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2015 Lenya Competition Semi-Finalists Announced

Next Round of Auditions Set for 13-14 March

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Twenty-eight talented young singer-actors from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have been invited to compete in the Semi-Finals of the 2015 Lotte Lenya Competition on March 13 and 14 in New York City. Semi-Finalists will perform their entire programs for adjudicator/coaches Judy Blazer and Andy Einhorn and then receive immediate feedback in a coaching session. The 2015 Semi-Finalists are:

Following the preliminary round, in which contestants from 16 countries and five continents auditioned by video submission or live in New York, the Kurt Weill Foundation presented Emerging Talent Awards to Alicia Ault (Mississauga, Ontario), Alaysha Fox (Charlotte, NC), Theo Hoffman (New York), Noel Houle-von Behren (Fort Collins, CO), Arica Jackson (Grand Rapids, MI), Julian Kazenas (Orlando, FL), Jennifer Kennedy (Gorham, ME), Christian Magby (Atlanta, GA), Ben Odom (Vienna, VA), Jameelah Leaundra Robinson (Indianapolis, IN), and Bill Townsend (Princeton, NJ). The Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Promise went to mezzo-soprano Lesley Baird of Los Angeles.

Now in its eighteenth year, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes exceptionally talented young singer/actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire, from opera and operetta to contemporary Broadway musicals, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill. The Competition grants over $50,000 in prizes each year, and previous winners have gone on to forge prominent careers in opera houses and on Broadway.

Semi-Finals Judges' Bios

Judy Blazer: Judith "Judy" Blazer is a celebrated and respected actor, singer, teacher, and voice coach. She began her career as a singer in opera, oratorio, and recital in New York City and throughout Italy. She moved into Broadway theater with leading roles in Me and My Girl (Sally), A Change in the Heir (Prince Conrad), Titanic (Lady Caroline), Neil Simon's 45 Seconds from Broadway (Cindy) and LoveMusik (Brecht's mistress) directed by Hal Prince and featuring the music of Kurt Weill. Judy received a Drama Desk nomination for her portrayal of the Nurse in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Hello Again.

Off-Broadway, she has appeared in Candide (the Old Lady) and Sweeney Todd (the Beggar Woman) with the New York City Opera, The House of Bernarda Alba (Magdalena) for the Lincoln Center Theater, The Torch Bearers (Florence) for the Drama Department, Richard Greenberg's Hurrah at Last (Gia) at the Roundabout Theater, and the New York City Center Encores! production of A Connecticut Yankee (Alice/Sandy) among others. In demand by regional theater companies coast-to-coast, the actress has appeared in leading roles at theaters including: Long Wharf Theater (Maria in Twelfth Night), McCarter Theater (title role in The Night Governess), Paper Mill Playhouse (title role in My Fair Lady and Maria Merelli in Lend Me a Tenor), Signature Theater (VA) (Luz in Giant), and the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle (title role in My Fair Lady). She also performed a solo piece for Primary Stage's Inner Voices series, David Simpatico and Josh Schmidt's Whida Peru: Resurrection Tangle, directed by Jonathan Butterell.

Judy has sung at the Metropolitan Opera as a soloist in Twyla Tharp's Everlast with the American Ballet Theater and has performed in concert at Lincoln Center and the Public Theater in New York. For over a decade, Judy Blazer has performed as Bessie Thomashefsky in Michael Tilson Thomas's touring concert documentary The Thomashefskys, which has been performed with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Symphony, the New World Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony. The Thomashefskys was telecast nationwide on PBS' Great Performances in 2012. Other PBS specials in which she appeared include Leonard Bernstein's New York, and In Performance at the White House.

Miss Blazer has created voice characterizations and sung on a number of animated films including Anastasia, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, and Buster and Chauncey's Silent Night. She also played the major role of Chris in Shelly Silver's critically acclaimed 1989 art film, The Houses that Are Left. Her discography includes over twenty recordings. She was a regular cast member on As the World Turns (Ariel) and The Guiding Light (Marissa), and has also been seen on several episodes of Law and Order.

As a co-founder and Artistic Director of the Artist's Crossing Theatre Company and School in New York--as well as through her private voice studio--she has mentored scores of young singers and actors making their way into the world of professional theater and performance. The bi-lingual artist wrote the Italian lyrics to Fabrizio's song in Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza as well as finalizing all the Italian dialogue in the published book and lyrics. She has taught master classes in universities and conservatories on both sides of the Atlantic and is the recipient of the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award from her alma mater, the Manhattan School of Music (MSM).

