Lovers of opera and classically trained vocal performance will have the opportunity to hear top young talent from across the nation and beyond when the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay hosts a prestigious international music competition Friday through Sunday, Oct. 9-11.
The International Czech and Slovak Voice Competition takes place in Fort Howard Hall of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, located on the campus at 2420 Nicolet Drive, Green Bay. Admission is free, and the public is welcome to attend at any point during the competition’s three rounds — opening, semifinal and final.
The 2015 edition of the every-other-year competition is the 13th since its inception in Montreal, Canada, in 1991. This is the first year Green Bay will host the finals, a change based in part on a history of success as a preliminary venue. UW-Green Bay has hosted opening rounds six straight times since 2003.
“We’re thrilled to welcome the finals to Green Bay. This competition has a great history, and our audiences have really enjoyed being able to hear amazing singers from around the world,” says UW-Green Bay Music Prof. Sarah Meredith Livingston, director, who with community patron Sharon Resch, producer, is organizing the weekend’s events.
The competition schedule (subject to change) is as follows:
• Friday, Oct. 9 — Preliminary Round 10 a.m. – noon
• Saturday, Oct. 10 — Semifinal sessions beginning at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Oct. 11 — Finals, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. (closing reception, 3 p.m.)
“This is a competition that showcases the beauty of the Czech-Slovak repertoire,” Meredith Livingston says. “It also provides a chance for promising young singers to further their careers, and it demonstrates to our local voice students what can be possible when talent, training and dedication come together.”
A total of 19 male and female vocalists have entered to take part in the Green Bay preliminary rounds. (Preliminaries will also take place in Montreal, earlier the same week, with contenders vying to advance to Green Bay for the semifinals.)
The list of entrants here includes vocalists from New Jersey, California, Ohio and Massachusetts as well as several each from Michigan and Illinois, and one from Kronberg, Germany. Competitors from Wisconsin are Sarah Butler, soprano, Milwaukee; Talia Nepper, lyric soprano, Franksville; Elena Stabile, soprano, Appleton; and Ian Toohill, tenor, Shorewood.
The winner of the International Czech and Slovak Voice Competition will receive $5,000 Canadian and be featured in recital at a later date at the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic. The event offers a total of seven cash awards including $2,500C for second place and $2,000C for third.
The first-place finisher in the 2013 competition, Ukrainian-born soprano and University of Michigan graduate Antonina Chekhosvkya, now tours professionally as an opera, symphony and solo recitalist. Within months of her 2007 title, Simone Osborne, now with the Vancouver and Canadian Opera companies, became one of the youngest winners (at age 21) of the famous New York Metropolitan Opera auditions. The 2003 top prize winner, Jan Martiník, is today a featured performer with the Berlin State Opera.
The distinguished panel of international jurors for the 2015 competition includes Alois Jezek, artistic director of the Dvorak International Voice Competition, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic; Ales Kanka, Prague Conservatory; Prof. Victor Yampolsky of Northwestern University; Maestro Gildo Dinunzio, assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, New York; and Alain Nonat, artistic director of Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20,, Montreal, and the competition’s founder. Also serving as jurors will be UW-Green Bay’s Meredith, herself an accomplished vocalist and Fulbright honoree for her performance and academic work primarily in the Czech-Slovak repertoire, and Seong-Kyung Graham, music director and conductor for the Civic Symphony of Green Bay.
Singers will be accompanied, for the seventh consecutive time at the Green Bay site, by pianist Tim Cheek, a professor, Czech diction specialist and vocal coach at the University of Michigan.
Nonat and others created the Montreal competition in 1991 to commemorate the 150th celebration of renowned composer Antonin Dvorak’s birth. Today, the event continues to promote the Czech and Slovak vocal repertoire for young singers, while fostering exchanges of young musicians and specialists between North America and the Czech Republic, as well as Slovakia.
It is expected that Bořek Lizec, counsel general of the Czech Republic in Chicago, will be on hand for the presentation of awards at the reception following the Oct. 11 finals.
The final round begins at 10 a.m. in the Weidner’s Fort Howard Hall, only a few hours ahead of that day’s noon kickoff across town at Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers will host NFL rival the St. Louis Rams.
“People everywhere know about Green Bay and world championship performances in football,” Meredith says. “It’s nice to be able to add to that, in our own way, by bringing an international competition in music to this community, and showcasing these talented vocal performers.”