Past Competitions



Vocal Competition





Ricardo Rivera

"People's Choice Award"

Ricardo Rivera

"1st Place"

Meredith Mecum

"2nd Place"

Robert Balonek

"3rd Place"




Vocal Competition



May 7, 2011, 8:00PM

Symphony Space, Leonard Nimoy Thalia, NYC


JUDGES: Keith Chambers, Zehava Gal, Katherine Olsen


         Doug Han, Pianist


KORNGOLD: Mein Sehnen Mein Wähnen…”  (Die Tote Stadt)
— Robert Balonek —
STRAUSS: The Composer's Aria…” (Ariadne Auf Naxos)
— Kaitlyn Costello —
THOMAS: O vin dissipe la tristesse…” (Hamlet)
— Jonathan Estabrooks —
STRAUSS: Grossmächtige Prinzessin…” (Ariadne Auf Naxos)
— JeanMarie Garofolo—
BIZET:  Seguidilla…” (Carmen)
— Erin Greene —
MOZART: Martern aller Arten(Die Entführung aus dem Serail)
— Julie-Anne Hamula —
DONIZETTI: Prendi… (L’elisir d’amore)
— Stefanie Izzo —
MOZART:   “Hai già vinta la causa…(Le nozze di figaro)
— Michael Krzankowski —
DONIZETTI: O mio Fernando…” (La Favorita)
— Beth Lytwynec —
MOZART:  Come scoglio…”(Co fan tutte)
— Meredith Mecum —
OFFENBACH:  Les oiseaux…(Les contes d'Hoffmann)
— Monica Pasquini —
GUERRERO:  Mi Aldea …” (Los Gavilanes)
— Ricardo Rivera —
PUCCINI:  Donde lieta…” (La Bohème)
— Shanna Spiro —
VERDI:  “La donna è mobile…” (Rigoletto)
— Jonathan Winell —




(In alphabetical order)  



keith chambers

Conductor Keith Chambers was appointed Assistant Conductor of New York City Opera in 2007 and is Music Director of the Emerging Artist Program & Chorus Master for Opera New Jersey.  He has conducted Tosca for Amarillo Opera, Roméo et Juliette for Asheville Lyric Opera, The Station for Sugar Land Opera, The Living Opera (Hansel and Gretel, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Pasquale, & The Pirates of Penzance), Halifax Summer Opera (Giulio Cesare), Moores Opera Center (Die Fledermaus & La finta giardiniera), and Opera in the Ozarks (Don Giovanni & L’elisir d’amore).  He serves on faculty of the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program and is a Program Director for the RESONANZ Festival.  Mr. Chambers is the past Artistic Director of The Living Opera and Chorus Master/Music Director of Shreveport Opera.  Additional performances include Toledo Opera, Connecticut Opera, American Opera Projects, and American Lyric Theater.  He has appeared as concerto soloist with the Delaware Symphony, Clear Lake Symphony, and Naples Philharmonic, and often performs with his wife, dramatic soprano Kirsten Chambers.



Zehava Gal  

The Israeli born mezzo-soprano studied voice at Juilliard and piano at the Rubin Academy, Israel. Gal is a winner of the Paris and Munich International Competition, and Young Concert Artists, NY. Gal has sung at La Scala, Paris, Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, Glyndebourne, Santa Fe, Pesaro, collaborating with conductors such as Von Karajan, Abbado, Mehta, Barenboim, with New York, Israel, Chicago and Berlin philharmonic orchestras. Gal has appeared in the title role of Peter Brook’s Theatre/Film production of La Tragedie de Carmen, and recorded for major labels including RCA, CBS, Philips and EMI. Gal holds a teaching position at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, N.J. and a private studio in NYC. As an extremely well received master teacher, Gal has been invited to give Master Classes/Seminars at top conservatories and voice organizations around the world.



Katherine Olsen

Encompass Arts Founder, Katherine Olsen, is one of the most famous and sought-after opera coach/accompanists in the world today. She is currently on the board of the Singer’s Development Foundation and the Marcello Giordani Foundation. In 2001, she was appointed Principle Coach and Artistic Administrator for Baz Luhrmann’s Tony Award-winning production of Puccini’s La Boheme. She worked closely with the company in both the pre-production phase and during the performance runs in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Ms. Olsen was part of the casting team responsible for hiring both principle artists and chorus. Several of the young artists she selected for La Boheme have gone on to further operatic achievements including: MET tenor, Joseph Kaiser, who portrays Tamino in Kenneth Branaugh’s film The Magic Flute, conducted by James Conlon; Ben Davis who portrays Papageno in the same film; Alfred Boe Alfie Boe crossover recording artist; and David Miller, now a recording artist with the group Il Divo.





