Berlin-based singer/actor Alen Hodzovic, 31, won the $15,000 First Prize in the finals of the 2009 Lotte Lenya Competition, held on 18 April 2009 at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY. The Second Prize of $10,000 was given to Lauren Worsham, 27, from New York City; and the $5,000 Third Prize was awarded to Zachary James, 27, also from New York. The judges of the competition--Rob Berman, music director of the Encores! series in New York and many shows on and off-Broadway; Theodore S. Chapin, President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and Chairman of the Board, American Theatre Wing; and the world-renowned soprano and actress Teresa Stratas--singled out three additional finalists for special recognition. Michael Anthony McGee, 27, baritone from New York City, and Yannick-Muriel Noah, 30, soprano from Toronto, both received Lys Symonette Awards of $2,500 for outstanding performances of operatic arias; and Ginger Costa-Jackson, 22, mezzo-soprano from New York, won a $2,500 Lys Symonette Award for exceptional promise.
Now in its twelfth year, the Lenya Competition has become a truly international event, and 2009 contestants hailed from as far away as Argentina, Italy, Croatia, and Madagascar. From 165 contestants, thirteen finalists were chosen by judges Paulette Haupt, Grace Keagy, David Loud, and Charlie Scatamacchia at live auditions in Rochester, New York City, and Ann Arbor, MI, 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 finalists were Megan Marino, 27, mezzo-soprano from Boulder, CO; Laura Bohn, 30, soprano; Sequina DuBose, 28, soprano; Cooper Grodin, 31, bari-tenor; Lauren Jelencovich, 24, soprano; Marcy Richardson, 29, soprano; and Jacob Lewis Smith, 28, bass-baritone, all of 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. Commenting on the one-of-a-kind nature of the Lenya Competition, veteran judge Teresa Stratas said: "This is the only competition that requires young artists to prepare so many kinds of material, and then take comments that the judges give them and immediately put them to work. It's a terrific idea that does honor to both the art form and Lotte Lenya."
This year's three top prizewinners have already embarked on successful careers in the musical theater: Alen Hodzovic, a tenor, has appeared across Europe in leading roles in musicals, among them Raoul in Phantom of the Opera (Stuttgart), Colloredo in Mozart! (Theater an der Wien, Vienna), multiple productions of Les Miserables (as Marius) and West Side Story (as Tony), and as Bernhard Spyri in the world premiere of Heidi in Switzerland. Lauren Worsham, a soprano, played Cunegonde in the 2008 revival of Candide at New York City Opera; she was Olive in the national tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and has also played Sophie in Master Class and Clara in The Light in the Piazza. Zachary James, a bass-baritone, has appeared on Broadway in Coram Boy and South Pacific; his opera credits include the Central City and Knoxville Opera Companies.
Previous Lenya Competition winners have gone on to major opera companies (Nicole Cabell, Elaine Alvarez, Liam Bonner, Lucas Meacham, Rodell Rosel) and Broadway productions (Amy Justman, Richard Todd Adams, Erik Liberman). This summer, six Lenya Competition winners--Amy Justman, Rebecca Jo Loeb, Bray Wilkins, James Benjamin Rodgers, Jonathan Michie, and Paul Corona--will form the cast of Mahagonny Songspiel at the 2009 Ravinia Festival, conducted by James Conlon, on 4 August.