Thursday, January 24, 2013

Region Finals 2013: Results

Congratulations to our Semi-Finalists:
Karen Vuong
Matthew Anchel
Felicia Moore

Congratulations to Takaoki Onishi for winning The Harold Bruner Award and The Rohatyn Great Promise Award.

And congratulations to all of the District Winners who did an amazing job today. You all blew our audience away.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meet the Judges: A Talk with Ken Benson

Ken Benson, one of our judges at the District Auditions, has been a major player in the opera world for many years.  His love of opera started at the age of twelve, when he watched the Ed Sullivan Show and the Voice of Firestone, and listened to the Met Radio Broadcasts.  As he explains during our interview last week, "It did not come from my family; it just happened.  I was very fortunate in living in New York.  Once I got the opera bug, I could really indulge in a big way.  You could go to the opera all the time, from the old Metropolitan Opera House and the New York City Opera to recitals and concerts all over the city."

Over the years Mr. Benson has acquired a vast knowledge of opera; a knowledge he has applied to many projects, from giving classes at Yale, Juilliard and Mannes College, to writing articles for Opera News and being the Executive Director of the Marcello Giordani Foundation.

This knowledge also comes in handy when judging opera competitions...and he has judged them all, from The Richard Tucker Competition to the George London Competition.  Of course we can't forget our very own National Council Auditions.  After judging in LA, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Bloomington over the years, Mr. Benson judged at the Eastern Region last November.  "I do find that I enjoy it.  I do not know if everyone does, but I actually find that I look forward to it."

So how does the Eastern Region compare to the rest of the US?  "It is hard to say because in some regions there is a major conservatory, so obviously the students from that school will dominate.  However, the regions are not as strictly defined as they used to be because many singers travel in and out of their region.  The geographical options create an interesting mix, however I can't say I find a strict pattern or quality.  It can vary from year to year and from region to region."

No matter where a singer auditions or comes from, in the end the goal is to make it on to the stage of the Met. When Mr. Benson judges singers for the Met stage, one of his main considerations is the size of the voice.  "What I normally would judge first in any competition is the quality of the voice and the artistry, but usually you are judging in a much smaller room.  Sometimes you just don't know until you actually hear them on that big stage.  When I think of someone who is ready to sing on the Met stage, I not only think of the size of the voice, but also if they are mature and artistically ready.  Do they have the poise and presentation to look good and represent themselves well?"

A question that is always on everyone's mind, singers and audience alike, is what a judge is looking for in a singer.  "We are looking for someone who has something to say; who has some kind of an individual sound or color and is expressive."  Of course judging a voice is subjective, and therefore it is not always easy for judges to come to a consensus.  A singer can perform for five different judges and they will all react in a different way.  "If the problem is the basic quality of the voice, there is nothing one can do.  However, the area where the judges come to a consensus is whether people are expressive and communicative.  If a singer is reaching out across the table where we judges are sitting and connects by communicating something, then we come to an agreement.  Whether you are in daytime attire at an audition, or in costume on the stage of the Met, it is important to give a sense of the character you are portraying."

Even though the District winners will be singing for different judges, Mr. Benson advices them to sing the same repertoire.  The repertoire is what got the winners to move on in the first place, so it is best to stick with that choice.  As for next year's new applicants, I asked Mr. Benson if age played an important role.  "Age is very relative with singers.  It often depends on the voice type.  Generally, lighter voices like lyric sopranos are ready early in their twenties, while fuller, dramatic voices need more time to mature."

Once again this is a very subjective topic, and each singer should use his or her own yardstick when deciding whether to audition or not.  Most importantly, "singers should know their vocal strengths and choose arias that represent them well.  They should not just spread themselves all over the map but really try to focus."

Another area where Mr. Benson's vast knowledge has been applied is by being a part of the Met's popular Opera Quiz, an institution which has been around for long.  He was a panelist for many years and has now moved on to being a host.  Being a host "is referred to as hosting a good party.  You need to try to make people feel comfortable.   As a panelist you only hear the questions for the first time once you get on the air, but as a host you need to review and revise the script and make sure all the logistics are in order."

