October 3, 2017: The 2017 Kurt Weill Prize for an outstanding book in music theater since 1900 has been awarded to Agnes de Mille: Telling Stories in Broadway Dance, by Kara Anne Gardner, published in the Oxford University Press Broadway Legacy Series, 2016. Offering readers an in-depth study of de Mille's ground-breaking choreographic work on the Broadway stage, the book includes a chapter on her involvement in the original production of One Touch of Venus (1943), by S.J. Perelman (book), Ogden Nash (book and lyrics), and Weill (music), and which starred Mary Martin in the title role. Gardner demonstrates how Weill and de Mille's similar views about the use of music (for Weill) and dance (for de Mille) as a means of storytelling made them especially compatible as collaborators. Gardner writes of their interactions, "She also found Kurt Weill, who treated her like an equal, to be a perfect partner." Adjudicated by a panel of music and theater experts, the award carries with it a cash prize of $5,000. The panelists described Gardner’s work as "a model of musical theater scholarship," and "a very impressive and important book that forcefully establishes Agnes de Mille's unique importance in Broadway theatre."
The $2,000 prize for an article recognized "Popularization or Perversion?: Folklore and Folksong in Britten's Paul Bunyan" by Suzanne Robinson, published in American Music in 2016. The prize panelists selected Robinson's article from a pool of fifty-two nominees, noting that it "illuminates a really significant issue within an important and unusual work." Robinson is an honorary fellow at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.
Awarded biennially by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Kurt Weill Prizes recognize distinguished scholarship in music theater since 1900, including opera and dance. Books and articles published in 2015-2016 were eligible for the 2017 prize. Nominations were reviewed and the winning titles selected by a panel of music and theater experts. Past winners and guidelines for nominations for the 2019 prize can be found here.
If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Elizabeth Blaufox at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 x210 or .
April 24, 2017: Bradley Smoak, 32, of Cary, NC, won First Prize in the 2017 Lotte Lenya Competition, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. Smoak took home $20,000, the largest single prize amount given in the Competition's nineteen year history.
Felipe Bombonato, 28, of Gainesville, FL, earned Second Prize, $15,000, and Paulina Villarreal, 27, of Torreón, Mexico received Third Prize, $10,000. The remaining eleven contestants each garnered a Special Award in the amount of $3,000 in recognition of the excellence demonstrated by all finalists: Curtis Bannister, Green Bay, WI; Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod, Tel Aviv, Israel; Molly Dunn, South Orange, NJ; Jasmine Habersham, Macon, GA; Michael Hewitt, Denver, CO; Philip Kalmanovitch, Ottawa, ON; Tony Potts, Fargo, ND; Marie Oppert, Paris, France; Taylor Raven, Fayetteville, NC; Katherine Riddle, Crownsville, MD; and Lisa Marie Rogali, Bergenfield, NJ. Fourteen prizes and awards were granted, the most in competition history, an indication of the unprecedented level of talent showcased at this year's Competition.
Foundation President and CEO, and founder of the Competition, Kim H. Kowalke said of this year's finals, "The judges simply couldn't find a way to single out any of the eleven Special Award winners. Their scores were all so close. So they all deserved recognition."
The finals, held April 22 in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, consisted of a Daytime Round, during which each contestant performed a full fifteen-minute program of four selections ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary musical theater; and an Evening Concert, at which each contestant repeated one or two selections as requested by the judges. A capacity crowd had already filled Kilbourn Hall a half hour prior to the Evening Concert and an additional 200+ viewers tuned in to watch via livestream. The audience leaped to their feet when the finalists took the stage for the awards ceremony, and continued to applaud vociferously throughout the announcements of the three individual top prizes and eleven Special Awards.
Smoak impressed the judges with his "beautifully crafted program," consisting of "This is the Life" from Love Life by Weill, "Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni" from La sonnambula, "Higher Than a Hawk" from Calamity Jane, and "Me" from Beauty and the Beast. They noted his performances were "motivated by genuine emotion and ranged from strength to vulnerability to physical humor. His program took us to unexpected places and the repertoire took us from genre to genre, all with vocal ease and acting finesse."