Andy Einhorn: Andy Einhorn boasts Broadway credits for Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (Original Broadway Cast Recording), Evita (OBCR), Brief Encounter, The Light in the Piazza, and Sondheim on Sondheim (OBCR, Grammy-nominated). He most recently served as the music director and conductor for the Broadway production of Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway (OBCR).

His tour work includes Sweeney Todd, The Light in the Piazza, Mamma Mia!, and The Lion King. Einhorn has worked at Goodspeed Opera House, Signature Theatre (VA), Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Paper Mill Playhouse. He was principal vocal coach and pianist for Houston Grand Opera's An Evening with Audra McDonald, a double-bill of Poulenc's La voix humaine and LaChiusa's Send.

Einhorn has served as music director and pianist for Audra McDonald since fall of 2011, performing with her at many venues including the Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Opera, Avery Fisher Hall, and Carnegie Hall. Highlights of his 2014-2015 season engagements with Ms. McDonald include concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Teatro Real in Madrid. He has also music directed for Barbara Cook at Feinstein's and Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music.

Other cast albums include Stage Door Canteen and Audra McDonald's newest release, Go Back Home. He served as the music director for HBO's Peabody Award winning documentary Six by Sondheim and music supervisor for Great Performances Peabody Award winning special Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy on PBS.

Andy Einhorn is an honors graduate of The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Semi-Finalists' Bios:

Stephanie Bacastow: A soprano from Cumming, Georgia, Stephanie holds several regional and statewide awards as "Best Actress" for performances in productions ranging from Everyman to The Lion in Winter. Recent roles include Jane in Tarzan and Louisa in The Fantasticks. She will complete her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance at the University of Georgia in 2016.

Robin Bailey: The tenor hails from the United Kingdom where he recently performed Rodolpho in the Olivier Award-winning OperaUpClose production of La bohème, Tony in West Side Story and Nanki-Poo in The Mikado. Robin completed his Bachelor of Music degree at the Royal Academy of Music and is working toward a Masters of Music/Opera at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Andrea Carroll: First Prize winner in the Eleanor McCollum Competition at the Houston Grand Opera, the soprano appeared with Seattle Opera, Utah Opera, and Washington National Opera in roles ranging from Leila in Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de perles to Rosalba in Catan's Florencia en el Amazonas. The Maryland native is currently a member of the Wiener Staatsoper. Musical Theater highlights include Julie Jordan in Glimmerglass Festival's Carousel and Anne Egerman in HGO's A Little Night Music. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Andrea is an alumna of the HGO Studio.

Kellie Cundiff: Originally from Bloomington/Normal, Illinois, Kellie calls Chicago her home and has become a fixture in the theater scene there, appearing in many Jefferson-nominated productions in the area's most respected theaters, including Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, Drury Lane Theatre, Theatre at the Center, and Fox Valley Repertory Theatre. Her recent roles include Mabel in Pirates of Penzance at Cohoes Music Hall in New York, Franca in The Light in the Piazza at Mad Cow Theatre in Orlando, Cinderella in Into The Woods and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte at Opera in the Ozarks. The Louisiana State University alumna was also a featured artist in A Kurt Weill Cabaret at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre this past fall and has toured internationally in her one-woman show The Sounds of Broadway.

Jordan Davidson: The 2012 First Prize winner in Syracuse's Civic Morning Musicals Competition just completed a term as a Young Artist at Utah Festival Opera and was also a 2013 Studio Artist at Saratoga Opera. While a 2011 College Light Opera Resident Artist, the tenor appeared in On the Twentieth Century, Oklahoma!, and Kiss Me, Kate. A graduate of the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, the New Yorker is continuing his studies toward a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance at James Madison University.

Robert Farruggia: A resident of New City, NY--Kurt Weill's residence in the USA--Robert was a member of the Les Misérables Ensemble on Broadway. Off-Broadway he created the role of Quesada in Eric Vitale's original workshop of Immortal Journey in The Beckett Theater at Theatre Row. His regional credits include appearances in Forever Plaid, Godspell, and as Tobias in Sweeney Todd and as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. Overseas the tenor performed Schlomo Metzenbaum in Fame at the Macau International Music Festival.

