Fredonia alum wins opera competition

Submitted Photo The winners of the 2017 National Council Grand Finals Concert (from left): SUNY Fredonia alumnus Kyle van Schoonhoven, Vanessa Vasquez, Samantha Hankey, Kirsten MacKinnon, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and Richard Smagur.

A State University of New York at Fredonia alumnus was one of six winners at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Concert, held at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Kyle van Schoonhoven, a 2011 Fredonia School of Music graduate with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education, was accompanied Sunday by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. Host for the event was renowned opera singer Renee Fleming. During the finals, Mr. van Schoonhoven performed the “mad scene” from the opera “Peter Grimes” by Benjamin Britten, and “Rienzi’s Prayer” from Richard Wagner’s “Rienzi.”

In addition to van Schoonhoven, 2017 MONC Winners included Kirsten MacKinnon, Vanessa Vasquez, Samantha Hankey, Richard Smagur and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen. All received a $15,000 cash prize.

He performed in the semi-finals Sunday, March 12, in New York City.

Finalists selected included van Schoonhoven, Central Region; Samantha Hankey, mezzo soprano, Eastern Region; Natalie Image, soprano, Western Region; Kirsten MacKinnon, soprano, Middle Atlantic Region; Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen, countertenor, Eastern Region; Cody Quattlebaum, bass-baritone, Eastern Region; Gabriella Reyes de Ramirez, soprano, New England Region; Richard Smagur, tenor, Central Region; and Vanessa Vasquez, soprano, Middle Atlantic Region.

Mr. van Schoonhoven, originally from Lockport, is a first-year Adler Fellowship recipient with the San Francisco Opera, and will make his San Francisco debut in the fall in Strauss’ “Electra” as Young Servant. He recently received the 2017 Nicolai Gedda Memorial Award from the George London Foundation and was a finalist in the 2016 Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition. He also participated in the Merola Opera Program in 2016.

Following his Fredonia years, during which he studied with the late Delia Wallis and with Dr. Gerald Gray of the Fredonia School of Music, van Schoonhoven earned a Master of Music degree from Westminster Choir College. Dr. Gray noted, “Kyle Van Schoonhoven is quickly rising to the top ranks of operatic tenors. He is uniquely poised to become one of, if not the great Wagnerian tenor of his generation. And to be sure, true Wagnerian tenors are rare. One could argue that the world has been waiting for the next one for some time. I am so proud of Kyle for his musical, vocal and personal success, and for the humility and gratitude he has shown throughout his journey to the top. And, I am most grateful to have had some small influence on shaping a talent that will bring joy and richness to so many lives.”

Fredonia’s additional connection to the Finals competition is alumna Barbara Kilduff-O’Farrell, ’81, who was a winner in the Finals in 1986 with Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo as judges, and also won the Munich and Tchaikovsky competitions the same year. She went on to an exciting career, singing in the most famous opera houses in the world, including Lincoln Center, where she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Zerbinetta in “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

Some of the greatest known singers in opera participated in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions including Ms. Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Stephanie Blythe, Eric Owens, Patricia Racette, Deborah Voigt, Angela Meade and Frederica von Stade.