Seven outstanding young singing actors were winners in the finals of the 2007 Lotte Lenya Competition for Singers, held on 21 April 2007 at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY. First prize of $7,500 was garnered by tenor James Benjamin Rodgers, 26, a New Zealand-born graduate student at the Manhattan School of Music, New York City. Analisa Leaming, soprano, a 22-year-old student at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY, won the $5,000 second prize; and twin third prizes of $3,000 each were awarded to baritone Christopher Herbert, 26, and soprano Leena Chopra, 27, both of New York City. In addition to the above prizewinners, special recognition was given to three other contestants: bass Paul Corona, 23, of Chicago, IL, and soprano Jeanine De Bique, 25, of New York City were awarded Lys Symonette Awards for Outstanding Vocal Talent; and tenor/sopranist Brian Charles Rooney, 29, of New York City won the Lys Symonette Award for Outstanding Dramatic Talent. The awards, named in honor of Kurt Weill's musical assistant on Broadway, each carried a cash value of $2,000.
The 2007 Lenya Competition attracted over 150 young artists, hailing from as far away as Argentina and Turkey; regional auditions were held in Chicago, Boston, Rochester, Lawrence, KS, and New York City. Other finalists were Sharon O'Connell Campbell, mezzo-soprano (Lawrence, KS), Julia Cramer, soprano (Rochester, NY), Cooper Grodin, tenor (New York City), Kendall Lima, soprano (New York City), Elizabeth Mitchell, soprano (Ann Arbor, MI), Tyler Simpson, bass-baritone (Lawrence, KS) and Hayley Thompson-King, mezzo-soprano (New York City).
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. 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. Judges for the 2007 finals were world-renowned soprano Teresa Stratas; conductor and director Ted Sperling (also Audra McDonald's music director); and Theodore S. Chapin, President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.
Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Lenya Competition has grown from a local student contest in Rochester to an international competition for the best young professionals and students. Previous winners have gone on to careers in both opera and musical theater: 2004 winners Amy Justman and Richard Todd Adams are featured in the Broadway productions of Company and The Pirate Queen; Nicole Cabell (Special Prize, 2002) was named BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 2005 and now has a major opera career; Erik Liberman (2005) is currently making his Broadway debut in LoveMusik, the new musical by Alfred Uhry about Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, directed by Harold Prince, opening 3 May. Others are singing with major opera companies, appearing in national touring companies of Broadway shows, and claiming spots in the leading young artist training programs around the country.