The Opera Grand Rapids’ Collegiate Vocal Competition provides an opportunity for the finest student vocalists being trained full-time at West Michigan area colleges and universities to compete in a professional competition and to be recognized for excellence by a professional opera company.
2018-2019 Season Collegiate Vocal Competition
The Opera Grand Rapids 2018-2019 Season Collegiate Vocal Competition will be held the weekend of March 30-31, 2019 at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center. Students will have the opportunity to compete in one of two divisions for a chance to sing in the Final Round Concert and receive cash prizes.
The Final Round Concert will take place on Sunday, March 31st at 7:00 p.m.
Meet the 2018-19 Judges
Conductor | Maestro James Meena
James Meena consistently earns critical acclaim for his artistic vision and dynamic presence on the podium. The breadth of his repertoire is represented by the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, Berlioz and Verdi, the world première of Victor Davies’ Transit of Venus, to full ballet productions and symphony concerts. Mo. Meena serves as Principal Conductor of Opera Carolina (Charlotte) Artistic Director for Opera Grand Rapids, as well as Toledo Opera’s Principal Artistic Advisor.
This season, Mo. Meena conducts a double-bill of Rachmaninoff’s Aleko paired with Pagliacci, and La fanciulla del West with the restored New York City Opera; La Fanciulla del West for five prestigious Italian theaters: Teatro delGiglio, Lucca Italy, Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Teatro Alighieri di Ravenna, Teatro Pavarotti di Modenaand Teatro Goldoni di Livorno, plus Rigoletto with Opera Carolina, Toledo Opera, and OperaGrand Rapids, where he also conducts Le nozze di Figaro; a Gala concert with Renee Fleming and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra; Porgy & Bess with Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their Summer Festival; Turandot with Tulsa Opera; and La bohème with the prestigious Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago. Last season, he conducted La bohème with Opéra de Montréal, Le nozze di Figaro with Toledo Opera, Masterworks Concerts with Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Il barbiere di Siviglia, La fanciulla del West, and La traviata with Opera Carolina.
A guest conductor, Maestro Meena has lead performances in opera houses throughout North America, including Opéra de Montréal for Madama Butterfly, Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi, Le nozze di Figaro, and La traviata; Michigan Opera Theatre for Die Zauberflöte; EdmontonOpera for Falstaff, Otello, Macbeth and Eugene Onegin; an exciting new co-production of Roméo et Juliette with Virginia Opera and Toledo Opera; and Manitoba Opera, where he conducted thepremière of Transit of Venus by the Canadian team of composer Victor Davies and librettistMaureen Hunter, recorded for national broadcast on the CBC. His Opera Carolina performances of Faust, Eugene Onegin, and Il trovatore are captured on recording for NPR World of Opera.
With extensive experience in opera, ballet, and symphonic music, Maestro Meena held principal and resident conducting posts with the Cleveland Ballet, Toledo Symphony, and Toledo Opera, in addition to guest conducting appearances that include a nationally televised Thanksgiving concert for the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony; performances of Stravinsky’s tour de force La Sacre du printemps with the National Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan; concerts with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in the new Cairo Opera House; and symphony concerts with the orchestra of the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, the Orchestra della Toscana in Italy.
Mo. Meena was engaged as guest conductor with orchestras and opera companies in the United States, Italy, Taipei, Korea, Canada and Mexico including the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Washington Opera, Opera Pacific, Portland Opera and the Utah Opera. On opera stages, he has conducted legendary singers including Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, James McCracken, Mignon Dunn, Marilyn Horne, Jerome Hines, Diana Soviero, Jerry Hadley, Mark Delavan and Marcello Giordani.
From Voix des Arts of Mo. Meena’s most recent performances of Turandot: “Under the baton of James Meena the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra delivered an awe-inspiring performance of the score. Maestro Meena’s conducting was notable for the manner in which, like the great past interpreters of the operas of Richard Strauss, he coaxed sounds from the orchestra that compellingly fulfilled the lush late-Romantic promise of the melodic lines while also always sounding like an opera composed in 1924. The influence of Debussy has almost never been more discernible than in Maestro Meena’s handling of the score. His work in Charlotte has been consistently perceptive, but he found in Turandot—a score by which many conductors have been defeated—an ideal outlet for the controlled ecstasy of which he is a master.”
Since 2001, Mo. Meena has presented six regional premières in Charlotte, including Cold Sassy Tree and Susannah by Carlisle Floyd, the company’s first productions of Der Rosenkavalier, Nabucco, Macbeth, and Les pêcheurs des perles, and the regional premiere of Richard Danielpour’s new American opera, Margaret Garner, starring Denyce Graves in April 2006. He is also featured on Opera Carolina’s webseries A Look Behind the Curtain, which can be seen here.Mo. Meena is the lead producer for Douglas Tappin’s new Rhythm & Blues opera I Dream, a new work created for the 50th commemoration of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
James Meena is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. His principal conducting teachers include Thomas Mihalak (New Jersey Symphony), Robert Page (Cleveland Orchestra), Rudolph Fellner (Pittsburgh Opera), and Boris Halip (Bolshoi Ballet), with whom he also studied violin.
