More than $160,000 awarded to this year’s contestants
This year’s event featured the presentation of the newly established “Rebecca Luker Award” for Outstanding Performance of a “Golden Age” selection
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music announced the winners of the 23rd annual Lotte Lenya Competition, which took place before an invitation-only audience at the Riverside Theatre in New York City on August 28. The $20,000 First Prize was awarded to Andrew Polec (USA, 32), who made each of his four selections a fully realized one-act drama. Victoria Okafor (USA, 26) won the $15,000 Second Prize, and Charles Eaton (USA, 30) and Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod (Israel, 33) each received the $10,000 Third Prize. Akselrod, a four-time finalist in the Competition, reminisced: “It’s not only singing, it’s not only acting, it’s everything! That’s why it’s one of my favorite competitions.” For the first time ever, an edited version of the Finals will be available free and on-demand to audiences worldwide beginning Friday, September 10 via OperaVision.
The fifteen finalists were culled from a record applicant pool of 500 entrants, hailing from 29 countries and 39 US states. Some finalists have already appeared on Broadway and London’s West End, and in some of the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera and Theater an der Wien. More than $160,000 was awarded, the most ever in a single year, bringing the total amount in the Competition’s history to more than $1.2 million.
The eminent jury for the Finals included director and Tony Award-winning actor Victoria Clark, Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn, and Obie Award-winning, Tony- and Emmy-nominated actor, Mary Beth Peil, who launched her multifaceted career as the winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Peil, a first-time judge for the Lenya Competition, spoke to the finalists at the awards ceremony: “I had no idea that I would need to bring a full box of Kleenex. You moved us, you made us laugh, you made us cry. Each of you in your own unique way is a winner.”
This year’s ceremony saw the first-ever presentation of the “Rebecca Luker Prize” for an outstanding performance of a “Golden Age” selection, following a celebratory video tribute to Luker, a six-time judge for the Competition, who succumbed to ALS in December 2020. Her husband, Danny Burstein, presented the award to Taylor-Alexis DuPont (USA, 30) for her performance of Irving Berlin’s “Supper Time” from As Thousands Cheer.
Rebekah Howell (USA, 29) earned the Kurt Weill Award — never given before — for an outstanding performance of two contrasting selections by Weill: “Wie lange noch?” and “What Good Would the Moon Be?” from Street Scene. Max Chernin (USA, 31) received the Carolyn Weber Award for outstanding creativity in the design of a diverse program and exceptional sensitivity to text/music relationship. Lys Symonette Awards for outstanding performance of a single number went to Katrina Galka (USA, 31) for “Caro nome” from Rigoletto and Kaileigh Shay Riess (USA, 26) for “Je suis encor tout étourdie” from Manon.
Each of the remaining finalists received $2,000: Ty Chiko (Bahamas, 32), Monica Dewey (USA, 31), Nicole Fernandez-Coffaro (USA, 28), Kaden Forsberg (Canada, 29), Helen Zhibing Huang (China, 31), and Katherine Riddle (USA, 30).
Each finalist performed a continuous fifteen-minute program of four contrasting numbers, including at least one by Kurt Weill. The event also featured seven former prizewinners singing selections from the Lotte Lenya Competition Songbook, launched in 2020. The entire performance and awards ceremony was live-streamed globally.
Applications open for the 2022 Lenya Competition on September 1, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.kwf.org/lotte-lenya-competition/.