The finals of the annual Friends of Eastman Opera Voice Competition at the Eastman School of Music will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, in Kilbourn Hall, during the first-ever celebration of National Opera Week.
More than 90 organizations across the country, including professional companies and educational institutions, are participating in National Opera Week Nov. 13 through 22. Organized by Opera America with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the celebration features a wide variety of programs, such as performances, lectures, and open houses, which demonstrate the inventiveness, excitement, and accessibility of the opera art form. At the Eastman School, National Opera Week also features a master class given by Willie Anthony Waters, adjudicator of this year’s Friends of Eastman Opera (FEO) Competition.
Eight Eastman School voice and opera students have been selected as competition finalists from preliminary auditions held earlier in the fall. The FEO event gives local audiences the opportunity to hear rising vocal talents early in their careers while providing singers the chance to compete for cash prizes and perform for a recognized conductor, stage director, or impresario serving as judge. The winner of the first Friends of Eastman Opera Voice Competition, held in 2001, was Janinah Burnett, who received her master’s degree in 2002 and went on to play the lead in La Bohème on Broadway in 2003.
For the finals, singers prepare three arias in two different languages; each sings a work of his or her choice, with the adjudicator picking the second aria. The top three winners will be announced at the end of the recital and will receive prizes totaling $2,250. The first prize of $1,000 is the Lynne Clarke Vocal Prize, donated by Friends of Eastman Opera founding member John Clarke in memory of his wife. A reception open to everyone will be held on the Cominsky Promenade following the competition.
This year’s finalists are:
- Rebecca Farley, soprano, second-year master’s student
- Seyoung Jeong, soprano, second-year master’s student
- Debra McKinney, soprano, second-year master’s student
- Malcolm Merriweather, baritone, first-year master’s student
- Marielle Murphy, soprano, senior
- Ashley Stone, mezzo-soprano, second-year master’s student
- Edward Matthew Valverde, tenor, first-year master’s student
- John Taylor Ward, baritone, senior
In addition, soprano Kendra Berentsen, a senior at the Eastman School of Music, was selected as an alternate.
Waters, the adjudicator of this year’s FEO Competition, was formerly general and artistic director of Connecticut Opera and artistic director and principal conductor of Florida Grand Opera. He has been a guest conductor for the Arizona Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Cologne Opera, L’Opera de Montreal, San Diego Opera, and other companies in North America, Europe, and South Africa. Among his orchestral engagements are performances with the Hartford Symphony and the Florida Philharmonic, as well as several European orchestras, including the Bavarian Radio Orchestra in Munich. Waters hosts a monthly radio program on Beethoven Radio, Looking Through the Opera Glasses, and is a frequent guest panelist on the quiz of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts.
The Friends of Eastman Opera is a volunteer group that supports Eastman Opera students, programs, and productions, and promotes Eastman Opera Theatre in the Rochester community.
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Saturday, Nov. 21
Finals of Friends of Eastman Opera Voice Competition
Kilbourn Hall, 26 Gibbs St.
Free and open to the public