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Richard Tucker Music Foundation Names Soprano Nadine Sierra as Winner of 2017 Richard Tucker Award

Soprano Nadine Sierra – who at 28 years old is already establishing herself as a fixture at many of the world’s leading opera houses, including those of Paris, Milan, Berlin, and New York – was named today by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation as the winner of the 2017 Richard Tucker Award. The announcement comes on the heels of Sierra’s performances last month as Ilia in the Metropolitan Opera’s Idomeneo under James Levine, which the New York Classical Review called “musically superb” and “incandescent all night.” The Tucker Award, often referred to as the “Heisman Trophy of Opera,” carries the foundation’s most substantial cash prize of $50,000, and is conferred each year by a panel of opera industry professionals on an American singer at the threshold of a major international career. The list of past winners includes such luminaries as Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Lawrence Brownlee, Matthew Polenzani, Christine Goerke and Joyce DiDonato. Sierra will be inducted into this who’s who of American opera at the Foundation’s annual gala, to be held this year on Sunday, December 10th at Carnegie Hall.

Commenting by phone from Venice where she is currently preparing to sing the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Teatro La Fenice, Sierra said:

“I cannot thank the Richard Tucker Music Foundation enough for this incredible honor and for all the support they’ve shown me since I first auditioned for a Sara Tucker Study Grant in 2010. I am humbled to receive this award and to follow in the very large footsteps of those who have preceded me. “

Barry Tucker, president of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and son of the Brooklyn-born tenor for whom the foundation is named, comments:

“We are elated to have Nadine as our 2017 Richard Tucker Award winner. Having known her since she was an undergraduate in college and been in awe of her talents even back then, I could not be more impressed by how she has developed as a singer. She possesses an artistic maturity that is well beyond her years and is destined to be a leading light of the opera world.”

About Nadine Sierra

Previously a recipient of a 2010 Sara Tucker Study Grant and a 2013 Richard Tucker Career Grant, Florida native Nadine Sierra is being hailed as one of the most promising young talents in opera today. The rising-star soprano’s already long list of house debuts includes the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera, Berlin Staatsoper, and Zürich Opera, as well as debuts last summer at the Tanglewood and Mostly Mozart festivals. On the concert stage, she has been a soloist with the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony, and featured in televised concerts from Lincoln Center and Venice’s Teatro la Fenice. She has appeared in recital at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the U.S. Supreme Court. Recently, she signed an exclusive recording contract jointly with Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Gold, Universal Music Classic’s new U.S. label.

Sierra’s 2016-17 season highlights include three productions at the Paris Opera: she opened the company’s season at the Palais Garnier as Flavia in a new production of Cavalli’s Eliogabalo; at the Opéra Bastille this past winter, she sang Pamina in Die Zauberflöte; and she returns for Gilda in Rigoletto in the coming months. At the Met, after singing Zerlina in Don Giovanni in the fall, she just last month made both her role and Live in HD debuts as Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo under the baton of James Levine. Also under Levine’s direction, she makes an upcoming Chicago Symphony debut at the Ravinia Festival in Haydn’s Creation. In 2017-18, in addition to returns to the Met, Paris, and San Francisco opera companies, she debuts at London’s Royal Opera House as Musetta in a new production of La bohème.

Nadine Sierra made her professional debut as a teenager with the Palm Beach Opera and received her first national exposure at age 15, when she performed on NPR’s young artist showcase, From the Top. After graduating from New York’s Mannes College of Music, she entered the Adler Fellowship Program at San Francisco Opera, where she continues to return frequently in leading roles. She is the youngest winner to date both of the Marilyn Horne Foundation Vocal Competition and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. As the San Francisco Chronicle notes, she inspires “a combination of admiration for her current gifts and eager anticipation at what the future surely holds for her.”

Visit for more information. High-resolution photos of Nadine Sierra can be downloaded here.

Richard Tucker Career Grants and Sara Tucker Study Grants

In addition to Sierra’s win, the Foundation is pleased to announce that ten other young American artists have been awarded study and career grants. 2017 Richard Tucker Career Grants of $10,000 each, given to young singers who have already performed with professional companies, go to bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee, and baritones John Chest and Anthony Clark Evans. 2017 Sara Tucker Study Grants of $5,000 apiece go to seven young singers displaying great promise at the start of their professional careers. Only five of these grants were awarded last year; the unprecedented number of study grants this time around is a credit to the exceptional talent of this year’s auditionees and the Foundation Board’s deep commitment to supporting young singers. Sara Tucker Study Grants go to: countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, tenor Alexander McKissick, bass-baritone Christian Pursell, bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum, mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven, tenor Jack Swanson, and soprano Vanessa Vasquez. The winners of the study and career grants were chosen by the panel after auditions held last week at New York’s 92nd Street Y, thanks to the generous support of the Agnes Varis Trust. Biographies for the recipients are provided below, and high-resolution photos of the 2017 Study and Career Grant recipients can be downloaded here.

