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Richard Tucker Music Foundation Names Soprano Tamara Wilson as Winner of 2016 Richard Tucker Award

Recipients of Career and Study Grants Also Announced

Tamara Wilson (photo: Aaron Gang)

Tamara Wilson (photo: Aaron Gang)

The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is thrilled to announce that soprano Tamara Wilson – whose “voice of steely beauty and great power(Houston Chronicle) has already won international accolades – has been named as winner of the 2016 Richard Tucker Award. Dubbed the “Heisman Trophy of Opera,” the Tucker Award 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. Featuring such luminaries as Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Lawrence Brownlee, David Daniels, Christine Goerke and Joyce DiDonato, the list of past winners reads like a who’s who of American opera.

Wilson says:

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to receive the Richard Tucker Award. The Foundation has supported me since the beginning stages of my career, and to be given its top honor is amazing. I jumped around in my room for a solid ten minutes after my conversation with Barry Tucker!

“The Foundation is an invaluable resource for young American singers, enabling many young artists to jumpstart their careers in ways that would be impossible otherwise, and I look forward to joining the superb artistic ‘family’ of award winners that it has created.”

Barry Tucker, president of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and son of the Brooklyn-born tenor, comments:

“I first met Tamara Wilson when she auditioned for – and won – a Sara Tucker Study Grant in 2008. I was blown away not only by the power and sheer beauty of her voice, but also by how grounded she is as a person. Last year, when I was listening to the Saturday matinee broadcast of Aida from the Met and realized it was her singing the title role, I couldn’t have been more impressed by how she’s evolved as an artist. She has a bright future ahead of her, and we are thrilled to have her as our 2016 Richard Tucker Award winner.”

About Tamara Wilson
American soprano Tamara Wilson made her much-anticipated Metropolitan Opera debut in December of 2014 in the title role of Aida, when the New York Times praised the “laserlike authority of her high notes,” and observed: “Her voice blooms with her palpable involvement in her own story: Her singing is urgent, her physical performance restrained yet powerful.” Nominated for a 2016 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera after her English National Opera debut last fall as Leonora in La forza del destino, the soprano will make further debuts next season at the Bayerischer Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper Berlin. She was a finalist in the 2004 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a Grand Prize Winner at Barcelona’s Annual Francisco Viñas Competition, a winner of the George London Award, and the recipient of both a 2008 Sara Tucker Study Grant and a 2011 Richard Tucker Career Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.

After launching the present season headlining Aida at the Aspen Music Festival, Wilson returned to Oper Frankfurt as Elisabeth de Valois in Don Carlo; sang Lucrezia in Verdi’s I due Foscari in Santiago, Chile; made her Cleveland Orchestra debut; and joined Marin Alsop for Mahler in São Paulo. Back in the States after touring Japan as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, the soprano looks forward to taking Brahms’s German Requiem on an East Coast tour with Seraphic Fire and singing Desdemona in Otello at Cincinnati’s May Festival, in celebration of James Conlon’s 37th and final year as Music Director. Last season Wilson made her role and house debuts headlining Norma at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, following recent debuts at Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Carnegie Hall. An alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, she is also a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

High-resolution photos of Tamara Wilson can be downloaded here.

Richard Tucker Career Grants and Sara Tucker Study Grants

In addition to Wilson’s win, the Foundation is pleased to announce that eight other young American artists have been awarded study and career grants. 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grants of $10,000 each, given to young singers who have already performed with professional companies, go to mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, tenor Joshua Guerrero, and soprano Amanda Woodbury. 2016 Sara Tucker Study Grants of $5,000 apiece go to five young singers displaying great promise at the start of their professional careers: tenor Michael Brandenburg, bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee, mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey, mezzo-soprano Megan Mikailovna Samarin, and soprano Laura Wilde. The winners of the study and career grants were chosen by a panel of opera professionals 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 2016 Study and Career Grant recipients can be downloaded here.

About the 2016 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.

J’nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano, 28
Mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges is a recent alumna of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she was hailed as one of “Lyric’s brightest rising stars” (Chicago Tribune). Highlights of her three-year tenure included Inez in Il trovatore under Asher Fisch, Vlasta in Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger under Sir Andrew Davis, Flora in La traviata, and two student matinee performances as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. This season, she returns to Lyric Opera to create the role of Carmen in the world premiere production of Bel Canto, a new opera by Jimmy López, based on the novel by Ann Patchett. She also appears as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with San Diego Opera; in Beethoven’s Ninth under Gustavo Dudamel with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra; in Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with the Lexington Philharmonic; and in Ravel’s Shéhérazade with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg. Besides singing Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with Wolf Trap Opera and Adalgisa in Norma with Knoxville Opera, highlights of her recent seasons include the title role of Carmen with Finger Lakes Opera; Ravel’s Chansons Medécasses with Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Chicago Symphony; and Beethoven’s Ninth with the Santa Fe and Oregon Symphonies and in Caracas, Venezuela, under Dudamel.

Joshua Guerrero, tenor, 33
Proclaimed a “gifted young tenor” by the New York Times, this season Joshua Guerrero returns to the Los Angeles Opera to make his role debut as Greenhorn in Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. He also makes his European operatic debut as Gabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra at Opéra National de Bordeaux, sings Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore in Seville, and joins Gustavo Dudamel at the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Simón Bolívar Orchestra for Beethoven’s Ninth. This past summer, he graced a gala honoring Plácido Domingo at the Salzburg Festival, after a full season that saw him make his role debut as Almaviva in Ghosts of Versailles at the Los Angeles Opera, headline Roméo et Juliette at the Aspen Music Festival, sing Beethoven’s Ninth with Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Orchestra in Caracas, make his role debut as Rodolfo in La bohème with the same forces, and perform Verdi’s Requiem with the Santa Fe Symphony. A graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles, he appeared as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and in the title role in Orpheus in the Underworld for Opera UCLA. A former member of the Santa Fe Opera’s Apprentice Artist Program, Guerrero was the second prize-winner at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition in 2014.