Bombonato displayed "a special quality from the moment he entered, with a natural rhythm that made each of his four characterizations believable." He nailed Jimmy Mahoney's high C in "Nur die Nacht" from Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny twice in one day, a feat rarely attempted, and even less frequently achieved. His program also included "Fanny" from Fanny, "I Am Adolpho" from The Drowsy Chaperone, which elicited much laughter from the audience, and "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca. "Bombonato is both a strong actor and a formidable singer," an apt depiction of what sets the Lenya Competition apart.
Villarreal captivated the judges and audience with a fiery zarzuela number, "Carceleras" from Las hijas del Zebedeo. She followed this with two Weill numbers, "One Life to Live" from Lady in the Dark and "Der Abschiedsbrief," and ended with "Maybe I Like it This Way" from The Wild Party. The judges admired her "courageous risk-taking" and "charisma to burn."
The group of fourteen finalists represented a diverse group of versatile performers hailing from eight states, as well as Mexico, Canada, France, and Israel, and fully spanning the boundaries of age eligibility from 19 to 32, including the youngest contestant ever to reach the finals, the 19-year-old Oppert.
The panel of judges included renowned stage director Anne Bogart, Tony and Olivier Award-winning actor Shuler Hensley, and Broadway music director Rob Berman. This year's preliminary round drew 266 audition videos (a 20% increase over the previous record) from contestants in 17 countries and 31 states. This pool was narrowed to thirty-two semifinalists, who auditioned live in March for judges Judy Blazer and Ted Sperling. Prior to the finals round, the eighteen non-advancing semifinalists received an award of $500 each. Following the preliminary round, six contestants were recognized with Emerging Talent Awards ($500), and one with the Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Promise ($500), bringing the total awarded to $89,500.
International opera star Teresa Stratas, the Special Guest of Honor, made her eleventh appearance at the competition finals. Stratas charged the finalists with a mandate: "The Gift has chosen you. You don't have a choice. You are here because something compels you to get up and sing . . . . If you remember to connect to that pulse, you will always be the messengers of that light." Stratas, whose career defied conventional categories--she has earned awards for her work in opera, musical theater, film, and television--served as the inspiration for the Competition and has been integral to it since its inception in 1998, on the 100th anniversary of Lenya's birth. It remains the only competition she has ever agreed to judge.
Over the last nineteen years, the Lotte Lenya Competition has grown from a small contest exclusively for students of the Eastman School of Music to one of the widest-reaching international singing competitions. Past prize winners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera, and concert stages around the world. This season, LLC laureates can be seen in seven Broadway shows, at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Komische Oper, Vienna State Opera, in concert with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, on national and international theatrical tours, and on two Grammy Award-winning recordings. To see why Opera News said of the competition, "[N]o vocal contest better targets today's total-package talents, unearthing up-and-coming singers who are ready for their close-ups," watch the winners' performances on YouTube.
Click on the image below for a printable image of the top three prizewinners:
Caption: 2017 Lotte Lenya Competition top Prize winners (l to r): Paulina Villarreal (Third Prize), Felipe Bombonato (Second Prize), Bradley Smoak (First Prize). Photo: MattWittmeyer.com/Gabrielle Plucknette.
Click on the image below for a printable image of all finalists:
Caption: 2017 Lotte Lenya Competition finalists. Seated (l to r): Marie Oppert, Michael Hewitt, Molly Dunn, Felipe Bombonato, Jasmine Habersham. Standing (l to r): Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod, Taylor Raven, Katherine Riddle, Philip Kalmanovitch, Curtis Bannister, Tony Potts, Paulina Villarreal, Bradley Smoak, Lisa Marie Rogali. Photo: MattWittmeyer.com/Gabrielle Plucknette.
Download press release (text only)
If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Elizabeth Blaufox at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 x210 or .
Update (20 March 2017): The evening concert of the 2017 Lenya Competition finals will be streamed live direct from Kilbourn Hall in Rochester! The concert begins at 8:00 p.m. EDT on 22 April; point your browser to http://www.esm.rochester.edu/live/kilbourn before the concert to stream it (no password required).
