The Kurt Weill Foundation of Music will present the competition. The 16 performers who will be competing were selected from 230 hopefuls from 12 countries in the first round of auditions, the largest turnout the competition has ever seen. The finalists will be competing for the grand prize of $15,000, as well as prizes of $10,000, $7,500 and other awards.
The competition asks the singers, ages 19-32, to sing an operatic aria, an American musical theatre song, and two contrasting songs by Lenya's husband, the German composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950), whose work included everything from German agitprop and opera (The Threepenny Opera, The Seven Deadly Sins) to classic Broadway showtunes (Lady in the Dark, One Touch of Venus). Lenya (1898-1981) frequently performed her husband's work on stage and in concert, winning a Tony for her Pirate Jenny in a 1954 Off-Broadway revival of Threepenny. She founded the Weill Foundation in 1962 to further ensure Weill's legacy was preserved.
The competition "emphasizes the acting of songs within a dramatic context," according to press notes. Kim Kowalke, the Weill Foundation's president, said in a statement, "The finest voices don't necessarily win. It's the combination of acting and singing that matters."
Nolen and Vroman have both appeared in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and co-starred (as Judge Turpin and Johanna, respectively) in the Emmy-winning televised concert of Sweeney Todd with the San Francisco Symphony. Nolen has appeared in Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and Vroman has appeared in Threepenny and The Seven Deadly Sins. Berman music-directed a Prince Music Theater revival of Lady in the Dark in Philadelphia; his Broadway credits include Finian's Rainbow, The Pajama Game and Wonderful Town.
The final competition will consist of a free, public performance by the contestants, followed by the announcement of the winners. For more information on the Lenya Competition and the Weill Foundation, visit kwf.org.