Wednesday, November 7, 2012

District Auditions 2012: The Judges

Judge #1: Ken Benson

Ken Benson joined Columbia Artists Management, Inc. in 1986 and for 25 years headed his own division as Vice President.  Highlights of his 2011-12 season include interviewing Jonas Kaufman for the Wagner Society of New York, giving lectures on The "Ring" cycle for the Metropolitan Opera and giving a pre-concert lecture at the Caramoor Festival.

Well-known and respected for his broad knowledge of repertoire and voices, he represented Harolyn Blackwell, Patrick Carfizzi, Rod Gilfry, Marcello Giordani, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Lucas Meachem, Susanne Mentzer, Aprile Millo, and Florence Quivar, among many others.
He is presently the Executive Director of the Marcello Giordani Foundation.

Mr. Benson appears frequently as both host and panelist on the Opera Quiz of the Metropolitan Opera's radio broadcasts, and as a writer, he contributes to Opera News and Classical Singer magazines.
He is regularly invited to give classes at Yale, DePaul, Roosevelt, and Indiana Universities, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College, Hartt School of Music, and U.C.L.A. as well as for many of the Young Artists Programs of major opera companies throughout the U.S. He also offers individual consultations to singers on auditioning techniques and career direction.

This fall he returns for his third season as in-house consultant to the Masters students of Vocal Arts, Juilliard.
Mr. Benson adjudicates vocal competitions for the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Index, Palm Beach Opera, Astral Artists, and for various foundations including: The George London Foundation, The Richard Tucker Foundation, Licia Albanese/Puccini Foundation, Gerda Lissner Foundation, Giulio Gari Foundation, The Loren Zachary Foundation, and the Liederkranz Foundation.

Since 1996, he has appeared each season on the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcasts, on the Opera Quiz, Record Collector’s Roundtables, panel discussions and presenting biographies of great singers.  In 2010-11 he launched the New York City Opera's "Listening Room" series, with recorded material and discussion for each opera in the season's repertoire.

Judge #2: Steven White

Courtesy MoreFront Blog May 2010
Praised by Opera News as a conductor who “squeezes every drop of excitement and pathos from the score,” Steven White is one of North America’s premiere conductors of both operatic and symphonic repertoire. In 2010 he made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Verdi’s La Traviata, starring Angela Gheorghiu, Thomas Hampson and James Valenti. He returned to the Met in the spring of 2012 to conduct additional performances of La Traviata with Natalie Dessay, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Matthew Polenzani. 

These performances come as part of an ongoing relationship with the Metropolitan Opera, where, since 2009, Maestro White has been involved with productions of Don Carlo, Billy Budd, La Sonnambula, Lucia di Lammermoor, Così fan tutte, La fille du régiment, Iphigénie en Tauride and The Enchanted Island, working with such artists as Plácido Domingo, Roberto Alagna, Juan Diego Flórez, David Daniels, Joyce DiDonato and Susan Graham.

In addition to his work at the MET, this past season, Maestro White also led performances of La Traviata with New York City Opera and Lyric Opera Baltimore (inaugural production), Aida with Arizona Opera, a concert with Angela Gheorghiu and the Canadian Opera Company orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, an all-Wagner concert with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Opera Birmingham, and an all-Orchestral concert with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.  

Upcoming engagements include Lucia di Lammermoor with Arizona Opera, La Bohème with Lyric Opera Baltimore, Der Fliegende Holländer with Opera Roanoke, a workshop with Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music featuring a new work by Ricky Ian Gordon, and returns to the MET for L’Elisir d’Amore, Rigoletto, and La Traviata.

Judge #3: Peter Kazaras

Peter Kazaras is the Director of Opera at UCLA and Professor of Music at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.  He has been Artistic Director of the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program since 2006, a position he still retains.  

As an operatic tenor, he has performed worldwide, at venues such as The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Seattle Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Omaha, Vienna State Opera, L’Opéra National de Paris, L’Opéra de Nice, Grand Théåtre de Genève, New Israeli Opera, Wellington International Festival of the Arts (New Zealand), Canadian Opera Company and others.  He has premiered several new works, including Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (Metropolitan Opera), Bernstein’s A Quiet Place and Tippett’s New Year (Houston Grand Opera) and Picker’s Thérèse Raquin (Dallas Opera,  L’Opéra de Montréal, San Diego Opera.) Conductors he has worked with include Leonard Bernstein, James Levine, Daniel Barenboim, James Conlon, John Nelson, Armin Jordan, Asher Fisch and Robert Spano.   

Over the past fifteen years he has directed over twenty productions for the Seattle Opera mainstage and for its Young Artists Program, plus productions for Opera Cleveland, Madison Opera, Eos Orchestra, Red: an Orchestra, the Santa Fe Pro Musica and the festivals at Cabrillo and Caramoor. He has directed at educational programs such as Merola at San Francisco Opera Center, the Wolf Trap summer program, the Chautauqua Institute Voice Department, the Academy of Vocal Arts, the Hartt College of Music, and Florida State University.  At UCLA since 2007, he has directed or produced almost twenty productions during his tenure.  

A frequent panelist on the Toll Brothers Metropolitan Opera Quiz, Mr. Kazaras is also in demand as a judge for international competitions. He has adjudicated the first and second International Wagner Competitions at Seattle Opera, the first Elardo International Competition in New York, Marilyn Horne’s competition at Music Academy of the West, the Les Azuriales Festival in Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat in France and has adjudicated twice at The Juilliard School. He has also served as a judge for the District and Regional Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions.  

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