Wednesday, September 3, 2014

VOCAL WINNERS: women in art song & oratorio

Friedrich Schorr as Wotan, Bayreuth
The American Prize is honored to announce the winners and runners-up in the women's art song/oratorio divisions of The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards, 2014. 

In addition, the competition recognizes internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano, Susanne Mentzer, with a Special Judge's Citation for Championing the Song Repertoire of Carlisle Floyd.


Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found elsewhere on this blog.  

Please make us aware of any misprints:

The American Prize 
in Vocal Performance
Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Award

The American Prize winner:
Seattle  WA
Sarah Davis
Hailed by the New York Times as "a voice with considerable warmth," lyric-soprano, Sarah Davis, has been recognized as a gifted performer on both the recital and operatic stage. Ms. Davis has debuted as a soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra,  Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center and was honored to premiere Elliott Carter's song cycle for soprano and chamber orchestra, "What are years" at Tanglewood Music Center. Notable concert and operatic credits include:  Orff Carmina Burana, Mozart Exsultate Jubilate, Haydn Lord Nelson Mass, Mozart Grand Mass, Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Brahms Requiem, Beethoven 9th Symphony, Fiordiligi, Contessa, Donna Anna, Pamina, Gilda, Anne Trulove, and Cendrillon (Massenet’s Cinderella). Future engagements include Verdi Requiem and a John Harbison premiere chamber song cycle. Ms. Davis holds degrees from Trinity University in Texas and the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Among judges' comments: "She sings with an expressive flair and wonderful musical phrasing."

2nd Place:
Jamaica Plain  MA
Sonja Tengblad
Praised by the Boston Globe for her “crystalline tone and graceful musicality”, recent highlights for soprano Sonja Tengblad include her Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center solo debuts, both with the New York Civic Orchestra, and appearances with the Haydn Society in Purcell's King Arthur (Cupid) and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and the Oregon Bach Festival for many of Helmuth Rilling’s performances of Bach.

Other solo highlights include performances with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in Oliver Knussen’s Symphony No. 2 for high soprano and orchestra, as well Kati Agocs’ Vessel for three solo voices and chamber orchestra, and the American premiere of Siegfried Matthus’ Te Deum at the American Guild of Organists National Convention in 2008. Ms. Tengblad sings with Conspirare, the 5-time Grammy nominated ensemble out of Austin, Texas; as well as Boston's Blue Heron, Handel and Haydn Society, and Lorelei Ensemble, an 8-voice women's ensemble specializing in early and new music.

Among judges' comments: "She has a beautiful, pure sound that radiates through the recording."

3rd Place:
Oak Park  IL
Christine Steyer
Soprano Christine Steyer was recently announced as a winner of the 2013 Hawaii Art Song Competition.  She has sung numerous small roles with Lyric Opera of Chicago and has performed major roles including the Marschallin, Violetta and Butterfly with several companies.  She has been highly praised for her artistry and her voice has been described as “an international-calibre voice of size and color used to reach an audience's emotional core.”  She recently sang the title role in Verismo Opera’s La Traviata, and performed multiple roles in Chamber Opera Chicago’s musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion which toured in England in 2013.  To date she performed for over 16,000 schoolchildren with Bellissima Opera Outreach, an organization she founded in 2009.  She frequently performs her 1-woman show So, You Want to be a Diva? which combines singing various genres of music with storytelling.  Upcoming engagements include Carmina Burana with the Billings Symphony. Ms. Steyer is a past winner of The American Prize and the Chicago Opera Award.

Among judges' comments: "...she sings with beautiful legato lines, musical phrases, and artistic approach to all the poetry."

The American Prize 
in Vocal Performance
Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Award
SPECIAL CITATION: Championing the Songs of Carlisle Floyd

SUSANNE MENTZER, mezzo-soprano
Susanne Mentzer
American mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer has an international operatic, concert, chamber music and recital career of over thirty years. She has appeared on four continents at nearly every great opera house and orchestra, and at the Metropolitan Opera since 1989.  Susanne is also a proponent of song, chamber music and new music and debuted 2 song cycles by Libby Larsen. Susanne produced and sings on a world premiere recording of songs by Carlisle Floyd on GPR Records entitled “Letter to the World” which she funded via kickstarter. Her discography includes over 25 CDs and DVDs of opera and oratorio and song. Susanne contributes regularly to the Huffington Post. Her outspokenness about vocal health has earned her the VERA Award 2013 (Voice Education Research Awareness) from The Voice Foundation. She teaches privately in the San Francisco area after twelve years in academia at DePaul University and Rice University. Read more at

Among judges' comments: "First, one must praise the disc for the performer. Ms. Mentzer sings Carlisle Floyd's settings of the poems of Emily Dickinson with such depth of feeling, variety of tone color and expression, and with such a clear understanding of the nuance available to her in the studio, the disc is practically a masterclass in the art of the recorded song. Next of course, are the songs themselves. Floyd, the master of the opera stage, brings a dramatist's ear to Dickinson's heartfelt stanzas, adding a theatrical passion and intensity wholly appropriate...these are wonderful songs to have..." 

