Madison, NJ – On Sunday, April 22 at 2 p.m., Opera at Florham will present its 30th annual Vocal Competition and Musicale. The event will be held in Lenfell Hall, The Mansion at Fairleigh Dickinson University, 285 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ. A fully-catered luncheon, beginning at 12:30 p.m is also offered.

The Opera at Florham Vocal Competition was established in 1987 by Opera at Florham co-founder and benefactor Violetta Pollara DuPont, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 100. It showcases singers between the ages of 21 and 35 who are pursuing a career in opera.

Previous finalists and winners are now on the rosters of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and other major companies here and abroad. Last year’s winners were Alexandra Nowakowski, soprano; Jennifer Panara, mezzo-soprano; and Kidon Choi, baritone.

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This year fifty applicants will audition on April 18-19 at the Kosciuszko Foundation Concert Hall in New York City and a group of finalists will be selected for the upcoming event. The competition is being staged with the cooperation of the Gerda Lissner Foundation and organized and directed by Stephen DeMaio, the foundation’s president and Opera at Florham Board of Trustees’ member. The accompanist for the preliminary judging and for the final Vocal Competition is Mary Pinto, vice president of Opera at Florham.

The judges for the auditions and competition will include Stephen DeMaio, James Thurmond Smithgall, Barbara Ann Testa, and Scott Barnes.

Stephen DeMaio is President of the Gerda Lissner Foundation, an organization cited by Opera News as one of the most prestigious foundations fostering the careers of young artists with very generous financial awards. He also serves as Artistic Adviser of the Giulio Gari Foundation, Loren L. Zachary Society for The Performing Arts, Opera at Florham NJ and Assistant to Director of Musicians Emergency Fund. He is on the Advisory Boards of the Martina Arroyo Foundation, Opera Index, and American Center for Musical Arts.

Barbara Ann Testa is a famous soprano who had a wonderful career in Italy; she studied with the great tenor Giovanni Martinelli and Licia Albanese. She is also an accomplished pianist, and a trustee of the Gerda Lissner Foundation. James Thurmond Smithgall is an outstanding international jurist, patron of the arts, and artists’ representative guiding the careers of many young singers. In 2009 he created the Lanie and Ethel Foundation, a private Foundation that focuses, amongst other things, on environmental concerns, needy musicians and promoting artistic careers.

Scott Barnes, after years in “showbiz”, (and years teaching master classes in song interpretation and audition strategies for Broadway-bound performers), Scott has found his unique ability to help opera singers strategize for auditions and broaden their imaginations to better inhabit songs, arias, and roles. For the past several seasons, Scott has judged several of opera’s top singing competitions, including the Gerda Lissner, Licia Albanese/Puccini Foundation, Giulio Gari, Veronica Dunne (NYC and Wexford preliminaries), AVA’s Giargiari, the Loren L. Zachary Society, and Opera at Florham.

Prizes include: first prize of $5,000 donated by the Gerda Lissner Foundation; second prize of $3,000 donated by Joseph DuPont in honor of his mother, Violetta; and third prize of $1,500 donated by Elena Matos, a previous OAF Vocal Competition winner and the DuPont family. Encouragement Awards to other finalists by members of OAF’s Board of Trustees and other donors. Special Opera at Florham donations of $5,000 from Karl Michaelis, President of The Lissner Charitable Fund and $2,500 from the Investor Foundation.

Tickets for the Vocal Competition are $25. Tickets for luncheon with the judges and Vocal Competition ticket are $75. The luncheon commences at 12:30 p.m. in Hartman Lounge at the Mansion. Fancy desserts will be served during intermission. Tickets are free for children under 12 years old and students of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Tickets may be ordered by calling 973-443-8620 or online at via Pay Pal. Checks made out to Opera at Florham can be mailed to Opera at Florham, P.O. Box 343, Convent Station, NJ 07961. As always, tickets are available at the door on day of the event. Combination Vocal Competition/luncheon tickets must be ordered by April 18th. 

Our final season event on Sunday, May 20 at 2 p.m. will feature Puccini’s Bel Canto Lyricism.

Funding has been made possible in part by funds from the Morris Arts Council through the New Jersey State Council of the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.