Fifteen young artists selected as finalists.
International opera star Teresa Stratas to lead all-star judges’ panel.
Top prize is $15,000;
total prizes will exceed $60,000.

March 30, 2016: We regret to announce that Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod (28, Tel Aviv, Israel) will not be able to participate in the finals.

March 15, 2016: Fifteen young singer/actors have been named as finalists for the 2016 Lotte Lenya Competition. Selected from thirty-one 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.

Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod (28, Tel Aviv, Israel)
Curtis Bannister (30, Green Bay, WI)
Erika Cockerham (31, St. Louis, MO)
Talya Lieberman (31, Forest Hills, NY)
Reilly Nelson (26, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada)
Lindsay O’Neil (30, New York, NY)
Eric Parker (24, Los Angeles, CA)
Tony Potts (23, Fargo, ND)
Tom Schimon (31, Vienna, Austria)
Jim Schubin (26, Plainsboro, NJ)
Briana Silvie (24, San Rafael, CA)
Bradley Smoak (31, Cary, NC)
Brian Vu (26, Los Angeles, CA)
Dennis Wees (21, Dallas, TX)
Kayla Wilkens (25, Salem, OR)

2016 Lotte Lenya Competition finalists


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 fifteen 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.”


If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Elizabeth Blaufox at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 x210 or