Mezzo-Soprano Isabel Leonard Receives 6th Annual Beverly Sills Artist Award
Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard has been named the recipient of the sixth annual Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers at the Metropolitan Opera. The $50,000 award, the largest of its kind in the United States, is designated for extraordinarily gifted singers between the ages of 25 and 40 who have already appeared in featured solo roles at the Met. The award, in honor of Beverly Sills, was established in 2006 by an endowment gift from Agnes Varis, a managing director on the Met board, and her husband, Karl Leichtman. Leonard was presented with the award at the Met today by Dr. Varis and Muffy Greenough, daughter of Beverly Sills.
The Sills Award was created to help further recipients' careers, including funding for voice lessons, vocal coaching, language lessons, related travel costs, and other professional assistance. Sills, who died on July 2, 2007, was well known as a supporter and friend to developing young artists, and this award continues her legacy as an advocate for rising singers. The 29-year-old Leonard is the sixth recipient of the award, following baritone Nathan Gunn in 2006, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in 2007, tenor Matthew Polenzani in 2008, bass John Relyea in 2009, and soprano Susanna Phillips in 2010.
"It is with my deepest respect and appreciation that I would like to thank Agnes Varis, Karl Leichtman, and the Metropolitan Opera for this award," Leonard said. "With this unexpected recognition comes great responsibility. The Beverly Sills Artist Award is synonymous with great American artistry, and to be a part of that compels and inspires me to work harder and achieve greater things. Although I never had the opportunity to meet Ms. Sills, I admire her reputation. She is known not only as a complete artist but as a complete person, bringing life to her music and music to her life. I hope I can also help to bring more joy and beauty to our world."
Dr. Varis added, "Isabel Leonard is such a wonderful young singer - her Dorabella in Così fan tutte earlier this season was simply delightful. I'm so pleased to contribute to her future with this award, and I look forward to hearing her at the Met for many seasons to come."
Leonard made her Met debut in 2007 as Stéphano in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. She appeared to excellent reviews in subsequent seasons as Zerlina in Don Giovanni (2008), Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro (2009), and, in the current season, Dorabella in Così fan tutte. In the 2011-12 season, she will sing Zerlina in a new production of Don Giovanni by Tony Award winner Michael Grandage and make her house role debut as Rosina in IL Barbiere di Siviglia. She has sung principal roles in many high-profile international productions, including performances at the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Salzburg Festival, Paris Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Opera Colorado. Her previous honors include the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Award (2006) and the Marilyn Horne Foundation Award (2005), and she was among the winners of the Giulio Gari Competition in 2005. Leonard is a native New Yorker who holds bachelors' and masters' degrees from Juilliard.