As the 20th annual Lotte Lenya Competition beckons, a host of past prizewinners are hitting new heights.
In March 2017, seven LLC prizewinners are appearing in Broadway shows: Analisa Leaming (Second Prize, 2007) in Hello, Dolly!, Jacob Keith Watson (Second Prize, 2012) in Amelie, and Erik Liberman (Second Prize, 2005) in War Paint, all opening this month. They join Doug Carpenter (First Prize, 2013) in Beautiful, Richard Todd Adams (top prize, 2004) in Cats, Amy Justman (top prize, 2004) in In Transit, and Kyle Barisich (Second Prize, 2002) in Phantom of the Opera. In other New York theater news: Timothy McDevitt (Lys Symonette Award, 2010) performs in The New Yorkers at Encores! in March 2017, hard on the heels of Lauren Worsham (Second Prize, 2009) and Kyle Scatliffe (Lys Symonette Award, 2010) in Big River, 8-12 February. Brian Charles Rooney (Lys Symonette Award, 2007) appeared in Berlin to Broadway in the York Theatre Company’s “Musicals in Mufti” series, 11-19 February.
Rebecca Jo Loeb (First Prize, 2008) made her Metropolitan Opera debut on 24 February as Flora Bervoix in La traviata, which runs through 14 April. Megan Marino (Third Prize, 2012) just finished a run as the 2nd Wood Nymph in Rusalka, also at the Met. Brian Vu (First Prize, 2016) received great critical acclaim last month for his performance as “Hannah Before” in the new chamber opera As One at Pittsburgh Opera. Taylor Raven, a 2017 Semifinalist, plays opposite Vu as “Hannah After.” Talya Lieberman (Third Prize, 2016), currently a Studio Artist at the Komische Oper Berlin, sings the role of Papagena in Die Zauberflöte in May. Matthew Grills (First Prize, 2012) is Pedrillo in Bayerische Staatsoper’s production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, March 2017. Rodell Rosel (Second Prize, 2006) is Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte with Seattle Opera, May 2017. Following his widely praised performance as Stephen Kumalo in Lost in the Stars with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which also featured Lauren Michelle (First Prize, 2015), Justin Hopkins (Second Prize, 2012) returns to LACO as the bass soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for two performances in April. Brian Mulligan, top prize-winner at the very first Lotte Lenya Competition in 1998, performs the role of Golaud in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande with Oper Frankfurt in March and April. Briana Elyse Hunter (Lys Symonette Award, 2014) is Jo in Mark Adamo’s Little Women at Michigan Opera Theatre in March.
Two past winners are immortalized on freshly minted Grammy-winning recordings: The Ghosts of Versailles, featuring Lucas Meachem (Lys Symonette Award, 2002), won for Best Opera Recording and Best Engineered Recording; and The Color Purple, with Kyle Scatliffe, for Best Musical Theater Recording.
Natalie Ballenger (Third Prize, 2014) is Rosalia in the world tour of West Side Story. Maria Failla (Lys Symonette Award, 2012) is traveling with the Sound of Music national tour. Katie Travis (Lys Symonette Award, 2014) continues her long run as Christine Daaé in Phantom of the Opera‘s North American tour, a cast which also includes 2017 semifinalist Travis Taylor.
It’s hardly surprising that so many prizewinners are doing so well when you look at the achievements of Competition judges, past and present. Two first-time judges will hear the finals of this year’s Competition. Renowned director Anne Bogart brings diverse theatrical and operatic credits to the jury. In January 2017, she directed the highly acclaimed Lost in the Stars with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Tony Award-winning actor Shuler Hensley also joins the panel for the first time this year. 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 Jud Fry in Oklahoma! His credits also include a long list of off-Broadway, international, regional, television, and film projects. Bogart and Hensley join veteran judge Rob Berman, who returns to the Competition for a seventh time. Berman has most recently been seen on Broadway as music director for Bright Star and Dames at Sea; he is music director for the popular Encores! series at New York City Center.
Meanwhile, former judges are staying busy as well. Victoria Clark and Judy Kaye star in the new musical Sousatzka, currently running in Toronto and getting ready to transfer to Broadway in October 2017. See footage from their first day of rehearsal here. Jeanine Tesori contributed four original songs to the 2016 Netflix mini-series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Andy Einhorn serves as music director for the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! Patricia Racette embodies the title character in Strauss’s Salome on four stages this season: Metropolitan Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and in concert with the Minnesota Orchestra. She returns to the Met in May to sing the role of Roxane in Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac. James Holmes is preparing to conduct the Welsh National Opera’s Kiss Me, Kate.
Such breadth and depth of accomplishment among contestants and judges testifies to the Competition’s success in discovering and nurturing the next generation of “total-package” theatrical performers. Many 2017 semifinalists are already working professionals acting in national tours or participating in prestigious young artist programs–forging ahead to top-flight careers. The Competition’s standards continue to rise as the level of talent increases by leaps and bounds, giving judges more to work with and audiences more to enjoy. Congratulations to all our past winners, and best of luck to this year’s competitors!