Mr. Meena has served as Assistant Conductor to Andre Previn, Gunther Schuller, Michael Tilson
Thomas, Anton Guad agno, and Anton Coppola. For several seasons, he was Associate Conductor of the Pittsburgh Opera, where he made his operatic début conducting Die Zauberflöte. He made his professional début with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducting Haydn’s monumental oratorio The Creation. Mo. Meena was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by his undergraduate alma mater in 1997 for his commitment to visionary excellence and growth of cultural institutions.
Director | James Marvel
Internationally acclaimed stage director James Marvel has been praised for his “brilliant stage direction” and his “unforgettable and visually stunning new productions.” James made his Lincoln Center debut in 2008 for the Juilliard Opera Center, directing a highly acclaimed new production. James made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2011 and directed the U.S. premier of Cavalli’s Eliogabalo for the Gotham Chamber Opera in NYC.
Since his professional directing debut in 1996, James has directed over 100 productions and was named Classical Singer Magazine’s “2008 – Stage Director of the Year.” Recent engagements include La Traviata for New Orleans Opera, Rigoletto for Opera Tampa, and Tosca for Opera Grand Rapids. In 2014, James directed the world premiere of Larry Delinger’s new opera Amelia Lost, which was created for Marble City Opera and performed at The National Opera Center in New York. The production was named “Most Memorable Operatic Performance of 2014,” by Arts Knoxville.
Career highlights include groundbreaking new productions for the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Opera Boston, Opera Santa Barbara, Syracuse Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, San Antonio Opera, Kentucky Opera, Virginia Opera, North Carolina Opera, Toledo Opera, Sacramento Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Aspen Music Festival, Wolf Trap Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Indiana University, and the University of Southern California.
International credits include a new production of Carmen for Opera Africa in Johannesburg, which was hailed as “stupendous” by the local press and a new production of Die Zauberflote for the Seoul International Opera in South Korea. European credits include productions of La Boheme, Suor Angelica, L’elisir d’amore, and Cosi fan tutte in Sulmona, Italy. James made his Paris debut with the The Man of La Mancha at the Theatre des Varietes and returned to Paris a year later to direct The Beggar’s Holiday at Espace Pierre Cardin. His new production of La Voix Humaine and The Telephone premiered at the Alliance Francaise in New York City before traveling to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium. Other international credits include work in Canada, Scotland, England, Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary.
James received his MFA in Acting from the University of Tennessee and his BA in World Literature from Sarah Lawrence College and Oxford University, England. He conducted additional studies at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. James studied violin from the age of seven and played violin for the Wadham Chamber Orchestra in Oxford, England. He has composed original music for several professional theatrical productions and has had his poetry, fiction, and critical writing published in a variety of national, international, and online journals. As an arts advocate, James has appeared numerous times on NPR and other radio and television outlets to discuss the art form and its relevance in modern society.
Soprano | Kristin Sampson
Praised by the New York Times for her “bright, sizable and expressive voice” Kristin Sampson’s 2018-19 performances include concerts featuring the music of composer Jeremy Gill, the role debut of Turandot in Italy, as well as being a featured artist at the 2019 Festival of Nature at Lake Tizsa in Hungary. Upcoming seasons include the roles of Liu in Turandot, Turandot in Turandot in Italy, as well as performance with New York City Opera, and concert appearances in Italy and throughout the United States.
The 2017-18 season included performances as Minnie in La fanciulla del West with New York City Opera, and at Teatro del Giglio in Lucca, Teatro Goldoni in Livorno, and Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Italy. Her engagements in the 2016-17 season included her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, Magda in Respighi’s La campana sommersa with New York City Opera, Minnie in La fanciulla del West with Opera Carolina, and her debut at the Festival Puccini in Torre del Lago as Tosca. Her 2015-16 season included debuts at Potenza’s Teatro Francesco Stabile as Mimi in La bohème and at the New York City Opera as Tosca in the celebratory production that re-opened the company. Ms. Sampson is a two-time recipient of a grant from the Olga Forrai Foundation. She has performed in the U.S. with the New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, Opera Carolina, Dicapo Opera Theatre, Augusta Opera, El Paso Opera, and the National Lyric Opera among others, and internationally with the Opera Society of Hong Kong, Armel Opera Festival, National Theater of Szeged, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Recent concert engagements include Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Maestro Paul Phillips and the Pioneer Valley Symphony, and Passione Lirica with the Tuscia Opera Festvial under the direction of Maestro Stefano Vignati.
