Competition seeks a new voice in opera

January 31, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

Think of Annapolis Opera's Vocal Competition as a hometown version of American Idol - except the tough judges are never rude in evaluating contestants.

A record number of 90 aspiring singers from the Mid-Atlantic region auditioned last weekend for a trio of judges: sopranos Jean Carter and Charlotte Wesley and Annapolis Opera music director Ronald J. Gretz.

Victoria Waidner, an Annapolis Opera spokeswoman, said the organization was thrilled with the turnout.

"We put the announcement on our Web site this year, and that helped. Plus, it has been growing every year," she said. "We got many contestants from the music schools we contacted, including Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts, The Peabody Conservatory, University of Maryland, Catholic University, Howard, and schools in Virginia and Delaware."

It took the judges two days to narrow the field to eight, who will compete in Annapolis Opera's 19th annual competition Sunday.

Finalists include soprano Corrine Winters of Lutherville; mezzo-soprano Jenni Bank of Baltimore; baritone Daniel Olson of Baltimore; soprano Colleen Daly of Frederick; tenor Heyk Chae of Burtonsville; and mezzo-soprano Michelle Rice of Springfield. From Philadelphia are bass Kenneth Kellogg and soprano Kisma Jordan.

The two alternates are mezzo-soprano Carla Dirlikov from Baltimore and soprano Frida Herri from Belcamp.

These hopefuls will be challenged to meet criteria for technical skill and expressiveness in at least three languages while maintaining a high degree of professionalism and star-quality stage presence.

All singers will perform two arias - the first of their choosing and the second selected by the judges from a list provided by the contestant.

The judges will be sopranos Harolyn Blackwell and Evelyn Lear, and Baltimore Opera artistic administrator James Harp.

The Vocal Competition finals concert, which is free, will be held at 3 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. The contest is supported through a grant from the Helena Foundation. All singers will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $1,800. Past winners have gone on to careers as professional singers or educators, and many have been featured in Annapolis Opera productions.

For additional information, call the Opera office at 410-267-8135.

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