Jesse Leong. Photo by Nicholas Viltrakis Photography.

CCM Alumnus Jesse Leong Named Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellow

The Kurt Weill Foundation recently announced the appointment of CCM alumnus Jesse Leong (BM Piano, 2015; MM Orchestral Conducting, 2017) as the recipient of the Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellowship. Established in 2015 to honor Rudel’s extraordinary artistic achievements and dedication to the music of Kurt Weill, this award enables a young conductor in the early stages of a career to assist a master conductor in the preparation and performance of a work by Weill or Marc Blitzstein and expand his or her knowledge of their works. The fellowship carries a stipend of $10,000.

Jesse Leong. Photo by Nicholas Viltrakis Photography.

Jesse Leong. Photo by Nicholas Viltrakis Photography.

Leong will serve as assistant conductor to Fellowship Mentor Ted Sperling, Artistic Director of MasterVoices, for that organization’s presentation of Weill’s Lady in the Dark in April 2019 at New York City Center. Leong, age 26, completed his Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance and Master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting at CCM. He has worked as assistant conductor at Cincinnati Opera, and the Glimmerglass Festival; Interim Music Director at CCM Opera d’Arte; and currently holds the post of Associate Music Director at Queen City Opera in Cincinnati. His repertoire spans the standard operatic canon, as well as new works, and works of Golden Age and contemporary musical theater.

“I am thrilled and honored to be selected as a Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellow,” said Leong. “I look forward to working with Maestro Ted Sperling, Victoria Clark, and everyone at both MasterVoices and the Kurt Weill Foundation! Coming from a Broadway family myself (my father is a fight choreographer, and my stepmom is a dancer/choreographer), I have always had a love and affinity for music theater.” As a passionate proponent of American music, he also plans to present several recitals this year focusing on the music of “crossover” composers, including Gershwin, Bernstein, Sondheim, Bolcom, Weill and Blitzstein.

Sperling, sharing in Leong’s enthusiasm, said, “We at MasterVoices are thrilled and grateful to be working with Jesse Leong. With his background in both opera and musical theater, he is a perfect fit for this position. Jesse will play piano for all cast rehearsals, and be a standby for me as conductor when we move into dress rehearsals and performances. As I’m both directing and conducting these performances, it’s crucial to have someone I trust to listen and watch for me, as well as to step in and conduct rehearsals so I can take a longer view.”

Sperling is a long-time proponent of Weill’s music. As Artistic Director of MasterVoices, he has directed concert performances of Knickerbocker Holiday and conducted The Firebrand of Florence. In 2015, he conducted the US premiere and world premiere recording of The Road of Promise. He has also previously served as a judge of the Lotte Lenya Competition. His history with Lady in the Dark dates back to 2001 when he directed the Prince Music Theatre production in Philadelphia. He returns to the work now 18 years later, in a new semi-staged concert version featuring choreography by Doug Varone, and starring Tony Award-winning theater, film, and television actor and director Victoria Clark as Liza Elliott. Sperling described the performances: “Our presentation of Lady is turning out to be quite ambitious. Our collaborations with Doug Varone and Dancers, as well as our incredible design team (which include contributions from couture designers Zac Posen, Christian Cowan and Thom Browne) are yielding very exciting results—this will be a one-of-a-kind event.”

Lady in the Dark will have two performances on April 25 and 26 at New York City Center, as part of its landmark 75th anniversary season. For more information, visit www.mastervoices.org and www.nycitycenter.org.

About The Kurt Weill Foundation
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc. (https://www.kwf.org/) is dedicated to promoting understanding of the life and works of composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) 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.

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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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Cincinnati Enquirer Previews CCM’s Kurt Weill Festival

This weekend, the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Jackie Demaline provided an early look at CCM’s yearlong Kurt Weill Festival. You can read her preview here.

The festival resumes next month with a Mainstage production of Kurt Weill, Langston Hughes and Elmer Rice’s great American opera Street Scene, conducted by Mark Gibson with stage direction by Steven Goldstein. Street Scene runs Nov. 15 – 18 in UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater.

Visit CCM’s official Facebook page for a behind-the-scenes look at the production!

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CCM’s Resident Kurt Weill Expert Featured in New York Times

Railroads on Parade Program Cover

CCM’s resident Kurt Weill scholar, Associate Professor of Musicology bruce mcclung, was quoted in an Oct. 21 New York Times article on the discovery of a previously unknown recording of Weill’s “Railroads on Parade” composition from the 1939 World Fair.

Record collector Guy Walker discovered the recordings in 2007 and plans to release the music on CD this month, with liner notes by mcclung. Read the full New York Times article here.

CCM’s yearlong Kurt Weill Festival kicked-off earlier this month. You can learn more about that unprecedented series of events here.

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CCM Celebrates Iconic Composer Kurt Weill With Yearlong Festival

Theatre composer Kurt Weill in New City, ca. 1945 (photo: Engel). Image courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.

Theatre composer Kurt Weill in New City, ca. 1945 (photo: Engel). Image courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.

Beginning this month, CCM will celebrate the iconic work and enduring legacy of composer Kurt Weill with an unprecedented series of events. Opening on Friday, Oct. 19, and running through Tuesday, March 12, CCM’s Kurt Weill Festival will incorporate the renowned theatre composer into a broad range of both public performances and classroom exercises.

Perhaps best known for The Threepenny Opera and its opening ballad, “Mack the Knife,” Weill’s work has been championed by performers as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Nina Simone, The Doors, Judy Collins, Teresa Stratas, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Todd Rundgren, Tom Waits, Lou Reed and Sting.

CCM’s yearlong Kurt Weill Festival will include Mainstage opera and musical theatre productions, cabaret performances, collaborative concerts, master classes and more. Funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, CCM has never before hosted a festival of this magnitude.

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