Five inaugural recipients of the Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award honored for their artistic achievements at LA Opera and around the world
Above, left to right: Angel Blue, Janai Brugger, Craig Colclough, Joshua Guerrero, Kate Lindsey
(Los Angeles) March 10, 2021 — LA Opera board chairman Marc Stern and his wife Eva have established an annual $50,000 award to celebrate and support extraordinarily gifted artists in opera: the Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award. The new award will recognize artists with deep connections to LA Opera and will serve as an expression of gratitude for past and future artistic contributions to the company. The award will assist artists with the many significant expenses required by a professional career in opera, including language studies, travel, coaching and preparation.
Eva and Marc Stern have had a major impact on the arts and numerous nonprofit organizations not only in Los Angeles, but nationwide. They are among LA Opera’s most generous supporters and have been involved in nearly every aspect of the company over many years. Marc Stern has served as board chairman for 19 years, demonstrating extraordinary leadership during such financial and operational challenges as the 2008 recession and the current COVID-19 pandemic. Through their transformational giving, the Sterns have championed ambitious projects including the 2010 Ring cycle, the underwriting of numerous new productions, and the DVD releases of La Traviata and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Through the Eva and Marc Stern Principal Artists Fund, they have supported the performances of some of opera's greatest performers on the LA Opera stage. In recognition of their extraordinary longtime involvement and support of both LA Opera and the Music Center, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion's Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall was named in their honor in 2010.
The Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award was created with the intention of recognizing one or two artists each year for extraordinary artistic service. However, in consideration of the unparalleled financial peril endured by performing artists during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's $50,000 award money has been evenly divided between five outstanding singers: soprano Angel Blue, soprano Janai Brugger, bass-baritone Craig Colclough, tenor Joshua Guerrero and mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey. Four of those winners had been contracted to appear in LA Opera productions that were either canceled or postponed because of the pandemic.
"Eva and I cherish our memories of experiencing the creativity and talent of the wonderful opera artists appearing at LA Opera," said Marc Stern. "This award is our way of drawing attention to those special performers with deep connections to the company, especially those artists who began their careers in Los Angeles. People often think of opera as incredibly glamorous, but there are many elements that are anything but glamorous, and it can even be downright lonely, so Eva and I have always done whatever we can to make artists' experiences in Los Angeles as friendly and welcoming as possible. This award is a natural extension of that. We are humbled to be able to reward and support these distinguished honorees, and I hope they will continue to share their truly special gifts in Los Angeles."
"The Sterns’ passion, generosity, warmth and hospitality have long been a major asset for LA Opera in attracting, and retaining, some of the world’s greatest opera artists. In particular, they have demonstrated a significant commitment to the future of LA Opera—and opera in general—with their extraordinary support,” noted Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera's Sebastian Paul and Marybelle Musco President and CEO. "This new award cements their legacy as passionate champions for artists who are generational leaders for creativity in opera. Thanks to their extraordinarily generous gift, and the distinguished imprimatur that the award will bear, the Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award will shine a distinguished spotlight on these talented individuals.”
THE 2021 EVA AND MARC STERN ARTIST AWARD WINNERS
Three of this year's winners—Angel Blue, Janai Brugger and Joshua Guerrero—received early career training through their seasons as members of LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program.
Soprano Angel Blue joined the program in the 2006/07 season, making her official company debut in 2008 as Suzy in La Rondine after performing Musetta in a 2007 student matinee of La Bohème. Since then, she has gone on to perform leading roles in major opera houses around the world and has been hailed by London's Financial Times as "one of the outstanding voices of her generation." She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2017 as Mimi in La Bohème, and also appeared there as Musetta in the same opera. In 2019, she had the honor of opening the Metropolitan Opera season as Bess in a new production of Porgy and Bess. She has performed Violetta in La Traviata at La Scala and Covent Garden, and has also performed at the Vienna State Opera, Semperoper Dresden, San Francisco Opera, and Frankfurt Opera, among others. The native Southern Californian is a regular BBC Proms presenter and the host of the web series The Journey with Dallas Opera and Faithful Friday on her own Facebook page. She had been scheduled to return to LA Opera in 2020 as Leonora in Il Trovatore. This year, she will perform in a new Digital Short for LA Opera, created for her by composer David Lang. She will return to the company in the 2022/23 season in the title role of Tosca.