Adam Fieldson: The Nebraskan's credits include performances as Nicely Nicely in Guys and Dolls and Galahad in A Connecticut Yankee at Ohio Light Opera Company, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus at New York Opera Exchange and Jack in Into the Woods at Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre. The tenor holds both a Bachelors and Masters of Music from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he performed the title role of Candide and Romeo in Roméo et Juliette in UNL productions.

Hannah Fuerst: The soprano has made a specialty of contemporary opera and concert works with recent appearances in American Opera Projects' Harriet Tubman and The Judgement of Midas, Encompass New Opera Theatre's The Theory of Everything, and a concert appearance with NYC's Institute and Festival for Contemporary Performance performing Schoenberg's Herzgewachse and Peter Maxwell Davies' Miss Donnithorne's Maggot. An alumna of Manhattan School of Music, Hannah has both Bachelor and Masters degrees in Classical Voice Performance. The New Yorker also performed Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro with the Aspen Opera Theatre Center in 2010.

Briana Silvie Gantsweg: Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Briana now calls Brooklyn home. The soprano is a recent graduate of UCLA, where she performed Lillian Holiday in Weill's Happy End, L'enfant in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges, and Valletto in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. At the Interlochen Arts Academy, she performed Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical: The Musical and Meg March in Little Women the Broadway Musical. Briana can be heard on video games, musical, and soundtrack recordings for Sony Music Entertainment Japan, Hal Leonard, MTI Broadway Jr., Skywalker Sound, and Universal Pictures.

Tamar Greene: The Rochester native made his Broadway National Tour debut in the Tony Award-winning production of The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess. Regional theater credits include his current role of Booker T. Washington in Ragtime at Bristol Riverside Theatre, Collins in Rent at Blackfriars Theatre, the title role in The Wiz with OFC Creations, Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors at RAPA's East End Theater and Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in Marcia Milgrom Dodge's production of Ragtime (PA). His New York Philharmonic debut, as Charlie in Show Boat, will be telecast nationwide on PBS. Tamar holds a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from SUNY Oswego.

Jasmine Habersham returns to the Glimmerglass Festival this summer as Papagena in The Magic Flute. A member of the Glimmerglass Young Artist program in 2014, she also received the Central City Opera Guild Young Artist Award the previous year. The soprano holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she has appeared as Norina in Don Pasquale, Mrs. Julian in Owen Wingrave and Pearl in Ricky Ian Gordon's Morning Star. The Georgian is a graduate of Shorter University with a Bachelor of Music degree and is currently working toward her Artist Diploma at CCM.

Anthony Heinemann: The tenor from the "Show Me State" is a graduate of St. Louis University (Bachelor of Music – Vocal Performance) and Washington University (Master of Music – Vocal Performance). His operatic roles include Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore and the title role in Albert Herring, which he performed while a graduate student. Upcoming opera engagements include the title role in The Impresario with Gateway Opera and Borsa in Rigoletto with Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis. Currently a Young Artist with the Bach Society of St. Louis, he recently performed as soloist in Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ with the First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, MO.

Michael Kuhn: The tenor has held young artist positions with Central City Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Virginia Opera. Recent credits include Tobias in Sweeney Todd, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Remendado in Carmen and Scaramuccio in Ariadne auf Naxos. Upcoming engagements include Lucrezia Borgia with LoftOpera and a return to Central City as Padre in Man of La Mancha, Younger Son in The Prodigal Son and Sancho in the rarely-performed Don Quichotte chez la Duchesse. A native of Maryland, Michael completed a Bachelor of Music cum laude at Syracuse University and a Masters of Music degree with honors at New England Conservatory.

Talya Lieberman: An alumna of San Francisco's 2014 Merola Opera Program, Talya Lieberman returns this spring to the San Francisco Opera Center to make her debut as part of the Schwabacher Debut Recital series. This summer she will perform Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro at Wolf Trap Opera. While pursuing her Artist Diploma at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Italo Tajo Award recipient performed Gretel in Hansel and Gretel. She anticipates her first professional opera engagement in 2016 when she will perform Musetta in La bohème at Opera Columbus. In addition to her vocal studies, Talya completed a Master of Music degree in Trumpet Performance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and a Bachelor of Arts degree with Highest Distinction in Linguistics at Duke University. Born in New York, Talya now calls Ohio home.

