Rochester, NY — Nine of the Eastman School of Music’s top voice and opera students vied for kudos and cash at the fifth annual Friends of Eastman Opera Voice Competition on Saturday, November 19, 2005.
It was an afternoon of arias and appreciative applause in the School’s beautiful Kilbourn Hall, and when it was all over, first-year master’s student Lara Cottrill won the Lynne Clarke Vocal Prize of $800.
Cottrill, who completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Miami, FL, currently studies with Carol Webber. Her first aria was Donizetti’s “O luce di quest’anima” from Linda di Chamounix. Adjudicator William Florescu then requested to hear Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” (Gianni Schicchi) from the soprano’s trio of choices. Cottrill — one of only three contestants from which Florescu requested a third aria — finished with Mozart’s “Ach, ich fühls” from Die Zauberflöte.
“She presented standard repertoire, but was able to make me feel that I was hearing it for the first time,” says adjudicator William Florescu, who is currently the general director of Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera. “Choosing the winners was a very difficult job, but also delightful in that I was able to choose based on very small details.”
Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Berkebile, a first-year Eastman graduate student who studies with Rita Shane, took second place and a $500 prize. Baritone Jonathan Michie, who is a senior at Eastman as well as a Webber student, came in third and won $400.
The annual event is sponsored by the Friends of Eastman Opera, a non-profit group whose mission is to enhance the experience of Eastman’s opera and voice programs. The competition provides students with an invaluable link to the professional world by bringing in a director from a national opera company to hear the high quality of voices at the School. The first year’s winner, Janinah Burnett (MM, 2002) went on to play the lead in Broadway’s La Bohème in 2003.
“I think that the Eastman School of Music is doing a great job of preparing young vocal artists,” comments Florescu. “And I can’t say enough about what the Friends of Eastman Opera must mean to these young singers.”
Note : a high-resolution photo of Lara Cottrill is available. Interviews can also be arranged.