Winners of Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition Announced


The Dallas Opera Guild's 24th Annual Vocal Competition for young opera singers ended on a high-note last evening when ten outstanding finalists (with Texas connections) were awarded a total of $20,000 in prize monies. It is only the second time this spring musical event has graced the stage of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Arts District.

29-year-old soprano Heather Hawk of Weatherford, a graduate of Tarleton State University and Baylor University (where she earned her Master's degree in Vocal Performance) is currently pursuing her doctorate in Musical Arts at the University of North Texas. There, she has sung the title role in Handel's Alcina and was a finalist in last fall's UNT Concerto Competition. She has also performed professionally at the University of North Texas Faculty Concert, Works of Jake Heggie, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and at the 2011 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis.

During the finals round of the competition, Miss Hawk held the audience transfixed with powerful renditions of "Il est doux, il est bon" from Massenet's Hérodiade and "Ah, mio cor!" from Händel's Alcina, accompanied by pianist Julian Reed. Earlier in the day, she performed selections from Così fan tutte and Adriana Lecouvreur during the semifinals.

Miss Hawk received her $8,000 First Place cash prize from this year's special honorees: Elaine and Bill Blaylock.

The award for Second Place ($5,000) and the "People's Choice Award" (an additional $1,000) went to 23-year-old soprano Amanda Woodbury, a graduate of Frisco High School, now working towards her Master's degree at the Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music, where she has appeared onstage in the roles of Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance from Indiana University (2010) and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Second Place in the 2010 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, and another Second Place Award in the 2011 Metropolitan Opera Mid-South Regional Competition.

Miss Woodbury gave a luminous finals round performance of arias from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Puccini's La Rondine, accompanied by Julian Reed.

Her award for Second Place was given to her by the Dallas Opera Guild's Michael Phillips. The "People's Choice Award," based on secret ballots cast by members of the competition audience, was bestowed on Miss Woodbury by Dallas Opera Guild Presidents Jane and David McGinnis.

The Third Place Award and a $3,000 cash prize went to 29-year-old soprano Elisabeth Rosenberg, who also was accompanied by pianist Julian Reed. Following moving semi-finals round performances of "Ain't it a Pretty Night" from Carlisle Floyd's Susannah and "Morrai, si" from Händel's Rodelinda, she gave renditions of Micaëla's aria from Act III of Georges Bizet's Carmen and "Mi tradi quell'alma ingrate" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Miss Rosenberg has appeared onstage in numerous roles for Rice University (where she is currently pursuing her Master's degree), Dicapo Opera, Opera UCLA and New Jersey Opera.

The multi-faceted singer also plays the violin and dances-ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom and Latin ballroom.

Miss Rosenberg's prize was awarded by Contestant Co-Chair Don Jones.

This year's optional "Encouragement Award" was given to 22-year-old soprano Vanessa Becerra, a senior at Texas Christian University who has already performed professionally with Fort Worth Opera, the Turtle Creek Chorale, Seagle Music Colony, OperaWorks, the A.I.M.S. Festival Orchestra, and Arlington Heights United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. At TCU, where Miss Becerra is a Nordan Full-Tuition Award winner, she has appeared in a variety of partial roles and will soon portray the vivacious Adele in Die Fledermaus. Last night she performed "Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen" from Weber's Der Freischütz and "Caro nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto, accompanied by pianist Jason Smith.

Her $1,500 cash prize was awarded by the Dallas Opera Guild's Fran Burke.

"Fred and I have been impressed with the extraordinary level of talent revealed by these young Texas singers," admits Dallas Opera Guild Competition Co-Chair Sandi Ciarochi.

"It's also incredibly reassuring to see parents and grandparents," she adds, "bringing their children and grandchildren to this competition as a means of introducing them to Opera. Aficionados understand that when they share that love of the art form with the next generations, it enriches them both."

"With funding for the arts rapidly diminishing," explains Guild Competition Co-Chair Fred Ciarochi, "it's great to have this opportunity to recognize, honor and promote homegrown talent, particularly when you realize how many of our Guild Vocal Competition singers go on to become nationally and internationally recognized.

"Just sitting in the audience is a thrilling experience and when audience members cast their personal votes for the 'People's Choice Award'-now in its fifteenth year-you can detect how passionate people become when singers' careers are at stake."