During the 2014-15 season, Ms. Sampson was a featured artist in American Opera Projects’ Composers and the Voice program. Additionlly, Ms. Sampson created the role of the Mother in David Zuckerman’s new opera in development, Milarepa; appeared on OPERA America’s Creators in Concert featuring the music of Tobias Picker; Santuzza with Opera at Florham, appeared as a featured soloist on the NYCO Renaissance Gala concert celebrating the life of the late Julius Rudel and performed in concert throughout the East Coast.
During the 2013-14 season, Ms. Sampson appeared in recital at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall and was featured in the filmed workshop of Syrian composer Zaid Jabri’s new opera Cities of Salt. Additionally, Ms. Sampson’s performance of Cio-Cio San in a touring production of Madama Butterfly was the highlight of her Spring of 2014 season.
Ms. Sampson’s signature roles include: Tosca, Cio-Cio San, Nedda, Emmeline, Mimi and Violetta. She has performed in the U.S. with the Santa Fe Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, Dicapo Opera Theatre, Augusta Opera, El Paso Opera and the National Lyric Opera among others, and internationally with the Opera Society of Hong Kong, Armel Opera Festival, National Theater of Szeged, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
2012-13 Ms. Sampson joined the Szeged National Symphony in Budapest where she was a featured soloist under the baton of Maestro Cyril Diederich in the Fifth Anniversary Gala Concert for the Armel Opera Festival. Upon her return to New York, she was seen in performances of Puccini’s Passions and Italian Opera’s Greatest Moments with Dicapo Opera Theatre and National Lyric Opera. To welcome in the new year, Ms. Sampson made her debut with the Opera Society of Hong Kong performing Nedda in I Pagliacci. Finally, in the spring of 2013, she appeared in touring performances of I Pagliacci in venues both in New York and New Jersey.
During the 2011-12 season Kristin Sampson opened Dicapo Opera Theatre’s 30th anniversary season as Tosca, later appearing as Violetta in La traviata to great critical acclaim.
In her 2010-11 season, Ms. Sampson was seen as Annina in Menotti’s The Saint of Bleecker Street, and with the Rome Opera, she covered the role of Beatrice in A View from the Bridge. Her performances as Masha in Thomas Pasatieri’s The Seagull both in New York and in Szeged, Hungary were televised internationally on Mezzo/Duna television. Concert work included performances of the soprano solos in the Mozart Requiem in Avery Fisher Hall, New York.
2009-2010 season she made her debut as Nedda in I Pagliacci in Santiago, Chile and also received the Best Female Performer Award for the Mezzo Television Opera Competition (Armel Opera Competition) in Szeged, Hungary for her performance in the title role of Tobias Picker’s opera Emmeline. Under the direction of Róbert Alföldi, the European premier of Emmeline, was broadcast live on Mezzo television in over 40 countries. For her performance in New York the Wall Street Journal said “With her big, gleaming dramatic soprano, Kristin Sampson brought authority to the tour-de-force role of Emmeline.”
During the 2008-2009 season, Ms. Sampson completed a wildly successful run as Adriana Lecouvreur at the Szeged National Theatre, Hungary, followed by an appearance at Lincoln Center as a featured soloist in its Puccini 150th Birthday Celebration gala concert. During the spring of 2009, she performed the New York premiere as “fiery Šárka,” singing and acting with “resolution and power.” Critics agree, “she is an immense talent.”
Ms. Sampson has performed many roles with Dicapo Opera Theatre including Juliette which the New York Sun described as “a strong, lustily sung Juliette that was at its best in her passionate delivery of the Potion Aria,” while the New York Post described her performance as, “…bright-toned and eloquent.”
To date her long list of heroines includes the title roles of Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Emmeline and Šárka, Violetta (La traviata), Nedda (I Pagliacci), Beatrice (A View from the bridge), Cio-Cio-San (Brescia and Paris versions of Madama Butterfly), Masha (The Seagull), Annina (The Saint of Bleecker Street), Micaela (Carmen), Juliette (Romeo et Juliette), Suzanne (Thérèse Raquin), Hanna Glawari (The Merry Widow), Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Mimì & Musetta (La bohème), and Pamina in (Die Zauberflöte).
A versatile performer, Ms. Sampson’s musical theater credits include Luisa in The Fantasticks, Maria in West Side Story, Anne in A Little Night Music, Nellie in South Pacific and Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress. As an active recitalist, Ms. Sampson has appeared throughout the United States and was most recently a featured soloist with Rice University’s Shepherd Singers and Houston Masterwork Chorale. Additionally, Kristin Sampson can be heard on recorded music by composers Ismi Kuremoto and Trent Hanna.
William Bokhout, Grand Rapids Community College, Chair
Dr. Jung Woo Kim, Hope College
Barbara McCargar, Aquinas College
Dr. Rhea Olivacce, Western Michigan University
Dr. Charsie Sawyer, Calvin College
Dale Schriemer, Grand Valley State University
The Opera Grand Rapids Collegiate Consortium
Thank you to the following regional colleges and universities who have joined forces in support of our Collegiate Vocal Competition!