Kurt Weill Foundation Reveals Semifinalists for 2024 Lenya Competition

Ranging in age from 24 to 32, the semifinalists in the 2024 Lenya Competition were selected from a pool of 286 applicants.

By: Feb. 20, 2024
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Kurt Weill Foundation Reveals Semifinalists for 2024 Lenya Competition

The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music has identified the twenty rising singer-actors who have advanced to the Lenya Competition's semifinal round. Kim Kowalke, President of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and founder of the Lenya Competition, extolled the extraordinary level of performances by this group of semifinalists: "The judges of the preliminary round of video submissions awarded an unprecedented number of high ratings for this polished, and very diverse, group of performers, many of whom already have launched professional careers."

The Foundation has simultaneously named Andy Einhorn and Harolyn Blackwell as the artists who will serve in the Competition's unique coach-adjudicator semifinal role.
Ranging in age from 24 to 32, the semifinalists in the 2024 Lenya Competition were selected from a pool of 286 applicants representing 25 countries and 37 U.S. states. They are:

Nayeli Abrego (Ottawa, Ontario)
Matthew Amira (New York, NY)
Kendra Dyck (Toronto, Ontario)
Christian Mark Gibbs (New York, NY)
Ta'Nika Gibson (Springfield, MA)
Queen Hezumuryango (Bujumbura, Burundi)
Rebekah Howell (Hendersonville, TN)
Hugo Kampschreur (Arnhem, Netherlands)
Ana Karneža (Ptujska Gora, Slovenia)
Shavon Lloyd (Middletown, NY)
Prentiss Mouton (Memphis, TN)
Francesca Mehrotra (Ashburn, VA)
Jessica Mills (Adelaide, Australia)
Kaileigh Riess (Foxborough, MA)
Joseph Sacchi (Salem, OR)
Tristan Tournaud (Nashville, TN)
Schyler Vargas (Denver, CO)
Logan Wagner (Villa Hills, KY)
Rachel Weinfeld (Burlington, VT)
Jason Zacher (Livingston, NJ)

The group of semifinalists comprises individuals who are already pursuing successful professional careers on major stages across three continents, with roles on Broadway and in United States National Tours as well as in opera houses in North America and Europe, the Metropolitan Opera among them.

Semifinalists will audition in person in New York City and receive immediate feedback and coaching from one of the two semifinal judges. Andy Einhorn has served as a judge on six previous occasions and has long been Audra McDonald's musical director. Harolyn Blackwell's wide and varied career has brought her to many major national and international opera companies and festivals, not to mention innumerable telecasts and recordings. The Competition provides accompanists to contestants free of charge; long-serving collaborative pianists Schane Schag and Lyndon Meyer will participate again this year.
The Foundation made a number of awards in addition to designating the semifinalists. Four applicants received Emerging Talent Awards with a cash prize of $750 each: Paula Gaudier, Jack O'Leary, Maxwell Seelig, and Rachel Wresh. Polish-American soprano Magdalena Kuźma, a 27-year-old already singing lead roles at the Metropolitan Opera, received the Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Achievement in the amount of $750. Nikita Labdon and Ian Williams each won a $750 Prize for Outstanding Performance of a Lenya Competition Songbook Selection, for their performances of "Not that Different" by Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne and "Federico" by John-Michael Lyles and David Gomez, respectively. In recognition of the Songbook's ongoing enrichment of the repertoire required for the Competition, the writers/writing teams responsible for each of the songs recognized in the Lenya Competition since the Songbook's inception in 2021 will likewise receive $750 prizes: Sonya Hayden ("If I Didn't Know Better"), Ben Wexler ("Killin' Time"), and Daniel Zaitchik ("The Kettle Song"), along with those recognized this year.

The semifinalists compete for the opportunity to advance to the final round, which takes place on Saturday, 4 May 2024, in Rochester, New York. Top prizes are $25,000, $20,000, and $15,000, with total prizes exceeding $120,000. Prominent artists Nicole Cabell, Jeanine Tesori, and Tazewell Thompson will serve as judges for the final round, which will be complemented by an evening concert performed by Lenya Competition alumni. All events will stream live online at www.kwf.org, with the video remaining available for viewing indefinitely afterwards.

About the Lotte Lenya Competition

More than a vocal competition, the Lotte Lenya Competition recognizes talented young singer/actors who are dramatically and musically convincing in repertoire ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary Broadway scores, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill. Since its inception in 1998, the Lotte Lenya Competition has grown into an internationally recognized leader in identifying and nurturing the next generation of "total-package performers" (Opera News) and rising stars in both the opera and musical theater worlds. In awarding more than $1.5 million in prize money since the Competition's inception, the Kurt Weill Foundation has celebrated the talent and supported the careers of hundreds of singing actors worldwide.



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