The Dallas Opera Guild's 24th Annual Vocal Competition for young opera singers ended on a high-note last evening when ten outstanding finalists (with Texas connections) were awarded a total of $20,000 in prize monies. It is only the second time this spring musical event has graced the stage of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Arts District.
29-year-old soprano Heather Hawk of Weatherford, a graduate of Tarleton State University and Baylor University (where she earned her Master's degree in Vocal Performance) is currently pursuing her doctorate in Musical Arts at the University of North Texas. There, she has sung the title role in Handel's Alcina and was a finalist in last fall's UNT Concerto Competition. She has also performed professionally at the University of North Texas Faculty Concert, Works of Jake Heggie, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and at the 2011 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis.
During the finals round of the competition, Miss Hawk held the audience transfixed with powerful renditions of "Il est doux, il est bon" from Massenet's Hérodiade and "Ah, mio cor!" from Händel's Alcina, accompanied by pianist Julian Reed. Earlier in the day, she performed selections from Così fan tutte and Adriana Lecouvreur during the semifinals.
Miss Hawk received her $8,000 First Place cash prize from this year's special honorees: Elaine and Bill Blaylock.
The award for Second Place ($5,000) and the "People's Choice Award" (an additional $1,000) went to 23-year-old soprano Amanda Woodbury, a graduate of Frisco High School, now working towards her Master's degree at the Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music, where she has appeared onstage in the roles of Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance from Indiana University (2010) and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Second Place in the 2010 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, and another Second Place Award in the 2011 Metropolitan Opera Mid-South Regional Competition.
Miss Woodbury gave a luminous finals round performance of arias from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Puccini's La Rondine, accompanied by Julian Reed.
Her award for Second Place was given to her by the Dallas Opera Guild's Michael Phillips. The "People's Choice Award," based on secret ballots cast by members of the competition audience, was bestowed on Miss Woodbury by Dallas Opera Guild Presidents Jane and David McGinnis.
The Third Place Award and a $3,000 cash prize went to 29-year-old soprano Elisabeth Rosenberg, who also was accompanied by pianist Julian Reed. Following moving semi-finals round performances of "Ain't it a Pretty Night" from Carlisle Floyd's Susannah and "Morrai, si" from Händel's Rodelinda, she gave renditions of Micaëla's aria from Act III of Georges Bizet's Carmen and "Mi tradi quell'alma ingrate" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Miss Rosenberg has appeared onstage in numerous roles for Rice University (where she is currently pursuing her Master's degree), Dicapo Opera, Opera UCLA and New Jersey Opera.
The multi-faceted singer also plays the violin and dances-ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom and Latin ballroom.
Miss Rosenberg's prize was awarded by Contestant Co-Chair Don Jones.
This year's optional "Encouragement Award" was given to 22-year-old soprano Vanessa Becerra, a senior at Texas Christian University who has already performed professionally with Fort Worth Opera, the Turtle Creek Chorale, Seagle Music Colony, OperaWorks, the A.I.M.S. Festival Orchestra, and Arlington Heights United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. At TCU, where Miss Becerra is a Nordan Full-Tuition Award winner, she has appeared in a variety of partial roles and will soon portray the vivacious Adele in Die Fledermaus. Last night she performed "Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen" from Weber's Der Freischütz and "Caro nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto, accompanied by pianist Jason Smith.
Her $1,500 cash prize was awarded by the Dallas Opera Guild's Fran Burke.
"Fred and I have been impressed with the extraordinary level of talent revealed by these young Texas singers," admits Dallas Opera Guild Competition Co-Chair Sandi Ciarochi.