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Richard Tucker Music Foundation Names American Mezzo-Soprano Jamie Barton as Winner of 2015 Richard Tucker Award


Jamie Barton high res (credit Rebecca Fay)

Recipients of Career and Study Grants Also Announced

The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is delighted to announce that mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton – whom the New Yorker has praised as “a fresh wonder of the opera world, possessing a voice of preternatural beauty and power” – is the winner of the 2015 Richard Tucker Award. Often referred to as the “Heisman Trophy of Opera,” this prestigious honor carries the foundation’s most generous cash prize, $50,000, and is conferred annually by a panel of opera industry professionals on an American singer on the threshold of a major international career. Previous winners of the award include such luminaries as Renée Fleming, Lawrence Brownlee, Stephanie Blythe, David Daniels, Angela Meade and Joyce DiDonato.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as speechless as I was when Barry Tucker called me to give me the news that I’d won the Richard Tucker Award,” said Barton on the phone from Houston, where she is currently singing Fricka in Die Walküre with the Houston Grand Opera. “I’m overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. The Tucker Foundation has been a musical family for me for years now, and to be given its top prize is an absolute honor.”

“I first heard Jamie Barton at the 2012 Tucker auditions when she sang ‘O mio Fernando’ from Donizetti’s La Favorita – she gave me goose-bumps,” recalled Barry Tucker, president of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and son of the Brooklyn-born tenor. “When I heard her, I thought to myself: ‘This is a once-in-a-generation voice.’ We are absolutely elated that she is our 2015 Richard Tucker Award winner.”  

The foundation has also announced the winners of the 2015 Richard Tucker Career Grants and Sara Tucker Study Grants, who were selected by audition last week at New York City’s 92nd Street Y.  These grants are made possible in part through the generous support of the Agnes Varis Trust. A complete list of recipients is provided below.

Jamie Barton|
The winner of both the Main and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton has been described by The Guardian as “a great artist, no question, with an imperturbable steadiness of tone, and a nobility of utterance that invites comparison not so much with her contemporaries as with mid-20th century greats such as Kirsten Flagstad.” She is also a winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a Grammy nominee, a 2012 Richard Tucker Career Grant winner, and the Kennedy Center’s 2014 Marian Anderson Award recipient.

The mezzo-soprano’s 2014-15 season began with a debut at the San Francisco Opera as Adalgisa in Norma, a role that she previously sang to acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera, followed by her first performances as Giovanna Seymour in Anna Bolena in a return to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. This summer she debuts in the role of Azucena in Il Trovatore with the Cincinnati Opera, and makes her company debut with the Seattle Opera as Fenena in Nabucco. In coming months on the concert stage, she gives the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s The Work at Hand with the Pittsburgh Symphony and performs Verdi’s Requiem with the Toronto Symphony, adding to previous performances with the likes of the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s and Melbourne Symphony. Barton has appeared in recital at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, among other top stages. She has also been featured as a guest soloist in the Marilyn Horne Foundation Gala at Carnegie Hall and at the Richard Tucker Gala at Avery Fisher Hall. Future projects include returns to the Metropolitan Opera and the Houston Grand Opera and debuts at London’s Royal Opera House, Oper Frankfurt, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Los Angeles Opera and Washington National Opera, all in leading roles. A graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Barton attended Indiana University in Bloomington and received extensive training as a recitalist at Tanglewood Music Center.

Richard Tucker Career Grants and Sara Tucker Study Grants
In addition to Barton’s win, the foundation is pleased to announce that seven other young American artists have been awarded study and career grants. The 2015 Richard Tucker Career Grants of $10,000 go to tenor Benjamin Bliss, bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, and bass-baritone Michael Sumuel. The 2015 Sara Tucker Study Grants of $5,000 apiece go to young singers displaying great promise at the start of their professional careers: soprano Julie Adams, soprano D’Ana Lombard, baritone Sean Michael Plumb and baritone Reginald Smith Jr. Bios for the singers appear below. The winners of the study and career grants were chosen by a panel of opera professionals following auditions held April 22-23 at the 92nd Street Y.

Richard Tucker Music Foundation
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. The foundation presents its annual gala – featuring Jamie Barton and a starry lineup of today’s leading opera singers – on Sunday, November 1 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Further information about the foundation’s work is available at, and high-resolution photos can be downloaded here.

2015 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.