March 14, 2017: The Kurt Weill Foundation is pleased to announce the fourteen young singer/actors named as finalists for the 20th annual Lotte Lenya Competition:
Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod
The contestants represent a diverse group of versatile performers, ranging in age from 19 to 32, from across the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, and Israel. An initial pool of 266 preliminary audition videos (the most applications ever received) was narrowed down to thirty-two semifinalists, who then auditioned live last week in New York City for judges Judy Blazer and Ted Sperling. Blazer and Sperling also coached each of the contestants individually.
Blazer said of her experience coaching the semifinalists: "Working with these singers is an enlightening and thrilling experience and whether they win the brass ring or not they all win in a sense for having done it. This particular competition has such a warm and supportive air to it that the artists feel safe enough to put themselves out there. They learn and grow from the opportunity and develop themselves as performers in a way that they couldn't in any other environment."
Kurt Weill Foundation President Kim H. Kowalke said of the 2017 competition, "This year's semifinals were more competitive than some of our finals in previous years; the judges in Rochester are going to have their work cut out for them, especially with the stakes increased this year to a top prize of $20,000."
At the finals, each contestant will sing a program of four selections from the operatic, "Golden Age," and contemporary musical theater repertoires, and of course, the music of Kurt Weill, to compete for prizes totaling over $75,000. In celebration of the 20th competition, and to match the ever-rising level of talent seen at the competition since its inception, top prizes have increased to $20,000, $15,000, and $10,000. Judges may also bestow additional discretionary awards of $3,500 each for outstanding performances of individual numbers. The new Kurt Weill Award for $5,000, established this year, will recognize an outstanding performance of two contrasting Weill selections. All finalists receive a minimum cash award of $1,000.
The finals take place Saturday, April 22 at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Each finalist will present his or her entire program in the daytime round, 11:00-4:00. An evening concert, in which contestants sing only a portion of their programs, follows at 8:00. The concert concludes with the announcement of awards and prizes. Both the daytime round and evening concert are free and open to the public.
This year's judges' panel brings together three internationally recognized artists. Renowned stage director Anne Bogart brings diverse theatrical and operatic credits to the jury. In January 2017, she directed the highly acclaimed production of Lost in the Stars with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Tony Award-winning actor Shuler Hensley has demonstrated his versatility as an actor on Broadway in roles as wide-ranging as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, The Monster in Young Frankenstein, and a Tony and Olivier Award-winning performance as Jud Fry in Oklahoma! Bogart and Hensley, both first-time judges, join veteran judge Rob Berman, who returns to the competition for a seventh time. Berman has been seen on Broadway most recently as music director for Bright Star and Dames at Sea; he is music director for the popular Encores! series at New York City Center.
Over the last twenty years, the Lotte Lenya Competition has grown from a small contest exclusively for students of the Eastman School of Music, to one of the widest-reaching international vocal competitions. Past prize winners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera and concert stages around the world. This season, LLC laureates can be seen in seven Broadway shows, at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Komische Oper, in concert with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, on national and international theatrical tours, and heard on two Grammy Award-winning recordings. See why Opera News said of the competition, "[N]o vocal contest better targets today's total-package talents, unearthing up-and-coming singers who are ready for their close-ups."
If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Elizabeth Blaufox at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 x210 or .
February 15, 2017: Kim H. Kowalke, President and CEO of the Kurt Weill Foundation, has announced the semifinalists for the 20th annual Lotte Lenya Competition. The Foundation received 266 audition videos, the most in the Competition's history, from singer/actors ages 19-32, hailing from thirty-one US states and sixteen countries on five continents. From that pool, thirty-two semifinalists from the U.S., Canada, France, Israel, Luxembourg, and Mexico have been selected to perform at the semifinals at the Manhattan School of Music on 9 and 10 March.
Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod
This year's semifinals judges are veteran Broadway performer Judy Blazer and Tony Award-winning music director Ted Sperling. Each contestant will perform a fifteen-minute program of repertoire from the operatic, golden age, and contemporary musical theater stages, and the music of Kurt Weill, and then receive a fifteen-minute coaching session with that day's judge. The top-rated performers will then proceed to the Competition finals, where they will sing for another star-studded jury composed of renowned stage director Anne Bogart, Tony Award-winning actor Shuler Hensley, and Broadway music director, conductor, and orchestrator Rob Berman. Finals take place on 22 April at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY and are open to the public.
