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
Opera Grand Rapids’ 15th annual Collegiate Vocal Competition, held March 30 & 31, received 23 applicants, named eight finalists and selected four winners.
Travis L. Williams, a senior and tenor from Western Michigan University, took home the Division I first prize award. Last year, Williams was one of the Opera Grand Rapids Collegiate Vocal Competition Division II winners.
Riley Wells, mezzo-soprano from Grand Valley State University, and Sarabeth Brown, mezzo-soprano from Western Michigan University, won second and third prizes in Division I, respectively. Opera Grand Rapids named Lindsay Nichols, soprano from Western Michigan University, as the Division II winner.
The results of the competition were determined by world-renowned Stage Director, James Marvel and Soprano, Kristin Sampson.
Remaining finalists in the competition included soprano, Gabrielle Barber, of Hope College; mezzo-soprano, Katherine Short, and sopranos, Grace Hoven and Caitlin Borke, of Western Michigan University; and soprano, Maria Simaz, of Grand Valley State University.
Congratulations to all of this year’s participants!
Meet the 2018-19 Winners
Division I First Place Winner | Travis L. Williams
Tenor, Western Michigan University
Division I Second Place Winner | Riley Wells
Mezzo-soprano, Grand Valley State University
Divison I Third Place Winner | Sarabeth Brown
Mezzo-Soprano, Western Michigan University
Division II Winner | Lindsay Nichols
Soprano, Western Michigan University
Meet the 2018-19 Judges
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!