Seattle Opera Announces Finalists for 2014 International Wagner Competition

Seattle Opera Announces Finalists for 2014 International Wagner Competition

General Director Speight Jenkins announced the singers selected for Seattle Opera's popular International Wagner Competition on August 7, 2014, where emerging artists will go head-to-head American Idol style.

The competition is part of a celebratory weekend which also includes a concert and dinner in honor of Speight Jenkins' three decades at the helm of Seattle Opera (and featuring 15 of the company's favorite singers) on August 9.

In an all-Wagner concert conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, who has extensive experience with Deutsche Oper Berlin, eight finalists and two alternates will compete for two prizes of $25,000, to be awarded by a distinguished panel of judges. The audience and orchestra will also play an important role in the competition. Both groups will award a prize of $5,000 to their favorite artist.

Singers, all between the ages of 25-40, were nominated by general directors, managers, and other established opera professionals. Following auditions in Munich, London, New York, and Seattle in the fall of 2013, eight finalists were chosen to compete. This third International Wagner Competition is made possible by a generous contribution from the Nesholm Family Foundation.

The competitors are:

Ric Furman, tenor
Suzanne Hendrix, mezzo-soprano
Roman Ialcic, bass baritone
Kihun Yoon, baritone
Tamara Mancini, soprano
Kevin Ray, tenor
Issachah Savage, tenor
Marcy Stonikas, soprano

The alternates are:

David Danholt, tenor
Helena Dix, soprano

The judges for Seattle Opera's third International Wagner Competition are an international group of authorities in all aspects of opera production-mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe, who has spent five summers in Seattle singing Wagner's Ring; Peter Kazaras stage director, tenor, and Director of Opera Studies at UCLA; Bernd Loebe, the Director of Opera Frankfurt; François Rochaix, director of Seattle Opera's Ring from 1985 to 1995; and Stephen Wadsworth, director of Seattle Opera's Ring from 2000 to 2013 and Director of Opera Studies for the Juilliard School.

"Our auditions turned up ten remarkable young Wagnerians," said Seattle Opera's General Director Speight Jenkins. "They will make our third International Wagner Competition a thrilling and rewarding event. We have in Sebastian Lang-Lessing an exciting new conductor for Seattle Opera. I look forward to hearing the competition and to the decisions made by our distinguished panel of judges."

The first International Wagner Competition was held in August 2006 and made possible by a grant from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. Mr. Jenkins created the competition to identify and recognize qualified, emerging opera singers who demonstrate clear promise of an important career in the Wagnerian repertoire. Irish soprano Miriam Murphy and English baritone James Rutherford won the competition in 2006. South African soprano Elza van den Heever and Swedish tenor Michael Weinius won the second International Wagner Competition in 2008. Since then, these four prize-winners, plus many of the other competitors, have gone on to significant artistic accomplishments at opera houses around the world.

Beginning with its first presentation of the Ring in 1975, Seattle Opera has built an international reputation as the leading presenter of the Wagner repertoire in the United States. This Wagner tradition began under the leadership of the company's founding general director, Glynn Ross, and has been expanded under Speight Jenkins. During Mr. Jenkins's tenure, Seattle Opera has completed the formidable artistic feat of producing all ten of Wagner's major operas-including two very different productions of Wagner's Ring-which have been accompanied by seminars and symposia featuring leading opera scholars from the world over. By taking a leading role in discovering and promoting outstanding young singers with a desire to carve out a career that includes the Wagner repertoire, Seattle Opera is extending its ongoing commitment to the music of Richard Wagner.

Lead Sponsor - Nesholm Family Foundation
Orchestra Choice Prize - Betty and Jack Schafer
Audience Choice Prize - Wagner and More

"Seattle Opera has brought our family its most satisfying artistic experiences," say John and Laurel Nesholm. "We are thrilled to fund its third International Wagner Competition, which we expect will provide a springboard for several important careers. We look forward to great things from these emerging artists, and are excited that this tradition will continue."

