Press Releases

Ben Edquist, Arlo Hill, and Natalie Ballenger Named Winners of Annual International Theater Singing Contest

April 15, 2014: Ben Edquist, of Houston, won the $15,000 First Prize in the finals of the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and held on April 12, 2014, in Kilbourn Hall of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Arlo Hill, of New York, won the Second Prize of $10,000, and the Third Prize of $7,500 was awarded to Natalie Ballenger, also of New York.

Now in its 16th year, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes exceptionally talented young singer/actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill.

This year's panel of judges included two-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, Broadway conductor and New York City Center Encores! Music Director Rob Berman, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson. Finalists were selected from a pool of 200 contestants, with 29 adjudicated and coached in a semifinal round by Rebecca Luker and Jeanine Tesori.

Each of the 14 finalists presented four selections ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary musical theater. Edquist, the youngest of the finalists, impressed the judges with a compelling and nuanced program comprised of "Me" from Beauty and the Beast, "Lonely Town" from On the Town, "This is New" from Lady in the Dark, and "She Called Him 'Curt'" from Jake Heggie's Three Decembers. Hill stood out for his performances of "I Am a Pirate King" from The Pirates of Penzance and "Buddy's Blues" from Follies, and Ballenger for Weill's "Je ne t'aime pas" and "I Want Magic!" from Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire.

The Kurt Weill Foundation distributed a record $65,000 in prizes this year. In addition to the top prizes, the finals judges presented four Lys Symonette Awards of $3,500 each, named in honor of Weill's musical assistant on Broadway. Awards for Outstanding Performance of an Individual Number went to Robert Ariza, of Ann Arbor, Mich., for "She's a Woman" from Kiss of the Spider Woman; Diana Rose Becker, of Northport, N.Y., for "Emily's Goodbye Aria" from Ned Rorem's Our Town; and Briana Elyse Hunter, of New York, for "I Never Has Seen Snow" from House of Flowers. A fourth Lys Symonette Award went to Katie Travis, of New York, for Outstanding Dramatic Interpretation of her program. The remaining seven finalists each received an award of $1,000: Rachel Cordeiro, of New York; Norman Garrett, of Silver Spring, Md.; Carter Lynch, of New York; Lauren Michelle, of New York; Heather Phillips, of Philadelphia; Jim Schubin, of Matawan, N.J.; and Mikalai Znaharchuk, of Minsk, Belarus.

Since 1998, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded more than a half-million dollars in prize money to outstanding young performers and continues to support previous winners with career development grants. Previous Lenya Competition winners enjoy successful careers performing in major theaters and opera houses around the globe. In the 2013-14 season alone, their credits range from Broadway (Morgan James, Motown The Musical; Kyle Scatliffe, Les Misérables; Jacob Keith Watson, Violet; Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), the West End (Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys), national tours (Cooper Grodin, Amy Justman, The Phantom of the Opera; Ariela Morgenstern, Flashdance The Musical), and regional theaters (Doug Carpenter, The Most Happy Fella, Goodspeed Musicals, and South Pacific, Paper Mill Playhouse; Analisa Leaming, Arlington, Magic Theatre San Francisco) to such leading opera houses as the Metropolitan Opera (Paul Corona, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Megan Marino), Houston Grand Opera (Liam Bonner, Rodell Rosel), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie, Rodell Rosel), Hamburg Staatsoper (Rebecca Jo Loeb), and Teatro Real Madrid (Noah Stewart).

A short documentary produced in 2013, Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition, explores the unique nature of the Competition. It recently had its broadcast premiere on public television and can be streamed at http://www.youtube.com/KurtWeillFoundation.

Click on the image below for a printable image of all the prizewinners:

llc-2014-all-winners-small
Caption: 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition winners (L to R): Ben Edquist, Diana Rose Becker, Arlo Hill, Robert Ariza, Katie Travis, Briana Elyse Hunter, Natalie Ballenger. Photo courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation.

Click on the image below for a printable image of the top three prizewinners:

2014 Lenya Competition top three prizewinners
Caption: 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition winners (L to R): Ben Edquist, Arlo Hill, and Natalie Ballenger. Photo courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation.

Click on the image below for a printable image of the top three prizewinners and judges:

2014 Lenya Competition top three prizewinners and judges
Caption: 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition judges and winners (L to R): Rob Berman, Judy Kaye, James Robinson, Arlo Hill, Natalie Ballenger, Ben Edquist. Photo courtesy of the Kurt Weill Foundation.

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If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Kate Chisholm at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


14 Finalists Selected; Rob Berman, Judy Kaye, and James Robinson Will Judge

March 13, 2014: Fourteen exceptionally talented young singer-actors have been selected as finalists in the 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition. They will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500 on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Rochester, New York. Broadway conductor and Encores! music director Rob Berman, two-time Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson will judge.

Held annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes talented young singer-actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire. A short documentary produced in 2013, "Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition," explores the unique nature of the Competition and can be streamed at http://www.youtube.com/KurtWeillFoundation.

"I can't imagine a more challenging competition for a singer then the Lenya Competition," says Rob Berman, who judges for the fifth time this year, "when you look at what they’re asked to prepare." Four-time judge and Broadway leading lady Rebecca Luker adds, "This is a competition of the highest quality."

Finalists were selected from a group of twenty-nine semi-finalists from the United States, Canada, and Europe after auditions in New York on March 7-8, 2014. Contestants were required to prepare four selections: an aria from the opera or operetta repertoire; two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one from the pre-1968 "Golden Age" and one from 1968 or later); and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill. Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker and Tony Award nominee and Olivier Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori served as coach/adjudicators, evaluating and working with each of the semi-finalists.

Seven men and seven women, ranging in age this year from 23 to 31, are the finalists: Robert Ariza (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Natalie Ballenger (New York), Diana Rose Becker (Northport, N.Y.), Rachel Cordeiro (New York), Ben Edquist (Houston), Norman Garrett (Silver Spring, Md.), Arlo Hill (New York), Briana Hunter (New York), Carter Lynch (New York), Lauren Michelle (New York), Heather Phillips (Philadelphia), Jim Schubin (Matawan, N.J.), Katie Travis (New York), and Mikalai Znaharchuk (Minsk, Belarus).

LLC 2014 finalists

Finalists will perform their entire programs for the judges on April 12 between 11:00 am and 3:30 pm. At 8:00 pm, they will perform a concert of selections which ends with the announcement of the winners. Both events are free and open to the public, and will take place in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, 26 Gibbs Street, Rochester, N.Y.

In addition to the top prizes, the Foundation will award special prizes at the finals and has already presented Emerging Talent Awards to first-round contestants Neda Lahidji (Santa Clara, Calif.), Zach Miller (State College, Pa.), Mary Beth Nelson (Oklahoma City), Laura Corina Saunders (Rochester, N.Y.), Ethan Simpson (Evanston, Ill.), Christine Cornish Smith (Sunnyside, N.Y.), Anthony Witson-Martini (La Mesa, Calif.), and Clayton Graves Williams (Rosedale, N.Y.). The Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Promise went to Brian Vu of New Haven.

In its first fifteen years, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded over a half-million dollars in prize money to young performers and continues to support previous winners with career development grants. Previous winners enjoy successful stage, concert, and recording careers around the globe. In the 2013-14 season alone, their credits range from Broadway (Morgan James, Motown The Musical; Kyle Scatliffe, Les Misérables; Jacob Keith Watson, Violet; Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), the West End (Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys), national tours (Cooper Grodin, Amy Justman, The Phantom of the Opera; Ariela Morgenstern, Flashdance The Musical), and regional theaters (Doug Carpenter, The Most Happy Fella, Goodspeed Musicals, and South Pacific, Paper Mill Playhouse; Analisa Leaming, Arlington, Magic Theatre San Francisco) to major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera (Paul Corona, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Megan Marino), Houston Grand Opera (Liam Bonner, Rodell Rosel), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie, Rodell Rosel), Hamburg Staatsoper (Rebecca Jo Loeb), and Teatro Real Madrid (Noah Stewart).

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If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Kate Chisholm at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


New Documentary Provides Intimate Look at Unique International Contest for Singer-Actors

January 8, 2014: The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music is pleased to announce the online release of Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition, a new documentary film about the prestigious international contest for singer-actors. Produced by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., and directed, filmed, and edited by Granny Cart Productions, the 18-minute high-definition film traces the journey of the 2013 Competition, on stage and off, through the semi-finals, finals, and a 15th anniversary celebration concert at New York's Symphony Space. Through live footage and interviews, Singing the Story reveals the rigorous and unique nature of the Lenya Competition, which challenges singers to go beyond the usual "stand and sing" approach of vocal competitions by requiring them to present fully acted performances of wide-ranging theater repertoire, from opera to Broadway.

Singing the Story: The Lotte Lenya Competition is available for viewing, sharing and embedding at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPp6omjsGk8.

"I can't imagine a more challenging competition for a singer," says four-time judge and Encores! Music Director Rob Berman in the film. Broadway leading lady Rebecca Luker, who has judged the Competition three times, attests, "This is a competition of the highest quality," and opera star Patricia Racette, who judged the 2013 Finals, adds, "It's a great way to pull up amazing and unique talent."

