2014 Lenya Competition Finalists Revealed; Judy Kaye, Rob Berman & James Robinson Will Judge
Fourteen exceptionally talented young singer-actors have been selected as finalists in the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition. They will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500 on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Rochester, New York. Broadway conductor and Encores! music director Rob Berman, 2-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson will judge.
Held annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes talented young singer-actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire. A short documentary produced in 2013, "Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition," explores the unique nature of the Competition and can be streamed athttps://www.youtube.com/KurtWeillFoundation.
"I can't imagine a more challenging competition for a singer then the Lenya Competition," says Rob Berman, who judges for the fifth time this year, "when you look at what they're asked to prepare." Four-time judge and Broadway leading lady Rebecca Luker adds, "This is a competition of the highest quality."
Finalists were selected from a group of twenty-nine semi-finalists from the United States, Canada, and Europe after auditions in New York on March 7-8, 2014. Contestants were required to prepare four selections: 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. Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker and Tony Award nominee and Olivier Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori served as coach/adjudicators, evaluating and working with each of the semi-finalists.
Seven men and seven women, ranging in age this year from 23 to 31, are the finalists: Robert Ariza (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Natalie Ballenger (New York), Diana Rose Becker (Northport, N.Y.), Rachel Cordeiro-Perez (New York), Ben Edquist (Houston), Norman Garrett (Silver Spring, Md.),Arlo Hill (New York), Briana Hunter (New York), Carter Lynch (New York), Lauren Michelle (New York), Heather Phillips (Philadelphia), Jim Schubin (Matawan, N.J.), Katie Travis (New York), and Mikalai Znaharchuk (Minsk, Belarus).
Finalists will perform their entire programs for the judges on April 12 between 11 am and 3:30 pm. At 8 pm, they will perform a concert of selections which ends with the announcement of the winners. Both events are free and open to the public, and will take place in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, 26 Gibbs Street, Rochester, N.Y.
In addition to the top prizes, the Foundation will award special prizes at the finals and has already presented Emerging Talent Awards to first-round contestants Neda Lahidji (Santa Clara, Calif.), Zach Miller (State College, Pa.), Mary Beth Nelson (Oklahoma City), Laura Corina Saunders (Rochester, N.Y.), Ethan Simpson (Evanston, Ill.), Christine Cornish Smith (Sunnyside, N.Y.), Anthony Witson-Martini (La Mesa, Calif.), and Clayton Graves Williams (Rosedale, N.Y.). The Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Promise went to Brian Vu of New Haven.
In its first fifteen years, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded over a half-million dollars in prize money to young performers and continues to support previous winners with career development grants. Previous winners enjoy successful stage, concert, and recording careers around the globe. In the 2013-14 season alone, their credits range from Broadway (Morgan James, Motown The Musical; Kyle Scatliffe, LES MISERABLES; Jacob Keith Watson, Violet; Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), the West End (Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys), national tours (Cooper Grodin, Amy Justman, The Phantom of the Opera; Ariela Morgenstern, Flashdance The Musical), and regional theaters (Doug Carpenter, The Most Happy Fella, Goodspeed Musicals, and South Pacific, Paper Mill Playhouse; Analisa Leaming, Arlington, Magic Theatre San Francisco) to major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera (Paul Corona, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Megan Marino), Houston Grand Opera (Liam Bonner, Rodell Rosel), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie, Rodell Rosel), Hamburg Staatsoper (Rebecca Jo Loeb), and Teatro Real Madrid (Noah Stewart).
Photo by Jennifer Broski