April 15, 2014: Ben Edquist, of Houston, won the $15,000 First Prize in the finals of the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and held on April 12, 2014, in Kilbourn Hall of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Arlo Hill, of New York, won the Second Prize of $10,000, and the Third Prize of $7,500 was awarded to Natalie Ballenger, also of New York.
Now in its 16th 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, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill.
This year's panel of judges included two-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, Broadway conductor and New York City Center Encores! Music Director Rob Berman, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson. Finalists were selected from a pool of 200 contestants, with 29 adjudicated and coached in a semifinal round by Rebecca Luker and Jeanine Tesori.
Each of the 14 finalists presented four selections ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary musical theater. Edquist, the youngest of the finalists, impressed the judges with a compelling and nuanced program comprised of "Me" from Beauty and the Beast, "Lonely Town" from On the Town, "This is New" from Lady in the Dark, and "She Called Him 'Curt'" from Jake Heggie's Three Decembers. Hill stood out for his performances of "I Am a Pirate King" from The Pirates of Penzance and "Buddy's Blues" from Follies, and Ballenger for Weill's "Je ne t'aime pas" and "I Want Magic!" from Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire.
The Kurt Weill Foundation distributed a record $65,000 in prizes this year. In addition to the top prizes, the finals judges presented four Lys Symonette Awards of $3,500 each, named in honor of Weill's musical assistant on Broadway. Awards for Outstanding Performance of an Individual Number went to Robert Ariza, of Ann Arbor, Mich., for "She's a Woman" from Kiss of the Spider Woman; Diana Rose Becker, of Northport, N.Y., for "Emily's Goodbye Aria" from Ned Rorem's Our Town; and Briana Elyse Hunter, of New York, for "I Never Has Seen Snow" from House of Flowers. A fourth Lys Symonette Award went to Katie Travis, of New York, for Outstanding Dramatic Interpretation of her program. The remaining seven finalists each received an award of $1,000: Rachel Cordeiro, of New York; Norman Garrett, of Silver Spring, Md.; Carter Lynch, of New York; Lauren Michelle, of New York; Heather Phillips, of Philadelphia; Jim Schubin, of Matawan, N.J.; and Mikalai Znaharchuk, of Minsk, Belarus.
Since 1998, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded more than a half-million dollars in prize money to outstanding young performers and continues to support previous winners with career development grants. Previous Lenya Competition winners enjoy successful careers performing in major theaters and opera houses around the globe. In the 2013-14 season alone, their credits range from Broadway (Morgan James, Motown The Musical; Kyle Scatliffe, Les Misérables; Jacob Keith Watson, Violet; Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), the West End (Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys), national tours (Cooper Grodin, Amy Justman, The Phantom of the Opera; Ariela Morgenstern, Flashdance The Musical), and regional theaters (Doug Carpenter, The Most Happy Fella, Goodspeed Musicals, and South Pacific, Paper Mill Playhouse; Analisa Leaming, Arlington, Magic Theatre San Francisco) to such leading opera houses as the Metropolitan Opera (Paul Corona, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Megan Marino), Houston Grand Opera (Liam Bonner, Rodell Rosel), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie, Rodell Rosel), Hamburg Staatsoper (Rebecca Jo Loeb), and Teatro Real Madrid (Noah Stewart).
A short documentary produced in 2013, Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition, explores the unique nature of the Competition. It recently had its broadcast premiere on public television and can be streamed at http://www.youtube.com/KurtWeillFoundation.
Click on the image below for a printable image of all the prizewinners:
Caption: 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition winners (L to R): Ben Edquist, Diana Rose Becker, Arlo Hill, Robert Ariza, Katie Travis, Briana Elyse Hunter, Natalie Ballenger. Photo courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation.
Click on the image below for a printable image of the top three prizewinners:
Click on the image below for a printable image of the top three prizewinners and judges: