Young opera singers take home awards

Denver Lyric Opera Guild holds annual vocal competition

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Denver Lyric Opera Guild members gathered for the monthly Opera on Tuesday meeting, April 5, at Columbine Country Club to hear 10 top finalists in the organization’s annual Competition for Colorado Singers.

DLOG’s mission is to elevate and support the power and beauty of the human voice, and the organization was founded in 1965 to support the local Lyric Theatre, which later became the Denver Lyric Opera Company.

When the opera company was forced to close by prohibitive costs, the guild focused on other programs to encourage young singers and gathered to listen and learn, enjoying the company of others with mutual interests. (New members are welcome — see the DLOG website.)

Over the years, the organization has not only supported young singers who are starting careers, but given grants to Colorado’s colleges and universities to fund scholarships. The guild has been able to award $815,400 to competition winners over the years, growing from $5,150 the first year to $38,000 in 2022.

Preliminary competition this year included 30 young singers and was adjudicated by Jonathan Hayes, Eapen Leubner and Marcia Ragonetti, who gave personal feedback to each one. Fifteen finalists competed for judges Sam Mungo, Leenya Rideout and Wei Wu. Many DLOG members contributed time and support to run the competitions and Kathy Van Arsdale, competition VP, served as emcee at the luncheon.

Soprano Lauren Bumgarner, 25, who is working on her master’s of music in vocal performance at Colorado State University, won first place, $10,000, the Galen and Ada Belle Spencer Foundation Award. She earned her bachelor’s of music in vocal performance at University of California-Santa Cruz. Her proud mother was at her side for the concert and luncheon at Columbine.

Second place, $5,000, the Kenneth King Foundation Award, went to mezzo Kelly Riordan, 25, who is working on her master’s in vocal performance and pedagogy at University of Colorado, Boulder. She was recently awarded a Fulbright Grant to study in Vienna, Austria for the next academic year.

Third place, $4,500, the Myrle F. Hoffman Memorial Award, went to soprano Tessa McQueen, 24. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, she will sing with Central City Opera this summer and said she will attend Rice University in the fall.

Gabrielle Razafinjatovo, mezzo, 27, who placed fourth with the $4,000 Shirley and Marlis Smith Award, is a graduate student in voice and pedagogy at University of Colorado, Boulder. She graduated from Minot State University and performed with the Minot Symphony Orchestra.

The fifth place Gary and Gayle Landis Award, $3500, presented by Gayle Landis, went to mezzo Danielle Lombardi, 30, an Oberlin Conservatory graduate who has a master’s degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and has performed with Opera Colorado and elsewhere.

Christina Hazen, 27-year-old mezzo who took sixth place, the $3,000 Carole Johnson in Memory of Mary Wise Award, holds a bachelor of music from University of Northern Colorado, is an alumna of Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artists Vocal Academy and has an Artist Diploma from Cincinati College-Conservatory of Music. She will join Minnesota Opera as a Resident Artist for the 2022-2023 season.

Tenor Paul Wolf, 31, won the Beverly Ann Landis Memorial Award, $2500. He is working on a DMA at CU Boulder and has performed across the country.

Certificates of merit, $1,000, went to sopranos Courtney Caston, 26, Alice Del Simone, 29, and Catherine Swindle, 30.

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