Each year, the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers culminates in a crescendo of music and a flurry of social activity as finalists in the national competition sing their hearts out for top prizes and slots in the Houston Grand Opera Studio. For opera fans, the Concert of Arias at Wortham Theater Center is one of the highlights of the social calendar and last week's fundraiser was no exception.
While the eight finalists competed/entertained with rounds of arias requested by the judges, audience members marked their ballots to select their favorite. Although the first place prize of $10,000 was awarded to soprano D'Ana Lombard, the People's Choice award of $1,000 went to soprano Amanda Woodbury, whom the judges awarded second place and a $5,000 check.
Selecting the winners were Houston Grand Opera artistic and music director Patrick Summers, managing director Perryn Leech and San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley, former director of HGO and founder of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. As the judges made their selection, the music continued, as is tradition, with a performance by studio members.
This 26th anniversary of the competition raised $750,000, earmarked for HGO and opera studio efforts to identify and nurture young opera talent. Applause, applause for Concert of Aria chairs Bobbie-Vee and Gerald Cooney, who presided over the evening that began with the concert before 900 guests and concluded with more than 625 sitting down for the black-tie dinner in the theater's Grand Foyer.
The sold-out dinner by Jackson and Co. honored Dian and Harlan Stai for their long-standing support of both the opera company and the studio.
The sophisticated dinner gathering included HGO boad chair Dr. John Mendelsohn and wife Anne, Glen Rosenbaum, Donna and Bob Bruni, Marcia and Alfredo Vilas, Beau Miller, Caroline Leech, Frances Marzio, Beth Madison and Ralph Burch, Brucie and Andy Moore, Nina and Edd Hindee, Jana and Scotty Arnoldy and Marianne and David Duthu.