The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music today announced streaming distribution plans for the final round of the 23rd annual Lotte Lenya Competition, the internationally renowned theatrical singing contest, which is set to take place before an invitation-only audience in New York City on Saturday, August 28, 2021. The performances and award ceremony will be streamed live on the Foundation’s website beginning at 11:00am EDT. For the first time ever, an edited version of the complete event will be available free and on-demand to worldwide audiences beginning Friday, September 10, 2021 via OperaVision, a leading media hub supported by the European Union’s Creative Europe program and under the editorial supervision of Opera Europa.
The record applicant pool of 500 entrants resulted in a remarkable collection of talent, with some of this year’s finalists having already appeared on premier stages across the globe, including London’s West End and the Metropolitan Opera. Kim H. Kowalke, Foundation President and Founder of the Lotte Lenya Competition, remarks: “With theaters and opera houses darkened around the globe, a large number of working professionals were able to enter the Lenya Competition for the first time. The resulting pool was double the norm. Competition for the fifteen finalist slots was fierce, and I predict that the Finals will be hard-fought and at the highest level in the Competition’s 23-year history.”
The three-person jury for the finals includes Tony Award-winning actress, singer, and director Victoria Clark, renowned Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn, and Obie Award-winning actress and singer, Mary Beth Peil, who launched her multifaceted career as the winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Each finalist will perform a continuous fifteen-minute program of four contrasting numbers, including one by Kurt Weill. The streaming event will present each contestant’s complete performance, as well as the award ceremony. The ceremony will for the first time feature a presentation of representative songs from the new Lotte Lenya Competition Songbook, which was launched in 2020.
This year’s ceremony will also feature the presentation of the inaugural “Rebecca Luker Prize,” a new annual award given for outstanding performance at the Finals of a song from the Golden Age of musical theater. Luker, who passed away in 2020 due to complications of ALS, was a six-time judge of the Competition.
The 2021 Competition drew applicants from 29 countries and 39 US states. In the semifinal round, thirty-one contestants auditioned via video submission and received coaching remotely from Broadway and opera star Lisa Vroman, Broadway mainstay Analisa Leaming and opera and musical theater globetrotter Zachary James. Leaming and James took home top prizes in the Lenya Competition themselves in 2007 and 2009, respectively. They are the first past prizewinners to return to judge a round of the Lenya Competition.
The finalist performers for the 2021 Competition are as follows:
Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod (Israel, 33)
Max Chernin (USA, 31)
Ty Chiko (Bahamas, 32)
Monica Dewey (USA, 31)
Taylor-Alexis DuPont (USA, 30)
Charles Eaton (USA, 30)
Nicole Fernandez-Coffaro (USA, 28)
Kaden Forsberg (Canada, 29)
Katrina Galka (USA, 31)
Rebekah Howell (USA, 30)
Helen Zhibing Huang (China, 31)
Victoria Okafor (USA, 25)
Andrew Polec (USA, 32)
Katherine Riddle (USA, 30)
Kaileigh Riess (USA, 26)
Additionally, two alternate finalists were named: Julie Benko (USA, 32) and Sacha Smith (Canada, 26).