July 25, 2011/FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE /
UNCSA OPERA ALUMNI RECOGNIZED IN INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION AND NATIONAL PRESS
René Barbera Wins at Operalia; He and Two Peers Get Glowing Reviews from NY Times
WINSTON-SALEM – René Barbera, an alumnus of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), has won first prize for opera, first prize for zarzuela (Spanish operetta) and the audience prize at the World Opera Competition, Operalia. And he is one of three A.J. Fletcher Opera alumni who have received positive reviews by the New York Times this summer.
Wade Weast, Dean of the School of Music at UNCSA, said he and his faculty are “on cloud nine” due to Barbera’s win and the glowing reviews. “We know these kinds of success stories are the single most effective way to recruit the best students to the UNCSA School of Music,” he said.
Barbera is the first artist to be the sole recipient of the three awards since the competition was founded by Plácido Domingo in 1993.
A tenor who studied with soprano Dr. Marilyn Taylor at UNCSA’s School of Music from 2004 to 2008, Barbera won $30,000 for the opera prize, $10,000 for the zarzuela prize, and a Rolex watch for the audience prize. The competition took place July 18-24 in Moscow.
René Barbera and Operalia Founder Plácido Domingo
“I am confident this international competition win will advance Mr. Barbera’s promising opera career,” Weast said. “This win serves as one more piece of evidence that indeed the UNCSA School of Music is successfully realizing its focused mission -- to prepare young musicians to become the standard bearers of excellence in the music profession.”
Earlier this summer, Barbera performed as Tonio in The Daughter of the Regiment for Opera Theatre of St. Louis, an appearance noted in the New York Times on June 20 by critic Steve Smith: “The charming tenor René Barbera hit his notorious nine high C’s and considerably more, securely and seemingly effortlessly.”
On July 16, Joshua Conyers, who received a bachelor of music degree from UNCSA in 2010, was pictured in the Times’ art section in the title role of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which he performed at Hunter College in New York as part of a professional development program for young singers. Times critic Vivien Schweitzer said Conyers “sang with a sonorous baritone as he wheedled and seduced, his flattery sometimes giving away to violence.”
On June 28, Times critic Anthony Tommasini noted that “soprano Jodi Burns, with her plush voice and rich expressivity, made an endearing Anne” in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress for Princeton Festival. Burns received a master’s degree in music from UNCSA in 2010. The production was directed by Steven LaCosse, managing director of Fletcher Opera Institute and assistant dean of the School of Music at UNCSA.
Conyers and Burns also studied at UNCSA with Taylor, who said the reviews, and Barbera’s competition success, are verification not only of their talent, but also of the training and climate at UNCSA. “Success starts in the studio, but it continues with everything that goes on around them on campus -– their academic studies, and the artistic community,” she said.
Operalia is open to all voice categories for singers from 18 to 30 old, and is judged by a panel of distinguished international opera personalities. Each year 40 participants are chosen from among 800 to 1,000 applicants. Internationally acclaimed tenor and conductor Plácido Domingo founded the competition to help launch the careers of the best young opera singers. (See http://www.operaliacompetition.org.)
A vehicle for advancing the career potential of exceptional young singers, the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute offers performance-based training at the graduate and post-graduate levels to several Institute Fellows and Scholars each year. For more information about the Fletcher Institute, visit www.fletcheropera.com.
The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from high school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.