The forty-seventh edition of New York’s George London Foundation Awards Competition had an uncommonly Canadian sweep this year. Out of more than 150 applicants, whittled down to 72 finalists, three out of six of the winners ended up being Canadian.
Lauren Margison, a 25-year-old soprano from Toronto, Emily D’Angelo, a 23-year-old mezzo-soprano from Toronto, and Rihab Chaieb, a 30-year-old mezzo from Montreal, took home three of the top prizes, valued at $10,000 (US) each. Lauren Margison is currently in her final year as a member of the Opéra de Montréal’s Atelier Lyrique and next year will join the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, whereas Chaieb and D’Angelo are both former members of the Ensemble who now hold coveted positions in the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program. Next year, Toronto opera-goers will be able to catch D’Angelo in her role debut as Dorabella in the Canadian Opera Company’s Cosi fan tutte.
This year’s judges included baritone Richard Stilwell (a former George London Foundation Award winner, familiar to Toronto audiences for his portrayal of the Music Master in Ariadne auf Naxos in 2011), soprano Harolyn Blackwell, mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias, tenor George Shirley and George London Foundation President Nora London. The competition was accompanied by the renowned pianist and vocal coach, Craig Rutenberg.
The George London Competition has a great track record for recognizing young artists on the cusps of major careers, including Joyce DiDonato, Renée Fleming and Eric Owens. Named for the bass-baritone, George London, an American born in Montreal who moved to Los Angeles as a teenager, the competition makes an effort to recognize both Canadian and American singers. Each year one of the $10,000 awards is designated to be awarded to a Canadian singer, although it is unusual for three of the top prizes to go to Canadians.
When asked what winning the competition felt like, soprano Lauren Margison was incredulous.
“It’s honestly still quite surreal,” the young soprano divulged to Ludwig Van. “I am absolutely over the moon, and extremely humbled and grateful to the George London Foundation.”
For the competition, Ms. Margison offered Marguerite’s “Jewel Song” from Gounod’s Faust, Ms. D’Angelo sang Rosina’s bravura “Una voce poco fa” from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (a role she will perform at this year’s Glimmerglass Festival), and Ms. Chaieb “Oui, Dieu le veut” from Jeanne d’Arc by Tchaikovsky.
Canadian opera fans have a lot to be proud of today.