Carter Lynch: A leading artist at College Light Opera Company, Carter has performed Tommy in Brigadoon, Giuseppe in The Most Happy Fella, Bill Snibson in Me and My Girl, Mr. Andrews in Titanic and the title role(s) in Jekyll & Hyde. In demand for Gilbert & Sullivan productions, Carter has performed Frederic in Pirates of Penzance at New York's Symphony Space and Richard Dauntless in Ruddigore at the 2014 G&S Festival in Harrogate, England. The Maryland native is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he majored in Dramatic Arts with minors in Music and History. Upon graduation, Carter joined the National Tour of Beauty and the Beast covering the roles of the Beast and Gaston and performing both roles on numerous occasions. Carter Lynch was a Finalist in the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition.

Michael Maliakel: The First Place Winner of the 2014 National Music Theatre Competition appeared on the musical theatre stage as Roger in A New Brain, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls and Man 2 in Songs for a New World. While an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins – Peabody Institute of Music, the baritone appeared in productions of Postcard from Morocco, Manon, L'enfant et les sortilèges, and Les mamelles de Tirésias. The New Jersey native also performed Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Bethesda Summer Music Festival and as the baritone in Phillip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox with the American Opera Theatre at Georgetown University.

Larisa Martinez: The soprano has performed a wide range of repertoire with the Puerto Rican Symphony Orchestra; from Mahler's Symphony No. 4 to Bernstein's Songfest. A recent graduate of Mannes, The New School for Music with a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance, Larisa performed Corinna in Il viaggio a Reims, as well as scenes from I Capuletti e I Montecchi (role of Giulietta) and Rigoletto (role of Gilda) while a graduate student. The native of Puerto Rico also performed Adina in L'elisir d'amore and Norina in Don Pasquale while enrolled in the Professional Studies in Voice Performance program of the Puerto Rico Music Conservatory. Larisa has appeared on Medici TV and was heard on a WQXR radio broadcast in a program with violinist Joshua Bell.

Lauren Michelle: A Finalist in the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition, Lauren will make her Carnegie Hall debut this spring performing in the US Premiere of Kurt Weill's The Road of Promise with The Collegiate Chorale. A graduate of both The Juilliard School and UCLA, the soprano has appeared internationally as Musetta in La bohème in Tel Aviv, Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Banff Center in Canada, and both Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi at Teatro Romano di Fiesole and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte at Teatro Malibran in Italy. As a participant in the Britten-Pears Programme, Lauren performed at Aldeburgh Music in England. The Californian is honored to represent the United States in the 2015 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World contest.

Reilly Nelson: Born in the coastal town of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Canada, Reilly Nelson attended the Eastman School of Music where she received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she completed a Master of Music in Vocal Performance. At CCM she performed Hansel in Hansel and Gretel and Mary in Ricky Ian Gordon's Morning Star. She also performed Hansel, as well as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro at Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Center. The mezzo-soprano was a vocal fellow at Tanglewood in summers 2013 and 2014, performing Les nuits d'été, Op. 7 and Folk Songs by Bernard Rands.

Christina Pecce: As a Young Artist at Seagle Music Colony for the past two summers, Christina was cast in a wide range of roles, from Anita in West Side Story to Tatiana in Eugene Onegin. During her undergraduate years as a Presidential Scholar at Hofstra University, she added Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and Poppea in L'incoronazione di Poppea to her repertoire. While pursuing her Master of Music in Opera Performance at The Boston Conservatory, the soprano performed Anne Sexton in Susa's Transformations, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and Concepción in L'heure espagnole. Upcoming performances include Armida in Handel's Rinaldo with Boston Opera Collaborative in her native Massachusetts. A versatile artist, Christina is also a vocalist in the country-western folk band Keith Kusterer and The Goods.

Florian Peters: Born in the German Rhineland, Florian studied at the Bayerische Theaterakademie August Everding in Munich, receiving the equivalent of a master's degree in Music Theater. He has performed the role of Mark in Rent in Berlin, Claude in Hair at Theater Trier and at the Nordharzer Stadtebundtheater, and Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich. He is currently performing Chevalier d’Danceny in a new musical version of Dangerous Liaisons in Munich. The versatile tenor has also performed Egon von Wildehagen in the operetta Der Vetter aus Dingsda in Berlin and created the role of Nahino in the opera Der Flaschengeist by Wilfried Hiller for the Munich world premiere.

