International Vocal Competition at Opera at Florham

2018 winners (l-r): soprano Anna Dugan, baritone Emmett O’Hanlon, soprano Helena Brown

This Sunday, May 5 at 2pm, Opera at Florham offers a unique opportunity to listen to voices of the highest caliber as extraordinary young singers compete from around the world at Opera at Florham’s 31st International Vocal Competition. In this final round, prizes totaling $10,000 will be awarded to vocalists 21-35 years of age demonstrating exceptional operatic art talent before a celebrated collection of jurists.

Previous finalists and winners are now on the rosters of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and other major companies here and abroad. Last year’s winners were Emmett O’Hanlon, baritone (first place), Anna Dugan, soprano (second place), and Helena Brown, soprano (third place).

2014-18 Winners, top left clockwise: Alasdair Kent, Alexandra Nowakowski, Christian Bowers, Emmett O’Hanlon, Andre Courville


Overseen by the Gerda Lissner Foundation, over 100 applicants will audition on May 2-3 in New York City. A group of 10-12 finalists will be selected to perform for the final event on May 5. The competition is being staged and directed by Stephen DeMaio, the foundation’s President and Opera at Florham trustee. Mary Pinto, Musical and Artistic Director of Opera at Florham, is the pianist for both the preliminary judging and the finals. The MC Mariana Karpatova is an Opera at Florham trustee and vocal instructor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Pianist Mary Pinto

Notes Mary on this unique event for northern New Jersey, “I’m always very excited at this time of year to hear the range of talent that we don’t always experience until this competition that exists in the tri-state area.” An acclaimed piano accompanist and vocal coach, Mary has worked with international opera singers and major American opera companies for the past 25 years.

The judges for the auditions and competition will be Maestro Eve Queler, James Thurmond Smithgall, Barbara Ann Testa, and Gregory Downer. Maestro Queler is recognized as a pioneer in the world of opera. She has conducted over 100 operas in concert at Carnegie Hall and been a guest conductor for many European and South American orchestras. She also served as music director of The Opera Orchestra of New York.

Barbara Ann Testa is a famous soprano who had a wonderful career in Italy where she studied with the great tenor Giovanni Martinelli and soprano Licia Albanese. She is also an accomplished pianist, a trustee of the Gerda Lissner Foundation and a member of the International Advisory Board of the Loren L. Zachary Society for the Performing Arts.

James Thurmond Smithgall is an outstanding international jurist, patron of the arts, and artists’ representative guiding the careers of many young singers. In 2009 he created the Lanie and Ethel Foundation, a private foundation that focuses, among other things, on environmental concerns, needy musicians and the promotion of artistic careers.

Gregory Downer served as Art Director of Opera News magazine (published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild) from 1975 to 2015. He designed the Metropolitan Opera Season Book from 1975 to 2006 and has been design consultant to Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Violetta DuPont, Co-founder Opera at Florham

Every finalist will be awarded a monetary prize. The $5,000 first place prize was donated by The Gerda Lissner Foundation and The Lissner Charitable Fund. The $3,000 second place prize was donated by Joseph DuPont in honor of his mother, Violetta, who co-founded Opera at Florham in 1982 and established the Vocal Competition in 1987. The $1,500 third place prize and Encouragement Awards to all other finalists are donated by Trustees and friends of Opera at Florham.

The Mansion, Fairleigh Dickinson University

The event takes place in the beautiful, historic Mansion at Fairleigh Dickinson University, 285 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ. Fancy refreshments donated by Fairleigh Dickinson University are served during a brief intermission while the judges deliberate.

Tickets for the Vocal Competition are $30 General Admission, $25 Seniors, $10 Students and $20 for groups of 10 or more. Tickets may be ordered online or by contacting us at 973-443-8620 or email. Tickets are free for children age 12 and under and students of Fairleigh Dickinson University age 22 and under. Tickets are also available at the door.

Opera at Florham presents professional vocalists in recital, concert, and competition from Opera to American songbook. A not-for-profit founded 37 years ago, OaF’s supports the mission “Opera Is for Everyone” by offering low-cost, high-quality events at home and out in the community.

Funding has been made possible in part by funds from the Morris Arts Council through the New Jersey State Council of the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.


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