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2011 Lotte Lenya Competition Finalists Announced

12 Rising Stars to Compete for Top Prizes; Luker, Berman & Chapin Will Judge

March 15, 2011: Twelve exceptionally talented young singer-actors from the United States, United Kingdom and China have been selected to compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500 in the finals of the 2011 Lotte Lenya Competition, to be held on April 16, 2011, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Judges for this year's finals will be singer-actress and three-time Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker, Broadway and Encores! music director Rob Berman, and Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization president and Chairman of the Board of the American Theater Wing, Theodore S. Chapin.

Held annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes talented young singer-actors, aged 19-30, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire, and emphasizes the acting of songs within a dramatic context.

For the 2011 competition, contestants were required to prepare four selections: an aria from the opera or operetta repertoire; two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one pre-1968 and one from 1968 or later); and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya's husband and one of the most versatile and influential theater composers of the 20th century (The Threepenny Opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Lady in the Dark, Street Scene). Finalists were selected from a group of thirty semi-finalists who auditioned on March 11-12 in New York City for adjudicator/coaches David Loud, Carolyn Marlow and Vicki Shaghoian.

The 2011 finalists are:

  • Alisa Suzanne Jordheim, soprano (Appleton, WI)
  • Matt Leisy, tenor (New York, NY)
  • Jing Lin, soprano (Putian, China)
  • Caitlin Mathes, mezzo-soprano (Dayville, CT)
  • Chris Pinnella, bari-tenor (Brielle, NJ)
  • Daniel Schwait, baritone (Baltimore, MD)
  • Emma Sewell, soprano (London, England)
  • Jacob Lewis Smith, bass/baritone (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
  • Peabody Southwell, mezzo-soprano (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Trevor Strader, tenor (Queensbury, NY)
  • John Viscardi, tenor (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Jorell Williams, baritone (Brentwood, NY)

For the finals, the twelve finalists will perform their entire programs for the judges on April 16 from 11 am to 3 pm at the Eastman School of Music. At 8 pm, the competition will culminate with an evening concert featuring all of the finalists, followed by the announcement of the winners. Both the daytime finals and evening concert are free and open to the public, and will take place in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, 26 Gibbs Street, Rochester, New York.

The Kurt Weill Foundation will award special prizes at the finals in addition to the top prizes, and has already presented Emerging Talent Awards to five impressive young singer-actors who competed in the semi-finals: Natalie Ballenger, soprano (Santa Cruz, CA); Samantha Helmstetter, soprano (Fairborn, OH); Nathan Lucrezio, tenor (Union City, NJ); Kevin Russell Rose, tenor (Sarasota, FL); and Cecelia Ticktin, soprano (Roosevelt, NJ).

Additionally, the Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Promise was awarded to Amber Opheim, soprano, of Columbia, SC. The award honors singer-actress Grace Keagy (1921-2009), a great supporter and past judge for the competition who played Mrs. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera on several occasions and the Widow Begbick in the Yale Repertory Theatre's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.


The Lotte Lenya Competition, an annual international theater singing competition held by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, honors the legacy of legendary singer/actress Lotte Lenya (1898-1981), who was one of the foremost interpreters of the music of her husband, Kurt Weill (1900-1950). The competition recognizes talented young singer-actors aged 19-30 who are dramatically and musically convincing in contrasting modes of theater music by Kurt Weill and other composers, and emphasizes wide-ranging repertoire and the acting of songs within a dramatic context.


If you'd like more information about this topic, please contact Kate Chisholm at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 or