Annual competition brings out impressive array of young singers

February 04, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

The Annapolis Opera's annual Maryland Vocal Competition has become one of the most enjoyable events of the area's concert season over the past six years, and the 1994 finals Saturday evening proved to be the best of the series.

Ten finalists on stage at St. John's College had been culled from the 45 singers who had auditioned for the competition judges on Jan. 22 and 23.

Each of the 10 performed a pair of arias accompanied by the remarkable Patricia McKewen Amato at the piano.

The jury consisted of choral conductor Ava Shields; Loraine Bernstein, a recipient of numerous opera and recital prizes; Braxton Peters, the Annapolis Opera's stage director; and Ronald Gretz, the company's conductor. Nearly $3,000 in prizes was awarded.

Winner of the $750 grand prize was Jennifer Post, a 31-year-old soprano from Silver Spring who impressed the jury with selections by Bellini and Menotti. Arriving late because of another singing engagement, Ms. Post was fumbling with her gown just moments before taking the stage to sing her first aria, the emotional "Oh! Quate Volte" from Bellini's "I Montecchi ed I Capuletti."

"I just tried to stay calm and centered," said the graduate of the Boston Conservatory and the University of Maryland Opera Program. "I had no idea I would win, so there was a lot of shock and disbelief."

Detra Battle of Upper Marlboro won the $500 second prize with an impressive account of Verdi's "Tacae La Notte" from "Il Trovatore." She has improved immensely since last year's competition, when she won the Aris Allen Prize as the audience's favorite. Ms. Battle bears watching.

So does third-place finisher and this year's Allen Prize recipient Taewon Yi Kim, a terrific mezzo who mowed down Rossini's murderous "Una voce poco fa" without batting an eye.

Also impressive were Angela Powell, a lyric soprano whose Puccini provided the most deeply felt moments of the evening, and Amy VanRoekel, a feisty, flirty coloratura who lighted up the stage with her energetic command of the music.

It's a shame more local conductors weren't on hand to listen to the local talent. These young singers should be soloing with the area's choirs and orchestras instead of the New York mediocrities we must endure so regularly.

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