Zachary Read: A member of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program at Vancouver Opera, Zachary has a wide range of repertoire assignments: performing Jonas Fogg in Sweeney Todd while covering Sweeney, performing Ivan in Die Fledermaus while covering Falke, and performing Moralès in Carmen while covering Escamillo. The baritone has a Bachelor of Music degree with honors in Voice Performance from the University of Western Ontario and a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance from the University of Toronto, where he was the recipient of the Richard Bradshaw Fellowship in Opera. While a graduate student, the Nova Scotia native added many core roles to his repertoire including: Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Sid in Albert Herring, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Belcore in L'elisir d'amore.

Katherine Riddle: With her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance Magna Cum Laude from American University, Katherine is an in-demand singer/actor around the Capitol Beltway. The soprano performed Sarah Brown in Rockville (MD) Musical Theatre's production of Guys and Dolls, and both Liesl in The Sound of Music and Fredericka in A Little Night Music with Live Arts Maryland. Weathervane Playhouse audiences enjoyed her performances as Laurey in Oklahoma! and Cosette in Les Misérables. The Annapolis native is also a frequent guest artist with the Fairfax Symphony in Virginia and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

Jim Schubin: A finalist in the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition, Jim Schubin appeared as The Boy in the long-running production of The Fantasticks at the Snapple Theatre in NYC. Originally from Colorado Springs, he performed the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Freddie in Chess, and Rusty Charlie in Guys and Dolls with Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Since moving east, he has appeared as The Courier in 1776 at the Cape Playhouse and The Intruder in See How They Run at Barrington Stage. With West Virginia Public Theatre, he performed Jesus in Godspell. Jim holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater from Emerson College.

Annie Sherman: Born in Maryland, Annie headed west for her training and to launch her performing career. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music at Stanford, receiving a Golden Medal for Excellence. While an undergraduate, the soprano performed the leading role of the Boy in Kurt Weill's Der Jasager, as well as Luisa in The Fantasticks, Cathy in The Last Five Years, and Maxine in the world premiere of Giancarlo Aquilanti's Oxford Companions. In 2013 she also performed the title role of Poppea in L'incoronazione di Poppea with Opera NEO. Crown City Theatre's production of Cabaret, in which the actress played Frenchie, received an Eddon Award for "The Best in LA Theatre for 2014." Currently at UCLA completing her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance, the soprano was the winner of the UCLA Concerto Competition performing Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915. This spring she performed Inez in the West Coast premiere of I due Figaro at UCLA.

Christine Cornish Smith: A graduate of University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Music Theater, Christine performed Polly Peachum in Robin Guarino's production of The Threepenny Opera which was part of a year-long Kurt Weill Festival on campus. She also performed the Stepmother and covered the Witch in Into the Woods, and appeared in Oklahoma! and Anything Goes. Upon graduation, she performed Reuben's Wife in the National Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Christine is currently performing in Guys and Dolls at the Goodspeed Opera House (CT). The soprano made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in the Ensemble of Oklahoma! In her native Texas, she made her Lyric Stage debut as Cutie in Fiorello! and performed as a Hot Box Girl in Guys and Dolls at Water Tower Theatre. She has also performed as principal dancer with the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet. Christine was a recipient of an Emerging Talent Award in the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition.

Kyle Torrence: Since graduating from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, the baritone has performed Njegus in two productions of The Merry Widow (Cape Cod Opera and Simsbury Light Opera), Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance at Salisbury Light Opera Company, and was featured as Mary Sunshine in the Lees-McRae Summer Theatre production of Chicago. At College Light Opera Company, the Maryland native performed Gerald in Me and My Girl, Etches in Titanic, and Mr. Proops in Jekyll & Hyde. Professional operatic appearances included Hadji in Lakmé, Trio Baritone in Trouble in Tahiti, and Toby in The Medium with Connecticut Concert Opera, as well as Prince Yamadori with Commonwealth Opera.

Pien Van Gerven: The Dutch soprano has performed leading roles in National Tours of Oklahoma! (Laurey), The Secret Garden (Lily), and The Sound of Music (Louisa). Pien performed Maria in West Side Story at De Nieuwe Vorst Theatre. She also toured with Opera Zuid in Bizet's Carmen. Pien holds both a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in Music Theatre from the Fontys School of Fine and Performing Arts in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

 


Originally posted: 25 February 2015
Last updated: 26 February 2015