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Outstanding Talents Singled Out in 2008 Lotte Lenya Competition

Eight talented young singing actors won prizes totaling $37,500 in the finals of the 2008 Lotte Lenya Competition, held on 12 April 2008 at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY. First prize of $10,000 was captured by mezzo-soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb, 25, a Graduate Diploma student at New York's Juilliard School. Ariela Morgenstern, mezzo-soprano, 29, currently appearing in Adding Machine Off-Broadway, won the Second Prize of $7,500. Twin Third Prizes of $5,000 each were extended to Bray Wilkins, tenor, 27, and Maija Skille, mezzo-soprano, 30, representing a wide swath of geography: Wilkins comes from Moscow (Idaho), and Skille is a Norwegian student at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki (Finland). Coincidentally, another Competition winner was Norwegian--Tora Augestad, mezzo-soprano, 28, who now lives in Berlin, was awarded a Lys Symonette Award (named in honor of Kurt Weill's musical assistant on Broadway) of $2,500 for her committed performances of a newly-composed opera aria and Weill's "Surabaya Johnny." Other $2,500 Symonette Awards were earned by Lauren Jelencovich, soprano, 23, and 22-year-old soprano Elizabeth Reiter, both of New York City, for outstanding performances of individual selections; and by baritone John Brancy of Mullica Hill, NJ, 19, for prodigious vocal promise.

Judges for the 2008 finals were Victoria Clark, Tony Award-winning star of The Light in the Piazza; conductor James Holmes, Head of Music at Opera North in Leeds, England; and Theodore S. Chapin, President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. James Holmes said, "The Lotte Lenya Competition bridges two very different worlds, following the example of Lenya's husband Kurt Weill, whose compositions uniquely spanned the genres of opera and Broadway musical theater." Holmes praised the finalists for their courage to segue from one style to another, and for their ability to express the thoughts behind the text.

The 2008 Lenya Competition attracted over 160 young artists, with regional winners chosen from live auditions in Rochester, New York City, and Lawrence, KS, and from video submissions. Each contestant was required to present a diverse program including an opera/operetta aria, an American musical theater number, and two contrasting Kurt Weill selections. In addition to the prizewinners above, other regional winner/finalists were Diana Rose Becker, 22, soprano (East Northport, NY); Candice Bondank, 23, soprano (Lawrence, KS); Steven Ebel, 28, tenor (Astoria, NY); Steven Herring, 32, baritone (New York, NY); Ashley Logan, 25, soprano (Princeton, NJ); Margaret Peterson, 22, mezzo-soprano (New York, NY); and Michael Scarcelle, bass-baritone (New York, NY).

Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Lotte Lenya Competition was founded by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music in 1998 to encourage versatile singing actors who are convincing in a wide variety of musical theater styles. Previous winners include rising opera singers Elaine Alvarez (Mimì, Lyric Opera of Chicago), Nicole Cabell (2005 Cardiff Singer of the World), and Rodell Rosel (Chicago Lyric and Houston Grand Opera); and recent Broadway debutants Amy Justman (Company), Richard Todd Adams (The Woman in White, The Pirate Queen), and Erik Liberman (LoveMusik). Other prizewinners are appearing in national touring companies of Broadway shows and regional opera companies.