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BWW Opera News: Soprano Nadine Sierra Named 2017 Richard Tucker Award Winner

Nadine Sierra, Richard Tucker
Award winner. Photot: Merri Cyr

Soprano Nadine Sierra was named today by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation as the winner of the 2017 Richard Tucker Award. The Tucker Award, often referred to as the "Heisman Trophy of Opera," carries the foundation's most substantial cash prize of $50,000, and is conferred each year by a panel of opera industry professionals on an American singer at the threshold of a major international career.

The list of past winners includes such luminaries as Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Lawrence Brownlee, Matthew Polenzani, Christine Goerke and Joyce DiDonato. Sierra will be inducted into this who's who of American opera at the Foundation's annual gala, to be held this year on Sunday, December 10th at Carnegie Hall.

Commenting by phone from Venice, where she is currently preparing to sing the title role in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR at the Teatro La Fenice, Sierra said: "I cannot thank the Richard Tucker Music Foundation enough for this incredible honor and for all the support they've shown me since I first auditioned for a Sara Tucker Study Grant in 2010. I am humbled to receive this award and to follow in the very large footsteps of those who have preceded me."

Barry Tucker, president of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and son of the Brooklyn-born tenor for whom the foundation is named, comments: "We are elated to have Nadine as our 2017 Richard Tucker Award winner. Having known her since she was an undergraduate in college and been in awe of her talents even back then, I could not be more impressed by how she has developed as a singer. She possesses an artistic maturity that is well beyond her years and is destined to be a leading light of the opera world."

Sierra as Ilia in IDOMENEO at the Met.
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Read our exclusive interview with Sierra, "In Met's IDOMENEO, Soprano Nadine Sierra Flies High," which was published during her acclaimed run as Ilia in Mozart's IDOMENEO last month at the Met.

Simultaneous to announcing Sierra's award, the Richard Tucker Foundation--a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to perpetuating the artistic legacy of the great Brooklyn-born tenor by nurturing the careers of talented American opera singers and by bringing opera into the community--revealed this year's recipients of its annual grants, the Richard Tucker Career Grants and Sara Tucker Study Grants. Through awards, grants for study, performance opportunities and other activities, the foundation provides professional development for singers at various stages of their careers.

This year's winners include:

Richard Tucker Career Grants are awards of $10,000 given to young singers who have already gained performance experience in professional companies.

Nicholas Brownlee, bass-baritone, 27
Brownlee, winner of the Foundation's Sara Tucker Study Grant last year, was the first-prize winner of the 2016 Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, won the Zarzuela prize at Operalia 2016, and won the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In the 2016-17 season, he made his Met debut as the First Soldier in SALOME, later joining LA Opera for the same opera; he returns there later this month for Tosca.

John Chest, baritone, 31
American baritone John Chest is winner of both the prestigious 2010 Stella Maris International Vocal Competition and the Arleen Auger Prize in the 2012 Hertogenbosch International Vocal Competition. Until September 2016 He was a member of the ensemble at the Deutsche Oper Berlin through September 2016, where he appeared as Billy Budd in a new production by David Alden (role he reprises in the 2016-17 season), among other roles, Future performances include major roles at the Glyndebourne Festival, Teatro Real Madrid, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, and the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.

Anthony Clark Evans, baritone, 32
Earlier this season, rising American baritone Evans made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Huntsman in Rusalka, while also covering Riccardo in I PURITANI. Among his numerous roles at the Chicago Lyric Opera was creating the role of Simon Thibault in the world premiere of BEL CANTO, from Ann Patchett's novel, by composer Jimmy Lopez and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. An earlier winner of a Sara Tucker Study Grant (2014), he recently completed a two-year tenure at Lyric Opera of Chicago's prestigious Ryan Opera Center, where he was heard in such roles as Montano in OTELLO for his company, Yamadori in MADAMA BUTTERFLY and the Huntsman in RUSALKA.


Sara Tucker Study Grants are awards of $5,000 given to young singers in the process of transitioning from student to professional singer.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor, 23
In the 2017-18 season, American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen looks forward to joining the Houston Grand Opera Studio, as the first countertenor in the Studio's history, where he will sing Nireno in Handel's Giulio Cesare and a Maid in Strauss's Elektra. In his breakout 2016-2017 season, Cohen was a Grand Finals winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, first-prize winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, and winner of the Irwin Scherzer Award as a finalist in the George London Foundation Competition. In the summer of 2017 he will join Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist.