One last question I had for Mr. Benson was whether he had any tips for listening to opera.  Many people, myself included, love listening to opera but know nothing technical about it.  However, anyone can make astute comments based on how they react to the voice and music as long as they keep an open mind.
"Most newcomers to opera tend to listen with their eyes instead of their ears.  The most important thing is to leave yourself open to the expressions and emotions of the music and the color of the voice.  We always talk about singing versus acting when in fact opera has this whole other component which is expression.  It is acting with the voice.  The composer wrote the music to create a certain emotional response, and it is the singer's job to make the music come alive each time.  That is what is so wonderful about opera...there is no one way to perform it.  That is why people keep going back over and over again, so they can hear new singers and experience different interpretations."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Karen Vuong

Karen Vuong

Voice Type: Soprano
Age: 28
Home Town: Northridge, CA

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Quando m’en vo – La Bohème - Puccini
Come scoglio- Così fan tutte - Mozart
Embroidery Aria – Peter Grimes – Britten
Nun eilt herbei – The Merry Wives of Windsor - Nicolai
Da tempeste il legno infranto– Giulio Cesare - Handel

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

KV:  My music teachers in high school (Hamilton Music Academy) called a meeting with my parents to talk about applying for music schools.  It was between veterinary school or music school.  I chose music.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

KV:   My favorite opera is whatever opera I am in!  And if that opera happens to be by Mozart, even better!

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

KV: Coaching, lessons, eating well, and sleeping well!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Rose Sawvel

Rose as Marie from "The Daughter of the Regiment"
 - September 2012

Rose Sawvel

Voice Type: Soprano
Age: 28
Home Town: NYC (but I'm mostly from Denver, CO)

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Di piacer mi balza il cor - La Gazza Ladra - Rossini
Mir ist die Ehre - Der Rosenkavaler - Strauss
Salut à la France - La Fille du Régiment - Donizetti
Ah! Douce enfant...pour en faire - Cendrillon - Massenet
Be kind and courteous - A Midsummer Night's Dream – Britten

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

RS:  I was working on my Bachelor's degree in psychology when I started taking voice lessons. I was instantly hooked, went on to pursue a vocal performance and have been singing ever since.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

RS:   The aria that I could listen to a hundred times every day is Maria Callas singing "Ebben? ne andro lontana" from La Wally. My favorite aria to sing is "Mir ist die Ehre" from Der Rosenkavalier. As far as a favorite opera, I'd have to say La fille du Regiment.  Favorite composer? Definitely Richard Strauss.

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

RS: I have been preparing for the Region Finals in a lot of ways; staying in shape vocally, acting and language coachings, and just getting physically and mentally prepared, while remembering to enjoy all this amazing music and my wonderful colleagues. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Takaoki Onishi

Takaoki Onishi

Voice Type: Baritone
Age: 27
Home Town: Tokyo, Japan

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Silvios' Aria - Pagliacci - Leoncavallo
Uzhel ta samaja Tatiana - Eugene Onegin - Tchaikovsky 
È sogno? o realtà - Falstaff -Verdi
Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen - Die Tote Stadt - Korngold 
Rodrigo's Aria - Don Carlos – Verdi

Takaoki as Blansac in "La scala di seta"
OI: How did you become an opera singer?

TO:  I used to be a tuba player for 6 years at the Brass band club of my mid/high school, and became interested in opera when we did Triumphal March from "Aida". I did some research about the story, started watching operas, and became crazy about it. 

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

TO:   Depends on the mood, but Mozart's Don Giovanni is always my favorite opera. 

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

TO: I just do what I usually do. Sleep well, prepare the music deeply and carefully, and read the text. 

As Masetto in "Don Giovanni" with Ying Fang as Zerlina, Juilliard Opera

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Lilla Heinrich Szász

Lilla Heinrich Szász

Voice Type: Soprano
Age: 24
Home Town: Princeton, NJ

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Oh quante volte - I Capuleti ed i Montecchi - Bellini
Son vergin vezzosa - I Puritani - Bellini
The Gavotte - Manon - Massenet
Piangerò la sorte mia - Giulio Cesare - Handel
Deh vieni, non tardar - Le Nozze di Figaro – Mozart

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

Lilla as Susanna in Mozart's "Le nozze di Figaro"
LHS:  Music has always been with me throughout my life. When I look back at our home-videos, I'm surprised to see that I'm always singing, whether it be with family, friends, at home, within my Hungarian community, school chorus and ensembles, or literary and multicultural events. I am so grateful that my grandmother and mother have taught me the most beautiful Hungarian folksongs and Kodály adaptations, and for that I cannot thank them enough. 
When I saw my first opera I was in complete awe and wanted so badly to get up on stage and join those opera singers. I thought, "I could definitely see myself doing this for a living and loving every minute of it!" I never turned back since.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

LHS:   I absolutely love all the bel canto composers, as well as Mozart. 
"O Lola c'hai di latti la cammisa" from Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" is one of my favorite arias, along with those in Verdi's "Il trovatore". 