About the 2017 Richard Tucker Career Grant Winners

Richard Tucker Career Grants are awards of $10,000 given to young singers who have already gained performance experience in professional companies.

Nicholas Brownlee, bass-baritone, 27

The recipient of a 2016 Sara Tucker Study Grant, Nicholas Brownlee was the first-prize winner of the 2016 Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, won the Zarzuela prize at Operalia 2016, and won the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He is concluding his final season as a Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist at Los Angeles Opera. In the 2016-17 season, Brownlee made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the First Soldier in Salome under the baton of Johannes Debus, joined Los Angeles Opera for a production of Salome and returns there later this month for Tosca. He debuted at Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon, singing Escamillo in Calixto Bieito’s production of Carmen. He also sings Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Recent role debuts at Los Angeles Opera include Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, and Captain Gardiner in Moby-Dick, all conducted by James Conlon during the 2015-2016 season. He also sang Colline in La bohème at LA Opera led by Gustavo Dudamel, and debuted at Atlanta Opera in the same role. With the LA Philharmonic, he sang the Doctor in Pelléas et Melisande with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting.

John Chest, baritone, 31

American baritone John Chest is winner of both the prestigious 2010 Stella Maris International Vocal Competition and the Arleen Auger Prize in the 2012 Hertogenbosch International Vocal Competition. Until September 2016 he was a member of the ensemble at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where his roles included the title role of Billy Budd in a new production by David Alden, Valentin in Faust, Ford in Falstaff, Silvio in Pagliacci, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. Highlights of the 2016-17 season include Conte Almaviva at Opera Philadelphia, Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby at Staatsoper Dresden, and a return to Berlin for the title role of Billy Budd. Future performances include major roles at the Glyndebourne Festival, Teatro Real Madrid, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, and the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.

Anthony Clark Evans, baritone, 32

Winner of a 2014 Sara Tucker Study Grant, rising American baritone Anthony Clark Evans makes major debuts in the 2016-2017 season, beginning with Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at San Francisco Opera. Earlier this season, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Huntsman in Rusalka, while also covering Riccardo in I puritani. Last season, Evans made debuts with San Diego Opera as Sharpless and with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as Marcello in La bohème. He returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago to create the role of Simon Thibault in the world premiere of Bel Canto, adapted from Ann Patchett’s bestselling novel by composer Jimmy Lopez and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. Evans recently completed a two-year tenure at Lyric Opera of Chicago’s prestigious Ryan Opera Center, where he was heard as Montano in Otello for his debut with the company, Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, the Jailer in Tosca, the Servant in Capriccio, the Huntsman in Rusalka, and the Commissario in La traviata. Recent concert engagements include Fauré’s Requiem with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and his Ravinia Festival debut in Bernstein’s Songfest with Ensemble Dal Niente.

About the 2017 Sara Tucker Study Grant Winners

Sara Tucker Study Grants are awards of $5,000 given to young singers in the process of transitioning from student to professional singer.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor, 23

In the 2017-18 season, American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen looks forward to joining the Houston Grand Opera Studio, as the first countertenor in the Studio’s history, where he will sing Nireno in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and a Maid in Strauss’s Elektra. He will also join American Bach Soloists for their 20th annual performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, and Ars Lyrica Houston for two concert programs, featuring works by Bach and Handel. In his breakout 2016-2017 season, Cohen was a Grand Finals winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, first-prize winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, and winner of the Irwin Scherzer Award as a finalist in the George London Foundation Competition. Other highlights of the season include singing the world premiere performances of Kenneth Fuchs’s Poems of Life with the Virginia Symphony, followed by a recording of the piece with the London Symphony Orchestra for release in 2018 on the Naxos label; and concerts with early music groups the Newberry Consort in Chicago and Operamission in New York City. In the summer of 2017 he will join Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist.

Alexander McKissick, tenor, 25

Alexander McKissick is a Toulmin Scholar at the Juilliard School, where he received his Bachelor’s of Music Degree and will receive his Master’s Degree in May. While at Juilliard, he has performed the roles of Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte, Le journaliste in Les mamelles de Tirésias, Ein Soldat in Der Kaiser von Atlantis, and Brack Weaver in Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley.  McKissick sang the role of Ramon in La Navarraise at the 2016 Bard SummerScape festival, and has sung the 4th Jewish Holy Man in a concert version of Strauss’s Salome with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Last summer, he attended the Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Canto in Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy, where he participated in masterclasses with Richard Bonynge, Angela Gheorghiu, and Carmen Giannattasio. He has won awards from the Opera Index Competition and the Licia Albanese-Puccini Vocal Competition. This summer, McKissick performs the role of Val in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Alfredo in La traviata at the Aspen Music Festival.

