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OPERA  SAN JOSÉ

 IRENE DALIS VOCAL COMPETITION

By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Antonio Gadong

Opera San José Founder and General Director IRENE DALIS received a      Commendation from the City of San José for her contribution to the City

Opera San José Founder and General Director IRENE DALIS received a Commendation from the City of San José for her contribution to the culture of the City

SAN JOSÉ, CA – Started as a fund raiser by IRENE DALIS eight years ago, "The IRENE DALIS VOCAL COMPETITION" has been, a night for recognitions; the singing event where the ten finalists in the Competition perform for the audience, and the three Final Winners are selected.

On May l0th, of this year, however, during the night of the Competition, a “unique” recognition took place inside the California Theatre. A  Commendation on behalf of the city of San José, was bestowed by City Councilman, SAM LICCARDO, to former Mezzo-Soprano IRENE DALIS for her outstanding contribution to the Arts and Culture of the city. At the theatre, the Award, was followed by a long standing ovation.

IRENE DALIS, the  founder and General Manager of Opera San José, is a former New York Metropolitan ópera singer, who after a successful singing career around the world for several years, returned to  San José, California, where she had been born, to establish Opera San José with the purpose to train new young singers in the art of ópera.  For thirty years, Ms. DALIS served as General Director of  Opera San José, but on June 30th, she will retire, at the age of 88, to relinquishing  her Managerial  position to her hand-groomed successor, Mr. LARRY  HANCOCK.

Serving as a Master of Ceremonies on that night, Mr. HANCOCK informed the audience that  with $50,000 in cash prizes, including a $5,000 “Favorite Singer” prize given to a singer by a vote from the audience, the competition this year had attracted many talented future ópera singers to the Bay Area. All the competing singers were judge by two sets of Judges:  three Preliminary Judges, who selected the ten finalists, and three different Judges who selected the Finalists.

R L-R DOUGLAS NAGEL, DAN MONTEZ & EILANA LAPALAINE

L-R DOUGLAS NAGEL, DAN MONTEZ & EILANA LAPALAINE

The distinguish panel of judges who selected the winner on that night were: EILANA LAPALAINE, a Finnish-Canadian Soprano who has enjoyed an extensive operatic singing career and has performed title roles to critical acclaim.

DOUGLAS NAGEL who graduated from the University of Wyoming and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music before beginning his singing career. As one of the first Opera San Jose resident Artists, with the mentoring of IRENE DALIS (Founder and Director of OSJ) he sang l6 roles. He is well-known for his title role of  “The Dutchman (Bar) Daland, the Norwegian sailor in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman with performances in the West Bay, Buffalo and and Mobile Opera companies and is now the Artistic Director of Rimrock Opera

DAN MONTEZ, who has worked as General Director of Taconic Opera for seventeen years, after working as Opera singer and Director for twenty five years. He has performed principal roles on the stage and directed more than one hundred productions in numerous Opera Houses including S.F. Opera, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center.

The ten Finalists of the eight  IRENE DALIS Vocal Competition
         The ten Finalists of the eight  IRENE DALIS Vocal Competition

In order of presentation, the singers were:  SARA DUCHOVNAY, soprano. ROBERT WATSON, tenor. KINDRA SCHARICH, Mezzo-soprano, ANTHONY WEBB, tenor. VICTORIA VARGAS, mezzo-soprano. CECILIA VIOLETA LOPEZ, soprano. DAVID GUSTAFSON, tenor. CHRISTINE SUITS, soprano/ ISAIAH MUSIK-AYALA, bass-baritone and NICOLE BIRKLAND, mezzo soprano.

The preliminary Judges, the ones who selected the ten finalists  were: ROBERT ASHENS, Artistic Director and Conductor of West Coast Opera (Opera Oregon). Opera Director David Cox;  and Conductor Timm Rolek. The Accompanist for both the vocal competition finals and the auditions was CATHERINE MILLER.

Hearing different singers with different ranges of voices singing different arias for two hours, made it difficult  to discern which one was better than the other. The singers were competing with each other and they knew it, so their performances on that night of their two operas, one selected by them and the other by the Judges, were excellent. At the end of the evening, the winners were:

L-R mezzo-soprano NICOLE BIRKLAND, third prize, tenor ROBERT WATSON, second prize and soprano CECILIA VIOLETA LÓPEZ first prize winner and also the winner of the Audience Choice.
L-R mezzo-soprano NICOLE BIRKLAND, third prize, tenor ROBERT WATSON, second prize and soprano CECILIA VIOLETA LÓPEZ first prize winner and also the winner of the Audience Choice.

Appointed  General Director of Opera S.J.   LARRY HANCOCK gives CECILIA VIOLETA LÓPEZ her  first-prize medal.
Appointed  General Director of Opera S.J.   LARRY HANCOCK gives CECILIA VIOLETA LÓPEZ her  first-prize medal.

Mexican Soprano CECILIA VIOLETA LOPEZ was the winner of the First prize with her magnificent interpretation of Violetta in Verdi’s “LA TRAVIATA.”  LOPEZ was also selected as the “Favorite Singer” by the Audience.

The night ended with a reception for “Special Guests” at the court yard at California Theatre, followed by a dinner in honor IRENE DALIS and all the winners at the Hotel Saint Claire in Sasn José.