Last night, HGO held its annual Concert of Arias—the culmination of the 30th annual Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers—at Stude Concert Hall at Rice University. This is the second year that the concert was streamed live on Facebook, and the first time ever it was streamed on YouTube. This year, we asked award-winning soprano and HGO Studio alumna Tamara Wilson to host the livestream. Not only did Tamara do a tremendous job reporting on the highlights of the evening and conducting captivating interviews with past and current Studio artists, she also captured the hearts of online viewers with her authentic and insightful perspective from behind the scenes.
Winners of the Concert of Arias, one of the most highly esteemed singing competitions in the United States, were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges that included HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers and HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech, with guest judge Eric Owens, the eminent bass-baritone and HGO Studio alumnus who is appearing in HGO’s current production of The Barber of Seville. The eight finalists arrived on stage after a months-long process that began when 506 singers applied to compete. Auditions were conducted in New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Houston. After careful deliberation, 13 semifinalists were chosen to compete in the final round of the competition in Houston, resulting in the selection of the final eight.
Let’s start with the top highlight of the night, the 1st place winner of Concert of Arias, contralto Leia Lensing! Leia is a second-year master’s student at the University of Northern Iowa. As the first prize winner, Leia received $10,000. She also won the Online Viewers’ Choice Award, which came with an additional $500 prize. An uncommon voice type, contralto is the lowest female singing voice, which Leia delivered with goosebump-inducing richness and beauty. Brava, Leia!
Soprano Dorothy Gal, an alumna of HGO’s Young Artists Vocal Academy, took 2nd place and $5,000. Third place and $3,000 went to mezzo-soprano Lindsay Kate Brown, a current student at Rice University.
Both the Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award ($2,000) and Audience Choice Award ($1,000) went to soprano Liv Redpath—another alumna of HGO’s Young Artists Vocal Academy. Liv graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and master’s degree from The Juilliard School and is currently a Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist with LA Opera. The Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award was established in 2015 by renowned soprano and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez to identify a developing young singer with exceptional promise who would greatly benefit from additional financial support for his or her continued training.
Former HGO General Director David Gockley, who co-founded the Studio with composer Carlisle Floyd in 1977, says that the competition arose from the Studio audition process and his desire to share the thrill of discovering new talent with a broader public. The late Eleanor Searle Whitney McCollum was involved from the competition’s inception as a benefactor and cheerleader, and she began lending her name to the competition beginning in 1991. As it grew, it evolved into an important annual fundraiser for the Studio and also a significant artistic event. Some notable past prize winners of Concert of Arias include Ana María Martínez, Nicole Heaston, Joyce DiDonato, Heidi Stober, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Stephanie Blythe, Ryan McKinny, Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Jamie Barton, and our livestream host Tamara Wilson. Current Studio artists Mané Galoyan and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen were 1st prize winners of their competitions.
Pictured: current Studio members Zoie Reams, Thomas Glass, Anthony Robin Schneider, Yelena Dyachek, Mané Galoyan, Richard Smagur, Sol Jin, Peter Walsh, and Yongzhao Yu
Overall, the night was an exhilarating success and an exciting sneak peek into the promising careers that lie ahead for these young artists. We are thrilled to continue our new tradition of livestreaming this event with the goal of expanding access for audience members to experience this dramatic evening in the moment, whether in the theater or the comfort of their own home. Be sure to join us next year!
"Live streaming was wonderful. I loved the program. My favorite was Lindsey Kate Brown. What a great performance."
“Thank you Houston Grand Opera for the livestream! It has enriched my life this week.”
“I'm so thrilled to see, as evidenced tonight, that the future of opera is very bright. I'm blown away by the talent. Bravi tutti!”
“What a time to be alive! Concert of Arias live...on Facebook!”
“Watching from London. Thanks for making possible.”
“So Happy HGO is streaming this Live, wish I was there in person though!”