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

LHS: Besides practicing, resting and working out, I've been juicing lots of hearty greens and veggies. Recently I've also bought a new humidifier to help keep my chords healthy. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Evgenia Chaverdova

Evgenia Chaverdova

Voice Type: Mezzo-Soprano
Age: 27
Home Town: Amsterdam, The Netherlands *

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

O pallida, che un giorno - L’amico Fritz - Mascagni
Smanie implacabili - Cosi fan tutte - Mozart
Must the winter come so soon? - Vanessa - Barber
Nobles Seigneurs, salut! - Les Huguenots – Meyerbeer
Vot, do chego ja dojila - Tsar's Bride - Rimsky-Korsakov

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

EC:  My grandfather was an opera singer and my grandma fell in love with him when she heard his Lensky. As she sat in the front row of the Tbilisi Opera Theatre, he had her heart with the first note. She waited for him backstage after the performance and introduced herself--this meeting marked the beginning to forty glorious years together. I think that their love and passion for each other as well as the arts inspired everyone in our family to explore, to dream, to believe, and to create. However, grandpa often warned about the challenges, drama, and sacrifices involved in being an artist, and strongly advised against following in his footsteps. Some wisely took his advice, but I could not resist the mighty, magnetic pull of music.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

EC:   Another difficult question for me... Nevertheless, Tchaikovsky's Evgeny Onegin will always hold a special place in my heart. 

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

EC: En route to New York from the Netherlands, I made a stopover in Iceland. There I prepared for the Region Finals by indulging in the resilient beauty of the Icelandic landscapes, following the Northern Lights and soaking in geothermal hot springs. After all, competitions are stressful! But I also do occasionally practice, eat and sleep.

* Always a difficult question for me... I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia; spent three years in India; settled in Fresno, California; studied in San Francisco; and have now been living in Amsterdam. Phew!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Yujoong Kim

Yujoong in Rigoletto.

Yujoong Kim

Voice Type: Tenor
Age: 28
Home Town: Seoul, S.Korea

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön - Die Zauberflöte - Mozart 
Lunge da lei - La Traviata - Verdi
Il mio tesoro - Don Giovanni - Mozart
Quanto è bella - L'Elisir d'Amore - Donizetti
Kuda, kuda - Eugene Onegin – Tchaikovsky

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

YK:  I think I am not yet an opera singer. I want to be a professional opera singer because opera includes every part of arts, such as acting, music and staging. I am so happy and excited when I am on the stage. 

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

YK:   All Bass arias / La Boheme / Mozart.

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

YK: I am getting coaching and voice lessons as much as possible, but nothing special. I should be ready to sing anytime, anywhere; that is the destiny of a person who wants to be a professional opera singer.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Felicia Moore

Felicia as the Mother in Nevada Opera's
production of Amahl and the Night Visitors

Felicia Moore

Voice Type: Soprano
Age: 24
Home Town: Princeton, NJ

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Einsam in trüben Tagen - Lohengrin - Richard Wagner
Il est doux, il est bon - Hérodiade - Massenet
Come in quest'ora bruna - Simon Boccanegra - Verdi
Non più di fiori - La Clemenza di Tito - Mozart
Do not utter a word - Vanessa - Barber

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

FM:  I had sung in choirs all throughout school, and I was given my first solo as a sophomore in high school. I couldn't believe the rush I felt! Singing in choirs was always amazing, but this was exciting on a whole different level. As I got older I realized my voice really fit opera and I fell in love. There's nothing else like it! 

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

FM:  Aria: "Tu che le vanità" from Verdi's Don Carlo
Opera: Le Nozze di Figaro, Un Ballo in Maschera, Lohengrin. I couldn't narrow it down to just one! 
Composer: Mozart. I always come back to his operas and find something new.

