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Houston Grand Opera Announces 2022 Concert of Arias Finalists

The competition will be livestreamed on HGO Digital and HGO’s Facebook and YouTube channels for at-home audiences, in addition to the live event and dinner.

Houston Grand Opera Announces 2022 Concert of Arias Finalists

Houston Grand Opera has announced the nine finalists for this year's Concert of Arias, the 34th Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, to be presented live from the Wortham Theater Center on January 21, 2022, at 7 p.m. CT.

The 2022 Concert of Arias finalists include:

  • Amanda Batista, soprano
  • Tatiana Carlos, soprano
  • Meryl Dominguez, soprano
  • Navasard Hakobyan, baritone
  • Jongwon Han, bass-baritone
  • Jonas Jud, bass
  • Shannon Keegan, mezzo-soprano
  • Evan Lazdowski, bass-baritone
  • Olivia Smith, soprano

The highly anticipated competition is held annually to identify candidates for HGO's internationally acclaimed young artist training program, the HGO Studio. The live event is the final stage of the competition that brings young singers from all over the world to Houston. Each finalist performs two arias from the opera repertoire for a panel of esteemed judges. The distinguished judges for this year's competition include guest judge and soprano Christine Goerke, HGO General Director and CEO Khori Dastoor, HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers, and HGO Artistic Advisor and soprano Ana María Martínez.

"The Concert of Arias represents the purest distillation of this company's values, as nothing is more important to us than the future of this art form," says Dastoor. "Each year we put all we have into developing the talents of the finest young artists in the country through the HGO Studio program, and that starts with this thrilling competition."

Houston Grand Opera will present the competition to a live audience in the Wortham's Cullen Theater, and the event will be livestreamed through HGO Digital and HGO's social platforms. The evening's livestream host is HGO Studio alumnus Norman Reinhardt. Reinhardt will keep online viewers apprised of all the action happening behind-the-scenes.

The in-person audience will get a chance to vote for the Audience Choice Award, and livestream viewers have the opportunity to vote for their favorite singer in the Online Viewers' Choice Award. The evening ends with the announcement of the six coveted prizes: First, Second, and Third place, the Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award, the Audience Choice Award, and the Online Viewers' Choice Award.

In order to safely present the competition from the Wortham Theater Center, HGO has followed strict protocols put in place by the company's Health Advisory Committee. The committee, whose members include professionals from Houston Methodist, has worked to develop procedures to protect the safety of artists, staff, and technicians.

"Many of the competition's singers have spent the past two years singing in a mask, sometimes even in performances. Some were enrolled in degree programs in which the majority of instruction took place online. So it is more meaningful than ever for them to stand before a live audience in the Cullen Theater and show the world that the challenges of the past two years haven't dulled their passion and determination to sing," says HGO Studio Director Brian Speck.

After careful consideration of 768 candidates, HGO narrowed the applicants to 18 semifinalists before selecting the nine talented finalists who will come to Houston for the final round of the competition. Following all safety protocols, the selected finalists will have the opportunity to learn more about HGO and work with company music staff leading up to the Concert of Arias, during which they will perform two arias each, competing for up to $10,000 in cash prizes. Finalists will be accompanied by HGO Studio alumnus and HGO Principal Coach Kirill Kuzmin.

This year's Concert of Arias is graciously chaired by Drs. Liz Grimm and Jack Roth. Proceeds from the evening benefit the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers and the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

This year's semifinalists include Amanda Batista, soprano; Tatiana Carlos, soprano; Meryl Dominguez, soprano; Magdalena Kuźma, soprano; Teresa Perrotta, soprano; Renée Richardson, soprano; Olivia Smith, soprano; Shannon Keegan, mezzo-soprano; Sophia Maekawa, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Sarian, mezzo-soprano; Erin Wagner, mezzo-soprano; Aaron Crouch, tenor; Joseph Tancredi, tenor; Navasard Hakobyan, baritone; Jongwon Han, bass-baritone; Evan Lazdowski, bass-baritone; Aleksandr Utkin, bass-baritone; and Jonas Jud, bass.

Since its inception 44 years ago, the HGO Studio has grown into one of the most respected young artist programs in the world. Each of the artists in the HGO Studio has access to a learning environment that emphasizes practical experience within the professional opera world. This includes regular coaching sessions with industry professionals, roles in HGO mainstage productions, recital performances, and a variety of other concert engagements.

2022 Concert of Arias Finalist Biographies:

Amanda Batista, soprano

Amanda Batista is a Cuban-Puerto Rican American soprano in the second year of her Master of Music degree in the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at The Juilliard School, studying under Darrell Babidge, where she is a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship. This season, Batista will make her Alice Tully Hall debut singing Ben Moore's So Free Am I as a part of Songfest, in collaboration with pianist Brian Zeger. Batista was an Encouragement Award Winner in the 2021 New York district of the Laffont Competition at the Metropolitan Opera. She will make her role debut as Frau Fluth in Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor in April of 2022 with Juilliard Opera at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Batista will join the Merola Opera Program in the summer of 2022. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