Amanda Woodbury, soprano, 27
An alumna of Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, Amanda Woodbury was recently honored with the second place and Audience Choice awards in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition. She also won the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a 2014 Sara Tucker Study Grant, and both second place and Audience Choice awards at Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition. Woodbury made her professional debut as Micaëla in Carmen at Los Angeles Opera, where she returned as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte. She then joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, appearing as Tebaldo in Don Carlo and covering the roles of Antonia and Stella in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. This season she sang Leïla in Les Pêcheurs de perles at the Met, and looks forward to appearing as Musetta in La bohème with the Los Angeles Opera. Having taken part in the Met’s “Rising Stars” concert tour, she looks forward to headlining a new Met production of Roméo et Juliette and making house debuts at PORTopera as Micaëla in Carmen and at Atlanta Opera as Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Woodbury completed her Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2012, after receiving her Bachelor of Music from Indiana University.

About the 2016 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.

Michael Brandenburg, tenor, 29
In 2013, Michael Brandenburg was one of six Grand Finalists in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and one of two Grand Finalists in the Bel Canto Competition in Chicago. He was a top prizewinner in the 2015 George London Foundation Competition, and received an emerging artist award in the 2014 Opera Index Competition. As a Domingo/Cafritz Young Artist with Washington National Opera, he made his professional debut as the Steersman in Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. Last year he returned to Washington National Opera as Don José in Carmen, and he looks forward to covering Froh in the company’s upcoming “Ring” Cycle. After making his Glimmerglass Festival debut as Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth, he returns to sing Rodolfo in the festival’s new staging of La bohème. He also recently made his role debut as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with North Carolina Opera.

Nicholas Brownlee, bass-baritone, 26
Nicholas Brownlee is a 2015 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a first place winner of the Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition. This season, in his second year as a Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist at the Los Angeles Opera, he makes role debuts as the Speaker in The Magic Flute, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, and Captain Gardiner in Moby-Dick, all conducted by James Conlon, and as Colline in La bohème under Gustavo Dudamel. Colline is also the vehicle for Brownlee’s upcoming Atlanta Opera debut, and he looks forward to appearing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen as the Physician in Pelléas et Mélisande, before returning to Los Angeles Opera and making his Metropolitan Opera debut next season.

Samantha Hankey, mezzo-soprano, 24
Samantha Hankey is currently pursuing her Master’s of Music degree at New York’s Juilliard School, where she appears in Cavalli’s La Calisto and participates in live-streamed masterclasses with both Joyce DiDonato and Fabio Luisi this season. This summer she looks forward to attending Germany’s prestigious Internationale Meistersinger Akademie. Hankey has previously appeared at Juilliard as Marcellina (Le nozze di Figaro), Miss Todd (The Old Maid and the Thief), and Filipyevna (Eugene Onegin), and at the Aspen Music Festival as Dorabella (Così fan tutte) and Mercédès (Carmen). She has also covered Zenobia (Radamisto) and Le Prince Charmant (Cendrillon) at Juilliard and Rosina (The Barber of Seville) at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Hankey has appeared as a guest performer with the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artists and in recital with Brian Zeger at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole, and was featured in the HBO documentary Renée Fleming: A YoungArts MasterClass and on NPR’s From the Top. Recent awards and honors include Opera Index, the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition, and the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music at Juilliard. Past summer programs include the Aspen Music Festival and School, Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artists’ Vocal Academy, and Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. Hankey is a proud recipient of Juilliard’s Kovner Fellowship.

Megan Mikailovna Samarin, mezzo-soprano, 23
A member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Megan Mikailovna Samarin returns to Houston for seven productions this season, appearing in Eugene Onegin, Rusalka, and world premiere stagings of O Columbia and Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players, besides covering Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Fox in The Little Prince, and Julie Jordan in Carousel. Last summer she made her Glimmerglass Festival debut as Marzia in the American premiere of Vivaldi’s Cato in Utica, after making her Houston Grand Opera debut in The Magic Flute and Sweeney Todd, and covering Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly. Recent highlights also include joining Joyce DiDonato in Cenerentola at Houston Grand Opera’s 60th Anniversary Concert and singing La Marchande in Les Mamelles de Tirésias at Wolf Trap Opera. Samarin earned her Bachelor’s degree at Manhattan School of Music, where she sang Farnace in La Doriclea, Anne in The Mother of Us All, and Vénus in Orphée aux enfers.

Laura Wilde, soprano, 29
Now in her final year of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Laura Wilde makes multiple appearances at Lyric Opera this season, singing Marianne and covering the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, covering the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro and Hanna in The Merry Widow, and singing Anna in Nabucco. This summer she makes her European debut in the title role of Janácek’s Jenufa with English National Opera. Previously at Lyric Opera, she covered Renée Fleming in Capriccio and the role of Marta in The Passenger, besides appearing in Madama Butterfly and Parsifal. Other training programs include a season as a Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Artist, and three seasons as a Gerdine Young Artist with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where she is a two-time recipient of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Elihu Hyndman Memorial Award. Wilde was also a 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Semi-Finalist and took third place in the 2011 Palm Beach Opera Competition. Originally from Watertown, South Dakota, she is a graduate of St. Olaf College and Indiana University, where she completed her Master’s in Music.

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 around the country were able to enjoy last year’s gala, which introduced mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as the 2015 Richard Tucker Award-winner, both on television on PBS’s Emmy Award-winning Live From Lincoln Center series, as well as on radio from 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 2016

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