In addition to the semifinalists, six contestants were recognized with Emerging Talent Awards of $500 each: Annette Berning, Tucker Breder, Kalyn Schnable, Juliane Stolzenbach Ramos, Trevor Vanderzee, and Danielle Bavli. Jennifer Witton of London, UK, received the Grace Keagy Award of $500 for Outstanding Vocal Promise. All semifinalists receive a cash award of $500. Those who move on to the finals will receive a minimum of $1,000, with individual discretionary awards of $3,500 and $5,000, and top prizes increased this year to $20,000, $15,000, and $10,000. Total prizes will exceed $75,000.
More than a vocal competition, the Lotte Lenya Competition recognizes talented young singer/actors who are dramatically and musically convincing in wide-ranging theatrical repertoire, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill. Past prizewinners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera, and concert stages around the world. Don't miss the competition described by Opera News as "target[ing] today's total-package talents, unearthing up-and-coming singers who are ready for their close-ups."
January 23, 2017: Kim H. Kowalke, President and CEO of the Kurt Weill Foundation, has announced the judges for the 20th Annual Lotte Lenya Competition. Renowned stage director Anne Bogart and Tony Award-winning actor and singer Shuler Hensley both join the finals judges' panel for their first time. Broadway music director, conductor, and orchestrator Rob Berman returns to judge the competition for the sixth time. The finals take place Saturday, April 22 at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY, and are open to the public.
Bogart is known for her directorial work on major theater and opera stages around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Los Angeles' SITI Company, where she is co-founder and Artistic Director. Fresh off directing the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's production of Weill and Maxwell Anderson's Lost in the Stars, Bogart brings her vast directorial experience to this year's jury. She is the first female stage director to judge the competition.
Broadway, film, and television actor Hensley's credits include his Tony Award-winning performance as Jud Fry in the 2002 revival of Oklahoma!. In 1998, he won an Olivier Award for the same role in Trevor Nunn's West End production. Hensley has also appeared on Broadway as The Monster in Young Frankenstein, and in the Japanese production of Prince of Broadway, the musical tribute to director Hal Prince. Most recently, Hensley played the role of Oscar in the Off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity opposite Sutton Foster.
Anchoring the judges' panel is veteran Lenya finals judge Rob Berman, music director of City Center Encores! since 2010. Berman's theater credits include the Broadway productions of Bright Star, Promises, Promises, and the 2013 off-Broadway revival and cast recording of Passion. He regularly conducts the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 2012 won an Emmy for Outstanding Music Direction.
Semifinalists have the opportunity to audition for and be coached by stage, opera, and concert performer Judy Blazer (LoveMusik, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Candide) and Tony Award-winning conductor, director, orchestrator, and Artistic Director of MasterVoices Ted Sperling (Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, South Pacific). Semifinals take place March 9 and 10 at the Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY.
Founded in 1998 in honor of legendary performer Lotte Lenya, 2017 marks the 20th annual Lotte Lenya Competition. More than a vocal contest, the Lenya Competition recognizes talented young singer/actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in repertoire ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary Broadway scores, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill. To commemorate this landmark year, top prizes for the competition have been increased to $20,000 first prize, $15,000 second prize, and $10,000 third prize. New this year, the Kurt Weill Award in the amount of $5,000, will be given for outstanding performance of two contrasting numbers by Weill. Additional discretionary awards of $3,500 each recognize exceptional talent and outstanding performances of individual numbers. Prizes will exceed $75,000. Past prize winners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera, and concert stages around the world. Don't miss the competition described by Opera News as "target[ing] today's total-package talents, unearthing up-and-coming singers who are ready for their close-ups."
September 8, 2016: The Kurt Weill Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Jonathon Heyward as the recipient of the 2016-2017 Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellowship. In keeping with Rudel's artistic vision, this annual award enables a young conductor in the early stages of a career to assist a master conductor in the preparation and performance of a work by Kurt Weill or Marc Blitzstein and expand his or her knowledge of their works. The fellowship carries a stipend of $10,000.
