Thursday, September 12, 2013

OPERA DIVISION winners: conductors and ensembles

The American Prize  is pleased to announce 2013 OPERA DIVISION winners: conductors and ensembles.


To know the exact day and time when additional winners will be announced, please "like" our Facebook page, where the information will be posted. 

The judges reserve the right to award special citations and honorable mentions to any entrant at their discretion.

Please make us aware of any misprints:

The American Prize in Conducting—Opera Division

The American Prize winner:  
Maria Sensi Sellner, Hubbard Hall Opera Theater
Maria Sensi Sellner
Maria Sensi Sellner is recognized for her versatility as a conductor of opera, orchestras, and choruses. Praised for leading with “flexible assurance” (The Cleveland Plain Dealer), Ms. Sellner’s performances have been described as “sterling” (The Boston Globe), “adept” (Schenectady Daily Gazette), and “first class all the way” (Berkshire on Stage).  A winner of the 2012 American Prize in Opera Conducting, she has conducted productions for Hubbard Hall Opera Theater, the Boston Opera Collaborative, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, the Solon Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music.  She is the Director of the Akron Symphony Chorus, Assistant Conductor of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (chorus of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra), and was Music Director of the All University Orchestras at Carnegie Mellon University for ten years. Ms. Sellner earned masters degrees in conducting (a student of Robert Page), composition, and engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Among judges' comments: "ideal clarity and sensitive pacing, wedding stage and pit comfortably together." 

2nd Place
Brian DeMaris, Ithaca College Opera and Musical Theatre, Ithaca, NY
Brian DeMaris
Brian DeMaris is the Music Director of Mill City Summer Opera in Minneapolis and has performed with New York City Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Syracuse Opera, American Opera Projects, American Lyric Theater, Ash Lawn Opera Festival, Music Saint Croix and the Israel Chamber Orchestra. He has appeared at the United Nations, the Aspen Music Festival, Boston’s Jordan Hall, New York’s Studio 54, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Alice Tully Hall, Skirball Center, La Maison francaise, and in recitals, competitions, and master classes throughout the United States and abroad.

Currently Director of Opera and Musical Theatre at Ithaca College and Artist-Faculty at the Aspen Music Festival, DeMaris has also taught at Lawrence University, New England Conservatory School of Continuing Education, George Mason University's International Opera Alliance, and the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv. He has served on panels with Opera America and presented master classes with the New York State Music Teachers Association and New York School Music Association. His students have performed on Broadway, film and television, and at opera companies and festivals throughout the world.

Among judges' comments: "displays loads of energy and abundant wit. (Schicchi)"

3rd Place:
Robert Butts, BONJ Opera, Madison, NJ
Robert Butts
Dr. Robert W. Butts is Artistic Director for The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, the BONJ Summer Music Festival, In Mid Air Productions and Eastern Opera Company. He has been principal conductor and Artistic Director for Opera at Florham, The Little Opera Company and New Jersey Concert Opera.   Alongside the major orchestral and operatic works, Dr. Butts has conducted modern day premieres of works by 18th and 21st century composers.  His compositions have gained increased recognition through performances with the orchestra and with In Mid Air Productions (The Tell-Tale Heart), at NJIT in Newark, New Jersey (Mark Twain and the General), and with Atlanta Opera (The Triangle). With Pure Sound Studios, Dr. Butts has developed the broadcast series Concerts and Conversations. In February, 2013, he presented a paper on Verdi’s Otello/Rigoletto for the American Musicological Society New York Chapter Winter Session at The Metropolitan Opera Guild Education Room.

Among judges' comments: "Butts leads with authority, chucking cues over his shoulder with abandon as he somehow (and admirably) keeps things together."

Special Judges' Citation: 
Stylistic Excellence in the Performance of Gilbert & Sullivan Operettas 
Eric Peterson, Savoynet Performing Group, Buxton, England 
Eric Peterson
Eric Peterson is a native of Northern Virginia and is a graduate of William and Mary and of Peabody Conservatory, where he studied horn. Based in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, he specializes in theater conducting, particularly operetta. In the last few years, he has music-directed Blue Hill Troupe’s Mame and A Funny Thing… Forum and conducted Troupers Light Opera’s The Gondoliers, Die Fledermaus and The Mikado. He was an American Prize finalist in orchestral conducting in 2011 for his work with QUO, New York's LGBT community orchestra. This past summer, he conducted the Savoynet Performing Group’s award-winning production of The Sorcerer at the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England.