Singing the Story explores the demands and rewards of the Lotte Lenya Competition as several exceptionally talented young performers wend their way through the 2013 contest, aiming to win the $15,000 First Prize. Dynamic live footage provides an intimate view of the process, as semi-finals judges Rebecca Luker and Jeanine Tesori offer contestants valuable insights during coaching sessions; finalists take their programs to new heights in a packed concert hall at the Eastman School of Music; Finals judges Ted Chapin, James Holmes, and Patricia Racette deliberate over the winners; and the First Prize winner is announced. Spotlights on past winners demonstrate the lasting impact of the Competition, and an anniversary concert at Symphony Space celebrates its legacy as eight winners perform an all-Weill program alongside Broadway veterans. Interviews with 2013 judges and contestants, Kurt Weill Foundation President and Founder of the Competition Kim Kowalke, past judges Rob Berman and Victoria Clark, and past winners Zachary James, Justin Hopkins, Analisa Leaming, Erik Liberman, and Lauren Worsham, reveal the significance of this one-of-a-kind contest, whose winners are just as likely to appear in a major opera house as on Broadway. As Kim Kowalke sums it up in the film, "You can't come up with a template for the winner. They're all very different. The one thing that they have in common is that they have to show that they can pretty much do it all."

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If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Kate Chisholm at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 


kwp2013-hintonkwp2013-book-coverOctober 23, 2013: The 2013 Kurt Weill Book Prize for outstanding scholarship in music theater since 1900, carrying a cash prize of $5,000, has been awarded to Stephen Hinton, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Music at Stanford University, for his book Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform. Published in 2012 by the University of California Press, Hinton's musicological study offers the most comprehensive overview yet of Weill's output for the stage. In tracing Weill's extraordinary journey as a theatrical composer, comparing his works to each other while situating them within larger contexts, Hinton demonstrates how Weill's experiments with a range of genres, forms, and styles constitute a continuously innovative and coherent development, from his first children's pantomime and early operas through his final Broadway musical. Hinton's long-term engagement with Weill has resulted in several other essential volumes, including Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera for the Cambridge Opera Handbooks series and the critical edition of the score and text of Die Dreigroschenoper for the Kurt Weill Edition.

kwp2013-chowrimootooIn addition to the book prize, a $2,000 Kurt Weill Prize for outstanding article has been awarded to Christopher Chowrimootoo for his article "Bourgeois Opera: Death in Venice and the Aesthetics of Sublimation," published in the Cambridge Opera Journal in 2011. The prize panel commended the essay for taking on "a work, a composer, a defined period in the history of a genre, and a larger critical approach and attitude towards musical style and meaning that potentially touches all scholars of 20th-century music." Chowrimootoo, an Assistant Professor of Musicology and Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame, also received the Royal Musical Association's Jerome Roche Prize for his article.

Awarded biennially by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Kurt Weill Prize recognizes distinguished scholarship in music theater since 1900, including opera and dance. Books and articles published in 2011-2012 were eligible for the 2013 prize; nominations were reviewed by a panel of music and theater experts.

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If you’d like more information about this topic, please contact Kate Chisholm at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


International theater-singing contest seeks exceptional young singer/actors

Top prize $15,000

September 10, 2013: The Lotte Lenya Competition seeks exceptionally talented young singer/actors who excel in a wide range of musical theater styles for the 2014 competition. Contestants will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500; total prizes awarded will exceed $50,000.

Established in 1998 by the Kurt Weill Foundation, the Lotte Lenya Competition is a unique international contest that bridges the worlds of opera/operetta and Broadway musical theater, following the example of Lenya's husband, composer Kurt Weill. More than a vocal competition, the contest emphasizes wide-ranging repertoire and the acting of songs and arias within a dramatic context.

The 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition is open to artists ages 19-32 born after December 31, 1981 and before January 1, 1995. Contestants must follow repertoire guidelines and submit a video audition on DVD by January 31, 2014. For those unable to prepare DVDs, limited live auditions will be held on January 25, 2014; the deadline to apply for a live audition is January 10. Semi-finalists will be invited to audition in New York City on March 7-8, 2014. Finalists will each receive an award of $1,000, plus a stipend to offset the cost of travel to the Competition finals, which will be held on April 12, 2014, at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, USA.

Contestants must prepare a program of four selections: one selection from the opera or operetta repertoire; two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one pre-1968 and one from 1968 or later); and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill. They will be judged on their ability to interpret text and portray a character, along with stage presence, beauty of voice, and vocal technique.

A panel of distinguished musical theater and opera professionals will judge the Competition. Past judges have included world-renowned soprano and actress Teresa Stratas; legendary director and producer Harold Prince; and Broadway leading ladies Victoria Clark and Rebecca Luker.

Previous winners perform regularly on Broadway, in regional theaters and international tours, and in major opera houses in the United States and Europe. Highlights of their upcoming performances include Lauren Worsham as Phoebe D’Ysquith in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway, Douglas Carpenter as Joey in The Most Happy Fella at Goodspeed Opera House, Caitlin Mathes as Jenny in The Threepenny Opera at Indianapolis Opera, Liam Bonner in the title role of Billy Budd at Los Angeles Opera, Rebecca Jo Loeb as Hansel in Hansel and Gretel and Zerlina in Don Giovanni at Hamburg State Opera, and Jonathan Michie as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte at Leipzig Opera.

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Further information may be found on the Kurt Weill Foundation’s website at www.kwf.org/LLC. Or contact Kate Chisholm at the Kurt Weill Foundation: (212) 505-5240 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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