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.