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

FM: I've been doing a lot of exciting work since districts! Audition season ended a little while ago, and by the end of all the auditions it was easy to forget the extreme situations in which these characters are living in. I've been spending a lot of time looking over the music and rediscovering why these characters need to sing. And, of course-- a lot of rest!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Mizuho Takeshita

Mizuho as Despina in Cosi fan Tutte at
Martina Arroyo Foundation Prelude to Performance
Pictures by Jen Joyce Davis.
Mizuho Takeshita
Voice Type: Soprano
Age: 29
Home Town: Fukuoka, Japan

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Manon's Gavotte - Manon - Massenet
Caro nome - Rigoletto - Giuseppe Verdi
Willow Song - The Ballad of Baby Doe - Moore
Adele's Audition Aria - Die Fledermaus - Strauss
Einst träumte meiner sel'gen Base - Der Freischütz - Weber

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

MT: I just love singing and just did not give up.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

MT: Manon's Gavotte from Manon by Massenet.

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

MT: I ate a meal, exercised a bit, slept a lot, and sang for 8 hours (per a week). 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Sabrina Laney Warren

Sabrina as Pamini in Opera Theater Pittsburgh's
2012 production of The Magic Flute (Sara Salas as
The Queen of the Night, and Juan de Leon as Tamino)

Sabrina Laney Warren

Voice Type: Soprano
Age: 30
Home Town: Nashville, TN

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Ain't it a pretty night - Susannah - Floyd
Chi il bel sogno di Doretta - La Rondine - Puccini
Ah! Je veux vivre - Roméo et Juliette - Gounod
Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante - Carmen - Bizet
Ah, ich fühls - Die Zauberflöte - Mozart

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

SW:  I always knew I wanted to perform in some way. When I discovered opera I was instantly mesmerized and I knew that was what I wanted to pursue. Intense training, coaching, and auditioning is never easy, but the rewards are so gratifying.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

SW: I love so many it is hard to choose, but the opera Le Nozze di Figaro holds a special place in my heart. 

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

SW: Of course practicing, but work at this level goes beyond singing notes and rhythms. It is deeper into character situation and mood. Expressing and communicating a character is key to engaging your audience; and working on the details of the music. I also work regularly with my teacher and coach, both are wonderful and insightful.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Matthew Anchel

Matthew Anchel

Voice Type: Bass
Age: 25
Home Town: "Born and raised New Yorker"

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Arise, Ye Subterranean Winds - The Tempest - Purcell
O Isis und Osiris - The Magic Flute - Mozart
Il lacerato spirito- Simon Boccanegra - Verdi
Alvise's aria - La Gioconda - Ponchielli
I’m a lonely man Susannah - Susannah - Floyd

OI: How did you become an opera singer?
MA:  My parents were both opera singers. I wanted to do musical theater, but realized I was more suited to opera.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

MA: I think my favorite aria is "Ella giammai m'amo!" from Don Carlo, my favorite opera is Salome, favorite composer is Strauss or Verdi.

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 

MA: Getting a "humidiflyer" so I don't dry out and get sick on the plane to New York. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meet the Singers 2013: Leela Subramaniam

After introducing our judges, it is now time to get to know our singers a little better.  Check back often to learn more about all of our eleven singers.

Lucia di Lammermoor

Leela Subramaniam

Voice Type: Soprano
Age: 24
Home Town: Los Angeles, California

Aria choices for the Region Finals (subject to change):

Regnava nel silenzio...Quando rapito in estasi - Lucia di Lammermoor - Donizetti
Dis-moi que je suis belle - Thaïs - Massenet
Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben - Zaide - Mozart
Be kind and courteous - A Midsummer Night's Dream -Britten 
Son vergin vezzosa - I Puritani - Bellini

OI: How did you become an opera singer?

LS:  I had been singing all my life in church, and when I was a senior in high school I told my mom that I wanted to train classically. My first voice teacher threw me into the world of opera and I fell madly in love with it.

OI: What is your favorite aria/opera/composer? 

LS: That's a hard one! I'm sure my answer would change everyday and tough for me to limit my answer to just one. Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Marriage of Figaro are definitely three of my favorite operas. "D'amor Sull'Ali Rosee" from Il Trovatore is an aria that always gets to me, as is Gremin's aria from Eugene Onegin and "Non mi dir" from Don Giovanni. Verdi, Handel, and Mozart are my favorite opera composers. 

OI: How have you been preparing for the Region Finals? 
LS: With lots of rest, practice, yoga, and poise.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Region Finals 2013 "Meet the Judges": Marilyn Horne

Bio and pictures courtesy of
Columbia Artists Management

Marilyn Horne's five-decade career in opera, concert, and recital has been celebrated throughout the world for the power and artistry of her unique and dazzling mezzo-soprano coloratura, and for her revival of many forgotten Rossini, Handel, Vivaldi, and Bellini operas.

