rose with distinction to what must be her biggest assignment in the standard operatic repertoire." - Joshua Kosman, S.F. Chronicle
"Only with words of the greatest admiration and enthusiasm can one report about the harpist from Moscow, Olga Ortenberg, who returns to the USSR from Geneva with the first prize. With inimitable grace, sensitivity, and with astonishingly rich dynamics, the Russian presented a masterful performance." - Basler Nachrichten.
"She performs the most difficult pieces with amazing ease." - Journal de Génève
"Her music is very earnest, very rich in soul ... she is a real artistic discovery." - La Suisse