Tatiana Carlos, soprano

Brazilian soprano Tatiana Carlos was a Resident Artist at Bidu Sayão Opera Academy of Theatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, where she made her professional debut as Barena in Jenůfa. She debuted as Elisabetta in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at Amazonas Opera Festival and was a guest artist in Vittorio Grigolo's concert at Theatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro. Carlos received the Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award in HGO's 2020 Eleanor McCollum Competition, an encouragement award at the Rocky Mountain Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and a Study Grant Award from the Premiere Opera Foundation's International Vocal Competition. She holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Brigham Young University and a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

Meryl Dominguez, soprano

Meryl Dominguez, praised for her "intensity and warm tone" (Bachtrack) and "gorgeous, crystalline highs and a powerful mid-range" (Arts Knoxville) most recently made her international debut as the title character in Norma with Musica Viva Hong Kong. She is a graduate of Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts, where she performed roles such as Violetta (La traviata), Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus), Adina (The Elixir of Love), and Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor), which she also performed with Knoxville Opera. As an apprentice artist at Santa Fe Opera, she sang the role of Naiade in Ariadne auf Naxos. In addition to her operatic roles, she is an enthusiastic advocate for art song and new music.

Navasard Hakobyan, baritone

Armenian baritone Navasard Hakobyan has been a member of the young artist program of the National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Yerevan, Armenia since 2018. His roles in the 2020-21 season included Silvio in Pagliacci, Giorgio Germont in La traviata, and Belcore in a new production of The Elixir of Love. He has won numerous international competitions, recently winning first prize in the Premiere Opera Foundation International Vocal Competition and third prize in the José Carreras Grand Prix in Moscow, Russia. Hakobyan received his academic degree at Yerevan State Conservatory after Komitas. He was named the 2019 winner of the President of the Republic of Armenia Youth Prize.

Jongwon Han, bass-baritone

Born in Seoul, South Korea, bass-baritone Jongwon Han was a Grand Finalist and Pamela Craven Award Winner in the 2021 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the 2021 Stephen De Maio Memorial Award Winner from the Gerda Lissner Foundation. This season, he performs Haydn's Theresienmesse and Mozart's Sparrow Mass as bass soloist with New Choral Society in New York. Han will join Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Artist in 2022, covering the role of Bartolo in The Barber of Seville. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Seoul National University and is currently pursuing his master's degree at the Mannes School of Music.

Jonas Jud, bass

Jonas Jud is a bass from St. Gallen, Switzerland. He performed Caronte in L'Orfeo at the Ouverture Opéra in Sion, Switzerland and Colline in La bohème with Opernspiele Munot in Schaffhausen. He made his international debut as Truffaldino in Ariadne auf Naxos and as Skomoroch in The Tale of Tsar Saltan for Isny Oper in Germany. He sang Sarastro in The Magic Flute at the Teatro Civico di Schio and at the Teatro di Castelfranco Veneto, Italy. In the 2020-21 season he performed Sprecher in The Magic Flute at the Yale Opera and covered Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro and Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream as an apprentice artist at the Santa Fe Opera. He will sing Sarastro in The Magic Flute with Opernspiele Munot in 2022. He completed his bachelor's degree at the Conservatorio di Musica Agostino Steffani in Castelfranco Veneto, Italy, and is currently pursuing his master's degree at the Yale School of Music.

Shannon Keegan, mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Shannon Keegan combines committed vocal technique and dramatic skill to deliver compelling performances spanning musical theater and opera. Fiercely committed to new music, Keegan joins Des Moines Metro Opera to cover Ginny in the world premiere of A Thousand Acres in 2022. In 2020, she was meant to join the Santa Fe Opera as an apprentice artist, singing the role of Second Lady in The Magic Flute, but the season was canceled. In 2019, she was a member of Houston Grand Opera's Young Artists Vocal Academy and an apprentice artist at Des Moines Metro Opera. Shannon holds a master's degree from Rice University's Shepherd School of Music and a bachelor's degree from University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music (CCM).

Evan Lazdowski, bass-baritone

Recognized for his "well-grounded bass-baritone," Evan Lazdowski was recently seen as a finalist at the 2021 Dallas Opera National Vocal Competition. Upcoming engagements include The Rake's Progress (Nick Shadow) with Juilliard Opera and Don Giovanni (Commendatore) with Aspen Opera Theater as a Renée Fleming Artist. As a Gerdine Young Artist, Lazdowski made his debut last season at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he was a recipient of the Richard Gaddes Career Award. He was seen in the company's production of Gianni Schicchi, where he sang the Notary and covered Simone. Lazdowski is a second-year Master of Music candidate at The Juilliard School. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music and received additional training at Houston Grand Opera's Young Artists Vocal Academy.

Olivia Smith, soprano

Canadian soprano Olivia Smith hails from Penticton, British Columbia and is currently in her final year of her undergraduate degree at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she is a student of Julia Faulkner. This season, she will be covering the role of Fiordiligi in Mozart's Così fan tutte with the Curtis Opera Theatre. Other roles in Smith's repertoire include Berta in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Cathleen in Vaughan Williams's Riders to the Sea, First Witch in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, and Mrs. Gobineau in Menotti's The Medium-all with the Curtis Opera Theater. In February 2019, she was awarded the Henry and Dianna Asher Family Charitable Fund encouragement grant with the George London Competition. She was a 2021 participant in Houston Grand Opera's Young Artists Vocal Academy.

To learn more about the evening, visit HGO.org/COA.



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