We are delighted to report that current CCM students Talya Lieberman and Reilly Nelson took home top prizes during the final round of the 2016 Lotte Lenya Competition. Sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the prestigious competition was held on April 16 in Kilbourn Hall of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Lieberman won a Third Prize, which includes a cash award of $7,500. Nelson received a Carolyn Weber Award in recognition of outstanding creativity in the design of a diverse program and exceptional sensitivity to text/music relationships, which includes a $3,500 prize.
Nine awards and a total prize purse of $79,000 were given in the competition’s most competitive year yet. Foundation President and founder of the competition Kim Kowalke said of this year’s competition:
“The total amount and number of prizes awarded reflects the high level displayed at this year’s contest. It is a testament to the competition’s growth over nearly two decades.”
You can learn more about all of this year’s winners by visiting www.kwf.org.
Both Lieberman and Nelson also made strong showings in last year’s Lotte Lenya Competition. Nelson advanced to the semifinal round of the competition (along with three other CCM-trained singers), while Lieberman won the Lys Symonette Award for Outstanding Performance of an Individual Number during 2015’s final round.
Lieberman and Nelson are the latest in a long line of CCM students and alumni who have reached the final rounds of the Lotte Lenya Competition. CCM alumna Lauren Roesner (BFA Musical Theatre, 2013) took Third Prize in the 2013 installment of this prestigious international theatre singing contest. CCM alumna Caitlin Mathes (MM Voice, 2009; Artist Diploma in Opera, 2010) earned First Prize in 2011 and fellow alumna Alisa Suzanne Jordheim (BM Voice, 2008; MM Voice, 2010; DMA candidate) progressed to the final round of the competition that same year.
For this year’s competition, each finalist presented a 15 minute program of four selections in the daytime round. An evening concert followed, in which contestants sang only a segment of their programs.
All finalists received a minimum cash award of $1,000, with additional discretionary awards of $3,500 each, and top prizes ranging from $7,500 to $15,000.
The panel of judges included international opera star Teresa Stratas, Rodgers & Hammerstein President Theodore S. Chapin and Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn. Finalists were selected from an initial pool of 224 contestants later narrowed to 31 semi-finalists, who were adjudicated and coached in the semi-final round by Tony Award-winners Jeanine Tesori and Victoria Clark. Clark, who last judged the competition in 2012, noted:
“I can feel the leap in overall talent from the last time I judged.”
Now in its 19th year, the Lotte Lenya Competition recognizes exceptionally talented singers/actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill. Since 1998, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded more than $750,000 in prize money and continues to support previous winners with professional development grants.
Previous Lenya Competition winners enjoy successful careers performing in major theaters and opera houses around the globe.
About the Kurt Weill Foundation
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc. is dedicated to promoting understanding of the life and works of composer Kurt Weill (1900-50) and preserving the legacies of Weill and his wife, actress-singer Lotte Lenya (1898-1981). The Foundation administers the Weill-Lenya Research Center, a Grant Program, the Kurt Weill Book Prize and the Lotte Lenya Competition, and publishes the Kurt Weill Edition and the Kurt Weill Newsletter. Learn more by visiting www.kwf.org.
About Talya Lieberman
Originally from Forest Hills, New York, soprano Talya Ilana Lieberman is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at CCM as a student of Professor William McGraw.
Recently described by Opera News as “poetically compelling,” “delectably stylish” and “technically refined,” Lieberman is equally at home with operatic, art song and musical theatre repertoire. Starting in September 2016 she will be seen frequently on stage at Komische Oper Berlin, where she will be assuming the soprano position in the Opernstudio. Her upcoming performances include debuts with Cincinnati Opera and Opera Columbus, as well as the title role in CCM’s Mainstage Series production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen.
Lieberman returned to Cincinnati this fall after completing a summer as a Filene Young Artist with Wolf Trap Opera, where her ability to “make a point with the merest flick of a finger” (Washington Post) shined in a highly lauded run as Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. She also appeared in concert with Steven Blier at Wolf Trap in a program celebrating the Broadway legacy of the Rodgers family (The Rodgers Family – A Century of Musicals).
Lieberman is a convert from the orchestra pit and started singing after receiving her master’s degree in trumpet performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts under the tutelage of Judith Saxton. She completed her BA at Duke University with highest distinction in linguistics (Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude). She is a two-time winner of full tuition and stipend—winning the Russell-Seybold and Italo Tajo Awards, respectively—at CCM’s Opera Scholarship Competition.
About Reilly Nelson
Born in the coastal town of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Canada, Reilly Nelson attended the Eastman School of Music where she received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and CCM where she completed a Master of Music in Vocal Performance.
Nelson is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at CCM.
At CCM she performed Hansel in Hansel and Gretel and Mary in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star. She also performed Hansel, as well as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, at Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Center.
The mezzo-soprano was a vocal fellow at the renowned Tanglewood Music Festival for the summers of 2014 and 2015, performing Les nuits d’été, Op. 7 and Folk Songs by Bernard Rands.
Story by Curt Whitacre