“One of the greatest operatic mezzo sopranos in history,” Horne launched the Marilyn Horne Foundation in 1994 to support young singers and the art of the song. She is Vocal Program Director at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, and each season she is engaged for master class residencies at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the University of Maryland at College Park.

She has been called the "Star Spangled Singer" and "the Heifetz of singers." In 2002, after a career in which for over four decades Marilyn Horne had dominated her field, Opera News said, “Marilyn Horne – whose face and song have been in the light – in so many places, in so many styles, through so many media, for so many years – may be the most influential singer in American history.”

Marilyn Horne continues to be one of America’s most beloved artists.  She has received numerous accolades and honors in the arts as well as academia.  Miss Horne was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2009 and the next month was honored in Washington, DC as the 2009 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors.  President Clinton named her a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995.  In 1992, she received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bush and the Endowment for the Arts.  Miss Horne sang at the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton White Houses and at President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.  In October of 2000, Miss Horne returned to the town of her birth, Bradford, Pennsylvania, where a street on the public square was named in her honor.  On that occasion, she also presented the opening season gala for the Bradford Creative and Performing Arts Center, where she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Distinction from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

The 2012-13 season holds for Marilyn Horne her fourteenth year of residency at the University of Oklahoma (Norman), her seventh with the Oberlin Conservatory and her sixth with the Manhattan School of Music.

She has given master classes for four years at the University of Maryland (College Park), has recently offered first time master classes at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland, at St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford, Connecticut and was part of the inaugural season of a new master class program, Lieder Alive! at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Recent and very special milestones and achievements for Marilyn Horne include being a recipient of the prestigious Opera News Award, the highest honor given within the opera industry, to recognize distinguished contributions from leading figures in the world of opera. In January of 2009 she celebrated her 75th Birthday and the 15th Anniversary of the founding of the Marilyn Horne Foundation with a star-studded Gala concert at Carnegie Hall.

Among Marilyn Horne's many worldwide prizes are the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters from France's Ministry of Culture, the Commendatore al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, the Fidelio Gold Medal from the International Association of Opera Directors, and the Covent Garden Silver Medal for Outstanding Service.  Miss Horne's international success in the most difficult of coloratura mezzo-soprano roles led to the revival of many of Rossini’s and Handel's greatest operas.  In an unprecedented move, Marilyn Horne received Italy’s first Rossini Medaglia d’Oro, created especially for her.

Miss Horne celebrated twenty-six years as a leading lady at the Metropolitan Opera, and was honored at the San Francisco Opera for her thirty-nine seasons there in October 1999.  Her many academic awards include numerous honorary doctorates from schools including the Juilliard School, Johns Hopkins University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  In 1999, Miss Horne was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.  In 2001, Miss Horne received a President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

Grammy Awards have been presented to Miss Horne for several of her operatic recordings.  These include Handel's Semele (Deutsche Grammaphon), Presenting Marilyn Horne, In Concert at the Met with Leontyne Price and Marilyn Horne, and Carmen (conducted by Leonard Bernstein).  In April, 2008, Decca released an 11 CD set entitled Marilyn Horne, The Complete Decca Recitals, as well as re-released Souvenir of a Golden Era to highlight Miss Horne’s appearance as Host/Narrator for the North American premiere of “Pauline Viardot and Friends,” under the auspices of San Francisco presents, also starring Frederica Von Stade and Vladimir Chernov. Additional releases include a collection of songs of Bernstein, Barber and Bolcom, entitled I Will Breathe a Mountain, on BMG and a recording of the songs of Irving Berlin that was released by VAI in 2000. In 2005, BMG-Sony re-released two of Miss Horne’s CDs – Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and All Through the Night, a collection of the world’s most beloved lullabies for children. A two CD compilation entitled Just for the Record – The Golden Voice of Marilyn Horne, from Universal Classics, was released for Miss Horne’s 70th birthday celebration in 2004. Also released for this occasion, was Miss Horne’s updated autobiography, The Song Continues, written with Jane Scovell from Baskerville Press.

