After reaching that supreme high note, becoming a finalist for best opera company in the world, Houston Grand Opera continues to scale great musical heights, hosting one of the most prestigious singing competitions in the U.S, the Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers during its 31st Annual Concert of Arias.
Chaired by Elizabeth and Richard Husseini, the evening helped raised over $600,000 to benefit Houston Grand Opera Studio’s ongoing outreach efforts to identify, attract, and nurture young artists who have the potential for major careers in opera. Over 700 guests witnessed examples of such great potential as eight finalists participated in this final stage of the competition that began with 525 applications from singers around the world.
Winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges that included HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers and HGO managing director Perryn Leech, along with guest judge Lawrence Brownlee, star of the HGO production The Pearl Fishers.
After charming the Wortham Center Cullen Theater audience — as well as a opera-lovers at home following the competition livestreaming on Facebook and YouTube — with their delightful taped introductions, all eight competitors sang two arias. During intermission, concert guests cast their votes for the Audience Choice Award while streaming viewers voted online for the Online Viewers’ Choice.
The concert then continued with excerpt performances from Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni, performed by current members of the HGO Studio.
With the dramatic tension reaching it peak, the winners were finally revealed, with first prize going to William Meinert, second to William Guanbo Su and third to Nicholas Newton. But there were many a winner that night with Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award going to Yunuet Laguna, as well as the Audience Choice to Elena Villalón, and Online Viewers’ Choice to Katherine DeYoung.
Following the concert, more than 500 Concert of Arias patrons and artists were seated in the Grand Foyer for a sold-out dinner catered by City Kitchen Catering with modern décor by The Events Company.
Seen reveling in the operatic competition were David Duthu, Dominic Domingo, Dian and Harlan Stai, Judy and Dick Agee, Beth Madison, Frances Marzio, Steve Hamilton and Tom LeCloux, Janet and John Carrig, Linda and Willie Chiang, Anne and Albert Chao, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Abby and Chris Venegas, Dr. Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies, Reinnette and Stan Marek, Jill and Allyn Risley, Glen Rosenbaum, Drs. Liz Grimm and Jack Roth, Zane Carruth, Ishwaria Subbiah, Rini Ziegler, Damon Chargois and Rebekka Peltzman, Dr. Larry and Mary Ann Faulkner, Bryn Larsen, Terrylin Neale, Laura and Brad McWilliams, Doug and Sarah McMurrey, Marcia and Alfredo Vilas, Monica Fulton, Gabriel and Sara Loperena, Tony Bradfield, Marguerite Swartz, Ann and Stephen Kaufman, Teresa and José Ivo, John Evatz, Louise Chapman and Shoocha Kuqi, Sid Moorhead, Kellie and Robert Collier, C. C. and Scott Ensell, John Serpe and Tracy Maddox, DonNell and Tom Rushing, Katherine Thomasson and Michael Talbot, and Sholto Davidson and Laura Bielinski.