Friday, January 12, 2018

WINNERS: The American Prize in Voice (women in opera), 2017-18—The Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Award

The American Prize is honored to announce the winners & runners-up of The American Prize in Vocal Performance (women in opera and operetta), 2017-18—The Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award, in professional, college/university and high school divisions. Congratulations!

In an exceptionally qualified field of applicants, there were ties for several runners-up slots this year, and an unprecedented tie for first place (The American Prize winner) in the college/university division. We wish all these TAP laureates great success in their future musical endeavors.

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found elsewhere on this blog. Please use the chronological tool in the right-hand column to find specific results.

Please make us aware of any misprints:

The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award honors the memory of the greatest Wagnerian baritone of his age, Friedrich Schorr, who commanded the operatic stage between the world wars, and his wife, Virginia Schorr, who taught studio voice at the Manhattan School of Music and the Hartt School of Music for nearly fifty years. The Prize recognizes and rewards the best performances by classically trained vocalists in America in 2017-18, based on submitted recordings.

The American Prize in Vocal Performance (women in opera and operetta), 2017-18
The Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award
(professional division)

The American Prize winner:
Meredith Mecum   Bronx NY  
Meredith Mecum
Meredith Mecum, praised for her “soaring soprano”, has been awarded a Grant from the Solti Foundation, Second Place in the Ades Vocal Competition at Manhattan School of Music, and an Encouragement Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition. At the Merola Opera Program in the summer of 2015, Ms. Mecum performed in the Schwabacher Summer Concert and Merola Grand Finale, singing excerpts from Susannah (Susannah), Die Walküre (Brünnhilde) and The Queen of Spades (Lisa). Other performances include Una Coèfora and cover of Clitennestra (Cassandra) with Teatro Grattacielo, Clara Schumann (Clara) with Cutting Edge Concerts, Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with The Banff Centre Opera, Berta (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) with Opera New Jersey, Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus) with Prelude to Performance, and Rose Segal in John Musto's Later the Same Eveningat Manhattan School of Music. Ms. Mecum is a graduate of Penn State University and Manhattan School of Music.  More information is available at

2nd PLACE (there was a tie):
Chelsea Basler   Waltham MA
Chelsea Basler
Grammy Award-nominated soprano Chelsea Basler continues to make her mark in an extensive array of operatic roles due to her unique combination of vocal appeal and artistry.  Praised for her "luminous voice" with its "easy soaring range", she has also been noted for her "wonderful acting" and ultimately deemed "simply superb".  Ms. Basler enjoys a particularly strong relationship with Boston Lyric Opera, which she initially joined as an Emerging Artist during the 2013–2014 season.  In the autumn of 2017, Ms. Basler will rejoin Boston Lyric Opera in their collaborative project with Music Theatre Group to present the world premiere of Mark Campbell and Julian Grant's new opera The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare, in which she will create the role of Margery Campbell. She will also be making her Nashville Opera debut as the title role in Susannah.

2nd PLACE (there was a tie):
Maggie Finnegan   Winchester MA
Maggie Finnegan
Hailed by Opera News for her 'strong voice and noteworthy acting prowess,' Maggie Finnegan is a versatile soprano, singing repertoire spanning from medieval to contemporary. She was awarded the S&R Foundation's Washington Prize and last June made her Kennedy Center debut as First and Audience Prize winner at the Washington International Competition for Voice. She has premiered operas with The American Chamber Opera Company,Vital Opera, the Center for Contemporary Opera and the Juventas New Music Ensemble. Solo performances this season include debuts with Boston Lyric Opera's Signature Series, City Choir of Washington, The New Dominion Chorale, The Avanti Orchestra and the PyeongChang Winter Music Festival in South Korea. She has performed with Paper Mill Playhouse, The Metropolitan Opera Guild School Programs Tour and The Metropolitan Opera Chorus. She splits her time between New York City and Boston, where she shares a home with her partner and her three step-kids.

