Ten Singing Actors Selected as Finalists in 2024 Lotte Lenya Competition

The finals are set to take place Saturday, 4 May at Kilbourn Hall in Rochester, New York.

By: Mar. 26, 2024
Ten Singing Actors Selected as Finalists in 2024 Lotte Lenya Competition
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The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music has named the ten exceptional singing actors who will compete for a top prize of $25,000 in the final round of the twenty-sixth annual Lenya Competition, the internationally renowned theatrical singing contest. The finals are set to take place Saturday, 4 May at Kilbourn Hall in Rochester, New York. The group of finalists represents a remarkable array of talent, including contestants with Broadway and Metropolitan Opera credits. Kim Kowalke, President of the Kurt Weill Foundation and Founder of the Competition, said of the finalists: "The amazing level of talent and the diversity of these ten young artists promise an intensely competitive contest this year."

With its focus on both acting and vocal skills, the Lenya Competition celebrates talented singing actors of all nationalities who can "do it all" across the dynamic landscape of music theater. The ten finalists emerged from the Competition's semifinal round, which features a unique judging-coaching format. Previously selected from an initial pool of 286 applicants representing 25 countries and 37 U.S. states, twenty semifinalists each performed a continuous fifteen-minute program of four contrasting numbers, including one by Kurt Weill. Leading Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn and eminent soprano and vocal teacher Harolyn Blackwell served as coach-adjudicators. Reflecting on her first-ever foray into this role, Blackwell commented, "The Lenya Competition is unique and truly special in its discovery of those rare performers who communicate text and character so truthfully that they transfix and transport us."

The final round will be judged by a second panel of esteemed artists whose careers mirror the values of the Competition: world-renowned soprano Nicole Cabell, two-time Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori, and internationally acclaimed director-writer Tazewell Thompson. Tesori and Thompson's emotionally compelling opera Blue has just been nominated for a 2024 Olivier Award in the New Opera Production category. Cabell, an award winner in the 2002 Competition, went on to win the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition and now commands a broad repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary, performing on opera and concert stages worldwide.

The final round performances take place in Rochester on the afternoon on Saturday, 4 May, with contestants competing for top prizes of $25,000, $20,000, and $15,000. In the evening, four Competition alumni prizewinners return to Kilbourn Hall for a performance of highlights from their illustrious careers ranging from musical theater to opera: Michael Maliakel, now in his third year as Aladdin on Broadway; Analisa Leaming, who has starred on Broadway in The King and I and Hello, Dolly; Jacob Keith Watson, currently appearing in Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along; and Rebecca Jo Loeb, on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera and Susan in the German premiere of Kurt Weill's Love Life. Ted Chapin, longtime President and CEO of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and co-founder of the Encores! series at City Center, will emcee. The 2024 Competition awards presentation will follow. All events will stream live online and on demand afterwards at www.kwf.org.

Ranging in age from 26 to 33, the Finalists in the 2024 Lenya Competition are:

Kendra Dyck (Toronto, Ontario)

Christian Mark Gibbs (New York, NY)

Ta'Nika Gibson (Springfield, MA)

Queen Hezumuryango (Bujumbura, Burundi)

Rebekah Howell (Nashville, TN)

Ana Karneža (Ptujska Gora, Slovenia)

Kaileigh Riess (Foxborough, MA)

Joseph Sacchi (Salem, OR)

Logan Wagner (Villa Hills, KY)

Jason Zacher (Livingston, NJ)

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