TOP THIS!

by Megan Meister

The Dallas Opera Guild’s 24th Annual Vocal Competition for young opera singers ended on a high-note (somehow, it always does) on Saturday, March 10th in the Winspear Opera House, when ten outstanding finalists with Texas connections were awarded a total of $20,000 in prize monies, following a nearly unprecedented “battle of the sopranos.”

29-year-old soprano Heather Hawk of Weatherford, who is currently pursuing her doctorate in Musical Arts at the University of North Texas, held the audience transfixed with powerful renditions of “Il est doux, il est bon” from Massenet’s Hérodiade and “Ah, mio cor!” from Händel’s Alcina, accompanied by pianist Julian Reed.  Earlier in the day, she performed selections from Così fan tutte and Adriana Lecouvreur during the semifinals round.

Miss Hawk received her $8,000 First Place cash prize from this year’s special honorees: Elaine and Bill Blaylock.

The award for Second Place ($5,000) and the “People’s Choice Award” (an additional $1,000) went to 23-year-old soprano Amanda Woodbury, a graduate of Frisco High School, now working towards her Master’s degree at the Cincinnati College -- Conservatory of Music.  Miss Woodbury took home Second Place in the 2010 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, and another Second Place Award in the 2011 Metropolitan Opera Mid-South Regional Competition.

The young singer gave a luminous finals round performance of arias from Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Puccini’s La Rondine, accompanied by Julian Reed.

Her award for Second Place was given to her by the Dallas Opera Guild’s Michael Phillips.  The “People’s Choice Award,” based on secret ballots cast by members of the competition audience, was bestowed on Miss Woodbury by Dallas Opera Guild Presidents Jane and David McGinnis.

The Third Place Award and a $3,000 cash prize went to 29-year-old soprano Elisabeth Rosenberg, who also was accompanied by pianist Julian Reed.  Following moving semi-finals round performances of “Ain’t it a Pretty Night” from Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah and “Morrai, si” from Händel’s Rodelinda, she gave breathtaking renditions of Micaëla’s aria from Act III of Georges Bizet’s Carmen and “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrate” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  Miss Rosenberg has appeared onstage in numerous roles for Rice University, where she is currently pursuing her Master’s degree).

Her prize was awarded by Contestant Co-Chair Don Jones.

This year’s optional “Encouragement Award” was given to 22-year-old soprano Vanessa Becerra, a senior at Texas Christian University where she is a Nordan Full-Tuition Award winner.  During the finals, she performed “Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen” from Weber’s Der Freischütz and “Caro nome” from Verdi’s Rigoletto, accompanied by pianist Jason Smith.

Miss Becerra’s $1,500 cash prize was awarded by the Dallas Opera Guild’s Fran Burke.

“With funding for the arts rapidly diminishing,” explained Guild Competition Co-Chair Fred Ciarochi, “it’s great to have this opportunity to recognize, honor and promote homegrown talent, particularly when you realize how many of our Guild Vocal Competition singers go on to become nationally and internationally recognized.

“Just sitting in the audience is a thrilling experience and when audience members cast their personal votes for the ‘People’s Choice Award’—now in its fifteenth year—you can detect how passionate people become when singers’ careers are at stake.”

In addition to the big money awards, six finalists were presented with $250 cash prizes, so no one went home empty-handed – least of all the audience!

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director of Media & PR for the Dallas Opera, is an award-winning journalist, producer, classical music broadcaster and playwright.  Most importantly, she tells you prior to each TDO performance to turn off your cellphone.  You were listening, right?

3 Responses to TOP THIS!

Suzanne Calvin says: March 27, 2012 at 11:06 am

ToscasKiss is right, that the male competitors provided some of the most interesting moments in the competition; however, the article necessarily needed to focus on the winners and the sopranos swept this year. Jay, contact the Dallas Opera Guild for a complete guide to entering the competition (number one question: will you be between the ages of 18 and 30 next spring, with either a Texas residence or driver’s license?). You can reach the Guild at 214.443.1040.

ToscasKiss says: March 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm

It was a very talented group, making audience voting quite difficult (unlike, for instance, the year Weston Hurt rose so far above the competition, he easily won both first place and the audience choice). I wish you had also mentioned the men who sang; I especially enjoyed tenor Jaewook Lee (his pronunciation of both German and Italian sounded so natural to me, and he was particularly focused and intense), but also baritones Justin Manalad and Njabulo Mthimkhulu.