Among judges' comments: "a true G&S guru, Peterson connects stage and orchestra so that the contribution of each is clearly discernible and the whole is delicious."

Honorable Mention: Qinqing Qian, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco, CA
Qinqing Qian
When Qinqing Qian arrived at the San Francisco Conservatory, she had already put together an impressive list of achievements, including degrees in piano performance, orchestral conducting and audio engineering from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Qian has since been the musical director for a production of Don Giovanni with the Conservatory Symphony and is the graduate conductor of the school’s Opera Workshop, and an assistant-ship of the conservatory orchestra . In early 2013, she recruited an 18-piece student orchestra and conducted the soundtrack recording for an animated film “Breaking Limit”, which will be released in next year. With a back ground as a composer, she also has been a sought-after conductor of new music.

"thoughtful tempos and a clear stick… one looks forward to seeing more of her work."


The American Prize in Opera Performance, 2013

The American Prize winner:
Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre   Alan E. Hicks, director—Univ. of Iowa   Iowa City, IA 
Production: Turn of the Screw 
Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre
The Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre is the producing unit for main stage student-performed operas at the University of Iowa and part of the Division of Performing Arts. Established by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in July 2000, the Division of Performing Arts was established to foster collaboration and artistic exchange between artists in the fields of theatre, music, and dance, in order to heighten awareness of artistic and scholarly work. In 2008, the School of Music, including the Opera Theatre, was affected by a major flood requiring the displacement of all rehearsals and performances.

Among judges' comments: "The overall atmosphere of this dark and moody opera was wonderfully achieved. This was an outstanding, chilling production, musically rewarding from instrumentalists, singers, set and lighting designers."

2nd Place:
University of South Dakota Opera   Tracelyn Gesteland, director—Vermillion, SD
Production: Dido and Aeneas
University of South Dakota Opera
The University of South Dakota Opera offers training and performance opportunities for students interested in the art of opera.  Every semester, students enrolled in opera workshop (by audition) have the opportunity to study and perform operatic literature from the common practice period as well as contemporary lyric theater.  Students develop and refine their vocal technique, acting and movement ability, musicianship, ensemble skills, knowledge of performance practices, and overall artistry through rehearsals and public performances, both on and off campus.  Annually, USD Opera presents a main stage opera in addition to children’s outreach performances.  In 2012, USD Opera was awarded third place in division 3 of the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition.  USD Opera was also honored to perform children’s opera excerpts by invitation at the NOA convention in 2011.

Among judges comments: "This was a wonderful production, extremely well played from the orchestra, and beautifully sung from all the cast members. The use of dancers, mirroring the movement of the singers/characters, and all the dancing in general, was quite effective..."

3rd Place:
Undercroft Opera   Mary E. Sederburg, director—Pittsburgh, PA
Production: Susannah 
Undercroft Opera
With the motto “Everybody deserves an 'Operatunity'!” Undercroft Opera has been able to serve literally hundreds of Pittsburgh area performers since its inaugural production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte in 2006. Since then, the company has presented diverse and challenging works including beloved classic operas such as La Boheme, The Marriage of Figaro and La Traviata, unique one-acts and chamber operas like Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and The Medium, and innovative projects such as updated versions of The Elixir of Love and The Tales of Hoffmann and a concert version of Don Carlo. Building on the successes of recent productions of The Barber of Seville and Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, Undercroft will be presenting Carmen fully staged and accompanied by the Undercroft Orchestra. Undercroft Opera hopes to continue to serve the community through this and many future productions.

Among judges comments: "a thoroughly enjoyable production on many levels. All cast members seemed enthusiastic to be performing and totally committed to their characters and to the drama of this piece...Orchestral playing was musical and not overpowering."


Congratulations to all winners and runners-up.

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