26th Annual Guild Vocal Competition

by Celeste Hart

DALLAS, FEBRUARY 27, 2014 –The Dallas Opera Guild is proud to present the 26th Annual “Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition,” an on-stage showcase for talented young opera singers with Texas connections on Saturday, March 15, 2014 in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Contact: Suzanne Calvin 214.443.1014                            Or Celeste Hart 214.443.1071

suzanne.calvin@dallasopera.org                          celeste.hart@dallasopera.org


The Dallas Opera Guild Presents

The 26th Annual

Dallas Opera Guild

Vocal Competition


Honoring Cecile and Dr. Fred Bonte

Ketty Fitzgerald and Sharon Bird Stupp,




The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House

At the AT&T Performing Arts Center

2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201



Free Admission


~~ Semi-final Round Begins at 11:30 AM ~~

$5 Cash Parking in Lexus Red Garage


DALLAS, FEBRUARY 27, 2014 –The Dallas Opera Guild is proud to present the 26th Annual “Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition,” an on-stage showcase for talented young opera singers with Texas connections on Saturday, March 15, 2014 in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201.

This marks the fourth time this eagerly anticipated vocal competition will be held in the acoustically acclaimed Winspear Opera House.

There is no charge for admission to any part of the event (although donations are definitely welcome), and Lexus Red Garage parking is available for just $5 cash for both the Semi-final Round, from 11:30 AM until 4:30 PM, and the Finals Round of the Guild competition, starting at 7:30 PM that same evening (no in-and-out).

Twenty semi-finalists (aged 18 to 30) chosen from a field of 59 qualified applicants will compete for thousands of dollars in prize monies ($19,000 was awarded in 2007, 2009, and 2010; $20,500 in 2011; $20,000 in 2012; $25,000 in 2013) at this year’s competition, open to singers preparing for a career in the field of opera.  They must be current Texas residents or out-of-state residents attending a Texas college or university.


Judges for this year’s event include:


  • ·        Michael Heaston (Director, “Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program,” Washington National Opera and Director, Young Artists Program and Head of Music Staff, Glimmerglass Festival)
  • ·        Roberto Mauro (Artistic Administrator, Canadian Opera Company)
  • ·        Andreas Melinat (Director of Artistic Administration, Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • ·        Evans Mirageas (Artistic Director, Cincinnati Opera and Vice-president of Artistic Planning, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)
  • ·        And from The Dallas Opera, Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, who also acts as artistic advisor to this eagerly anticipated annual competition.


“Everyone views the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition as a tremendous opportunity for gifted young opera singers with Texas ties,” says Mr. Pell.  “However, the fact is, this is just as significant an opportunity for those of us in the field to gauge the next generation of singing talent, as it is a chance for these young artists to shine.

“My commitment to this competition grows year-by-year,” he adds, “because I’ve seen its incredible impact on lives, as well as careers.”


            “Previous winners have built upon the encouragement and financial support they received to earn spots in prestigious young artists’ programs and advance in their studies at leading vocal institutes,” explains Vocal Competition Co-Chair Sharon Bird Stupp.  “Many who received early recognition here have gone on to stellar international careers, award-winning roles on Broadway, and prestigious debuts and teaching positions.”


The Dallas Opera Guild is pleased to announce that the Honorees for the 26th Annual Vocal Competition are Cecile and Fred Bonte.

The Bontes have been consistent donors and supporters of the Guild’s Vocal Competition since its earliest days.  Cecile has had the pleasure of designing and doing the calligraphy for the winners’ certificates for many years.  Both have won the respect of their peers for their tireless contributions of time, talent, energy and resources.


“We are so pleased to be named the honorees for the 26th Annual Vocal Competition and wish to thank the Dallas Opera, The Dallas Opera Guild and all of its members” wrote Dr. and Mrs. Bonte.  “When it is all said and done however, this is all about the very talented and worthy participants of this outstanding competition.  It would please us immensely if all who believe in this competition, as we surely do, and the wonderful opportunity it brings to the singers, would be as generous as possible as part of their continued commitment to the project.”


Preliminary judges for this year’s competition included Dallas Opera Music Director of Education and Family Programming and Adjunct Faculty at the University of North Texas Mary Dibbern; world-renowned tenor Clifton Forbis, recent star of the Dallas Opera’s Tristan und Isolde and Associate Professor and Chair of Voice at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts; and Dr. Stephen Dubberly, Opera Music Director at the University of North Texas. 

The singers in both the semi-final and finals rounds on March 15th will be accompanied by TDO’s Laurie Rogers and Jason Smith an accompanist and faculty vocal coach at Southern Methodist University, with guest pianists Jeffrey Arnold, Saule Garcia and Jeffrey Peterson.


            However, the judging isn’t left entirely to the professionals; the amateur music lovers get to express their views, too.

