Lotte Lenya Competition Graphic.

Alumni and Students Named Finalists in 2017 Lotte Lenya Competition

Three current and former CCM students are among 14 young artists selected as finalists in the 20th Lotte Lenya Competition. Those include Jasmine Habersham (AD Opera, 2015; MM Voice, 2013), DMA Voice candidate Paulina Villarreal (MM Voice, 2015) and first-year voice masters student Lisa Marie Rogali.

This isn’t the first time Habersham has advanced in the Lotte Lenya Competition. In 2015, Habersham competed in the competition’s semifinal round. At CCM she appeared as Norina in Don Pasquale, Mrs. Julian in Owen Wingrave and Pearl in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star.

Villarreal, who began her DMA studies at CCM in 2015, was a Young Artist at Cincinnati Opera. CCM patrons may have seen her perform in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Bright-Eyed Joy in November. She has also appeared in Some Light Emerges, Il signor Bruschino, Hansel and Gretel and William Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs.

Rogali began her studies at CCM in the fall of 2016. She appeared in the ensemble and as an assistant costume “spirit” in the CCM Mainstage production of Cendrillon in November.

All 14 contestants range in age from 19 to 32 and hail from across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, France and Israel. They were chosen from a pool of 266 preliminary audition videos — the most applications ever received in competition history. Thirty-two of those applicants moved on to the semifinal round, where they auditioned live in New York for judges Judy Blazer and Ted Sperling.

“Working with these singers is an enlightening and thrilling experience and whether they win the brass ring or not they all win in a sense for having done it,” Blazer said of her experience coaching the semifinalists.

Kurt Weill Foundation President Kim H. Kowalke stated, “This year’s semifinals were more competitive than some of our finals in previous years; the judges in Rochester are going to have their work cut out for them, especially with the stakes increased this year to a top prize of $20,000.”

In celebration of the 20th competition, top prizes have increased to $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000. Judges may also bestow additional discretionary awards of $3,500 each for outstanding performances of individual numbers. The new Kurt Weill Award for $5,000, established this year, will recognize an outstanding performance of two contrasting Weill selections. All finalists receive a minimum cash award of $1,000.

The finals take place Saturday, April 22 at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Each finalist will present his or her entire program in the daytime round, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. An evening concert, in which contestants sing only a portion of their programs, follows at 8 p.m. The concert concludes with the announcement of awards and prizes. Both the daytime round and evening concert are free and open to the public.

The evening concert will be live streamed online at www.esm.rochester.edu/live/kilbourn. Visit the website before or during the concert to stream it (no password required).

This year’s judges’ panel brings together three internationally recognized artists. Renowned stage director Anne Bogart brings diverse theatrical and operatic credits to the jury. In January 2017, she directed the highly acclaimed production of Lost in the Stars with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Tony Award-winning actor Shuler Hensley has demonstrated his versatility as an actor on Broadway in roles as wide-ranging as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, The Monster in Young Frankenstein and a Tony and Olivier Award-winning performance as Jud Fry in Oklahoma!. Bogart and Hensley, both first-time judges, join veteran judge Rob Berman, who returns to the competition for a seventh time. Berman has been seen on Broadway most recently as music director for Bright Star and Dames at Sea; he is music director for the popular Encores! series at New York City Center.

The finalists will sing a program of four selections from the operatic, Golden Age, contemporary musical theatre repertoires and the music of Kurt Weill to compete for prizes totaling more than $75,000.

Over the last 20 years, the Lotte Lenya Competition has grown from a small contest exclusively for students of the Eastman School of Music, to one of the widest-reaching international vocal competitions. Past prize winners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera and concert stages around the world. This season, LLC laureates can be seen in seven Broadway shows, at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Komische Oper, in concert with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, on national and international theatrical tours and heard on two Grammy Award-winning recordings. See why Opera News said of the competition, “[N]o vocal contest better targets today’s total-package talents, unearthing up-and-coming singers who are ready for their close-ups.”

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.

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Richard Hess taught a Viewpoints Training master calss in Estonia.

Acting Department Chair Visits Estonia To Teach Viewpoints Training Master Classes

Richard Hess traveled to Estonia to teach two Viewpoints Training master classes

Richard Hess at the Tartu Uus Teater.

CCM Professor of Acting and Department Chair Richard Hess recently traveled to Northern Europe to teach Viewpoints Training master classes to professional actors working in two Estonian theaters — Theatrum and Tartu Uus Teater.

Hess has shared Viewpoints Training master classes across the U.S. and internationally for the past 20 years. Initially developed for dancers in the 1970s by choreographer Mary Overlie, Viewpoints Training was then adapted for actors by director Anne Bogart and the SITI Company. It focuses on improvisational movement techniques that brake down two dominant issues performers deal with — time and space — into nine categories or “viewpoints”: tempo, duration, kinesthetic response, repetition, shape, spatial relationship, architecture, floor pattern and gesture.

Hess engaged the Estonian actors in a series of improvisational movement exercises where unified group action was the desired goal. “What you create with another actor is always more interesting than what you can create alone,” Hess said. “Needing and being needed are core principles of good acting.”

In the final exercise of the master class, Hess instructed the actors to pair up and — without speaking or planning — support a portion of their partner’s body weight to create a new shape that they couldn’t create alone. Hess first told them to support 50 percent of their partner’s weight, then directed everyone to support the entire weight of one person. “This requires actors to give generously and to be supportive in undeniable ways,” he said.

In the final Viewpoints exercise, Hess told the actors "all hands must support the entire weight of Karl Edgar."

In the final Viewpoints exercise, Hess told the actors “all hands must support the entire weight of Karl Edgar.”

“The Estonian actors were so powerful and focused,” Hess added. “There is an obvious muscular quality to their work and it was gratifying to see them embrace the master class with enthusiasm and bravery. Estonian theatre is extremely impressive.”

The actors traveled from theaters across Estonia to participate in Hess’ Viewpoints Training master class, he said. They gathered in Uus Teater in Tartu, Estonia and Theatrum, which is headed by playwright and director Andri Luup in Tallinn, Estonia. Luup, who is known for writing and directing the film “Kinnunen,” arranged for Hess to offer the master classes.

“The work was simply on the nose,” said participant Karl Edgar Tammi, a professional actor from the Teater Must Kast in Tartu. “I was introduced to a set of great exercises, improvisation, stage presence and awareness, creativity, working with partners, space and, of course, music. It was colorful, refreshing and inspiring. I will practice and try and mix it into the current theatre scape of Estonia!”

As chair of CCM’s Acting Department for the past 22 years, Hess has taught actors who work throughout the world on stage, television and film. He is no stranger to traveling internationally in the name of theatre. In 2011, Hess brought eight CCM Acting students and alumni to Kenya as part of the Dadaab Theatre Project. He returned to Kenya in 2014 as a Fulbright Scholar and spent a semester teaching and conducting research at Kenyatta University’s Department of Theatre Arts and Film Technology. In 2015, Hess brought six students and one faculty member from Kenyatta University to CCM so they could participate in the 48-Hour Film Festival.

Look for a Village News post later this week about Hess’ upcoming production of Middletown, running in Cohen Family Studio Theatre Oct. 20-22 as part of CCM’s Studio Acting Series. Admission is free but reservations are required. Tickets become available at noon on Monday, Oct. 17.

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