Additionally, six finalists were honored with $250 grants:
Mezzo-soprano Ashley Cutright, age 26
Tenor Jeawook Lee, age 28
Baritone Justin Manalad, age 26
Soprano Julie Marx, age 23
Soprano Audra Methvin, age 25
Baritone Njabulo Mthimkhulu, age 30

Judges for the semifinal and finals rounds of this year's competition were:
· Scott Altman, General Director of Arizona Opera

· Christopher Hahn, General Director of Pittsburgh Opera

· Robin Thompson, Arts Consultant, Virginia Opera and additional companies

· Darren K. Woods, General Director of Fort Worth Opera

· And from The Dallas Opera, Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, who also acts as artistic advisor to this eagerly anticipated annual competition.

"Of all the things I do, over the course of the opera season, the vocal competition is one of the things I look forward to the most, because it gives me an enormous sense of personal satisfaction," explains Mr. Pell.

"Being able to help identify, nurture, and develop young talent is the most wonderful part of my job," Mr. Pell adds. "The Dallas Opera Guild Competition has helped quite a few struggling young singers, many of whom have gone on to forge significant international opera careers. People like Clifton Forbis, who earned critical acclaim in our sold-out performances of Tristan & Isolde, and Latonia Moore, who triumphed just days ago in her Metropolitan Opera debut as Aida, and who will open our next season in the Winspear Opera House in that exciting title role!"

This year's honorees, Elaine and Bill Blaylock, have contributed their combined talents to the Dallas Opera in a variety of ways since 1993. Elaine became indispensable to the Guild as a member of the "Adopt-an-Artist" program and quickly hooked Bill on TDO and the art form in what eventually became a family affair (their youngest son, Stuart, served as a supernumerary in several Dallas Opera productions). In addition to serving as Presidents of the Guild in 1999-2000, the Blaylocks established "Dallas Mosaic" and created the Bessylee Penland Endowment Fund which continues to provide vital support to this annual vocal competition. Elaine has also served with distinction as Chairman of the Dallas Opera Board Education Committee, while Bill currently serves as on TDO's Executive Committee as Chairman of the Audit Committee.

The Dallas Opera Guild's Vocal Competition not only provides generous assistance to the young opera stars of tomorrow; it also creates an outstanding opportunity for people from every walk of life to hear exceptional up-and-coming talents, in free, public performances.

And tough economic times may even increase the value of these experiences for young singers, according to Dallas Opera General Director & CEO Keith Cerny: "We believe that competitions like this are extremely important for young singers, allowing them to build their experience levels and confidence in the midst of an increasingly difficult artistic environment."

Select Stars of Earlier Competitions

Clifton Forbis (tenor), winner of our second annual Vocal Competition in 1990, has forged a dynamic international career. He sang the title role of Samson in Samson et Dalila at San Francisco Opera and Siegmund in the Canadian Opera Company's 2006 production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen to open their new Four Seasons Opera House. He also performed Act I of Die Walküre in January 2006 with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Mr. Forbis has sung Otello at La Scala and in numerous productions at the Metropolitan Opera and other important theaters around the world and – most notably - brought his interpretation of the role to open the new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts in October of 2009. He also dazzled critics and audiences alike in a phenomenal new TDO production of Tristan & Isolde in February of this year.

1998 First Prize winner Latonia Moore (soprano), who also captured the inaugural People's Choice Award that year, brought the audience to their feet in her memorable 2004 Dallas Opera debut as Micaela in Bizet's Carmen, earning the Maria Callas Award for The Dallas Opera debut of the year. She "triumphed as a radiant-voiced Micaela" recreating that role for her debut with the New York City Opera. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in the title role of L'Arlesiana for Opera Orchestra of New York and not long ago made her debut at London's Covent Garden as Liu in Turandot. She returns to the Dallas Opera to open next season in the title role of Verdi's Aida, in which she triumphed in her dramatic Metropolitan Opera debut just one week ago.

Jesus Garcia (tenor) competed in The Dallas Opera Guild's Vocal Competition in 1996, 1997, and 1999, winning Second Place that year. Long a favorite of Guild members, Jesus studied at the University of North Texas before attending the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2001 who starred as Rodolfo in Baz Luhrman's La bohème on Broadway, Jesus has also sung the Berlioz Requiem at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the role of Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola with the Washington National Opera at Kennedy Center, as well as in School matinee performances for The Dallas Opera. Mr. Garcia has performed at the Spoleto Festival, Houston Grand Opera, and Bordeaux Opera (France), among other venues.

