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Start spreading the news: Paula Berry is heading to the Big Apple!

Desautels post-baccalaureate student will head to NYC for the Lotte Lenya Competition

February 26, 2019 — 

It’s quite a distance between Manitoba and Manhattan, but post-baccalaureate student Paula Berry managed to traverse the distance in only four songs, and will be heading to the Lotte Lenya Competition semi-finals in New York City on March 7 and 8, 2019!

The world-renowned competition focuses on singers and actors who are “dramatically and musically convincing in repertoire ranging from opera…to contemporary Broadway scores.” It is sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation, a non-profit, private organization dedicated to promoting understanding of Kurt Weill’s life and works and preserving the legacies of Weill and competition namesake Lotte Lenya, who was an accomplished singer and actress, as well as Weill’s collaborator and wife. Opera News has said that “no vocal contest better targets today’s total-package talents.”

“This competition has truly always been a dream of mine!” says Berry. “I grew up singing musical theatre, and it really is my first love, so to be able to be part of a competition that marries both musical theatre and opera singing at a high level is a dream come true.”

The audition

To qualify for the preliminary rounds, the competition required a fifteen-minute audition tape comprised of four different selections: an opera, a selection from Kurt Weill, and musical theatre works. Berry began compiling and organizing pieces to perform.

“Crafting a program was actually a lot of fun, as [the panel is] looking for versatility in things like style, character, vocal ability, and so on,” says Berry. “It was a real challenge to see how far I could push myself in a program to show as many of my abilities as possible!”

“Of course, I had help from some amazing faculty members!” says Berry. To prepare, Berry met with her voice and opera studies instructor Tracy Dahl. She also worked with Donna Fletcher (voice studies instructor and director of the Musical Theatre Ensemble), Laura Loewen (vocal coach), and accompanist Lisa Rumpel.

Waiting for the call

After all of the final touches were completed, Berry sent off her audition tape.

And then… she waited.

The competition organizers had told Berry the date by which semi-finalists would be notified. Only ten percent of the competitors would move on to the semi-finals. “On that [final] day, I was a bit anxious, to be sure!” says Berry.

She was about to enter her German diction class when her phone rang. Looking at the phone screen, she saw that it read “Kurt Weill Foundation,” and immediately knew that she had been selected.

“I was thrilled!” says Berry. “This competition has really been a goal for me for quite some time, so I felt absolutely honoured to be selected.”

The only Canadian

Berry is the sole Canadian among the 28 semi-finalists.

“I am so honoured to be representing Canada at the competition,” she says. “I couldn’t believe I was the only Canadian on the list, as there is so much talent up here!”

Berry credits her Canadian music education at McGill University, University of British Columbia, and the University of Manitoba for preparing her for this contest.

“I feel so lucky to have an education from this country and to have attended amazing institutions,” she says.

New York, New York

Berry is looking forward to the trip to New York City. Her program for the semi-finals will include:

  1. “Ich bin eine arme verwandte,” from Der Silbersee, by Kurt Weill
  2. “My Brother Lived in San Francisco,” from Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens, by Janet Hood
  3. “It’s a Perfect Relationship,” from Bells are Ringing, by Jule Styne, and
  4. “Emily’s Goodbye Aria,” from Our Town, by Ned Rorem.

After completing her program, Berry will receive a coaching session with Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn and Tony Award-winning theatre, film, and opera composer Jeanine Tesori.

“[It’s] such an amazing opportunity,” she says of the coaching session.

Outside of the competition, Berry hopes to visit the Met or see a Broadway show. “Mostly, I’m just looking forward to spending a bit of time in the city,” she says. “I could be wooed by a good slice of pizza, or maybe a bagel…” she adds.

But when it comes to being told to break a leg in the upcoming competition, Berry waves it off.

“Let’s stick to no broken bones!” says Berry. “I always like to say ‘Have fun!’ to my friends before they perform because I think sometimes we forget that that’s important, too.”

Go have fun, Paula! The Desautels Faculty of Music is incredibly proud of you!



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