Vocal competition heats up Sunday

Music: Nine finalists will compete at the Annapolis Opera's annual contest.


Arundel Live

February 03, 2005|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After judges narrowed a field of 61 vocalists to nine last weekend, the Annapolis Opera announced the finalists who will compete in Sunday's 17th annual vocal competition.

Two are from Maryland, three are from Virginia and four are from Pennsylvania, with all nine possessing a strong educational background.

The finalists are baritone Jason Kaminski and soprano Jung-A Lee, both of Maryland; soprano Leanne Gonzalez, baritone Nemeh Azzam, and soprano Lori Lind, all of Virginia; and baritone James Kee, bass-baritone Damian Savarino, soprano Brenda Atzinger, and tenor Jinho Hwang, all of Pennsylvania.

They will compete before veteran judges at the annual Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition, and all will receive prizes based on the judges' decisions. In addition, the audience will vote for its favorite singer, who will receive an Audience Choice award.

Now in its 17th year, the Annapolis Opera's Vocal Competition uses two sets of judges. Preliminary judges last weekend were Mareda Gaither-Graves from New York; Ronald J. Gretz, artistic director of the Annapolis Opera and founder of the Maryland Philharmonic Orchestra; and William Yannuzzi, music director of the Baltimore Opera.

The nine finalists will compete at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts before an audience and a second trio of judges: Joseph Banno, artistic director of Source Theatre Company of Washington, D.C. and director of the Folger Shakespeare Theatre; Valerie Eichelberger, mezzo-soprano and a member of the Howard University voice faculty who was recently a soloist for Verdi's Requiem at Morgan State University; and Elaine Walter, founder and artistic director of Summer Opera Company and general manager emeritus.

Contestants will be accompanied on the piano by Eileen Cornett, a frequent coach and accompanist for the Baltimore and Annapolis operas.

All contestants are required to sing two arias from five they have prepared - one of their choice, another chosen by the judges.

Finalists will compete for a top prize of $2,100, a second prize of $1,200 and a third prize of $1,000, with study awards ranging from $500 to $650. The singer receiving the most votes from the audience will receive the $300 Audience Choice award.

Admission is free through a grant from the Helena Foundation. No tickets will be issued and there will be no assigned seating except for sections reserved for donors. For best seat selection, arrive well before 3 p.m. Sunday.

Past winners have gone on to successful careers. The 2003 winner, Dongwon Shin, was a finalist at the Metropolitan Opera auditions and sang at the Met and at the Santa Fe Opera. That year's second prize winner, Rayanne Gonzales, was featured in the premier of Frank Loesser's Senor Discretion Himself, which ran last spring at Arena Stage, and Audience Choice winner Lorraine Hinds has established a singing career in Europe.

Information: 410-267-8135.

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