In 2015, at the age of 23, Heyward won the Grand Prize of the 54th International Competition for Young Conductors in Besançon. Heyward got his first taste of conducting while pursuing a bachelor's degree in cello performance at the Boston Conservatory of Music, where he served as Assistant Conductor for the conservatory's opera department. Following completion of his bachelor's degree, he went on to a Master of Music in orchestral conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London. For the 2016/17 season, he has been appointed Assistant Conductor at the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, UK, where he will assist Music Director Sir Mark Elder.
Under the Fellowship, Heyward will serve as assistant conductor to Fellowship Mentor Jeffrey Kahane, Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, for that organization's production of Weill's Lost in the Stars in January 2017 at UCLA's Royce Hall. Heyward says of the award, "I am extremely grateful to have been appointed the 2016-2017 Rudel/Weill Conducting Fellow. This fellowship will not only allow me to study and discover works by these composers with unrestricted access to resources and materials, but it will also allow me to work with their music hands on. Attending additional performances of Weill's fantastic spectrum of repertoire will certainly enable me to enrich my musical perspectives."
Kahane's interest in the music of Kurt Weill stems from a personal connection: Weill was a distant cousin of Kahane's grandmother, who also fled Germany in the 1930s to escape the rise of fascism. In addition to his work as an internationally acclaimed conductor and concert pianist, Kahane is a champion of Weill's music both at home and in his guest appearances. In 2014, he led the New York Philharmonic in four performances of Weill's Symphony No. 2, the first performances of the work by that orchestra since its American premiere in 1934.
Kahane says of Heyward's appointment, "All of us at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra are delighted to welcome the prodigiously gifted Jonathon Heyward to the LACO family. Jonathon's vibrant artistic presence and superbly honed musical skills will be a tremendous help to me, and a great asset to the whole organization."
In announcing the appointment, Kim H. Kowalke, President of the Foundation, explains that "this fellowship enables recipients to develop appreciation of Weill's oeuvre by participating in truly excellent presentations of his works and to learn from mentors whose expertise and experience with Weill is as deep as Jeffrey Kahane's."
LACO performs Lost in the Stars 28-29 January 2017 as part of the three week-long festival, Lift Every Voice, inspired by the lives of civil rights champions Rabbi Joachim Prinz and Weill. The production features two past winners of the Lotte Lenya Competition: Justin Hopkins, who won 2nd prize in the 2012 competition, stars as Stephen Kumalo. Lauren Michelle, 2015 1st Prize winner, is Irina, reprising her highly acclaimed debut in the role at Washington National Opera last February. The festival, curated by Kahane, also includes performances of The Seven Deadly Sins, with Storm Large and Hudson Shad, and the US premiere of the Song-Suite for Violin and Orchestra arranged by Paul Bateman and performed by violinist Daniel Hope.
September 1, 2016: The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music is now accepting applications for its 2017 Grant Program. The KWF Grant Program awards financial support worldwide to not-for-profit organizations for performances of musical works by Kurt Weill and Marc Blitzstein, to individuals and not-for-profit organizations for scholarly research pertaining to Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, and Marc Blitzstein, and to not-for-profit organizations for relevant educational or scholarly initiatives. Applications are now being accepted for performances and initiatives occurring between 1 January 2017 and 1 July 2018.
Funding is awarded in the following categories:
All application materials must be received by 1 November 2016 to be considered. Applications for support of major professional productions/festivals/exhibitions, etc. may be evaluated on rolling basis throughout the year.
In addition to its established Grant Program, the Kurt Weill Foundation cultivates relationships with professional arts organizations and leading educational institutions in connection with major projects and initiatives through its Sponsorships program. Organizations may approach the Foundation with ideas for major projects, and the Foundation may on occasion present proposals to the organizations. Collaborative projects are developed through extended discussion between the Foundation and the organizations, and the Foundation provides substantial funding in order to make them possible.
