Houston Grand Opera Announces 2022 Arias Concert Winners

The Houston Grand Opera announced the winners of this year’s Concert of Arias, the 34th annual Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, held last night at the Wortham Theater Center and broadcast live for home audiences on HGO Digital and HGO’s Facebook and YouTube channels. The evening’s host was HGO Studio alumnus Norman Reinhardt. Reinhardt kept viewers online informed of all the action happening behind the scenes.

Winners of the 2022 Arias Concert include:

The 1st prize of $10,000 was awarded to Navasard Hakobyan, baritone

The 2nd prize of $5,000 went to Amanda Batista, soprano

The 3rd prize of $3,000 was won by Jongwon Han, bass-baritone

The Ana María Martínez Encouragement Prize of $2,000 was awarded to Olivia Smith, soprano

The audience award went to Jongwon Han, bass-baritone

The Online Viewers’ Choice Award went to Olivia Smith, soprano

The winners were chosen by the distinguished judges of this year’s competition, which included guest judge and soprano Christine Goerke, HGO Managing Director and CEO Khori Dastoor, HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers and Artistic Advisor and Soprano by HGO Ana María Martínez.

The highly anticipated competition is held annually to identify candidates for HGO’s internationally acclaimed young artist training program, the HGO Studio. The live event is the final leg of the competition, which brings young singers from around the world to Houston. Each finalist performed two arias from the operatic repertoire before the panel of esteemed judges.

“HGO’s 34th concert of Arias was an awe-inspiring evening, full of beautiful music and spirited competition. The rising stars who took to the Wortham stage hold the keys to the future of this art form, and I am happy to share that the future is indeed bright,” said Khori Dastoor, Managing Director and CEO of HGO. “It was a pleasure to host the event for both indoor and at-home audiences. The Wortham was buzzing with excitement. These young artists have left everything aside on stage. We were all blown away.”

In order to present the competition safely from the Wortham Theater Center, HGO followed strict protocols put in place by the company’s Health Advisory Committee. The committee, whose members include Houston Methodist professionals, has worked to develop procedures to protect the safety of performers, staff and technicians.

“Each year that we organize this competition and this concert, our finalists amaze us with the extent of their musical gifts, their voice types, their expressiveness and their approach to this art form. Yet, they always share some essential qualities. : tenacity, courage and a tireless drive to succeed on the operatic stage,” said Brian Speck, HGO Studio Manager. “It’s amazing to see. And now we can welcome these talented singers into the HGO community, watch them grow, and celebrate their impressive work and talent.”

After careful consideration of 768 applicants, HGO narrowed the field to 18 semi-finalists before selecting the nine talented finalists for the final round of the competition. Following all safety protocols, selected finalists had the opportunity to learn more about HGO and work with the company’s music staff prior to the Arias Concert.

The full list of finalists included Amanda Batista, Tatiana Carlos, Meryl Dominguez, Navasard Hakobyan, Jongwon Han, Jonas Jud, Shannon Keegan, Evan Lazdowski and Olivia Smith.

This year’s Arias Concert was graciously chaired by Drs. Liz Grimm and Jack Roth. The event raised more than $550,000 to benefit the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers and the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

Since its inception 44 years ago, HGO Studio has become one of the most respected young artist programs in the world. Each of the artists in the HGO studio has access to a learning environment that emphasizes hands-on experience in the professional world of opera. This includes regular coaching sessions with industry professionals, roles in major HGO productions, recitals, and a variety of other concert engagements.

1st place

Navasard Hakobyan, baritone

Armenian baritone Navasard Hakobyan has been a member of the Young Artists Program of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Yerevan, Armenia since 2018. His roles in the 2020-21 season include Silvio in Pagliacci, Giorgio Germont in La traviata and Belcore. in a new production of The Elixir of Love. He has won numerous international competitions, most recently winning First Prize at the Premiere Opera Foundation International Vocal Competition and Third Prize at the José Carreras Grand Prix in Moscow, Russia. Hakobyan graduated from Yerevan State Conservatory after Komitas. He was named the 2019 winner of the President of the Republic of Armenia Youth Award.

2nd place

Amanda Batista, soprano

Amanda Batista is a Cuban-Puerto Rican-American soprano in her second year of her Masters of Music degree at the Juilliard School’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts, studying under Darrell Babidge, where she is the proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship. This season, Batista will make his Alice Tully Hall debut singing Ben Moore’s So Free Am I as part of Songfest, in collaboration with pianist Brian Zeger. Batista was the winner of the 2021 New York District Encouragement Award of the Laffont Competition at the Metropolitan Opera. She will make her debut as Frau Fluth in Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor in April 2022 with Juilliard Opera at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre. Batista will join the Merola Opera Program in the summer of 2022. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

3rd place

Jongwon Han, bass-baritone

Born in Seoul, South Korea, bass-baritone Jongwon Han was Grand Finalist and winner of the Pamela Craven Award at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions 2021 and winner of the 2021 Stephen De Maio Memorial Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation. This season, he performs Haydn’s Theresienmesse and Mozart’s Sparrow Mass as bass soloist with the New Choral Society in New York. Han will join Santa Fe Opera as an apprentice artist in 2022, covering the role of Bartolo in The Barber of Seville. He received his Bachelor of Music from Seoul National University and is currently pursuing his Masters at Mannes School of Music.

Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award

Olivia Smith, soprano

Canadian soprano Olivia Smith is originally from Penticton, British Columbia and is currently in the final year of her undergraduate degree at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she is a student of Julia Faulkner. This season, she will reprise the role of Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with the Curtis Opera Theatre. Other roles in Smith’s repertoire include Berta in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Cathleen in Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea, First Witch in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Mme Gobineau in Menotti’s The Medium with the Curtis Opera Theater . In February 2019, she was awarded the Henry and Dianna Asher Family Charitable Fund Incentive Fellowship with the George London Competition. She participated in 2021 in the Young Artists Vocal Academy of Houston Grand Opera.

Audience Award

Jongwon Han, bass-baritone

Born in Seoul, South Korea, bass-baritone Jongwon Han was Grand Finalist and winner of the Pamela Craven Award at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions 2021 and winner of the 2021 Stephen De Maio Memorial Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation. This season, he performs Haydn’s Theresienmesse and Mozart’s Sparrow Mass as bass soloist with the New Choral Society in New York. Han will join Santa Fe Opera as an apprentice artist in 2022, covering the role of Bartolo in The Barber of Seville. He received his Bachelor of Music from Seoul National University and is currently pursuing his Masters at Mannes School of Music.

Online Viewers Choice Award

Olivia Smith, soprano

Canadian soprano Olivia Smith is originally from Penticton, British Columbia and is currently in the final year of her undergraduate degree at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she is a student of Julia Faulkner. This season, she will reprise the role of Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with the Curtis Opera Theatre. Other roles in Smith’s repertoire include Berta in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Cathleen in Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea, First Witch in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Mme Gobineau in Menotti’s The Medium with the Curtis Opera Theater . In February 2019, she was awarded the Henry and Dianna Asher Family Charitable Fund Incentive Fellowship with the George London Competition. She participated in 2021 in the Young Artists Vocal Academy of Houston Grand Opera.

To learn more about the evening, visit HGO.org/COA.

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