Audience participation, in fact, is part of the fun at each year’s Dallas Opera Vocal Competition and, for the fifteenth consecutive year, attendees will be given the chance to sit down with a ballot and vote on their personal favorites for “The People’s Choice Award.”

The Dallas Opera Guild’s Vocal Competition, not only provides vital assistance to the young opera stars of tomorrow, but also creates an outstanding opportunity for people from throughout the community to hear exceptional up-and-coming talents, in free performances in a magnificent setting.


The 2014 Semi-Finalists:


  • ·        Erin Alcorn, soprano, 24
  • ·        Cristina Bakhoum,  mezzo-soprano, 28
  • ·        Nicholas Brownlee, bass-baritone, 24
  • ·        Bille Bruley, tenor, 25
  • ·        Natalie Turner, soprano, 24
  • ·        Rebekah Howell, soprano, 22
  • ·        Moretta Irchirl, mezzo-soprano, 20
  • ·        Youna Jang, soprano, 30
  • ·        Sooyeon Kang, soprano, 24
  • ·        Jeawook Lee, tenor, 30
  • ·        Natalie Logan, soprano, 22
  • ·        Trevor Martin, baritone, 25
  • ·        Audra Methvin, soprano, 27
  • ·        Sara Clemintine Mire, soprano, 18
  • ·        Chaazi Munyanya, mezzo-soprano, 24
  • ·        Said Pressley, bass-baritone,27
  • ·        Coretta Smith, soprano, 27
  • ·        Reginald Smith, Jr, baritone, 25
  • ·        Matthew Stump, bass-baritone, 24
  • ·        Brent Turner, tenor, 30



“The Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition offered much-needed career and financial support at a crucial time in my life,” says Jennifer Black (First Prize, People’s Choice Award, 2001).  “I had just completed my studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, as well as my first summer with San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program, and was on my way to The Yale School of Music.

“The chance to participate in this competition was a real ‘vote of confidence’ that encouraged me to continue on this path I had chosen.  I feel blessed to have been a recipient of the Guild’s generous support.”

This free, spring musical event has become a favorite among opera aficionados and vocal music lovers across North Texas.  For additional information about the 25th Annual Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, please contact The Dallas Opera Guild at 214-443-1040.


Select Stars of Earlier Competitions



Clifton Forbis (tenor), winner of our second annual Vocal Competition in 1990, has forged a dynamic international career.  He sang the title role of Samson in Samson et Dalila at San Francisco Opera and Siegmund in the Canadian Opera Company’s 2006 production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen to open their new Four Seasons Opera House.  He also performed Act I of Die Walküre in January 2006 with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.  Mr. Forbis has sung Otello at La Scala and in numerous productions at the Metropolitan Opera and other important theaters around the world and – most notably -- brought his interpretation of the role to open the new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts in October of 2009 and returned last February in one of the title roles of Tristan & Isolde in a critically acclaimed new Dallas Opera production.


1998 First Prize winner Latonia Moore (soprano), who also captured the inaugural People’s Choice Award that year, brought the audience to their feet in her memorable 2004 Dallas Opera debut as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen, earning the Maria Callas Award for The Dallas Opera debut of the year.  She “triumphed as a radiant-voiced Micaela” recreating that role for her debut with the New York City Opera.  The New York Times wrote of “her radiant, warm sound and lovely phrasing,” saying, “What she has already is special: a distinctive, poignant sound that makes an audience sit up.”  She made her Carnegie Hall debut in the title role of L’Arlesiana for Opera Orchestra of New York and made her debut at London’s Covent Garden as Liu in Turandot before stepping in at the 11th hour to sing Aida at the Met.  She repeated her triumph earlier this season in the title role of Verdi’s Aida at the Dallas Opera.


Jesus Garcia (tenor) competed in The Dallas Opera Guild’s Vocal Competition in 1996, 1997, and 1999, winning Second Place that year.  Long a favorite of Guild members, Jesus studied at the University of North Texas before attending the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.  Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2001 who starred as Rodolfo in Baz Luhrman’s La bohème on Broadway, Jesus has also sung the Berlioz Requiem at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the role of Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola with the Washington National Opera at Kennedy Center, as well as in School matinee performances for The Dallas Opera.  Mr. Garcia has performed at the Spoleto Festival, Houston Grand Opera, and Bordeaux Opera (France), among other venues.


Third Place winner Steven LaBrie (baritone) barely met the age requirement to enter our 2006 competition, then walked away with both the People’s Choice Award and a special Mozart Aria award given by TDO’s former General Director Karen Stone in honor of the composer’s 250th birthday.  His win propelled him into a coveted spot at AVA, where he performed roles in Il barbiere de Siviglia and Eugene Onegin, in addition to his role as Antonio in Le Nozze de Figaro with The Living Opera.  He went on to take First Place in an historic tie with baritone Michael Sumuel in the 2009 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition and made his official Dallas Opera debut in 2011singing the role of Paris in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet.   He will return next season singing the role of Le Dancaire in Bizet’s Carmen.