The grant program was established in the service of the Foundation’s mission to promote and perpetuate the legacies of Weill and Lenya. Upon recommendation of anonymous independent grant panels, the KWF has awarded more than 500 grants and over $3,700,000 to organizations and scholars worldwide since 1983. In 2013, Marc Blitzstein’s compositions became eligible for support. Inquiries may be directed to Brady Sansone, Director of Programs and Business Affairs, at
April 18, 2016: Jim Schubin of Plainsboro, NJ, and Brian Vu of Los Angeles both earned top prizes in the 2016 Lotte Lenya Competition, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and held on April 16, 2016 in Kilbourn Hall of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Schubin and Vu each took home $15,000 for their exceptional displays of vocal and theatrical talent. Nine awards, and a total prize purse of $79,000 were given in the competition's most competitive year yet.
Dennis Wees of Dallas, TX, the youngest of this year's finalists at age 21, won the $10,000 Second Prize. Talya Lieberman of New York and Eric Michael Parker of Los Angeles each won a Third Prize of $7,500.
Foundation President and founder of the competition Kim Kowalke said of this year's competition, "The total amount and number of prizes awarded reflects the high level displayed at this year's contest. It is a testament to the competition's growth over nearly two decades."
Each of the 14 finalists performed four selections ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary musical theater. Jim Schubin impressed the judges with his beautifully crafted program of "Try Me" from She Loves Me, "Serenade" from The Student Prince, "How Much I Love You" from One Touch of Venus, and "Taking Flight" from Allison Under the Stars. The judges stated that Schubin "embodied the competition’s motto of 'Singing the Story.' He gave a riveting performance, showed engaging presence and effortless communication, and yet still seemed as if he was inventing it all on the spot." Schubin is currently in the national touring company of The Sound of Music. This was his third year in a row as a finalist.
Brian Vu impressed the judges with the thoughtful content and ordering of his program: "O Carlo, ascolta" from Don Carlo, "Bowler Hat" from Pacific Overtures, "West Wind" from One Touch of Venus, and "Where is the Life that Late I Led?" from Kiss Me, Kate. The judges remarked that he displayed "the ebullience of Petruchio and the inner stoicism of Kayama, while exhibiting refreshing flair and vocal prowess." Vu was a Grand Finalist in this year's Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and will appear as the Kurt Weill/Lotte Lenya Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival this summer.
The panel of judges included international opera star Teresa Stratas, Rodgers & Hammerstein President Theodore S. Chapin, and Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn. Finalists were selected from an initial pool of 224 contestants later narrowed to 31 semi-finalists, who were adjudicated and coached in the semi-final round by Tony Award-winners Jeanine Tesori and Victoria Clark. Clark, who last judged the competition in 2012, noted "I can feel the leap in overall talent from the last time I judged."
Four additional prizes of $3,500 each were granted: Lindsay O’Neil of New York received a Lys Symonette Award for an Outstanding Performance of an Individual Number for "I Don't Need a Roof" from Big Fish. Tom Schimon of Vienna, Austria and Reilly Nelson of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario each received a Carolyn Weber Award in recognition of outstanding creativity in the design of a diverse program and exceptional sensitivity to text/music relationships. Bradley Smoak of Cary, NC received the inaugural Marc Blitzstein Award, given for an outstanding performance from a "Golden Age" musical, for his performance of "Pass the Football" from Wonderful Town.
The remaining five finalists each received $2,000: Curtis Bannister of Green Bay, WI, Erika Cockerham of St. Louis, MO, Tony Potts of Fargo, ND, Briana Silvie of New York, and Kayla Wilkens of Salem, OR.
Now in its 19th year, the Lotte Lenya Competition recognizes exceptionally talented 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. Since 1998, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded more than $750,000 in prize money and continues to support previous winners with professional development grants.
Previous Lenya Competition winners enjoy successful careers performing in major theaters and opera houses around the globe. Brian Mulligan, winner of the top prize at the first Lenya Competition in 1998, has been named the inaugural Kurt Weill/Lotte Lenya Artist at this year’s Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, NY, where he will be seen as John Proctor in The Crucible.