3rd PLACE (there was a tie):
Christine Lyons   Baltimore MD
Christine Lyons
Praised as “especially moving” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and as a “sparkling soprano” by the Broad Street Review, Christine Lyons enthralls audiences with her fearless presence and creative approach. Most recently, she was the featured artist on WWFM Classical as a part of their “Celebrating Our Musical Future” live radio program. Upcoming performances include several company debuts as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos with Berkshire Opera Festival and Micaëla in Opera Ithaca’s production of Carmen. Highlights of previous seasons include Manon in Massenet’s Manon at the Liederkranz Foundation and at Carnegie Hall, Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung at Symphony Space and at the historic Modell Lyric Opera House, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at Sant’Anna dei Lombardi in Naples, Italy, Antonia in Offenbach’s Les Racontes d’Hoffmann with the Amalfi Coast Music Festival and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro at Lincoln Center. Orchestral and concert engagements include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 under the baton of Marin Alsop, Frasquita in Carmen alongside Denyce Graves and performances with Lyric Fest alongside distinguished pianist Laura Ward. Appearing extensively in music theater, Ms. Lyons performed in a national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and has portrayed Sheila in A Chorus Line, Alice’s Daughter in Big River, GiGi in Miss Saigon, and Anne in A Little Night Music with companies including Portland Center Stage, Pittsburgh Music Theater, Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Theater of the Stars and Goodspeed Opera House.

3rd PLACE (there was a tie):
Susan Wheeler   Burke VA
Susan Wheeler
American Soprano Susan Wheeler is a dynamic operatic and concert performer, and a trained Equity actress. Her fiery vocalism and dramatic intensity have drawn comparisons with singers of the golden Bel Canto era. Susan made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2007 (Mozart Requiem, Dvořák Te Deum). In 2015 and 2014 Susan toured Italy and Sicily as Mimi, Violetta and the Countess in concerts with former Metropolitan Opera artists, with the Mediterranean Opera Festival. In concert, she has performed with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (Cunegonde, Maria); Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Papagena); and Piedmont Symphony Orchestra (Cunegonde). Ms. Wheeler’s opera performances include Olympia, Antonia, and Giulietta (Augusta Opera); Norina (Opera Vivente); Valencienne (Maryland Lyric); and Gretel (Des Moines Metro Opera).  Ms. Wheeler’s chamber group, Third Millennium Ensemble, has been featured on National Public Radio, the Library of Congress, The Kennedy Center, and prestigious art galleries along the East coast, in contemporary American works.

The American Prize in Vocal Performance (women in opera and operetta), 2017-18
The Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award
(college/university division)

The American Prize winner 
(there was an unprecedented tie for first place):
Sarah Cooper  Lincoln MA
Sarah Cooper
Sarah Cooper, soprano, recently earned her master’s degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy at Westminster Choir College. From Lincoln, Massachusetts, Sarah completed her bachelor's degree in French at Princeton University, where she began her vocal studies with Rochelle Ellis and soloed with the Princeton University Glee Club. Now a student of Sharon Sweet [Professor Sweet did not participate in the ranking or evaluation of this contestant.—DK], Sarah was a first-place winner in the 2016 Coeur d'Alene Symphony Young Artists Competition and the 2016 Westminster Choir College Voice Awards Competition.  In January 2017, Sarah performed her first mainstage role as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Westminster CoOPERAtive program. Sarah also received the 2017 Colleen and Edward Carducci Encouragement Award at the Metropolitan National Council Auditions in Columbia, South Carolina. This summer, she will perform the role of Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen with the Martina Arroyo Prelude to Performance Program in New York City.

