Sunday, January 27, 2008

Metropolitan Opera Auditions results

Once again Spivey Hall has had the pleasure of hosting the Southeast Region Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Twelve young singers from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida took part, each singing two (and in some cases three) arias for a panel of expert judges: Paul Kilmer, Director of Artistic Administration, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; Felicity Jackson, Associate Director, Chicago Opera Theater; and George Darden, the long-time pianist, coach and assistant conductor of The Metropolitan Opera who has also performed in recital with many celebrated vocalists.

This year's winners were announced by Dr. John C. LaForge, Southeast Regional Auditions Director (also Coordinator of Music for Fulton County Schools and a member of the Spivey Hall Education Committee):

+ The Atlanta Opera Guild Encouragement Award ($300): mezzo-soprano Sarah Limper, age 26, Florida

+ The Peg Gary Encouragement Award ($300): mezzo-soprano Kaitlyn Costello, age 22, Georgia

+ Third Place Winner ($400 Metropolian Opera National Council Award; $600 Southeast Regional Fund Award): baritone Nimrod Weisbrod, age 27, Florida

+ This year there are two First Place Winners, each of which will receive $4000 and will travel to New York to sing at The Met National Audition Semi-finals on Sunday, February 17. (The National Grand Finals Concert is Sunday, February 24.)

These prizes are generously funded by numerous donors:

> The MRS. EDWARD TOBIN AWARD ($800) - An annual national award given to the First Place Winner in each of the 15 Regions
> The CROSS FOUNDATION in honor of Mrs. John (Margaret) Talmadge, Chairman of the Southeast Region Auditions ($1000)
> An anonymous award given in honor of Mrs. Gilbert W. Humphrey ($720)


soprano Carolina Castells, age 25, of Florida


tenor Rene Barbera, age 23, of North Carolina

Congratulations to all the contestants! Thanks are also due to David D'Ambrosio, staff accompanist for all of the contestants save tenor Martin Nusspaumer, whose accompanist was Benny John Plasencia; and to J. Barry Schrenk, Director of Membership and Finance for the Southeast Region.

An aside about pianos: We had a little on-stage drama with our pianos today. As many of our patrons know (and as was amply reported in Pierre Ruhe's feature that ran in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the Sunday after Thanksgiving), Spivey Hall has two magnificent New York Steinway "D" concert grand pianos. One was the instrument that Emilie Spivey had in her home. Here at Spivey Hall, this instrument very naturally goes by the name of "Emilie." Our second Steinway grand, selected for us by outstanding American pianist Richard Goode, is named "Walter" -- since of course Dr. Walter & Emilie Spivey were the visionary philanthropists who led the creation of Spivey Hall, and whose Foundation generously funds our operations.

"Emilie" was the instrument of choice at today's auditions -- until she developed a problem with a buzzing string. About two weeks ago a string snapped on Emilie, and the new string (which stretches and takes some time to acclimate) apparently hasn't quite settled down. It was fine Friday night when Martin Katz performed with countertenor David Daniels (a very rewarding recital indeed), but today it created a very noticeable noise that distracted the artists and the audience.

So, after Rene Barbera's selections in the second half of the program, "Emilie" got to take a nap in her storage area (our piano technicians will pay a visit to her shortly), and out came "Walter" for his moment in the Met auditions spotlight.

"Walter" was Emanuel Ax's instrument of choice for his December 2nd recital, and I expect we'll be seeing (and hearing) more of him in the coming months, since over the summer and into the early fall he's had lots of TLC from our two first-rate piano technicians, Craig Miller and Chuck Cook.

Curious to know which is which? You can tell when "Walter" is on stage, because "Steinway & Sons" is visible on the side of the piano facing the audience; "Emile," appropriately discreet, has no such emblem.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sam,

A wonderful report and especially enjoyed your comments about the Spivey Hall Steinways! They are fortunate pianos indeed to have such a sensational home.

Warmest regards from chilly NYC,

Peter Goodrich

4:04 PM  
Blogger Spivey Hall said...

Thanks very much, Peter. We're proud to have our two magnificent Steinway concert grands at Spivey Hall. When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran its big article on "Walter" and "Emilie" in November, the critical consensus among pianists, technicians and other professionals polled was that "Emilie" is presently Atlanta's (if not Georgia's) best concert instrument -- quite an honor! As Steinway's primary representative in charge of keeping the world's most distinguished concert pianists happy, you (probably better than anyone) know what a superior instrument means to the artists who work the most rarified magic at the piano -- and the critical value of having a good piano when pianists decide to accept or decline an engagement. Maintenance and care is a ongoing concern for the pianos required by these amazing artists. We always want them to leave satisfied, keen to return to Spivey Hall, with good news to report to their colleagues. Word does get around...! All best, -Sam

6:00 PM  

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