In celebration of her 60th birthday in January of 1994, Miss Horne launched The Marilyn Horne Foundation, dedicated to the art of the vocal recital and presentation of young singers in recital throughout the United States.  In its 16 years, the Foundation introduced over 30,000 students to the vocal recital and classical song through more than 300 education programs across the country, along with full recital appearances in New York City and many cities throughout the nation. In July 2010 the Foundation’s programs became part of the venerable Carnegie Hall. Miss Horne remains Artistic Advisor to her song programs, now The Marilyn Horne Legacy at Carnegie Hall, where, in keeping with the January tradition of Miss Horne’s birthday, a week of recitals and master classes are offered by artists such as Maestro James Levine, Christa Ludwig, Grace Bumbry, Thomas Hampson, Regine Crespin, Warren Jones, Brian Zeger and Martin Katz.

Marilyn Horne is on the faculty at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California.  As Vocal Program Director, she teaches public master classes and private lessons to some of the world's most promising young artists.  Miss Horne has been responsible for reviving full length staged opera performances at the Academy with brand new productions of Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims - a smashing success - and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in 1997 and 1998, followed by Handel's rarely performed opera, Rodelinda in the summer of 1999, Richard Strauss’s masterpiece, Ariadne auf Naxos in the summer of 2000, and Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande (the Peter Brook, 90-minute, two piano version) in 2001.  Productions of Benjamin Britten’s opera Albert Herring and Mozart’s great masterpiece, Le Nozze di Figaro followed respectively in 2002 and 2003. 2004 brought Nino Rota’s Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze, and Mozart’s classic Cosi fan Tutte was presented in 2005.  Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims made its second appearance in 2006 and Puccini’s La Bohème made its Music Academy debut in 2007.  William Bolcom’s The Wedding, received high acclaim as the 2008 production and in 2009, Thomas’ Mignon received a rare and highly anticipated staging.

Born in Bradford, Pennsylvania, Marilyn Horne began her musical studies with her father and first sang in public at the age of two.  When she was eleven, her family moved to Long Beach, California.  After completing high school at Long Beach Polytechnic, she studied voice with William Vennard and song/recital works with Gwendolyn Koldofsky (her accompanist thereafter for ten years) at the University of Southern California.  During that time, she also participated in master classes with Lotte Lehmann at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and Cal Tech in Pasadena.  At the age of twenty, she made her operatic debut with the Los Angeles Guild Opera and, at that same age, dubbed the voice of Carmen in the highly successful film of Carmen Jones starring Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen.  Her early operatic career included three years at the Gelsenkirchen Municipal Opera, Germany where she sang a wide variety of starring roles.  In 1960, she returned to the U.S. where she presented her sensational debut in Berg's Wozzeck with the San Francisco Opera Company, followed by her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in 1961. In September of 1999, Miss Horne fulfilled a personal goal of singing in all fifty states with an engagement in Laramie, Wyoming.

In the year 2000, Marilyn Horne stopped programming classical repertoire in recital, and began to offer programs that reflect her deep and abiding interest and experience, since childhood, in American folk and popular songs.  In collaboration with Tony Award winning pianist, arranger, and conductor Don Pippin, she presents to this day An Evening of Great American Popular Songs, which debuted in 2000 at the Bradford Creative and Performing Arts Center. Additional programs in recent years have included Steppin’ Out with Irving Berlin, with tenor Robert White and pianist Dick Hyman, which opened the concert series of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in October 2000 and Stephen Foster: Songs of America, which debuted with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for the 2002-03 opening season gala.  Just Between Friends with Barbara Cook, which debuted in spring of 2002 at the Wharton Center, in East Lansing, MI, continues to receive rave reviews, with performances at Symphony Hall, Boston, The Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, MD, and, most recently, in May 2008 at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, CA.

Actively dedicated to excellence in vocal art, Miss Horne has ongoing commitments for private teaching and master classes throughout the world - well into the next decade.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Region Finals 2013 "Meet the Judges": Gayletha Nichols

Gayletha Nichols, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, joined the artistic staff of the Metropolitan Opera in the fall of 2000. She brought to the Met two decades of experience as a singer, teacher and career advisor. From 1992-2000, she was Director of Houston Opera Studio, the young artist development program at Houston Grand Opera, where she created and individualized the training both for singers and pianists. Ms. Nichols auditions hundreds of singers across North America every year and in her travels addresses many universities, conservatories, and festivals on developing the next generation of opera singers. She is a frequent adjudicator in national and international competitions and consults for other young artist programs across the country.