Other past winners' recent and upcoming credits range from Broadway (Annalisa Leaming, The King and I, Kyle Scatliffe, The Color Purple, Jacob Keith Watson, Violet), National Tours (Katie Travis, The Phantom of the Opera, Doug Carpenter, Dirty Dancing), to major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera (Brian Mulligan), Royal Opera House (Nicole Cabell), English National Opera (Zachary James), Welsh National Opera (David Arnsperger), San Francisco Opera (Brian Mulligan, Matthew Grills), Los Angeles Opera (Jonathan Michie, Lauren Worsham), Washington National Opera (Lauren Michelle), Glimmerglass Festival (Maren Weinberger, Brian Mulligan, Ben Edquist), Houston Grand Opera (Ben Edquist, Rodell Rosel), Opera Theater of St. Louis (Lauren Michelle), Fort Worth Opera (Megan Marino, Maren Weinberger, Lauren Worsham), Virginia Opera (Megan Marino), and many more throughout Europe and North America. Lauren Michelle, First Prize winner in the 2015 Competition, appeared in the 2015 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, where she placed in the top five.
Click on the image below for a printable image of the First Prize winners:
Click on the image below for a printable image of all five top prizewinners:
Download press release (text only)
April 8, 2016: The program for the 2016 finals is ready!
March 30, 2016: We are sorry to announce that Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod (28, Tel Aviv, Israel) will not be able to participate in the 2016 finals.
March 15, 2016: Fifteen young singer/actors have been named as finalists for the 2016 Lotte Lenya Competition. Selected from thirty-one semifinalists, this year's finalists represent a diverse range of performers, ages 21 to 31, from across the United States, Canada, Europe and Israel. All will sing repertoire from the operatic, golden age and contemporary musical stages, and of course, the music of Kurt Weill, for a chance win the top prize of $15,000.
Gan-ya Ben-gur Akselrod (28, Tel Aviv, Israel)
Curtis Bannister (30, Green Bay, WI)
Erika Cockerham (31, St. Louis, MO)
Talya Lieberman (31, Forest Hills, NY)
Reilly Nelson (26, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada)
Lindsay O’Neil (30, New York, NY)
Eric Michael Parker (24, Los Angeles, CA)
Tony Potts (23, Fargo, ND)
Tom Schimon (31, Vienna, Austria)
Jim Schubin (26, Plainsboro, NJ)
Briana Silvie (24, San Rafael, CA)
Bradley Smoak (31, Cary, NC)
Brian Vu (26, Los Angeles, CA)
Dennis Wees (21, Dallas, TX)
Kayla Wilkens (25, Salem, OR)
Semifinalist judges, Tony Award-winners Jeanine Tesori and Victoria Clark, adjudicated and coached the performers. Clark, who first judged the competition in 2008, noted that "I can feel the leap in overall talent from when I last judged the semifinals."
Kurt Weill Foundation President Kim Kowalke stated that "this year's finalists are the largest and most diverse group in the Competition's 19-year history, with contestants currently working on-and off-Broadway, in national touring companies, and in major regional theaters and opera companies. Many are well on their way to distinguished careers."
The final round takes place April 16 at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Each finalist will present a fifteen minute program of four selections in the daytime round, 11:00-4:00. An evening concert, in which contestants sing only a segment of their programs, follows at 8:00. The concert concludes with the announcement of awards and prizes. Both the daytime round and evening concert are free and open to the public. All finalists receive a minimum cash award of $1,000, with additional discretionary awards of $3,500 each, and top prizes ranging from $7,500 to $15,000. Total prizes will exceed $60,000.
Returning to judge for the tenth time, international opera legend Teresa Stratas leads the judges' panel. The Lenya Competition remains the only vocal competition she has ever consented to adjudicate. Joining her on the jury are Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization President and former American Theater Wing Chairman Theodore S. Chapin (also returning for his tenth time), and Broadway (and Audra McDonald's) music director, conductor and accompanist Andy Einhorn.
Past prize winners have gone on to appear on major theater, opera and concert stages around the world. Don’t miss the competition described by Opera News as "target[ing] today's total-package talents, unearthing up-and-coming singers who are ready for their close-ups."