The American Prize winner 
(there was an unprecedented tie for first place):
Kellie Motter   Bloomington IN
Kellie Motter
A native of Atlanta, GA., soprano Kellie Motter is a graduate student Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where she studies with Carol Vaness. With IU Opera Theatre, Kellie has performed the roles of Marie (La fille du régiment), Despina (Così fan tutte), and Morgana (Alcina). Other opera credits include the roles of Galatea (Acis & Galatea), La Fée (Cendrillon) and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte). In 2016, Kellie was a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. She joined Central City Opera as a Studio Artist for their 2017 season, covering Frasquita in Carmen. As a concert soloist, she has been featured in Carissimi’s Jepthe, Handel’s Messiah, Steve Reich’s Tehillim, the requiems of Brahms and Fauré, and in numerous works by J. S. Bach. Recently, Kellie was named a 2017 Georgia District Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Previous mentors include Delores Ziegler and Elizabeth Colson.

2nd PLACE (there was a tie):
Clare Demer   Tucson AZ

Clare Demer
Italian-American Soprano Clare Demer is completing her undergraduate degree at The University of Arizona, where she has performed L’Enfant in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortileges, Monica in Menotti’s The Medium, and Second Lady in the Magic Flute. She has received training from the International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, the Aspen Music Festival and School, and was a fellow at the Toronto Summer Music Festival Art of Song program. Among her awards are two Encouragement Awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Arizona, 1st prize in both the undergraduate and graduate divisions of the Amelia Rieman Opera Competition, and 1st  prize in the Mari Nixon International Voice competition. She has twice won 2nd place in The American Prize Art Song Competition at the College/University level. This summer she will compete as a finalist in the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition.

2nd PLACE (there was a tie):
Kali Hardwick   Nevada City CA
Kali Hardwick
Kali Hardwick, soprano, is from California and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Vocal Arts at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she studies with Elizabeth Ritchie and Ingrid Surgenor. Her operatic roles include Adina in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Marenka in Smetena’s The Bartered Bride, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, L'Ensoleillad in Massenet’s Chérubin, and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi. She has performed with Long Beach Opera (where she sang in the US premier of Philip Glass's The Perfect American), Bob Cole Conservatory Opera, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Oberlin in Italy, and Fullerton College Opera. Outside of opera, Kali has been featured as the soprano soloist for Mozart's Mass in C Minor and Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Bob Cole Conservatory Orchestra, as well as Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass and Mozart's Coronation Mass with the Los Cancioneros Master Chorale. She has won a number of awards, including scholarships from the California Women's Chorus, The New Century Singers, the Fine Arts Affiliates, The Nevada Union Choir Boosters, and numerous other organizations. Kali holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from CSU Long Beach (2017), where she was honored as the Outstanding Graduate of the College of the Arts last May.

3rd PLACE:
Theodora Ivanova Nestorova   Acton MA
Theodora Ivanova Nestorova
Hailing from Bulgaria and born in Britain, soprano Theodora Ivanova Nestorova is in her third year of Voice Performance at Oberlin Conservatory of Music studying with Lorraine Manz. Miss Nestorova has performed Oberto in Handel’s Alcina (Oberlin Opera Theater) and Amore in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (Oberlin in Italy). She has participated in Emmanuel Music’s Bach Institute, and was a soloist in Handel’s Messiah Sing-Along (Credo Music) and Haydn’s The Creation (Oberlin Mozart Players). Miss Nestorova attended summer programs such as Classical Singing & New York in June, Kennedy Center’s Washington National Opera Institute, Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists, and Interlochen High School Vocal Artist. A recipient of the Conservatory Dean’s Talent Award, upcoming engagements include Diane in Bernier’s Diane et Endimion (Oberlin Baroque Ensemble), a tour to New York City with Oberlin Sinfonietta at the Bang on a Can 30th Anniversary Concert, and The CoOPERAtive Young Artists Program.

