Thursday, May 10, 2012

Visiting FRIEDRICH SCHORR at the MET

Maestro David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize, the national, nonprofit competitions in the performing arts, attended the opening night of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd at the Metropolitan Opera last weekend. During his visit, he viewed the extensive display of photographs of stars of past MET performances of Wagner's Ring Cycle in the MET Gallery, where he was not surprised to see portraits of the legendary baritone, Friedrich Schorr, namesake of The American Prize—Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards. Schorr is shown in two of his most famous roles, as Wotan (top) and disguised as the Wanderer (bottom.) 

Also prominently displayed in the MET lobby, and in pride of place (thanks to an accident of the alphabet) is a portrait of Brenda Lewis as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus. (To her left is MET music director, James Levine.) Miss Lewis was recently announced as the first Distinguished Judge Emerita of The American Prize.

To read more about Miss Lewis's extraordinary career, follow this link. 

Friedrich Schorr is in the pantheon— universally recognized as the greatest Wagnerian baritone of his age.

Often teamed with dramatic soprano, Kirsten Flagstad, and heldentenor, Lauritz Melchior, (both also currently pictured in the MET galley) Schorr dominated the operatic stages between the wars, singing at the Bayreuth Festival from 1925-1931 and at the Metropolitan Opera for nineteen uninterrupted seasons, from 1924 until his final Siegfried Wanderer there on March 2, 1943. In retirement, Schorr headed the opera department at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford. He died in Farmington, Connecticut in 1953.

Maestro David Katz founded The Friedrich Schorr Memorial Performance Prize in Voice with the enthusiastic support of Mrs. Virginia Schorr, the singer's widow, herself an emeritus professor of voice at the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford, and a longtime member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music. Created in part as a memorial, the competition was the vehicle Katz ultimately used to select the casts for productions of professional opera companies he conducted in three states.

Beginning in 1990 and continuing for more than a dozen years, The Friedrich Schorr Memorial Performance Prize in Voice provided a proving ground for literally hundreds of professional singers from throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the British Isles, who won major roles in fully-staged opera productions and oratorio soloist opportunities under Maestro Katz's baton with opera companies and orchestras in Michigan, Maine and Connecticut.

After a hiatus of several years, the Schorr Prize returned in 2010, now under the auspices of The American Prize competitions. Re-named the Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award, the competition has been restructured to recognize and reward vocalists in art song as well as in opera through the evaluation of recorded performances.

Winners of the 2012 Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards will be announced later in May. For previous winners, visit the winners pages on The American Prize website.

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