A Quest for Virtuosity at the 6th Annual JTVA Vocal Competition
Extraordinary talent and dramatic performance ruled the day at the 6th annual James Toland Vocal Arts vocal competition on June 15. From the despair of a Trojan princess as personified by Tier II first-place winner Lindsey Reynolds, to an impersonation of bells by Tier I second-place finisher Alexandra Nowakowski, this year’s competitors drew enthusiastic applause and repeated shouts of “bravo” from the audience at Holy Names University in Oakland.
“It gets better and better,” said JTVA board of directors member and Encouragement Award sponsor Bonnie Bell. “The quality of the performances this year just blew me away.”
Tier I first-place winner, soprano Felicia Moore, won the Audience Favorite award in part for her interpretation of a fragile, nearly mad Margherita from “Mefistofele” by Arrigo Boito. But it was also Moore’s daunting vocal technique and her assurance on stage that gave her the first-place win and her selection for the Rubi Victoria Wentzel/Musica Marin award. That award, underwritten by Leslie and Hratch Krikorian in honor of Leslie’s mother, includes a performance in a new composition by Clint Borzoni at the 2020 Musica Marin festival.
“Felicia embodies the power of stillness that is unlike anything I’ve seen in a singer of late,” commented James Toland, founder and director of JTVA. “Then...the sound comes pouring out. It is clear her powerful and brilliant soprano will carry her far.” Moore was awarded a total of $25,000 for her three awards.
During the event’s Tier II round, first-place finisher Lindsey Reynolds’ strong performance was set off by her despairing personification of Ilia, a Trojan princess mourning the deaths of her family from Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” as well as Reynolds’ exuberant performance of the flirtatious “Il bacio” by Luigi Arditi. Reynolds earned the Tier II Audience Favorite award as well as the Richard Rittelmann Concert in Provence award, which will send Reynolds to Provence next year to sing with an orchestra.
“I had no idea I would be named audience favorite. I was so surprised,” Reynolds said afterwards. “I just tried to sing in a way as true to me as possible.” Reynolds said she’ll save her $10,000 cash awards for dresses and audition costs.
Other standout performances included Tier I third-place finisher Andrew Manea’s zesty performance of “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” and Tier II second-place finisher Taylor Haines’ interpretation of Elsa’s prayers for rescue by the knight Lohengrin in “Lohengrin” by Wagner.
“It was like going to a fantastic restaurant, looking at the menu, and trying to decide what to order when there are seven things you absolutely want to eat,” commented James Toland about each tier’s seven finalists. “That’s what it’s like when you have to choose from among seven fantastic singers.”
For their part, the singers said JTVA was also—in an emotional sense—a nourishing experience. “Most competitions can feel cut-throat; the singers are just there to compete and are treated that way,” said baritone David Catalano, a recent graduate of the University of Houston’s master’s program in vocal performance and opera. “This competition feels different. Everyone was so supportive of us. It felt like we were a family.”
Catalano, as well as fellow classmate and Tier II third-place finisher Jason Zacher, said the reason for the relaxed feeling was in large part because every finalist is assured a cash prize. The Bell Investment Advisors Encouragement Awards gives every finalist $4,000 if they are not selected as a top winner.
“This weekend was an absolute joy, and I must say I rarely feel that way about competitions,” said Tier I competitor Camille Sherman. “Your thorough care, enthusiasm, and tireless work created an event that we all could deeply enjoy.”