The 10th Harold Haugh Light Opera Vocal Competition 10th Annual Harold Haugh Vocal Competition, held Saturday, March 23, 2013 in the Jackson Symphony Orchestra’s Performance Hall, attracted over 30 finalists from all over the United States. John Riesen, who recently starred in COG’s LIGHT CAVALRY, won the First Prize Award of $2,000.

John, who currently studies at MSU with Rick Fracker, another COG alum, was also a Metropolitan Opera Regional finalist this past year. Among the finalists following the afternoon’s semi-finals, John brought down the house with his rendition of the “Story of Kleinzach” from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. This comes as little surprise to the cast and audience of Light Cavalry, in which John was a standout. In a clean sweep, John also won the Audience Choice Award, as well as the Jackson Symphony Contract.

The level of talent was extremely high for this competition, and the scores in both the finals and semi-finals were very close. As always, it came down to which singer made the best choices of repertoire, and did the best overall job of combining singing and acting. Out of the 29 contestants, the winners and finalists were:

FIRST PLACE– John Riesen, Okemos, MI, $2000
SECOND PLACE– Anne Slovin, Chicago, IL, $1000
THIRD PLACE – Timothy Bruno, Toledo, OH, $500
FINALISTS, $100 each:
Julie-Anne Hamula, Fair Lawn, NJ
Adrian Sanchez, E. Lansing, MI
Sara Emerson, Kalamazoo, MI
Abigail Krawson, Jamaica Plain, MI
Zachary Elmassian, Chicago, IL

AUD. CHOICE – John Riesen $100
JSO CONTRACT – John Riesen $500
YOUNG ARTIST Katy Early Oberlin, OH,$100

Anne Slovin, a soprano from Chicago, IL, impressed the judges with her silky voice and expressive performances of “A Simple Sailor” from HMS Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan, and the song “Yes!” from the French operetta of the same name by Maurice Yvain. An alumna of Northwestern University, Ms. Slovin won the “Best Female Voice” Award at the Buxton International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival.

Timothy Bruno, who was a finalist in the 2011 Competition, got the Third Place Scholarship with his ringing bass voice and energetic rendition of “Ha! Wie Will Ich Triumphieren” from Die Entfuhrung Aus dem Serail by Mozart. He showed his versatility as well in “One Alone” from Romberg’s Desert Song.

The event was once again beautifully run. John Guidinger, our Jackson Board Member, did a fantastic job handling the venue arrangements as well as the fund raising, always a major challenge. There was a catered lunch for everyone, dinner was provided for the judges, accompanists and finalists, and there was even an afterglow reception. John really puts out a spread.

Brad Rondeau and Heidi Miles once again managed the event, which proceeded flawlessly through the seven hour semi-finals and evening finals. Many of the singers required a COG accompanist, since they were coming, in many cases, from distant states. Margaret Counihan, Jon Krueger and Seung Youn Kim provided expert accompaniment. A number of singers were competing again, including Elizabeth Toy, who was competing for the third time. Shawn Mlynek, Sara Emerson, Christian Ketter and Julie Barber were also repeating. This is a statement on how well the event is run, the fun, and the support the singers get from the judges.

The Adjudication Panel, once again, was a stellar group of professional performers and educators who were gracious enough to donate their time to give these singers much needed advice to spur their careers:
George Shirley
Melanie Helton
Susan Anthony
Nada Radakovich
David Troiano
Thomas Petiet

With what has now become the full support of the Jackson Symphony, the event attracted a nice audience. The event was not in the Michigan Theater this year due to grant considerations, but the intimate surroundings of the JSO Hall seemed to the crowd’s liking.

Because the date conflicted with school events, there was no choir involved, but steps are being taken to have one in next year’s competition, since it’s important for high school singers to see and hear what real vocal talent is like.

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