The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
University of Kentucky senior Rebecca Farley and Ph.D. candidate Thomas Gunther were winners in Saturday’s Kentucky District Round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and they are still in the running to sing on the Metropolitan Opera stage. Their next stop is Memphis, Tenn., for the Midsouth Regional round of the auditions on Jan. 26, where they will be joined by University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of music graduate student Edward Nelson, who rounded out the field of three winners, Saturday.
Traditionally, only one singer advances to the national semi-finals in New York from regional rounds.
The win rounds out a big fall for Farley, 22, who was one of three UK sopranos who sang the role of Christine in the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s blockbuster production of Phantom of the Opera. Gunther, 29, was one of three singers who played Raoul.
Also honored Saturday were two other stars of that production: baritone Jacob Brian Waid who played the Phantom and tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson who played Piangi, both 20. They received encouragement awards, which included cash prizes, though they did not advance to the next round.
All four honorees are students of UK voice professor Cynthia Lawrence.
The Met Auditions were held at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall, and 24 singers competed Saturday.
Note: This post was update to correct the number of UK winners stated in the initial posting.
The Kentucky District round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions isn’t until until Nov. 17 at Memorial Hall. But two University of Kentucky singers already have advanced to the regional round of the competition by competing in other district competitions.
Baritone Reginald Smith Jr. was one of four winners at the Ohio District Auditions on Oct. 20 in Cincinnati. That put Smith in direct competition with singers from the prestigious University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and he held his own in advancing to the Central Region Auditions on Nov. 4 in Evanston, Ill. University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey said Smith went to the Ohio audition because of scheduling conflicts with the Kentucky District.
Soprano Holly Flack, a UK graduate now living in Chicago, also won Saturday, at the Wisconsin District Auditions. She has advanced to the Feb. 2 Upper Midwest Regional in St. Paul, Minn. Flack has been working in Chicago and is cast as the Queen of the Night in Chicago Chamber Opera’s 2013 production of The Magic Flute.
Both Smith and Flack have advanced to regional rounds of the Met auditions before, but neither has gone on to the national rounds in New York.
As many as 30 singers might be in the running when the Kentucky District round is held on Nov. 17. Traditionally, a sizable contingent of UK students has participated, and at least a couple usually advance to the regionals. So there is a chance of a historic field of regional competitors from UK this year.
Feb16Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Music, Opera, UK; Tagged as: Alan Sherrod, Amanda Woodbury, Andrea Trusty, Crestwood, Ezel, Kentucky District, Metropolitan Opera, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Mid-South Regional Round, Middle/East Tennessee District, Morehead State University, Reginald Smith Jr., Rice University, Tri-State Regional, University of Kentucky
In its first time competing in the Mid-South Regional Round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Kentucky District distinguished itself with two out of the top three winners, including the competitor who will advance to the national semi-finals in New York City.
Ezel native Andrea Trusty, a soprano who graduated from Morehead State University and then went to Rice University in Houston, won the Regional and will compete in a closed auditions on the Metropolitan Opera stage March 6. The national finals are a public performance March 13.
“I have waited so long for the opportunity to sing at the Metropolitan Opera,” Trusty said to the Morehead State University News. “I’ve dreamed of this for a long time, and now it is finally happening. I’m very blessed.”
This was Trusty’s second trip to the Regionals. In 2008, she advanced to the Tri-State Regional round and came in third. That could be a good omen for University of Kentucky Baritone Reginald Smith Jr., who finished third at the Mid-South regional.
It was actually an all-Kentucky top three as, according to Alan Sherrod’s Classical Journal blog, the second place winner was Amanda Woodbury of Crestwood, who advanced out of the Middle/East Tennessee District.
This was the first year Kentucky District winners headed South to face winners from regional rounds in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Previous years, Kentucky District winners faced off against winners from Indiana and Southern Ohio. Only the first place winner advances from the regionals to the national semi-finals.
Dec10Filed under: Christmas music, Classical Music, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Music, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Daniel Anderson, Eric Brown, George Frideric Handel, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Jefferson Johnson, Kentucky Christmas Chorus, Kentucky District, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Mary Joy Nelson, Messiah, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Sarah Klopfenstein, Scott Terrell
Eric Brown has had at least one big thing to do between winning at the Kentucky District round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and heading to Tri-State regionals in Indianapolis next month: Get ready for Messiah.
Brown will be singing one of the iconic baritone parts for the Lexington Philharmonic and Lexington Singers’ annual presentation of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”
Joining him will be two other UK stars, soprano Mary Joy Nelson, mezzo-soprano Sarah Klopfenstein and Cincinnati tenor Daniel Anderson. All four were competitors in this year’s Kentucky Districts.
The performance will be conducted by Singers director Jefferson Johnson for the second straight year.
If you are wondering where new Philharmonic conductor Scott Terrell is, he was already engaged to conduct the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s holiday pop concerts Friday through Sunday when he was appointed to the Philharmonic post, and the “Messiah” date here had already been set. So 2010 will likely be the debut of Terrell’s take on “Messiah.”
Terrell will be on the podium at Rupp Arena Tuesday evening to make his debut conducting the Kentucky Christmas Chorus, which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on WKYT and WYMT and rebroadcast at noon on Christmas Day.
12:15 p.m. Sorry to be a bit late in starting the live blog from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Kentucky District Auditions. The program has been moving fairly quickly with a bunch of UK singers up front, and since they are not quite as cool with people texting from opera seats as basketball seats, this is the first chance to check in.
