31 August 2014

American Soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Guatemalan Tenor Mario Chang Win Top Honors at Plácido Domingo's Operalia Competition in Los Angeles

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Tenor Mario Chang and soprano Rachel Willis-Sorensen, the top winners at this year's edition of Plácido Domingo's Operalia competition
Craig Mathew / LA Opera

American soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Guatemalan tenor Mario Chang have been announced as the top winners in the twenty-second edition of Plácido Domingo's Operalia competition, with each having prevailed over a field of forty young singers during a week of competition hosted by LA Opera at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The event culminated in last night's Gala finals concert, which featured thirteen finalists performing with the LA Opera Orchestra, conducted by Domingo. 

Willis-Sørensen and Chang each won the competition's top honors, carrying prizes of $30,000. In addition, Willis-Sørensen was also the recipient of the Birgit Nilsson prize — awarded for her performance of "Dich, teure Halle" — as well as the $10,000 Pepita Embil Domingo Zarzuela Prize, for her performance of  "Tres horas antes del día" from Frederico Moreno Torroba's La Marchenera. Chang, who sang "Ella mi fu rapita" from Rigoletto, also won the $10,000 Don Placido Domingo, Sr., Zarzuela Prize for his performance of "No puede ser" from Pablo Sorozábal's La Tabernera del Puerto

American soprano Amanda Woodbury and tenor Joshua Guerrero were each the recipients of $20,000 second prizes, as well as Audience Prizes — decided by those attending at the gala concert — of watches, presented by Rolex. Guerrero also received a $10,000 CulturArte prize from Bertita & Guillermo Martinez from CulturArte de Puerto Rico. 

Four singers received the competition's $10,000 third-prizes resulting from two sets of tie scores. French soprano Anaïs Constans and Italian soprano Mariangela Sicilia tied after their respective performances of "O quante volte ti chiedo" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Roméo et Juliette's "Amour, ranime mon courage." Likewise American John Holiday and Russian Andrey Nemzer, both countertenors, tied after their performances of "Crude furie" from Handel's Serse and "Chudny son zhivoy lubvi" from Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila

Willis-Sørensen, 30, is an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio program as well as the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program; she was also a winner at the 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. She has performed at the Semperoper Dresden in roles that include Bohème's Mimì, Fiordiligi, Hanna in The Merry Widow, Idomeneo's Elettra and Vitellia in Clemenza di Tito. She has also performed at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro and Gutrune in Götterdämmerung. She has sung Donna Anna at Houston Grand Opera, where she made her mainstage debut as Masha in Pique Dame during the 2009-10 season. Future engagements include leading roles at Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera and the Vienna State Opera. 

Chang, who recently completed his third year with the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, made his Met debut in 2013 as the Fourth Esquire in Parsifal. In December 2013, he sang the role of the the Italian Singer in performances of Der Rosenkavalier at the house. This season he joins the Frankfurt Oper as an ensemble member where he will sing Rodolfo in Bohème, the Italian Singer in a new production of  Rosenkavalier, Cassio in Otello, and Edwin Ronald von und zu Lippert-Weylersheim in concert performances of Die Csárdásfürstin. He recently sang the role of the Chevalier de la Force in performances of Dialogues des Carmélites with the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, and made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Musical Olympus Foundation. He has also sung the role of Don Ottavio in Teatro Lirico d’Europa performances of Don Giovanni, as well as the title role in L’Amico Fritz with Miami Lyric Opera. 

Open to singers between the ages of 18 and 32 from every country and of every voice type, this year's edition of Operalia drew more than one-thousand initial applicants. From those applicants, forty candidates were invited to Los Angeles, and twenty-one were advanced into the semi-finals. On Saturday evening's Gala finals concert, the thirteen finalists were heard by panel of fourteen judges from prominent posts within the opera industry. 

This year marked the third time that the Operalia finals have taken place in Los Angeles. Since its inception in 1993, the annual competition, one of the most distinguished in the industry, has also visited Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, Bordeaux, Tokyo, Quebec, Hamburg, Milan, Moscow and Verona. Prominent singers who have won prizes at Operalia include Joyce DiDonato, Erwin Schrott, Eric Owens, Ana María Martínez, Rolando Villazón, Nina Stemme, Elizabeth Futral, Joseph Calleja, Susanna Phillips, Ailyn Perez and Anthony Roth Costanzo. spacer

More information can be found at OperaliaCompetition.org and LA Opera. The final round of Operalia can be viewed free of charge at Medici.tv.

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