Rising Stars Win Top Prizes in 2012 Lotte Lenya Competition
Matthew Grills, tenor, of Rochester, N.Y, won the $15,000 First Prize in the finals of the 2012 Lotte Lenya Competition, held on April 21, 2012, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. In a close contest, Justin Hopkins, bass-baritone of Philadelphia, and Jacob Keith Watson, tenor of Wynne, Ark., tied for Second Prizes of $10,000, and Megan Marino, mezzo-soprano of Malvern, Penn., was awarded the Third Prize of $7,500.
This is the first time that the top prize in both the Lotte Lenya Competition and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions was won by the same contestant, Matthew Grills, who was one of the five 2012 Met Auditions Grand Winners. While the Met Auditions, as well as most other singing competitions, focus primarily on vocal beauty and power, the Lotte Lenya Competition is unique in its equal emphasis on singing and acting. Contestants must present fully acted, idiomatic performances of repertoire ranging from opera to contemporary musical theater. At the Lenya Competition finals, Grills transitioned with ease from a performance of “Ah, mes amis” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment—an aria with nine high Cs—to a powerfully acted rendition of “If I Didn’t Believe in You” from Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years. The other prize winners also presented exceptionally strong performances of repertoire ranging from Mozart, Rossini, Lehár and Weill to William Finn, Andrew Lippa and Stephen Sondheim.
Judges for the competition were three-time Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker, Broadway and Encores! music director Rob Berman, and Theodore S. Chapin, President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and Chairman of the Board of the American Theater Wing.
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, which sponsors the competition, distributed a record $58,500 in prizes this year. In addition to the top prizes, judges presented two Lys Symonette Awards of $3,000 each, named in honor of Kurt Weill’s musical assistant on Broadway. For her performance of Weill’s “Le train du ciel,” soprano Natalie Ballenger of Santa Cruz, Calif., received an award for Outstanding Performance of an Individual Number, and soprano Maria Failla of Scarsdale, N.Y., received one for Extraordinary Promise as a Singing Actor / Acting Singer. The remaining six finalists each received a total award of $1,000: Christine Amon, mezzo-soprano, of Bowling Green, Ohio; Douglas Carpenter, baritone, of Woodbridge, Conn.; Briana Elyse Hunter, soprano, of New York; Cecelia Ticktin, mezzo-soprano, of Roosevelt, N.J.; Mollie Vogt-Welch, soprano/belt, of New York; and Nicky Wuchinger, bari-tenor of Berlin, Germany.
Inaugurated in 1998 to celebrate the centenary of Lenya’s birth, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes talented young singer/actors, ages 19-30, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire. For the 2012 competition, each contestant presented a diverse program that included an aria from the opera or operetta repertoire; two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one from the pre-1968 “Golden Age” and one from 1968 or later); and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill. After a preliminary round of auditions by video submission, twelve finalists were selected from a group of twenty-nine semi-finalists who auditioned in New York City for adjudicator/coaches Victoria Clark and Vicki Shaghoian.
The Lenya Competition will celebrate its 15th Anniversary in 2013. Since its inception, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded young singers more than $450,000. Previous winners’ current and upcoming professional performances include roles on Broadway (Kyle Barisich, Morgan James, Analisa Leaming) and at Arena Stage (Justin Lee Miller); Westport Country Playhouse (Erik Liberman); The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park (Cooper Grodin); Florida Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Oper Leipzig (Jonathan Michie); Hamburg State Opera (Rebecca Jo Loeb); the Glimmerglass Festival (Noah Stewart); Opera Theater of St. Louis (Liam Bonner); Wolftrap Opera (Margaret Gawrysiak); and Lyric Opera of Chicago (Rodell Rosel).