Lauren Frey   Croton on Hudson NY 
Lauren Frey
In 2016, Lauren was a finalist with The American Prize Competition and was a semi-finalist with the Annapolis Voice Competition.  In 2015, she was a semi-finalist with Brava! Opera Theater James M. Collier Vocal Competition.  Lauren won the prestigious Career Bridges Grant, received 2nd Place with The American Prize Competition, and placed 3rd in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Auditions in 2014.  She received Honorable Mention with the Philadelphia Orchestra's Albert M. Greenfield Competition in 2013.  In 2012, Lauren won the Metropolitan Opera National Council District Auditions. Recently Lauren debuted the role of Konstanze (Die Entführung aus dem Serail) with St. Petersburg Opera (cover matinee performance).  This year, Lauren also made her New York City Opera company debut in Florencia en el Amazonas and Aleko/Pagliaci.  Other role credits include Contessa (Le Nozze di Figaro), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Musetta (La Bohème), Micaela (Carmen), the title role in Alcina, Die Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte), Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), and Coaxer (The Threepenny Opera).

The American Prize in Vocal Performance (women in opera and operetta), 2017-18
The Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award
(high school division)

The American Prize winner:
Sarah Aaldering   Los Gatos CA
Sarah Aaldering
Sarah Aaldering is an 18 year old Senior at Los Gatos High School in Northern California. Sarah began voice lessons in 2010. Singing has always been her passion and joy! Last year she won 2nd place in the NATS Nationals Competition in Classical Voice, 1st place in VOCE (MTAC) State Competition, 1st place in William Schmidt Vocal Competition, and was a Semi-finalist in the Classical Singer Competition. This year Sarah won 1st in Lower College NATS and placed 2nd overall in both the upper and lower college divisions. Sarah has participated in The Oberlin Vocal Academy for High School Students, San Francisco Conservatory’s Lamplighter’s Gilbert & Sullivan Scenes, and The Brevard Music Center Voice Program. She has won The Dorothy Barnhouse Award, The Heritage Music Festival Maestro Award, and The Shirley Rabb Winston Scholarship Award. She has been offered scholarships to BYU’s summer program, The Utah Lyric Opera Program, and many undergraduate university programs. In Fall of 2017, Sarah began her first year at Oberlin Conservatory where she studies Vocal Performance with Daune Mahy. Sarah will be performing in La Rondine in Italy this summer, in the Oberlin in Italy Program. She is honored to have this wonderful opportunity!

2nd PLACE:
Caroline Wolfe   Dallastown PA
Caroline Wolfe
Caroline Wolfe has attended Interlochen Arts Camp (2014) and Boston University Tanglewood Institute (2015) and has sang in masterclasses with Terry Flatt, David Sabella, Paul Groves, and Nathan Gunn.  She enjoys sharing her music with her community, and she is a soloist at several local churches.  She has had the honor to sing at Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's post-election party and Mike Pence's political rally in York, Pennsylvania.  She has appeared as a soloist and concerto competition winner twice with the Dallastown Area High School String Ensemble and once with the Dallastown Area High School Orchestra.  She won first place at Allegheny Mountain Chapter and Eastern Region NATS in Upper High School Classical Women (2016) and was a semifinalist at the Classical Singer Competition (2016).

3rd PLACE:
Elisabeta Racolta   Cambridge MA
Elisabeta Racolta
Born in Boston, MA, Mezzo Elisabeta Racolta performs with the local theaters and music venues, and travels with concerts internationally. Elisabeta is a winner of multiple international voice competitions. An avid recitalist, Lisa sung with the Concert Festival international concert tours in Portugal, France and Russia, and most recently as a guest artist in Lincoln Center.  She was a First place winner of the Rising Stars 2017 European competition in Latvia.  In 2017, she also was a recipient of a merit scholarship from the FAVA William Lewis Mozart Academy, appearing as Dritte Dame & Dritter Knabe in Die Zauberflote (Magic Flute) in Salzburg, Austria. In the New England Conservatory 2016 Summer Opera Program she appeared in the concert versions of ‘Carmen’, ‘L’Egisto’ and  ‘West Side Story’.  She performed in Carnegie Hall five times winning early acclaim at International Music, Vocal and Concerto competitions in 2014-2016.


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