Alexander McKissick, tenor, 25
McKissick has won awards from the Opera Index Competition and the Licia Albanese-Puccini Vocal Competition and, last summer, attended the Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Canto in Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy, participating in masterclasses with Richard Bonynge, Angela Gheorghiu, and Carmen Giannattasio. He's a Toulmin Scholar at the Juilliard School, where he received his Bachelor's of Music Degree and will receive his Master's Degree in May. He sang the role of Ramon in La Navarraise at the 2016 Bard SummerScape festival, and this summer, performs the role of Val in Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Alfredo in La traviata at the Aspen Music Festival.

Christian Pursell, bass-baritone, 26
Bass-baritone Pursell was a 2016 National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He sang in the critically acclaimed world premiere of Gregory Spears's FELLOW TRAVELERS at Cincinnati Opera, in Opera Fusion: New Works in Jack Perla's SHALIMAR THE CLOWN, and performed in the recent world premiere of SOME LIGHT EMERGES by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed at the Houston Grand Opera. He has also been heard in CENDRILLON, THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN, RIGOLETTO, and many others.

Cody Quattlebaum, bass-baritone, 23
Quattlebaum has been awarded prizes by the George London Foundation, Corbett Opera, James Toland, Gerda Lissner Liederkranz, CAM Heida Hermanns, and Opera Index competitions, and advanced to the semi-finals of the 2016-17 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. At Juilliard, where he is pursuing his Master of Music degree (a Marlena Malas student), he holds an Irene Diamond Graduate Fellowship and the Risë Stevens Scholarship and his roles run from Claudio in Handel's AGRIPPINA to the Colonel in the first workshop of Daniel Catán's MEET JOHN DOE. At the San Francisco Francisco Opera's Merola Program, he recently sang Guglielmo in COSÌ FAN TUTTE and will take on the title role in William Walton's THE BEAR This Summer.

Taylor Raven, mezzo-soprano, 25
Taylor Raven is a first-year Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist for the 2016-17 season, with roles including Oronte in Handel's RICHARD THE LIONHEART and Hannah in Laura Kaminsky's AS ONE. In the summer of 2016, Raven performed scenes in the Schwabacher Summer Concert with San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program. She also recently performed the role of Marian Anderson in DEEP RIVER: MARIAN ANDERSON JOURNEY with Virginia Opera. In 2015, Raven won both the Adelaide Bishop Award at Central City Opera and First Place in the Denver Lyric Opera Guild Competition.

Jack Swanson, tenor, 25
Swanson won the top prize from the The Sullivan Foundation in 2016, the grand prize in Florida Grand Opera's Young Patroness Competition, and first place in the National Opera Association Competition, among others. In 2016, he was featured on National Public Radio's Young Artist in Residence program, Performance Today. He makes his European debut this summer as Albazar in Garsington Opera's production of IL TURCO IN ITALIA, before performing Count Almaviva in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA with The Glyndebourne Touring Company in the fall. In 2018, he sings the title role In Leonard Bernstein's CANDIDE, directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by James Conlon, at Los Angeles Opera.

Vanessa Vasquez, soprano, 26
Vasquez won top prize at the 2017 Gerda Lissner Foundation International Competition, and was a National Winner of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Earlier this year she was the soprano soloist in Bach's cantata "Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich" with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and was a featured soloist with the same conductor and orchestra in the Academy of Music 160th Anniversary Concert and Ball. In 2016 alone, the third-year Resident Artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts won First Prize in the Giulio Gari Foundation Competition; First Prize in the Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition; Top Prize in the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition; and First Prize and Audience Favorite in the Southwest Vocal Competition.


The Richard Tucker Music Foundation will present the award to Sierra at its annual gala, which is presented each fall in New York City, featuring a starry lineup of today's leading opera singers. Audiences in 125 countries around the world were able to enjoy last year's gala, which introduced soprano Tamara Wilson as the 2016 Richard Tucker Award-winner, thanks to partnerships with and WQXR 105.9 FM, New York's classical radio station.

For more information about the work of the Richard Tucker Foundation, Nadine Sierra and the grants recipients, click here.

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