Geneva Anderson digs into art

Ao Li, of Adler and Merola fame, walks away with first prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia in Verona

Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li just won the top prize at Operalia 2013 competition.  Here, he is performing a Rossini aria at the Marin Opera Guild's Champagne Gala in 2011.  Photo: Susan Malott

Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li just won the top prize at Operalia 2013 competition. Here, he performs a Rossini aria at the Marin Opera Guild’s Champagne Gala in 2011. Photo: Susan Malott

On to greatness!…Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li, a third-year Adler Fellow and graduate of the 2010 Merola Opera Program, just won First Prize and $30,000 in Plácido Domingo’s international singing competition, Operalia, which concluded Sunday in Verona’s spectacular Arena di Verona.  This year’s competition included 12 finalists from around the globe. Called the “Olympic games for opera singers” by Domingo, the grueling competition includes successive elimination rounds—of competitors singing arias of their choice and those given them by the prestigious jury of comprised, for the most part of, international Opera house’s General and/or Casting directors. Participating or even winning a prize in this competition is only the beginning of every singer’s relationship with Plácido Domingo and the jurors who will invite them to perform in upcoming productions being scheduled in their opera houses and theatres.

All these talented young singers walked away with a cash prize but Ao Li, 25, walked away with the top award—“Male First Award”—which he shared with Russian soprano Aida Garifullina—“Female First Award.”  Li sang Sergey Rachmaninov’s “Ves tabor spit” from Aleko (Aleko’s Cavatina).

Ao Li has sung a number of roles to rave reviews with San Francisco Opera including Lorenzo (Capuleti e i Montecchi) and Sciarrone (Tosca) and Ben Weatherstaff (The Secret Garden)—all 2012-13 season.  He made his debut with the Company in 2011 as Ascanio Petrucci (Lucreia Borgia).  Teatro ZinZanni fans will never forget his late-night Cabaret Lunatique performance (2011) with Shanghai Pearl, the sultry strip-tease artist.  He is also a frequent recitalist in China where he was a past recipient of the Youth of China award and the bronze award in the Ministry of Culture’s Eighth National Vocal Competition.

How lucky we are to have two important Bay Area programs—the Adler Fellowship Program (Adler Fellows) and Merola Opera Program—nurturing and creating the vocal stars of the future.  Operalia moves to a different city each year and next year, it is in Los Angeles. The annual competition was founded by Domingo in 1993 and has helped to launch the careers of several renowned singers, including Rolando Villazón and Joyce DiDonato.

Ao Li’s glorious performance at Operalia 2013 of Rachmaninov’s “Ves tabor spit” from Aleko

Here is the future of opera…the names to remember:

  • CulturArte Award: $10,000 to 26-year-old Belarus tenor Vladimir Dmitruk
  • Don Plácido Domingo Sr. Award for Zarzuela: $10,000 to 27-year-old American tenor Benjamin      Bliss
  • Pepita Embil Domingo Zarzuela Award: $10,000 to 29-year-old South Korean soprano Hae      Ji Chang
  • Birgit Nilsson Remembrance Award (for German Wagner/Strauss Rep): $15,000 each to 31-year-old English contralto Claudia Huckle and 27-year-old American soprano Tracy Cox
  • Male and Female Third Award: $10,000 each to 30-year-old American soprano Kathryn Lewek and 29-year-old American tenor Zach Borichevsky
  • Male and Female Second Award: $20,000 each to 29-year-old French soprano Julie Fuchs and 28-year-old Italian baritone Simone Piazzola.
  • Male and Female First Award: $30,000 each to 25-year-old Russian soprano Aida Garifullina and 25-year-old Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li
  • Audience Award: Rolex watches to 30-year-old American soprano Kathryn Lewek and 28-year-old Italian baritone Simone Piazzola

Plácido Domingo in Berkeley September 7, 2013:  The world-renowned tenor, Plácido Domingo’s makes a local appearance at the historic Greek Theatre with the Berkeley Symphony, in a program of operatic favorites from Verdi and Wagner and American classics from Rogers, Loewe, and Bernstein, and Spanish popular songs.  September 7, 2013, at 8 p.m.  The event is sponsored Another Planet Entertainment, Cal Performances’ partner for the Greek Theatre. Click here for information and tickets.

ARThound’s previous coverage of Ao LiSan Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows Perform Opera Favorites for last Sunday’s Marin Guild Gala (August 9, 2011);  No Commute! SF Opera’s Adler Fellows are performing classical favorites this Friday, October 12, at SRJC’s Petaluma Campus (October 10, 2012); Stealthy Soprano Nicole Cabell climbs a sink and balances on a wall in her debut at SF Opera’s “Capulets and Montagues,” through October 19, 2012 (October 11, 2012)

August 28, 2013 - Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , ,

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