Doug Han has conducted Massenet's Cendrillon last October and will be conducting Mozart's Die Zauberflöte later this evening.  Maestro Han has just finished a rewarding two-year association with the Knowlton Festival, a groundbreaking collaboration between the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Rome's historic Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.  Mr. Han joined the festival at the express invitation of artistic director Kent Nagano and served as coach/répétiteur for productions of the Bellini operas Norma and La Sonnambula (starring Grammy award-winning coloratura Sumi Jo) as well as the Bel Canto Concert "June Anderson and Friends".  He also worked closely with the winners of Operalia 2008 (the Plácido Domingo Competition). 



FINALISTS (in alphabetical order)



Baritone, Robert Balonek has performe Count Robinson (Matrimonio Segreta) at Pine Mountain, Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro) at Chelsea Opera, Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), Prospero and Ferdinand (Hoiby’s The Tempest), Ottone (Poppea), Gêolier (Dialogues of the Carmelites), Title Role in (Gianni Schicchi), Francis (Confession) - World Premeire at Purchase Opera. At Mannes, he performed  Ford (Falstaff), Guglielmo (Cosi fan Tutte). Mr. Balonek recorded Prospero in The Tempest for Albany Records. He is a Liederkranz winner, Opera Index encouragement award winner, and a Career Bridges Scholarship winner. He can find Mr. Balonek on Itunes as Prospero in Hoiby’s The Tempest.  Mr. Balonek was the soloist for the Bach’s Mathew Passion for the Mannes Baroque Ensemble and Fauré Requiem soloist for the Westchester Choral Society.



Mezzo-Soprano, Kaitlyn Costello is a young artist with a multi-faceted talent in the arts. Ms. Costello is a past winner of the District Metropolitan Opera Competition, Metropolitan Opera Southeast Regional Finalist and Encouragement award winner, and Brumby Concerto Competition winner to name a few. This summer, Ms. Costello will perform with the Central City Opera as Mercédès in Carmen. Ms. Costello is also looking forward to performing the title role in Carmen for the family matinee performance on July 28th. Along with Ms. Costello accomplishments as a vocalist, she is also an accomplished dancer with professional training of over 17 years.



Hailed by the New York Times as a “robust baritone” and 1st place winner of the prestigious Oratorio Society of New York Vocal Competition at Carnegie Hall, Jonathan Estabrooks is one to watch. He has performed for President Clinton and UN deligates, appeared with the NYFOS at Carnegie Hall, the NAC Orchestra, the Israeli Chamber Orchestra and on a 20-city tour with the Jeunesses Musicale du Canada. His growing list of principal roles include: Guglielmo, Papageno Shaunard, Pelleas, Tarquinius and Smirnov (The Bear). Upcoming engagements: Concerts in New York, Florida, Virginia and his debut as Silvio in I Pagliacci with Opera Lyra Ottawa.



JeanMarie Garofolo, Coloratura Soprano, is described as possessing a voice that is “beautiful and warm in tone with strong high notes.” (Muncher Merkur) Most recently, she made her Carnegie Hall debut at the Liederkrantz Winner’s Concert, where she placed third in the Lieder Division.  She has received many awards for her singing. She was the winner of the 2010 Chicago NATS competition, The Jenny Lind Soprano Competition, and The Italian Cultural Center of Chicago Competition. Ms. Garofolo was also the featured singer at the Erwin Piscator Awards in New York honoring Peter Gelb. On the operatic stage, she has captivated many audiences performing in several productions such as Massenet’s Cendrillon in the role of La Fee, with NY Lyric Opera Theatre.



Erin Greene, mezzo-soprano, recently performed the role of Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Maddelena in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Cordula Wagner in Rushton’s The Shops with Center City Opera Theater. With the College-Conservatory of Music, she performed the roles of Isabella in Catan’s Rappaccini’s Daughter and La Voce in Resphigi’s Lucrezia. Ms. Greene has received a BM degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a MM from the College-Conservatory of Music. She is currently a studio artist with Center City Opera Theater and will be performing the role of Orlofsky in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus.



Julie-Anne Hamula, soprano, has been praised for her “warm tone”, “agile phrasing” and “considerable vocal energy”  (Austin XL). Most recently, she has sung Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffman with Tri-Cities Opera. Also with Tri-Cities Opera, she has sung Fiordiligi (Cosí fan Tutte), Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), and Gilda (Rigoletto). Other roles include  Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah with The Butler Opera Center, and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Austin. She was recently a finalist in the Liederkranz General Opera Competition and was awarded the Phyllis Bryn-Julson Award at the Civic Morning Musicals Competition in Syracuse, New York.



Stefanie Izzo is a New York native soprano who recently made her international operatic debut as Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore with Musica Viva Hong Kong. She has appeared in such roles as the Coloratura in Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Candide (Cunegonde) . Other local credits include:  The Marriage of Figaro (Susanna) and Hansel & Gretel (Dew Fairy) with the Brooklyn Repertory OperaBritten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Peaseblossom) with Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, Sweeney Todd (Johanna), and HMS Pinafore (Josephine) with the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island. An avid linguist, Stefanie has studied languages and performed recitals in Italy, Germany and Austria.



Michael Krzankowski is quickly establishing himself on the operatic stage.  He recently made his debut with San Antonio Opera where he “had outstanding moments as the foolish count,” in Le nozze di Figaro.  He has been described as “warm and persuasive,” with “a gentle, unforced effervescence to his singing.”  He performed Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the title role in Eugene Onegin with the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program.  Internationally, Mr. Krzankowski sang Count Gil in Il segreto di Susanna with the Lucca Opera Festival, and the title role in Don Giovanni with the Europäische Akademie.



Katherine LaPorta is a coloratura soprano quickly establishing herself as a skilled artist with a rich timbre, versatile repertoire, and astounding accuracy. Upcoming: Ginerva in Handel's Ariodante with the New York Opera Forum and Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with Opera Theater of Connecticut. She recently sang the role of Die Königin der Nacht in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with Connecticut Lyric Opera and New York Lyric Opera Theatre’s Artist-in-Residence Concert Series.  Other Roles Include: Gilda (Rigoletto), Monica (The Medium), Pauline (La Vie Parisienne), Pamina (The Magic Flute). She holds a Masters and Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Connecticut.



American mezzo-soprano Beth Lytwynec, a finalist in the 2011 NY Lyric Opera Theatre Competition, and a National Semi-Finalist in the 2010 Classical Singer Competition, is making her New York Lyric Opera Theatre debut singing the role of Maddalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Ms. Lytwynec has portrayed the role of Jo March in Boston Opera Collaborative’s production of Little Women, Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, the title role of Serse, Mme. de la Haltière in Cendrillon, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw, Dido in Dido and Aeneas, and Lampito in Lysistrata.



Soprano, Meredith Mecum has been awarded Second Place in the Ades Vocal Competition at Manhattan School of Music, and an Encouragement Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition.   She covered the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni as a Young Artist with Ash Lawn Opera, appeared as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus with Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance, and as Rose Segal in the New York premiere of John Musto's Later the Same Evening at Manhattan School of Music.  Upcoming performances include Soprano Soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Williamsport Symphony Orchestra and Berta in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera New Jersey.



Monica Pasquini, coloratura soprano, is currently a studio artist with Center City Opera Theater in Philadelphia where she is singing the roles of Francesca in the North American premiere of The Shops, Norina in Don Pasquale and Despina in Cosi fan tutte. She has performed in numerous operatic roles, including:  Belinda in Dido & Aeneas, Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ruth Baldwin in the southeastern premiere of John Musto’s Later the Same Evening, The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute and Madame Herz in Der Schauspieldirektor. Monica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rollins College and a Master of Music degree from Florida State University.



Baritone, Ricardo Rivera has performed Ford in Falstaff and Don Alfonso in Cosi Fan Tutte with the Mannes Opera, Moralès in Carmen and Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera North, and L'horloge comtoise and Le chat in L'Enfant et les Sortièges and Roderick in La chute de la maison Usher (Debussy) with Pocket Opera of NY. He has won awards from the Gerda Lissner, Licia Albanese-Puccini, Opera Index, Career Bridges, and MONC Competitions, and was a recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant. He is currently completing his Professional Studies Diploma at the Mannes College of Music.



Shanna Spiro completed her Bachelors degree at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music in May 2008 where she graduated summa cum laude.  Her roles include Juno, Fiordiligi, Nutrice ,The Countess  (scenes), Gretel (scenes).  Ms. Spiro recently performed as Dorothée, The Dew Fairy, Micaëla (scenes), and Countess Ceprano with the New York Lyric Opera Theatre. Competition winnings include: Finalist for the New York Lyric Opera Theatre Vocal Competition in 2010.  This summer, Ms. Spiro will be attending BASOTI in San Francisco, California, where she will be performing the role of Dido in Dido and Aeneas.



Jonathan Winell, a New York City born tenor, graduated from The Hartt School of Music, 2007, and attended AVA where he studied with Bill Schuman.  He has been the student of Doris Jung Popper since 2002.  Among roles performed are Camille in The Merry Widow, Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Lord Percy in Anna Bolena and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte.  Mr. Winell spends summers in Florence, Italy, studying Italian and voice. He has sung in a number of opera concerts and has been a winner of several competitions and awards, both here and in Italy.  He was Ernesto (cover) in Don Pasquale for the Opera New Jersey Young Artists Summer Program.