The American Prize 
in Vocal Performance
Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Award

The American Prize winner:
Los Angeles  CA
Claudia Dawon Oh
Claudia is a freshman at Harvard University. She graduated from Juilliard Pre-College for classical voice. She was the 1st place winner in the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition in 2012 and in the NYSMTA Empire State Competition, youngest recipient of the Distinguished Musicians Award & Special Mention Prize for Young Talent in IBLA Grand Prize International Music Competition, and 2nd place winner in the Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition and Schmidt Youth Vocal competition. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in a solo benefit concert and performed at Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center, at the press conference of Sumi Jo & Tomomi Nishmoto sponsored by UNICEF, at a Piazza Pola Public Concert in Sicily, Italy and at Sonidos Latin Jazz Festival as a soloist for the world premiere of “A Still Small Voice” by Arturo O’Farrill. This coming March, she will perform the title role in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience” at Harvard.

Among judges' comments: "has the capacity to carry great power into the top without it sounding  effortful."

2nd Place:
Prairie Village  KS
Tara Curtis
Mezzo-soprano Tara Curtis is currently the mezzo-soprano apprentice at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  In the 2013-2014 season, she sang the roles of Berta in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Maestro David Stern at the Crested Butte Music Festival, Third Lady in Mozart's The Magic Flute at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Lucretia in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia with KU Opera and was the alto soloist in Beethoven's Mass in C Major and Choral Fantasy with the University of Missouri Concert Series.

Tara is a winner of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions in the Kansas City District, a semi-finalist in the Opera Birmingham Competition and the New Hampshire Opera Idol Vocal Competition, and the Polsky Award from the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Tara has also performed: Verdi's Missa di Requiem, Bach's B Minor Mass, Handel's Messiah, Mendelssohn's Elijah, and Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes.

Among judges' comments: "She carries a gentleness to the top of the vocal line that is quite effective..."

3rd Place:
Medford  OR
Abigail Dock
Mezzo-soprano Abigail Dock, originally from Medford, Oregon, holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Rice University in Houston, where she studied with Kathleen Kaun.  Currently, she is a graduate student in Opera Performance at The Boston Conservatory, in the studio of Rebecca Folsom.

In 2013 Abigail appeared as Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Seagle Music Colony in Schroon Lake, New York.  Calling her “the best actor in the show,” the Daily Gazette (Schenectady) said “she bubbled, she sang wonderfully, and she acted with a believable naturalness. Her facial expressions especially supported her projected emotions.”  She recently performed the role of Third Lady in The Boston Conservatory’s production of Die Zauberflöte.

This past January, the 21-year-old singer received the Encouragement Award at the New England Regional division of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. She will join the Bel Canto Young Artists program at the Caramoor festival in New York this summer.

Among judges' comments: "the energy and vibrancy of the voice in these selections are striking and compelling."

The American Prize 
in Vocal Performance
Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Award

The American Prize winner: 
Flagstaff  AZ
Kresley Figueroa
Kresley Figueroa was named a National Young Arts Foundation Finalist in Classical Voice. At age 12, she sang the 2nd spirit in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with Flagstaff in Fidenza.  She made a guest appearance to perform a solo as well as sing with Hugh Panaro, the Broadway Phantom, and Jodi Benson, the voice of The Little Mermaid, with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. She was invited to perform with Juilliard in a televised concert in Puerto Rico in the Teatro Tapia. Kresley studies with Deborah Raymond at Northern Arizona University. Admitted to the Juilliard Pre-College Program in New York City at age 13, she studied there with Lorraine Nubar, head of the voice faculty and receives vocal coaching from Jorge Parodi. Adam Guettel, composer, lyricist and Tony Award Winner for the Broadway musical, Light in the Piazza, also teaches Kresley. She studies in Nice, France during the summers with Dalton Baldwin and has entered the Juilliard college division, where she is a student of Marlena Malas.

Among judges' comments: "What maturity for a high school student!"

2nd Place:
Dublin  OH
Madison Williams
Madison is 16 years old and a junior at Dublin Jerome High School in Ohio.  She is a member of Women’s Chorale at her High School as well as the Columbus International Children’s Choir.  She studies voice privately with Stephanie Henkle.  Madison has participated in the American Choir Directors’ Association National Honor Choir and in the Ohio Music Education Association All-State Choir.  She has also attended the Summer Voice Intensive at the Eastman School of Music and has previously won the Central Ohio Singing Competition.
Among judges' comments: "A lovely instrument with clear tone and consistent air flow."

3rd Place:
Powell  OH
Emily Perry
Emily Perry, 17, is a Junior at The Olentangy Liberty High School in Powell, Ohio and a member of several of its choirs. Additionally, Emily is a member of the Columbus International Children's Choir and a private student of Yvonne Shapiro-Mazo. Emily Perry has placed first in Columbus Teacher Music Association and placed second in the classical division of the Central Ohio Singing competition. Emily received a Superior rating all four years of Ohio Music Education Association Competition and was a member of the All State Choir.  Emily’s proudest moment was placing third in the American Prize in Vocal Performance (Opera/Operetta) Division in 2013. Emily has attended Indiana University Summer Program and Baldwin Wallace University's Summer Intensive Camp. When not pursuing her love for singing Emily enjoys working with autistic children, reading, spending time with her family and friends, working on mission trips, and writing.

Among judges' comments: "a lovely, resonant instrument..."


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