Houston Grand Opera Studio Artists Awarded at Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition
Houston Grand Opera Studio artist, Nathaniel Peake won the Zarzuela prize and Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny won the Birgit Nilsson prize at Plácido Domingo's Operalia competition on Sunday, May 2. The weeklong worldwide competition took place this year at famed Milanese opera house Teatro alla Scala- this was the first time the contest has been hosted in Italy.
"Artists of the Houston Grand Opera Studio are a source of constant pride and excitement to all of us at HGO," said Anthony Freud, Houston Grand Opera's General Director and CEO. "The most recent examples are Nathaniel Peake's and Ryan McKinny's outstanding success at Operalia in Milan Sunday evening, in which they were the only Americans to win in the competition."
Operalia, The World Opera Competition was founded in 1993 by Plácido Domingo to discover and honor the best new young opera singers of today. The goal of Operalia is to attract singers of all voice categories from all around the globe and allow them to be heard by a panel of distinguished international opera personalities, in the most prestigious and competitive forum in the world. Under the artistic guidance of Plácido Domingo, Operalia is a competition open to all voice categories for singers from 18 to 30 years old who are ready to perform on the world's great opera stages. Forty singers are invited to perform for judges in the host city. This year, thirteen of these were invited to the finals where they perform with a full orchestra conducted by Mr. Domingo. Past winners have included Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, Latvian soprano Maija Kovalevska, tenor José Cura from Argentina and bass Erwin Schrott from Uruguay.
American tenor Nathaniel Peake, a native of Humble, Texas, is completing his first year with the HGO Studio. He appeared on Houston Grand Opera's mainstage as Nemorino in Donizetti's The Elixir of Love. He has also performed the roles of Fritz in Mascagni's L'amico Fritz with the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program, and Tybalt in Gounod Roméo et Juliette and Don José in Marius Constant's Bizet adaptation La Tragédie de Carmen with the Syracuse Opera. This summer, Peake is scheduled to sing the roles of Sultan Soliman in Mozart's Zaïde, Albazar in Rossini's Il turco in Italia, and Snout/The Wall in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream with Wolf Trap Opera.
Peake is the winner of the 2009 Audience Choice Award in HGO's Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, Grand Finalist winner at the 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the 2010 George London Award. He also won a Sara Tucker study grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation earlier this year.
An alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, American bass-baritone Ryan McKinny has performed a number of roles on the mainstage at HGO, including Figaro in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Ramfis in Verdi's Aida, Peter in Humperdinck's Hänsel and Gretel, Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni, and most recently the Herald in Wagner's Lohengrin. He has also performed at Los Angeles Opera and Wolf Trap Opera. He recently made his European operatic debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen, as well as Hercules in Gluck's Alceste for Oper Leipzig. Next season McKinny will make his debuts at English National Opera as Tiridate in Handel's Radamisto, at Semperoper Dresden and Hamburg State Opera as Escamillo in Carmen and at Deutsche Oper am Rhein in his role debut as Amfortas in Wagner's Parsifal. American engagements include roles at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and Houston Grand Opera. McKinny won third place in HGO's Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers in 2005; was the United States representative in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, where he was a finalist in the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize; and was a Grand Finalist in the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Since its inception in 1955, Houston Grand Opera has swiftly grown from a small regional organization into an internationally renowned opera company. The company has a reputation for commissioning and producing new works, including 40 world premieres and six American premieres since 1973. In addition to producing and performing world-class opera, HGO contributes to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation through a diverse, innovative and balanced program of performances, events, community and education projects that reaches the widest possible public. HGO has toured extensively, including trips to Europe and Asia, and it is the only opera company to have won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and two Emmy awards. HGO's performances are broadcast nationally on the WFMT Radio Network. For more information on the Houston Grand Opera, visit www.houstongrandopera.org