Last year, Ms. Nichols gave OperaIdols the following advice for prospective applicants:

In summary, she advises that the minute you feel ready with your repertoire, get out there and start competing. This will get you the feedback that you need to develop your talent, as it is important to know where you stand against others and a competition is an ideal place for this. 

Additionally, her feeling was that the audience should have been packed with students who aspire to sing on the Met Opera stage (as soloists). So students: please know that your presence is not just welcome but highly encouraged by this judge!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Region Finals 2013 "Meet the Judges": Matthew Epstein

Courtesy of Opera News

Continuing a long tradition with Columbia Artists Management, Matthew Epstein served as Director of CAMI Vocal, LLC from 1972 until 2010.

Artistic Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago from May 1999 to April 2005, Mr. Epstein collaborated with general director William Mason and music director Sir Andrew Davis on the choice or repertoire, singers, conductors, stage directors, and designers, and the development of artistic initiatives and new operatic and music-theater works.  Previously, Epstein served since 1980 as artistic consultant and later artistic advisor to general directors Carol Fox, Ardis Krainik, and Lyric’s first artistic director, Bruno Bartoletti.  He completed 25 years at Lyric Opera at the end of April 2005, with the close of the company’s golden jubilee 50th Anniversary season.

Epstein has worked closely with opera companies, recording companies, and symphony orchestras internationally on production concepts and casting for major operatic and oratorio presentations.  He has been closely identified with the career development of American singers, conductors, and stage directors.  As artistic consultant, he has worked with San Francisco Opera (for two Spring Festival seasons), Santa Fe Opera, Carnegie Hall (concert-opera productions), Sony Classical, BMG/RCA Records, and Amberson Productions,.

During his career, he has served as manager to many celebrated artists, including Kathleen Battle, Rockwell Blake, James Bowman, Ileana Cotrubas, Ryland Davies, Mark Delavan, Reneé Fleming,Maureen Forrester, Elizabeth Harwood, Rodney Gilfry, Susan Graham, Isabel Leonard, Marjana Lipovsek, Robert Lloyd, Dame Felicity Lott, Catherine Malfitano, Valerie Masterson, James Morris, Madga Olivero, Felicity Palmer, Ruggiero Raimondi, Samuel Ramey, Andrea Rost, Christine Schaefer, Neil Shicoff, Elisabeth Söderström, Tatiana Troyanos, and Frederica von Stade.  

In addition, he represented stage directors such as Christopher Alden, David Alden, John Copley, Frank Corsaro, John Cox, Lotfi Mansouri, Elijah Moshinsky, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, and David Pountney.

For the past several seasons, he has been associated with the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, advising young singers (along with the director of the vocal program, Marilyn Horne) on career development, repertoire choice, and other matters.  He also has performed similar duties at the Curtis Institute of Music, Juilliard School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Mannes School of Music, Yale University, the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Canadian Opera Ensemble, Houston Grand Opera Studio, the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program, and other similar young-artist programs throughout the United States and Canada. Most recently, he has taught at Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Oper Frankfurt, English National Opera, The National Opera Studio of Great Britain, and in 2012 Bayerische Staatsoper as well as Semper Oper in Dresden.

As general director of the Welsh National Opera (1991-94), Epstein was the first American to run an opera company in Great Britain.  From 1988 until 1990, he was artistic director of BAM Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Epstein has also been involved in several recording and television projects.  In 1981, he was artistic director for the Kennedy Center Gala honoring George London, which featured many opera luminaries.  The event was televised by PBS and recorded by RCA.  In 1992, Epstein oversaw the Rossini 200th Birthday Celebration Gala at Lincoln Center, which was televised internationally and recorded on both video and compact disc for EMI.  He served as artistic consultant to the “Celebration of the American Musical,” which was televised as part of “Live from Lincoln Center” on April 7, 1997.  He initiated “Music for Life,” a music industry-wide collaboration and benefit concert in 1987 that raised funds for the care of AIDS patients.  Epstein was also closely involved with the second “Music for Life” benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in 1990. Most recently, he was co Artistic Director of “Celebrating Marilyn Horne” for her 75th Birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall. In December 2011, he produced a Tribute tp Frederica von Stade for San Francisco Opera, Cal Performances, Philharmonia Baroque, and San Francisco Performances.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in European cultural history in 1969, Epstein joined Shaw Concerts, Inc.  He later helped create the opera department for that agency.
Epstein, a native New Yorker, was born in 1947.

Bio provided by Matthew Epstein