Tenor Benjamin Bliss, 29, winner of a 2014 Sara Tucker Study Grant, is in his second year of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. He made his Met debut as Vogelgesang in Die Meistersinger and next season will sing Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail led by James Levine. Bliss’s other 2015-2016 season engagements include Belmonte on tour with the Glyndebourne Festival, Tony in highlights of West Side Story on tour with the New York Philharmonic, Tamino in Los Angeles Opera’s The Magic Flute, and Flamand in Capriccio at the Santa Fe Opera. From 2011-13, Bliss was a member of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program and made his Los Angeles Opera debut as Benvolio in Roméo et Juliette. He is the 2013 Operalia Zarzuela Prize recipient and received awards from the Lissner, Sullivan and Albanese/Puccini Foundations and Opera Index.  From Prairie Village, Kansas, Bliss holds a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in film production and a minor in music from Chapman University.

Bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, 27, winner of a 2012 Sara Tucker Study Grant, is a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Program. He made his Glyndebourne Opera debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni and also sang subsequent performances as Leporello. Other recent appearances have included roles in Die Frau Ohne Schatten and Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk at the Met Opera, Colline in La bohème with Boston Lyric Opera, Pirro in I Lombardi with Opera Orchestra of New York, and Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Geneva Opera. Upcoming engagements include Pittsburgh Opera and Philadelphia Opera. A graduate of the Curtis Insititute, Cedel was a winner of the Met Opera’s National Council Auditions in 2013 and of awards from the Sullivan, George London, Liederkranz and Lissner competitions, among others.

A graduate of the Houston Opera Studio, bass-baritone Michael Sumuel, 29, began the 2014-2015 season with his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni, then returned to Houston Grand Opera as Papageno in The Magic Flute and to Glyndebourne as Junius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. Sumuel opened the 2013-2014 season in Houston as Frank in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Upcoming engagements include Escamillo in Carmen with San Francisco Opera and a return to Glyndebourne in 2016 as Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This season also marked his debut with the Baltimore Symphony in Handel’s Messiah and the title role in Le nozze di Figaro at Central City Opera. Sumuel’s competition honors include being a 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Finalist and a co-winner of the 2009 Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition. He is an alumnus of the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera Center and the Filene Young Artist program at Wolf Trap Opera. Sumuel holds degrees from Columbus State University and Rice University.

2015 Sara Tucker Study Grant Winners
Sara Tucker Grants are awards of $5,000 given to singers – generally younger than 30 years old – who are making the transition from student to professional singer.

A winner of the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and recent winner of the George London Award, soprano Julie Adams, 27, is a first-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and alumna of the 2014 Merola Opera Program, where she performed the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she performed the roles of Blanche in Les Dialogues des Carmélites, as well as Mimì, Fiordiligi, and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi.  Other credits include Lia (Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue) at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv; Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) at the Music Academy of the West; and Magnolia Hawks (Show Boat) and Rose (Street Scene) with the Oakland East Bay Symphony.

A member of the Houston Studio Program, soprano D’Ana Lombard, 27, was a First Prize winner of the Houston Grand Opera’s McCollum Competition and has received awards from the Albanese, Gari, Giordani and Gerda Lissner foundations. Her recent roles in Houston have included Kate Pinkerton, First Lady in The Magic Flute and covering Desdemona and Fiordiligi. Upcoming engagements include Rosina in The Ghosts of Versailles at Wolf Trap Opera and Eva in An American Dream at Seattle Opera.  She is a graduate of Mannes College and was also a member of the Los Angeles Opera Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program.

A California native, baritone Sean Michael Plumb, 23, studies at the Curtis Institute of Music under Mikael Eliasen and William Stone. Upcoming engagements include Papageno in The Magic Flute and Sam in Trouble in Tahiti at the Glimmerglass Festival, along with leading roles with Opera Philadelphia. He has been a young artist at the Glimmerglass Festival, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Aspen Music Festival, and he recently made his national television debut in the HBO documentary Renée Fleming: a YoungArts MasterClass. Plumb performed as the youngest soloist at the Grammy Week Salute to Plácido Domingo in 2010 and was honored by President Obama as a United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts at a White House ceremony. The 2015 recipient of the Theodor Uppman Prize from the George London Foundation, Plumb was also the Third Prize winner at the 2015 Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition.

A member of the Houston Opera Studio, baritone Reginald Smith Jr., 27, is a recent winner of the Metropolitan National Council auditions, the George London Foundation and the Gerda Lissner Foundation Competitions. An Atlanta native, Mr. Smith has sung roles in Carmen, Rigoletto, Die Fledermaus and The Magic Flute and will be heard this summer as the Count in Le nozze di Figaro at Wolf Trap Opera. He has been a member of the Opera Theater of St. Louis, Brevard Music Center and Seagle Music Colony young artist programs.

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© 21C Media Group, April 2015

Photo: Rebecca Fay

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