Tenor Scott Scully, winner of the 2000 People’s Choice Award, has sung with Opera Ontario (Canada), San Francisco Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Arizona Opera and recently made his Dallas Opera debut in Lohengrin.  He was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program.  Very active in concert, he has sung Carmina Burana with the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra and Atlanta Ballet, Falstaff and Billy Budd with the Cleveland Orchestra, and has collaborated with a list of illustrious conductors.  In addition to the Dallas Opera Guild award, he received the Pavarotti award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, among others.


Jennifer Black (soprano), winner of our 2001 Vocal Competition and the People’s Choice Award, has participated in the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.  In 2006, she made her debut with the New York City Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, and sang at Carnegie Hall. She was previously a National Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and was described by The New York Times as “a sensitive, rich-voiced soprano.”  Last season at the Metropolitan Opera she sang leading roles in Adriana Lecouvreur and La sonnambula.


Angela Neiderloh (mezzo soprano), Second Place winner of the 2002 competition, spent three years in the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and has sung with the San Francisco Opera Center, Wolf Trap Opera, and the Houston Grand Opera.  Her concert credits include solos with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, and the Columbia Symphony, among others.  The New York Times has praised her as “an engaging coloratura mezzo-soprano.”


Marjorie Owens, First Place winner of the 2002 competition and the People’s Choice Award, was a winner of the 2006 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  She was a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Opera Center for Young Artists, after spending three years with the Houston Grand Opera Studio.  She has performed with the Fort Worth Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera in Washington, D.C., and the Aspen Opera Theater.  The New York Times included Marjorie in their compilation of “the upcoming Great Big American Voices.”


Winner of the 2003 People’s Choice Award, Erik Nelson Werner (baritone) has sung with the Dallas Opera, Fort Worth Opera, New York City Opera and Opera Orchestra of New York, and has sung extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe.  He performed at Carnegie Hall in February 2007, and has won numerous awards throughout the years, including the Brahms Competition in Graz, Austria, and the Geneva International Music Competition.  He has re-trained and has recently re-launched his career as a tenor.


Baritone Weston Hurt, winner of both our 2005 Vocal Competition and the People’s Choice Award, has performed throughout the United States and Latin America and made his debut with The Dallas Opera in La bohème.  He debuted with the New York City Opera in 2006, and has also sung with the Opera Orchestra of New York, and the National Symphony at Wolf Trap.  His 2007 engagements included the Arizona Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, and the role of Baldassare in L’Arlesiana with the Opera Orchestra of New York.  A graduate of the Juillard Opera Center, he has won numerous awards, including Opera Index, Inc., Palm Beach Opera Competition, two career grants from the Santa Fe Opera, and was a finalist for the Sara Tucker Career Grant.  Next season Mr. Hurt will be back singing the role of Frank in Korngold’s Die tote Stadt.


First Place winner Takesha Meshé Kizart (soprano, 2006) signed with artistic manager Tim Menah of Askonas Holt, Ltd. in London and recently appeared in the title role of Tosca for The Dallas Opera’s 2008 School Performances which led to her U.K. debut in the role at Opera North in Leeds.  A former vocal performance honors student at UNT, she has won numerous competitions throughout the world, including national semi-finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Marian Anderson Historical Society, Mario Lanza Institute Vocal Scholarship Competition, Opera Index, and the Voci Verdiane International Competition in Busseto, Italy, where she became the first African-American to ever win the Grand Prize.


Tenor Scott Quinn, who tied for Second Place in the 2008 competition, served as The Dallas Opera’s “Young Artist in Residence” the following year, singing principal roles in several mainstage productions, including Roberto Devereux (Lord Cecil) and La bohème (Parpignol).  He continues to sing roles for us today, including a recent appearance as Normanno in TDO’s revival of Lucia di Lammermoor.  He currently is in his second year in the Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Program where he has performed such roles as Rodolfo in La bohème (November 1, 6, 2012), Sailor’s Voice in Tristan and Isolde. Ruiz in Il trovatore (2013). Previously: Royal Herald in Don Carlos (2012), Gastone de Letourières in La traviata (2012), Sergeant in The Barber of Seville (2012).


First Place winner (2011), 26-year-old countertenor John Holiday, Jr., a 2007 graduate of Southern Methodist University now working towards a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (2012), wowed judges and audience members alike with his extraordinary renditions of “Crude furie” from Händel’s Serse and “Che farò senza Euridice” from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, which showcased the exceptional beauty and timbre of his unusual vocal type.  And he took critics by storm in December’s production of “A Gathering: The Dallas Arts Community Reflects on 30 Years of AIDS.”  Performing “Ave Maria,” Mr. Holiday, wrote Mark Lowry of “Theater Jones,” gave a performance “that had to be heard to be believed.”











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