Tickets (ranging from $46 to $66) for the 2014 International Wagner Competition are available online, by phone or in person. For more information, call 800.426.1619 or 206.389.7676 or visit

2014 International Wagner Competition Finalists:

Ric Furman


Ric Furman made his Seattle Opera debut as Florestan in Fidelio in 2012. He has performed Tito in La clemenza di Tito at Opera Company of Brooklyn, Don José in Carmen at Springfield Regional Opera, Dancaïre in Carmen at Cincinnati Opera, and Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi at Pittsburgh Opera. For Cincinnati Opera he sang Augustin Moser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He has also appeared at Dayton Opera, Dicapo Opera, Indianapolis Opera, and Opera Omaha. Past roles include Rodolfo in La bohème, Alfredo in La traviata, the Duke in Rigoletto, both Roméo and Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette, Detlef in The Student Prince, Beppe in Pagliacci, and roles in Aida, Don Carlo, Ainadamar, Carmen, Salome, Samson et Dalila, Il viaggio a Reims, Le nozze di Figaro, Gianni Schicchi, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Così fan tutte, The Tender Land, and Die Zauberflöte. He is a former Young Artist with Cincinnati Opera and Opera Omaha.

Suzanne Hendrix


Suzanne Hendrix made her Seattle Opera debut as Waltraute in Die Walküre in 2013. Other Wagner roles include Schwertleite in Die Walküre at San Francisco Opera and Mary in Der Fliegende Holländer at Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She recently performed the Fortune Teller in Arabella at Santa Fe Opera, Bianca in The Rape of Lucretia at Opera Memphis, and Azucena in Il trovatore at Wichita Grand Opera. Other roles include Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Ma in The Tender Land, Zita in Gianni Schicchi, the Princess in Suor Angelica, and Florence Pike in Albert Herring. She is a former apprentice artist with Des Moines Metro Opera, Merola Opera Program, and the Santa Fe Opera. She won first prize in the 2012 George London Competition.

Roman Ialcic


German bass Roman Ialcic covered the roles of Fafner and Hunding for Seattle Opera's 2013 Der Ring des Nibelungen. His roles include Konchak in Prince Igor, Boris in Boris Godunov, Gremin in Eugene Onegin, and Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra. He also performed Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte at the Open Air Opera Festival in Isny. In 2006, he reached the final round of Plácido Domingo's Operalia, and since September 2007 has been engaged as a soloist at the St. Gallen Theater, Switzerland, where his roles have included Escamillo in Carmen, Cascada in The Merry Widow, Lamoral in Arabella, Tomski in The Queen of Spades, Talbot in Giovanna d'Arco, Marchese d'Obigny in La traviata, and Kaspar in Der Freischütz.

Tamara Mancini


Tamara Mancini made her Seattle Opera debut as Ortlinde in Die Walküre in 2013. A former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, she performed in their mainstage productions as Freia in Das Rheingold and Helmwige in Die Walküre. She recently performed the title role in Turandot at Royal Opera Stockholm; Palácio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City; and Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Other roles include Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, Leonora in La forza del destino, Maddalena di Coigny in Andrea Chénier, Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, and the title role in Tosca, which she performed in her Vancouver Opera debut earlier this season. She has won the Giulio Gari Competition, the Licia Albanese Puccini Competition, and the Opera Index Competition.

Kevin Ray


As a second year member in the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Kevin Ray's roles have included Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, the Third SS Officer in Weinberg's The Passenger, scenes of Captain Ahab in Heggie's Moby-Dick, Froh and Loge in Das Rheingold, and Don José in Carmen. Last season, he sang his first performances of the title role of Peter Grimes with Chautauqua Opera as well as Don José at the Lyrique-en-Mer/Festival de Belle-Île. His previous roles at Houston Grand Opera include Melot in Tristan und Isolde, the Messenger in Il trovatore, and Parpignol in La bohème. At Santa Fe Opera, he created the role of the Second Clubman in the world premiere of Moravec's The Letter and has performed the role of the Poet in Menotti's The Last Savage. He is a former member of the Santa Fe Apprentice Singer Program and the Merola Opera Program of San Francisco Opera.

Issachah Savage


Grand prize winner of the 2012 Marcello Giordani International Competition, Issacha Savage has received awards and career grants from the Wagner Societies of New York, Washington, D.C., and Northern California, and two first place prizes in the Liederkranz Foundation competition. Savage has performed in the world premiere of Wynton Marsalis's All Rise and Mark Antony in the world premiere of Leslie Savoy Burrs' Egypt's Nights at Philadelphia's Opera North, and he has performed Radames in Aida at Opera North Carolina and Houston Grand Opera. He has also participated in the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, the Evelyn Lear and Thomas Steward Emerging Singers Program, Dolora Zajick's Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, and ACMA's Wagner Theater program, where he performed scenes from Die Walküre, Parsifal, and Samson et Delilah.