We are elated to report that CCM students Talya Lieberman and Reilly Nelson have been named as finalists for the 2016 Lotte Lenya Competition. They have been selected alongside 13 other young singer/actors and will take part in the final round of the competition on Saturday, April 16.
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 the 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.
Selected from 31 semifinalists, this year’s finalists represent a diverse range of performers, ages 21 to 31, from across the United States, Canada, Europe and Israel. All will sing repertoire from the operatic, golden age and contemporary musical stages, and of course, the music of Kurt Weill, for a chance win the top prize of $15,000.
Semifinalist judges, Tony Award-winners Jeanine Tesori and Victoria Clark, adjudicated and coached the performers. Clark, who first judged the competition in 2008, noted that “I can feel the leap in overall talent from when I last judged the semifinals.”
Kurt Weill Foundation President Kim Kowalke stated that “this year’s finalists are the largest and most diverse group in the Competition’s 19-year history, with contestants currently working on- and off-Broadway, in national touring companies, and in major regional theaters and opera companies. Many are well on their way to distinguished careers.”
The final round takes place April 16 at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Each finalist will present a 15 minute program of four selections in the daytime round, 11:00-4:00. An evening concert, in which contestants sing only a segment of their programs, follows at 8:00. The concert concludes with the announcement of awards and prizes. Both the daytime round and evening concert are free and open to the public.
All finalists receive 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. Total prizes will exceed $60,000.
Returning to judge for the tenth time, international opera legend Teresa Stratas leads the judges’ panel. The Lenya Competition remains the only vocal competition she has ever consented to adjudicate. Joining her on the jury are Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization President and former American Theater Wing Chairman Theodore S. Chapin (also returning for his tenth time), and Broadway (and Audra McDonald’s) music director, conductor and accompanist Andy Einhorn.
Past prize winners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera and concert stages around the world. Don’t miss the competition described by Opera News as “target[ing] 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.
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