Matthew Grills, tenor, of Rochester, N.Y, won the $15,000 First Prize in the finals of the 2012 Lotte Lenya Competition, held on April 21, 2012, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. In a close contest, Justin Hopkins, bass-baritone of Philadelphia, and Jacob Keith Watson, tenor of Wynne, Ark., tied for Second Prizes of $10,000, and Megan Marino, mezzo-soprano of Malvern, Penn., was awarded the Third Prize of $7,500.
This is the first time that the top prize in both the Lotte Lenya Competition and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions was won by the same contestant, Matthew Grills, who was one of the five 2012 Met Auditions Grand Winners. While the Met Auditions, as well as most other singing competitions, focus primarily on vocal beauty and power, the Lotte Lenya Competition is unique in its equal emphasis on singing and acting. Contestants must present fully acted, idiomatic performances of repertoire ranging from opera to contemporary musical theater. At the Lenya Competition finals, Grills transitioned with ease from a performance of “Ah, mes amis” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment—an aria with nine high Cs—to a powerfully acted rendition of “If I Didn’t Believe in You” from Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years. The other prize winners also presented exceptionally strong performances of repertoire ranging from Mozart, Rossini, Lehár and Weill to William Finn, Andrew Lippa and Stephen Sondheim.
Judges for the competition were three-time Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker, Broadway and Encores! music director Rob Berman, and Theodore S. Chapin, President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and Chairman of the Board of the American Theater Wing.
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, which sponsors the competition, distributed a record $58,500 in prizes this year. In addition to the top prizes, judges presented two Lys Symonette Awards of $3,000 each, named in honor of Kurt Weill’s musical assistant on Broadway. For her performance of Weill’s “Le train du ciel,” soprano Natalie Ballenger of Santa Cruz, Calif., received an award for Outstanding Performance of an Individual Number, and soprano Maria Failla of Scarsdale, N.Y., received one for Extraordinary Promise as a Singing Actor / Acting Singer. The remaining six finalists each received a total award of $1,000: Christine Amon, mezzo-soprano, of Bowling Green, Ohio; Douglas Carpenter, baritone, of Woodbridge, Conn.; Briana Elyse Hunter, soprano, of New York; Cecelia Ticktin, mezzo-soprano, of Roosevelt, N.J.; Mollie Vogt-Welch, soprano/belt, of New York; and Nicky Wuchinger, bari-tenor of Berlin, Germany.