Christian Pursell, bass-baritone, 26

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, California, bass-baritone Christian Pursell was a 2016 National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He sang the roles of Senator Potter’s Assistant and the Priest in the critically acclaimed world premiere of Gregory Spears’s Fellow Travelers at Cincinnati Opera, and his debut season with that company also included the Jailer in Tosca and a solo performance with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. In conjunction with graduate studies at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati (CCM), Pursell was engaged by Opera Fusion: New Works in October 2015 to sing Abdullah in Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown, and returned in the fall of 2016 to workshop the role of Tom in Laura Kaminsky’s Some Light Emerges. Recent roles include Pandolfe in Massenet’s Cendrillon and Harašta in The Cunning Little Vixen at CCM; the Herald in Rigoletto at Opera San Jose; and Marcello in La bohème and Belcore in L’elisir d’amore at San Francisco Conservatory. Upcoming engagements include Pilate in a staged production of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at CCM and Dandini in La Cenerentola at Merola Opera.

Cody Quattlebaum, bass-baritone, 23

Cody Quattlebaum, from Ellicott City, Maryland, is pursuing his Master of Music degree at Juilliard, where he studies with Marlena Malas. He received his bachelor’s degree from the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. Quattlebaum has performed Claudio in Agrippina, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Lautsprecher in Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Der Fischer in Matsukaze, and the Colonel in the first workshop of Daniel Catán’s Meet John Doe. He recently sang Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with Merola Opera and will return this summer for the title role in William Walton’s The Bear. He has been awarded prizes by the George London Foundation, Corbett Opera, James Toland, Gerda Lissner Liederkranz, CAM Heida Hermanns, and Opera Index competitions, and advanced to the semi-finals of the 2016-17 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In March, he was featured in San Francisco Opera’s Schwabacher Debut Recital, and he will be a member of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program this summer. At Juilliard, he holds an Irene Diamond Graduate Fellowship and the Risë Stevens Scholarship.

Taylor Raven, mezzo-soprano, 25

Taylor Raven is a first-year Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist for the 2016-17 season, with roles including Oronte in Handel’s Richard the Lionheart and Hannah in Laura Kaminsky’s As One. In the summer of 2016, Raven performed scenes in the Schwabacher Summer Concert with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program. She also recently performed the role of Marian Anderson in Deep River: Marian Anderson Journey with Virginia Opera. While earning her Master of Music degree at the University of Colorado-Boulder, she had a string of successful productions with Eklund Opera, including Angelina in La Cenerentola, Ottavia in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, and Die Knusperhexe in Hänsel und Gretel. In 2015, Raven won both the Adelaide Bishop Award at Central City Opera and First Place in the Denver Lyric Opera Guild Competition.

Jack Swanson, tenor, 25

Stillwater, Minnesota native Jack Swanson began this year at Opera Memphis, performing the role of Frederick in The Pirates of Penzance. Other engagements this spring include concerts with the Houston Symphony, the Florida Orchestra and the Oregon Symphony, followed by a reprise of the role of Don Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Opera Delaware. This summer, Swanson makes his European debut singing the role of Albazar in Garsington Opera’s production of Il turco in Italia, before performing Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia with the Glyndebourne Touring Company in the fall. In 2018, he sings the title role in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by James Conlon, at Los Angeles Opera. Swanson won the top prize from the The Sullivan Foundation in 2016, the grand prize in Florida Grand Opera’s Young Patroness Competition, and first place in the San Antonio Music Club Competition, the National Opera Association Competition and the Hal Leonard Art Song Competition. In 2016, he was featured on National Public Radio’s Young Artist in Residence program, Performance Today. He earned his Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Vanessa Vasquez, soprano, 26

Currently a third-year Resident Artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts, Vanessa Vasquez won top prize at the 2017 Gerda Lissner Foundation International Competition, and was a National Winner of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Upcoming performances include Liù in Turandot at Des Moines Metro Opera. This spring she also appears as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at AVA, where her other roles have included Gilda in Rigoletto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Mimì in La bohème. Earlier this year she was the soprano soloist in Bach’s cantata “Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich” with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and was a featured soloist with the same conductor and orchestra in the Academy of Music 160th Anniversary Concert and Ball. In 2016 alone she won First Prize in the Giulio Gari Foundation Competition; First Prize in the Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition; Top Prize in the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition; and First Prize and Audience Favorite in the Southwest Vocal Competition. Vasquez earned a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance from the University of Los Angeles.

About the 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 a starry lineup of today’s leading opera singers every fall in New York City. Audiences in 125 countries around the world were able to enjoy last year’s gala, which introduced soprano Tamara Wilson as the 2016 Richard Tucker Award-winner, thanks to partnerships with and WQXR 105.9 FM, New York’s classical radio station. Further information about the foundation’s work is available at, and high-resolution photos of Richard Tucker can be downloaded here.

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© 21C Media Group, April 2017

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