As of Friday, we understood we had 28 singers in the field, but auditions chair Dr. Clifton Smith announced everybody’s favorite bug, the flu, took two competitors out, so then there are 26. (But in the end, there were 27, with a previously unannounced singer at the end.)
Still, a very full day that started a little after 10 a.m. with the always stunning group sing of the national anthem — all those opera students and teachers, think about it.
Through 12 competitors, this year is shaping up to be a lot like last, as we have yet to hear a bad voice, though some did stand out.
UK’s Nicholas Provenzale and Reginald Smith Jr. teamed up on two of the most fun arias in the baritone repetoire, “Largo al factotum” from “Barber of Seville” and “Madamina,” the catalog aria from “Don Giovanni,” respectively.
The judges, who get to choose each singer’s second aria, seem to be going for contrast, throwing the singers something that will bring out another side of them, like requesting Smith’s free-spirited “Madamina” after as serious take on “Sorge infausta una procella” from Handel’s “Orlando.” Amanda Balltrip was given a little control exercise in “The Magic Flute’s” “Ach, ich fuhls” after a rapturous “Ah! non credea mirarti” from “La Sonnambula.”
One of the fun moments of the morning was faintly hearing Smith warming up backstage when Balltrip finished “non credea.” Another was when UK Opera Theatre costumer Susan Wigglesworth had to grab a balloon left over from a previous event that floated down to the stage as UK’s Stephanie Granade prepared to sing.
The crowd was a bit smaller than normal, which was expected given this is the auditions’ first ever start before lunchtime. A lot of cars are winding through the Funkhauser lot finding no empty spaces, so there may be a rise in the afternoon audience. The afternoon lineup includes Julie LaDouceur, Karmesha Peake, Megan McCauley, Sarah Klopfenstein, and old UK friends Anne Fuchs and Afton Battle.
1:30 – Just saw a trio of distinctive, impressive voices in Cincinnati’s Daniel Anderson, UK’s Julie LaDouceur and Chicago’s Jonathan R. Green (a very old school baritone). Call them all contenders, and this promises to be not only the biggest, but most competitive Kentucky district auditions.
2: Megan McCauley looked and sounded as good as ever on “Vissi d’arte” and “Csardas.” great interpretation.
3 p.m. We have now seen 23 singers.
3:30: with previously unannounced competitor Kara Joy Lambert, we have heard 27 singers. The judges ended the singing competition with a crowd pleaser, “A Simple Sailor Lowly Born,” by Gilbert and Sullivan.
It seems there are big battles between sopranos and baritones, with numerous excellent competitors in each voice. the judges are deliberating, and you have to wonder if they might call a few from the morning back for a refresher.
4: Tedrin Blair Lindsay: “I think we not only had a record number of competitors, but a record number of excellent competitors.”
and the winners are:
Paulette Maria Penzvalto, mezzo-soprano, Oberlin Conservatory
Eric Brown, baritone, University of Kentucky
R. Kenneth Stavert, baritone, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Jeremy Parker, soprano, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Encouragement award: Holly Flack, University of Kentucky
There was general agreement in the hall with Tedrin’s assessment that we saw a record number of excellent competitors.
In Saturday’s field of 27, there was not one person who didn’t belong there and there were no obvious winners as evidenced by several people who usually nail the Top 3 (ahem, Tedrin) completely missing this year.
“A different set of judges on a different day might have picked a completely different set of winners,” auditions chair Dr. Clifton Smith said after the competition.
Smith said according to Met National Council rules he does have the option of capping the number of entries, but thus far he has not done that, leaning toward giving everyone that wants to participate a chance. Some districts, such as New York, have hundreds of competitors and the auditions stretch over several days.
The audience was noticeably down for this year’s auditions, which have in the past attracted as many as 500. No one had a crowd count yesterday. Smith acknowledged that saying the earlier start time may have scared people off. The noonish to 1 p.m. lunch break was designed to allow people to come in at the traditional start time if they didn’t want to make a day of it. But Smith said he didn’t think that was well known. Also, people who did come late missed many of UK’s best known voices, including winner Eric Brown.
May4Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Music, Opera, UK; Tagged as: Anna Moffo, Catherine Malfitano, Clifton Smith, Gail Robinson, George Shirley, Henno Lohmeyer, Kentucky District, Lexington Opera Society, Martina Arroyo, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Paul Groves, Sherrill Milnes
Henno Lohmeyer, the widower of late University of Kentucky voice professor Gail Robinson, is resigning his post as co-director of the Kentucky District of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Lohmeyer, who was a television producer in Germany when he and Robinson met, was an integral figure in making the Kentucky District auditions an annual arts event in Lexington and putting them on the national opera map.
The auditions have been held each fall in UK’s Memorial Hall for the past 10 years, and featured panels of judges including Sherrill Milnes, George Shirley, Catherine Malfitano, Martina Arroyo, Paul Groves, and Anna Moffo. Lohmeyer’s connections from his television days and his and Robinson’s years in New York at the Metropolitan Opera, were a key to attracting those panelists. Robinson died in October after a long battle with rheumatoid arthritis.
The auditions have also attracted hundreds of opera fans to Memorial Hall each year, while many other districts are relatively quiet affairs.
In a letter to the Lexington Opera Society Board, Lohmeyer said he will continue to help Kentucky District director Clifton Smith with the auditions, including securing judges. He noted that soprano Carol Vaness and tenor Douglas Ahlstedt have already been secured for next fall.
“I thank you for your support of the program and for the kindness you extended to me,” Lohmeyer said in his note. “And now it is time to return to the garden. Lilies, dahlias and the elephant ears are waiting to be planted. You know, it is the season to be dirty.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich