Given the recent, deservedly heavy promotion of the upcoming Sixth Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, the 22nd Annual MacAllister Awards for Opera Singers - having slipped in under the former"s shadow - might be viewed as playing second "fiddle." It need not take a back seat, however. Using the tried-and-true venue of the Indiana Historical Society, last Sunday"s MacAllister Professional Finals was filled to seating on the steps. In addition, PBS was once again present with their TV cameras, making the three-hour event available, either live or delayed, to a nationwide audience. WFYI-FM 90.1 broadcast it live on radio; Channel 20, its TV counterpart, does not plan to present it.
Twyla Robinson won first place at the MacAllister Awards for Opera Singers.
This year"s MacAllister Awards was dominated by women (with four men among the 10 finalists), who received the top four prizes granted by 15 mostly veteran jurors drawn from opera companies and universities all over the country. The winner, and recipient of $15,500, was soprano Twyla Robinson, who, interestingly, won second place last year and third place in the 2000 MacAllister. This 32-year-old IU graduate from Louisiana redeemed herself in her second aria, Donna Anna"s beautiful "Non mi dir" from Mozart"s Don Giovanni, after showing less vocal control in her first offering, "To this we"ve come," from The Consul (1954) by G. Carlo Menotti. (The finalists sang in two rounds of arias, the first picked by them, the second by the jurors from a list each singer provided.) Second place, and $7,500, went to soprano Sarah Tannehill, a petite 28-year-old whose onstage charisma endeared herself to the audience, and compensated for a somewhat limited voice - one doing its best work in the coloratura register. (The monetary disparity between first and second prizes remains too high, in this writer"s humble opinion.) Soprano Erin Marie Wall got the third prize of $5,000. Of the 10, she improved the most dramatically, from insecure pitches and rough vocal gymnastics in a selection from Stavinsky"s The Rake"s Progress (1951) to a rich, nicely centered vibrato in "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak"s Rusalka (1900). Fourth prize, and $3,000, went to mezzo-soprano Holli Harrison, as deserved a singer as any in the group. Local industrialist, opera lover and founder of the awards P.E. MacAllister (at age 84) still hosts his event for both television and the local audience. Plaudits also should be given to veteran MacAllister Awards director Elaine Bookwalter for her unceasing efforts in auditioning singers from the 50 states throughout the year.