The 41st annual Heida Hermanns International Voice Competition, a two-day event presented by the Connecticut Alliance for Music (CAM) with the support of the Westport Arts Center, will bring together young musicians from around the world at Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, on Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2. The bi-annual competition is named for the late Heida Hermanns, a world-class concert pianist and music lover, who lived in Westport for more than 40 years.
The competition offers talented vocalists, ages 19 to 35, an opportunity to compete for cash prizes – first prize, $5,000; second prize, $2,500; third prize, $1,500; and honorable mention, $500.
Audition CDs are received from students and alumni from music schools world-wide. From the preliminary applicants, a jury of professional musicians will select approximately 15 semi-finalists to come to Westport to vie for prizes.
The semi-finals on Saturday, December 1, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., are free-of-charge and open to the public. Each of the competitors will give a 20-minute performance before a panel of professional judges throughout the day. Audience members are free to come and go. At the end of the day, judges will select those who will move on to the finals concert on Sunday, December 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. Finalists will each perform a program selected by the judges to demonstrate musical virtuosity and skill. At the conclusion of the performances, the audience is invited to a reception while the judges determine the top three winners. Tickets to the Sunday finals are $20 for adults; free for ages 18 and younger.
Four distinguished professional musicians will judge the competition: Bruno Amato, Anton Coppola, Ronald Naldi, and Olga Sambuco.
Bruno Amato received his bachelor of music from Hartt College of Music, his master of music from Manhattan School of Music, and his doctorate from Princeton University. He has taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and has received many awards and honors.
Anton Coppola has conducted almost all of the important opera companies in the U.S. and Canada, including the New York City Opera. He was the director of both the symphony and opera departments at the Manhattan School of Music and is the recipient of two honorary doctorates.
Ronald Naldi, internationally acclaimed lyric tenor, has brought his art to the stages of the Metropolitan Opera as well as many other opera companies, festivals, and symphony orchestras. He has a BM and MM in voice from Indiana University and was a Fulbright scholar in Rome.
Olga Sambuco, soprano, was a scholarship student at the Juilliard School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, and received her doctorate at Indiana University. She teaches and concertizes throughout Connecticut and the East Coast.
Many area music lovers will host international contestants in their homes during their stay for the competition. Among them is Barry Katz of Norwalk, a former member of the Westport Arts Center’s board of directors. Last year, Katz hosted the winner of the 2011 Heida Hermanns International Piano Competition, Yue Chu of China, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. “Hosting a competitor for the Heida Hermanns competition was a truly rewarding experience,” said Katz. “This was my first time as a host, but it definitely won't be the last.”
Katz stated that the moment Yue Chu sat down at his piano “it was clear that I was in the presence of real talent. Listening to him practice I said to myself, ‘This guy is going to win.’” When Yue Chu took his place on stage to play his finals program, Katz said, “I found myself silently rooting for him as if he were the home team. That evening I felt like a proud parent as he was handed first prize.”
Honorary Chairman of the competition is Dr. Carole Ann Maxwell, D.S.M., of Fairfield, one of America's preeminent conductors of collegiate, community, and professional choral ensembles.
For more information and tickets on The Heida Hermanns International Voice Competition, call the Westport Arts Center at 203-222-7070, M – F, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or visit http://heidahermannscompetition.org.