Six Singers Awarded Top Honors of 31st Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition
International star soprano joins HGO’s artistic team as the first ever artistic advisor
Houston—Houston Grand Opera (HGO) has announced the winners of the 31st annual Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers Concert of Arias, which took place in the Cullen Theater of the Wortham Theater Center [on February 1]. This is the third year the Concert of Arias was streamed live on Facebook, and the second for livestreaming on YouTube. The livestream was hosted by HGO Studio alumna Andrea Carroll. She is currently performing in The Pearl Fishers as Leïla and placed first in the 2012 Concert of Arias. The winners were announced during the second portion of the program.
1st Place prize of $10,000 was awarded to William Meinert
2nd Place prize of $5,000 went to William Guanbo Su
3rd Place prize of $3,000 was won by Nicholas Newton
The Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award of $2,000 went to Yunuet Laguna. This award was established in 2015 by renowned soprano and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez to identify a young singer of exceptional promise who would greatly benefit from additional support of his or her continued training. Ms. Martínez won first prize in the competition in 1994.
The Audience Choice Award of $1,000 was won by Elena Villalón.
The Online Viewers’ Choice Award of $500 was given to Katherine DeYoung.
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, HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech, and guest judge Lawrence Brownlee, the renowned tenor now appearing in HGO’s The Pearl Fishers.
In remarks from the stage, HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers announced that internationally acclaimed soprano and Houston resident, Ana María Martínez, currently singing the title role in Florencia en el Amazonas, will join the artistic team as the first-ever artistic advisor. Beginning her three-year appointment as of today, Martínez will advise on casting and future productions, mentor the HGO Studio artists, adjudicate the Concert of Arias competition, and work with HGOco to develop programming that connects to Houston’s various communities.
“She is no stranger to Houston audiences, as she has sung a more diverse repertoire here than any artist in our history,” said Summers. “She has deep connections to Concert of Arias and the Studio, as she was the first place winner of this event 25 years ago. I’m elated that Ana María is joining us.”
Concert of Arias supporters raised more than $600,000, with proceeds benefiting the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers and Houston Grand Opera Studio’s ongoing outreach efforts to identify, attract, and nurture young artists who have the potential for major careers in opera. Past prize winners who are now leading international artists include Jamie Barton, Joyce DiDonato, Ana María Martínez, Ryan McKinny, and Tamara Wilson.
Chaired by Elizabeth and Richard Husseini, the Concert of Arias began with a champagne reception before 700 guests arrived in the Cullen Theater to enjoy the competition. As the judges made their decisions, guests enjoyed performances by current HGO Studio members and were invited to vote for the Audience Choice Award. Following the concert, more than 500 artists, patrons, and underwriters were seated for the sold-out dinner in the Grand Foyer of the Wortham Theater Center, catered by City Kitchen Catering and with modern décor by The Events Company.
Today’s concert was the final event in a months-long process. Now in its 31st year, the competition received 525 applications from singers around the world. Auditions were conducted in in November and December. After careful consideration, 14 semifinalists were chosen to come to Houston for further rounds of the prestigious competition. The field of semifinalists was narrowed to eight finalists on January 28. The selected finalists had the opportunity to learn more about HGO and work with HGO music staff leading up to the Concert of Arias, where they performed two arias each, accompanied by Kirill Kuzmin, HGO assistant conductor.
Since its inception 42 years ago, the HGO Studio has grown to be one of the most respected young artist programs in the country. Each of the young artists in the HGO Studio has access to a learning environment that emphasizes practical experience within the professional opera world. This includes regular coaching sessions with industry professionals, roles in HGO mainstage productions, recital performances, and a variety of other concert engagements.
The evening’s guests included chairs Elizabeth and Richard Husseini, David Duthu, Dominic Domingo, Dian and Harlan Stai, Judy and Dick Agee, Beth Madison, Frances Marzio, Steve Hamilton and Tom LeCloux, Janet and John Carrig, Linda and Willie Chiang, Anne and Albert Chao, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Abby and Chris Venegas, Dr. Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies, Reinnette and Stan Marek, Jill and Allyn Risley, Glen Rosenbaum, Drs. Liz Grimm and Jack Roth, Zane Carruth, Ishwaria Subbiah, Rini Ziegler, Damon Chargois and Rebekka Peltzman, Dr. Larry and Mary Ann Faulkner, Bryn Larsen, Terrylin Neale, Laura and Brad McWilliams, Doug and Sarah McMurrey, Marcia and Alfredo Vilas, Monica Fulton, Gabriel and Sara Loperena, Tony Bradfield, Marguerite Swartz, Ann and Stephen Kaufman, Teresa and José Ivo, John Evatz, Louise Chapman and Shoocha Kuqi, Sid Moorhead, Kellie and Robert Collier, C. C. and Scott Ensell, John Serpe and Tracy Maddox, DonNell and Tom Rushing, Katherine Thomasson and Michael Talbot, and Sholto Davidson and Laura Bielinski.