Though best known for the Richard Tucker Award and its annual star-studded gala at Carnegie Hall, at the heart of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation’s mission is awarding grants that foster up-and-coming talent. The Foundation hosts its annual grant auditions in search of promising young American opera singers on April 2 & 3, with singers competing for $5,000 Sara Tucker Study Grants and $10,000 Richard Tucker Career Grants. Taking place at Manhattan’s 92 Street Y, the auditions require each of the candidates to perform two arias for a panel of industry professionals. This year’s judging committee includes: Gregory Henkel (San Francisco Opera), Andreas Melinat (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Sherrill Milnes (baritone), Pål Christian Moe (Glyndebourne & Bavarian State Opera), Neil Shicoff (tenor), Joshua Winograde (LA Opera), and Diane Zola (Metropolitan Opera). Following the auditions, the judges will confer and select the grant winners; they will also choose the recipient of the 2019 Richard Tucker Award, though the latter is not decided by audition. All names will be announced on Friday, April 5.
As Barry Tucker, president of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and the son of the Brooklyn-born tenor for whom it is named, says: “These auditions really represent an important aspect of the Foundation’s work. It’s easy to spot great talent that has already been recognized by major houses around the world, but we focus instead on finding the proverbial diamond in the rough and help to put that person in the right circumstances to develop their talent and reach their potential. This is one of our areas of greatest success, and the most critical for the future of opera.”
The two Richard Tucker Music Foundation grants are designed for two different stages in a singer’s typical trajectory. The $5,000 Sara Tucker Study Grant is awarded to recent graduates of a university or conservatory judged to be at the beginning of promising careers. The $10,000 Richard Tucker Career Grant is awarded to singers who have begun professional careers and have already performed roles with opera companies. Whereas there have been 38 Richard Tucker Awards in the history of the Foundation, promising young artists have benefited from 270 Study and Career Grants, with notable recipients—and subsequent Tucker Award winners—including Jamie Barton, Stephanie Blythe, Lawrence Brownlee, Stephen Costello, Christine Goerke, Angela Meade, Matthew Polenzani, Nadine Sierra, Deborah Voigt, and Tamara Wilson.
Tenor Ben Bliss, who recently starred as Tamino in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of The Magic Flute and was the recipient of a 2014 Study Grant and a 2015 Career Grant, says: “Without the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, it’s likely my career may have taken a very different path. The Foundation granted much-needed funds in the early stages of my development and also gave me a public platform in the wider world of opera on which to be recognized. The function the Foundation serves in our opera community and in the community of developing singers is vital and invaluable.”
Spotlight videos featuring four Study and Career Grant winners from recent years are available here. This year, the foundation has established an online fund to augment donations to the study and career grants.
About the Richard Tucker Music Foundation
The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to perpetuating the artistic legacy of the great Brooklyn-born tenor by nurturing the careers of talented young American opera singers. Through awards, grants for study, performance opportunities, and other activities, the foundation provides professional development for singers at various stages of their careers. It also offers free performances in the New York metropolitan area, and supports music education enrichment programs. Each year, the foundation confers its most prestigious prize, the Richard Tucker Award, on an artist poised at the edge of a major international career. Often referred to as the “Heisman Trophy of Opera,” the award comes with a $50,000 cash prize as well as the ongoing support of the Tucker family and foundation. Past winners include Lawrence Brownlee, Joyce DiDonato, Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, and Dolora Zajick.