Third Place winner Steven LaBrie (baritone) barely met the age requirement to enter our 2006 competition, then walked away with both the People's Choice Award and a special Mozart Aria award given by TDO's former General Director Karen Stone in honor of the composer's 250th birthday. His win propelled him into a coveted spot at AVA, where he performed roles in IL Barbiere de Siviglia and Eugene Onegin, in addition to his role as Antonio in Le Nozze de Figaro with The Living Opera. He went on to take First Place in an historic tie with baritone Michael Sumuel in the 2009 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition and made his official Dallas Opera debut last season in the role of Paris in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet.

Tenor Scott Scully, winner of the 2000 People's Choice Award, has sung with Opera Ontario (Canada), San Francisco Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Arizona Opera and recently made his Dallas Opera debut in Lohengrin. He was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program. Very active in concert, he has sung Carmina Burana with the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra and Atlanta Ballet, Falstaff and Billy Budd with the Cleveland Orchestra, and has collaborated with a list of illustrious conductors. In addition to the Dallas Opera Guild award, he received the Pavarotti award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, among others.

Jennifer Black (soprano), winner of our 2001 Vocal Competition and the People's Choice Award, has participated in the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. In 2006, she made her debut with the New York City Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, and sang at Carnegie Hall. She was previously a National Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and was described by The New York Times as "a sensitive, rich-voiced soprano." This past season at the Metropolitan Opera she sang leading roles in Adriana Lecouvreur and La sonnambula.

Angela Neiderloh (mezzo soprano), Second Place winner of the 2002 competition, spent three years in the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and has sung with the San Francisco Opera Center, Wolf Trap Opera, and the Houston Grand Opera. Her concert credits include solos with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, and the Columbia Symphony, among others. The New York Times has praised her as "an engaging coloratura mezzo-soprano."

Marjorie Owens, First Place winner of the 2002 competition and the People's Choice Award, was a winner of the 2006 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She was a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Lyric Opera Center for Young Artists, after spending three years with the Houston Grand Opera Studio. She has performed with the Fort Worth Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera in Washington, D.C., and the Aspen Opera Theater. The New York Times included Marjorie in their compilation of "the upcoming Great Big American Voices."


($5,000 and above)

Katherine and Michael Phillips

($2,500 and above)

Elaine and Bill Blaylock


Patti and John T. Cody, Jr.
In honor of Helen Boehning
And in memory of her mother, Nancy Boehning

Robert Hendler and Kathleen Muldoon

Richard and Enika Schultz

James R. Seitz, Jr.

Texas Instruments International


Dr. Robert and Martha Allday

Anne Bell
In honor of Elaine and Bill Blaylock
In memory of Nancy Boehning and Tom Lysaught

Helen Boehning
In memory of Nancy Boehning

Sandi and Fred Ciarochi
In memory of Nancy Boehning
In honor of Jeanette Wharton

Susan G. Fleming
In honor of Elaine and Bill Blaylock

William J. Hendrix

Jo Kurth Jagoda

Jan and John Matlack

Jane and David McGinnis
In honor of Elaine and Bill Blaylock
In memory of Nancy Boehning
In memory of Earl Carter, Jr.

Mae, Sharon, Andrew, Stefanie and Rose Suddeth
In memory of Nancy Boehning

Marnie and Kern Wildenthal
In memory of Nancy Boehning


Helen Boehning
Cecile and Fred Bonte
Victoria and Marvin Bradshaw
Consuelo B. Chavez
Ketty Fitzgerald
Marilyn and Ward Halla
Terri and Jesse Jones
Leria and Greg McConeghy
Lynn and Presley Mock
Linda Nelson
Angela D. Paulos
Gloria and Robert Rege
Nancy and Wayne Ritter
Pat and Jed Rosenthal
Honorable and Mrs. Wm. F. Sanderson, Jr.
Giancarlo and Maria Santarelli
Betty Secker
State Farm Good Neighbor Grant
Mr. and Mrs. Claude Thompson
The Wagner Society of Dallas
Bilye and Joe Werner
Jeanette and George Wharton
James L. Williams


AT&T Performing Arts Center and Staff
Consuelo Chavez and Joe Dyer (Judges' Dinner)
Jason's Deli (Daytime Catering for contestants, judges, accompanists and volunteers)
Phyllis Glover, CRS, ABR, SRES, Dave Perry-Miller & Assoc. (stage greenery)
Hodge Printing Company (competition programs)
Connie Klemow (Patron/Honoree Party) Cherly Sanders, Margaret Souda, Pat Trimble,
Joanne Fay, Sandi Ciarochi, Jeanette Wharton, Bily Werner
Tom McGurren (still photography)
Luke McKenzie (video photography)

For more information visit http://WWW.DALLASOPERA.ORG/.

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