Press Room

2012 Richard Tucker Award goes to soprano Ailyn Pérez

The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is pleased to announce that lyric soprano Ailyn Pérez is the winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award. This prestigious prize, which has been referred to as “the Heisman Trophy of opera,” carries the foundation’s most substantial cash award, of $30,000, and is conferred annually on an American opera singer at the threshold of a major international career. Previous winners include such luminaries of the opera world as Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, David Daniels, Joyce DiDonato, Lawrence Brownlee and Angela Meade. The 2009 Richard Tucker Award went to Pérez’s husband and frequent collaborator, tenor Stephen Costello, so her award renders the couple dubbed “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” (Associated Press) the first to have two Richard Tucker Awards on the mantelpiece – one for each. Furthermore, Pérez is the first Hispanic singer to receive the award in its 34-year history. The foundation is also pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Richard Tucker Career Grants and Sara Tucker Study Grants, who were selected by audition this week at New York’s 92nd Street Y. A complete list of recipients is provided below.
Barry Tucker, President of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and son of the great American tenor for whom it is named, stated:
“We are thrilled to be giving the Richard Tucker Award to Ailyn Pérez, a wonderful young soprano who sings with incredible beauty and heart. I first heard Ailyn singing La traviata at our auditions and was really impressed and moved, and I got to know her much better when Stephen Costello, her husband, won the Richard Tucker Award three years ago. We are so happy to be able to recognize her talent today. I know she will make the Richard Tucker Foundation proud.”
Ailyn Pérez, speaking on the phone from Atlanta where she is making her debut with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this week singing Poulenc’s Gloria, commented:
“The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is extraordinary: it enriches American operatic culture and promotes and connects young American artists. Watching the Richard Tucker gala performance when my husband was announced the winner, and seeing international opera stars come together to honor the memory of one of America’s legendary artists at these galas are an incredible source of inspiration to me. I am truly grateful and thrilled to receive such an honor, and I am excited to be another voice to carry on his legacy.”
Noted for her “inner radiance combined with vocal luster” (Philadelphia Inquirer), Ailyn Pérez was born in Chicago, Illinios to first-generation Mexican immigrants. She earned degrees in vocal performance from Indiana University (2001) and Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts (2006), where she met her now husband, Stephen Costello. The coming months see her star opposite Costello in three leading roles: Mimì in Puccini’s La bohème at Los Angeles Opera; Violetta – as whom she proved “ideal” (Observer) and “an unalloyed triumph” (Guardian) at London’s Royal Opera House – in Verdi’s La traviata at Cincinnati Opera; and Suzel in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz at the Moscow State Philharmonic Society. Her recent highlights include debuts at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, and Milan’s Teatro alla Scala; two Gounod heroines – the title role of Roméo et Juliette for Opera Company of Philadelphia opposite Costello, and Marguerite in Faust at San Diego Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Hamburg State Opera; Zerlina in Don Giovanni with the Dallas Opera, Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro at the Ravinia Festival, and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with the Deutsche Staatsoper; the title role in Massenet’s Manon for Palau de les Arts in Valencia; Puccini’s Mimì at Cincinnati Opera; and her role debut as Leila in Bizet’s Pearl Fishers with the Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile. The soprano’s high-profile gala appearances include collaborations with Plácido Domingo and Jose Carreras. More information is available on her official web site,
In addition to Pérez’s win, the foundation is pleased to announce that nine other young American artists have been awarded study and career grants following auditions held on April 9 and 10 at New York’s 92nd Street Y. 2012 Richard Tucker Career Grants of $10,000 each go to soprano Jennifer Rowley, mezzo-sopranos Jennifer Johnson Cano and Jamie Barton, and baritone Nicholas Pallesen, all of whom have already won recognition in their advancing careers. 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grants of $5,000 apiece go to five young singers displaying great promise at the start of their professional careers: mezzo-sopranos J’nai Bridges and Margaret Mezzacappa, bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, baritone Mark Diamond, and bass Scott Conner. The award-winners were chosen by opera professionals from leading companies including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and others. The Chairman of the Awards Committee is the distinguished American baritone Sherrill Milnes.
Founded in 1975, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation is a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to perpetuating the artistic legacy of the great Brooklyn-born tenor by nurturing the careers of talented American opera singers and by bringing opera into the community. Through awards, grants for study, performance opportunities, and other activities, the foundation provides professional development for singers at various stages of their careers. It also offers free performances in the New York metropolitan area and supports music education enrichment programs. Further information about foundation’s work is available at
2012 Richard Tucker Career Grant Winners
Richard Tucker Career Grants are awards of $10,000 given to singers who have a fair amount of performance experience in professional companies and who are usually younger than 36 years old.
Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, 31, recently appeared at Lyric Opera of Chicago in three roles: as the Voice of the Mother in Les contes d’Hoffman, as the Nurse in Boris Godunov, and as  Dryade in Ariadne auf Naxos. Upcoming engagements include roles in The Golden Ticket for Atlanta Opera and the 2nd Norn in Götterdämmerung with the Bayerishches Staatsoper, Munich.  Last season, Barton sang the 2nd Lady in The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera and made her Bayerisches Opera debut as Mère Marie in Dialogues des Carmelites. During the summer of 2011, she appeared at the Santa Fe Opera as Martha in Faust and in Menotti’s The Last Savage. Concert appearances have included the Milwaukee Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Omaha Symphony and an appearance with the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Carnegie Hall. A native of Rome, Georgia, Barton was a winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and is a graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio.
Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, 27, is a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and a 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grant winner.  Cano has been seen at the Wellgunde in the new productions of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, Kate Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly and the Sandman in Hansel and Gretel and was heard as Ludmila in the Metropolitan Opera and the Juilliard School’s joint production of The Bartered Bride. In May she will make her Cleveland Orchestra debut in a concert performance of Salome, and she has performed with Chicago Opera Theater. On the concert platform, she has performed with the New York Philharmonic and LA Philharmonic. She was a First Prize winner of the 2009 Young Concert Artists Auditions and has presented recitals in several US cities, including Washington DC and New York. She has been a young artist at the Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Ravinia Festival Steans Institute and the Marlboro Music Festival; she was a National Winner of the 2008 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was awarded a 2009 Sullivan Foundation Award. She holds degrees from Webster University and Rice University.
Baritone Nicholas Pallesen, 33, recently joined the rosters of Los Angeles Opera (covering the title role of Eugene Onegin) and the Metropolitan Opera (covering Lysander in The Enchanted Island). He will perform the role of Pluto in Telemann’s Orpheus with New York City Opera where he was previously seen as Storch in Intermezzo and Sharpless in Madame Butterfly, and he recently made his debut with Baltimore Concert Opera as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor.  Other upcoming engagements include a return to the Metropolitan Opera, Germont in La traviata at Fort Worth Opera and Rigoletto for Shreveport Opera. A recent graduate of the Julliard School, Pallesen’s roles at JOC included the title role in Adams’s The Death of Kinghoffer, the title role of Falstaff, and Top in Copland’s The Tender Land. Pallesen is a native of Riverside, California.
Soprano Jennifer Rowley, 31, has recently had successes with the Norwegian National Opera as Musetta in La bohème, at the Savonlinna Festival in Finland as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and at the Cararmoor Festival in the title role of Maria de Rohan. Her upcoming engagements include the Verdi Requiem at Carnegie Hall, Queen Orasia in Telemann’s Orpheus with the New York City Opera, a return to Savonlinna for a gala and a world premiere work, and, in 2013, she will cover the role of Desdemona in Otello at the Metropolitan Opera.  Also forthcoming are debuts at the Met, Covent Garden and Opera Australia. Other recent notable engagements include Magda in La rondine in Bologna, Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Opera New Jersey, and Donna Anna for Michigan Opera Theater. A Cleveland native, Rowley is a graduate of Indiana University and Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory.
2012 Sara Tucker Study Grant Winners
Sara Tucker Grants are awards of $5,000 given to singers making the transition from student to professional singer, who are generally younger than 30 years old.
Mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, 25, is a recent graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music and is joining Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Center where she will be performing or covering roles in Elektra, Manon Lescaut, Die Meistersinger, Elektra and Rigoletto. A native of Lakewood, Washington, Bridges performed roles in Idomeneo and Le tragedie de Carmen, La sonnambula and The Rake’s Progress while at Curtis, as well as Elgar’s “Sea Pictures” with the New Jersey Symphony. At Glimmerglass Opera, she covered the role of Carmen as well as roles in Le nozze di Figaro and The Tender Land. A graduate of Manhattan School of Music, Bridges received a Marian Anderson Award, encouragement awards from Opera Index and the George London Foundation, and first prize from the Harlem Opera Theater Competition, among other awards.
Bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, 24, is currently a student at the Curtis Institute of Music where his roles have included Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, Escamillo in Le tragedie de Carmen, Dr. Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Belcore in L’elisir d’amore. This season he has been heard as Méphistopélès in Faust at Curtis and as Raimondo in Rienzi with Opera Orchestra of New York, and he will sing Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Santa Barbara. He has also appeared with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Chautauqua Opera, and the Harrisburg Symphony. At the Music Academy of the West, he sang Basilio in Barbiere and covered Leporello in Don Giovanni. He has won awards from the George London Foundation, the Gerda Lissner Competition and the Palm Beach Opera Competition, among others.
Bass Scott Connor, 26, is a student at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia where his roles have included the title role of Don Giovanni, Colline in La bohème, Oroveso in Norma and the villains in Les contes d’Hoffman. Upcoming engagements include Colline and Alidoro in La cenerentola at the Dresden Semperoper, Neptuno in Cavalli’s Elena at the Aix Festival, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor in Lille and his debuts at Glyndebourne and Opera Theater of St. Louis. Other roles have included Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro with Nashville Opera and Columbus Opera and performances with Wichita Grand Opera, Opera New Jersey and Lake George Opera. The Olathe, Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music.
Baritone Mark Diamond, 25, joined the Houston Grand Opera Studio in 2011 where he sang the Marquis in La traviata and the Forester in Don Carlos and covered Rodrigue; he was a member of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program during the summer of 2011 where he sang the role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia. A native of Augusta, Georgia, Diamond was a member of Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist Program and sang the role of Top in Copland’s The Tender Land; he has performed with the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cincinnati Conservatory and the Aspen Opera Theater. He was a first prize winner of the Eleanor McCollum Competition of Houston Grand Opera and a recipient of a 2010 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation. Diamond studied at Georgia Southern University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Mezzo-soprano Margaret Mezzacappa, 24, is a student at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia where her roles have included Geneviève in Pelléas et Melisande, Cunizza in Verdi’s Oberto, the Principessa in Suor Angelica and Quickly in Falstaff. She made her debut at the Opera Company of Philadelphia as Emilia in Otello and will sing the role of Fenena in Nabucco with the company. Upcoming engagements include Britten’s “Spring” Symphony with the La Jolla Symphony at Carnegie Hall, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Verdi Requiem in Ocean Grove, NJ. A native of Euclid, Ohio, Mezzacappa has won awards from the Gorge London Foundation, the Lucia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, the Gerda Lisner Competition, and the Palm Beach Opera Competition. She is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music.

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