Soprano Janai Brugger was a member of the company's young artist program from 2010 to 2012, making her debut as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro in 2010. During her time as a young artist, she performed the principal role of Musetta in La Bohème. Her 2012 victories in two prestigious competitions, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and Operalia, brought her to the attention of opera companies worldwide. Her Metropolitan Opera appearances include Pamina in The Magic Flute, Liu in Turandot, Helena in The Enchanted Island and Clara in Porgy and Bess. She has also performed leading roles at Covent Garden, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dutch National Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Colorado and Palm Beach Opera, and she has appeared in concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and at the Salzburg Festival. In 2015, she was identified by Opera News as one of their top 25 "brilliant young artists." With her career fully established, she has returned to Los Angeles for roles including a reprise of Musetta as well as Pamina in The Magic Flute and Servilia in The Clemency of Titus. She had been scheduled to return in 2021 as Zerlina in Don Giovanni.
Proclaimed a “gifted young tenor” by the New York Times, Joshua Guerrero was a member of LA Opera's young artist program from 2012 to 2015, making his debut in 2014 as Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor. His subsequent leading roles with the company include Count Almaviva in The Ghosts of Versailles and Greenhorn (Ishmael) in Moby-Dick. Recent highlights include Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival and at Santa Fe Opera, where he also performed Roméo in Roméo et Juliette; Rodolfo in La Bohème with Berlin's Komische Oper and Canadian Opera Company; Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut with Frankfurt Opera; Alfredo in La Traviata with Washington National Opera; Arcadio in Florencia en el Amazonas with Houston Grand Opera; and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. His future engagements include debuts with Deutsche Oper Berlin, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Covent Garden, Dutch National Opera and Rome Opera.
"Angel, Janai and Josh are shining examples of exactly why we created the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program," said Koelsch, "namely, to identify exceptionally expressive artists, at the nascent stage of their careers, with star potential and to help them along with our own brand of mentorship, both in the rehearsal room and on our stage. Recognizing them with the Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award represents our commitment to ensuring that there will always be a new generation of important international opera singers, by investing in promising artists as they make the formidable transition from conservatory studies into professional careers."
A Los Angeles County native, bass-baritone Craig Colclough began his career with LA Opera, appearing in numerous roles since his 2008 debut as Guccio in Gianni Schicchi. His recent leading roles with the company include the Father in Hansel and Gretel and Monterone in Rigoletto, and he had been scheduled to star as Figaro in the postponed 2020 production of The Marriage of Figaro. Opera Today has praised him for his "skillfully controlled voice....wide range of dynamics and luminous bronzed vocal tones." Highlights of recent seasons include his 2019 Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Macbeth opposite Anna Netrebko. For English National Opera, he has performed Scarpia in Tosca, Jack Rance in The Girl of the Golden West and Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde. He has performed Macbeth and Telramund in Lohengrin with Belgium's Opera Vlaanderen, Scarpia with Canadian Opera Company, Fra Melitone in La Forza del Destino with Frankfurt Opera, Dr. Grenvil in La Traviata with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pistol in Falstaff for his Covent Garden debut, Figaro with Atlanta Opera, and the title role of Don Pasquale for Minnesota Opera. Future seasons include multiple returns to the Met, a debut with Grand Théâtre de Genève, and a 2022 return to LA Opera in Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
"Craig follows in the footsteps of artists like Rod Gilfry, Charles Castronovo and Greg Fedderly, who launched their LA Opera careers by performing a series of small roles and covering principal roles before moving on to establish themselves as distinguished leading artists with the company," said Koelsch. "His Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award represents the company's history of developing ongoing relationships with singers as they progress steadily in their careers. LA Opera has been a proving ground for Craig, providing meaningful performance experience that has directly translated into success on international stages.”
Praised for her "luminous and intelligent singing" and electric acting performances, mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey made her LA Opera debut in 2011 as Zaida in The Turk in Italy, subsequently appearing in the title role of Cinderella (La Cenerentola), Mrs. Noah in Noah's Flood, and in the double role of Nicklausse and the Muse in The Tales of Hoffmann. She had been scheduled to return in 2020 as Mélisande in the canceled production of Pelléas et Mélisande. Recent appearances include both the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and the title role in the world premiere of Olga Neuwirth's Orlando at the Vienna State Opera, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with the Berlin Philharmonic. She recently won acclaim as Nero in Agrippina at the Metropolitan Opera, where she has appeared in more than 100 performances in roles including Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro. She has also performed leading roles at Covent Garden, Bavarian State Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera Festival. She has released two solo albums, Thousands of Miles and Arianna, earning a five-star review from the London Times for the latter.
"Kate quickly became a company favorite in her many guest appearances in Los Angeles, and we were eagerly awaiting her imminent return to star in Pelléas et Mélisande when the pandemic forced its cancelation," said Koelsch. "By honoring her with the Eva and Marc Stern Award, we affirm our commitment to engaging with world-class artists to make sure they feel at home in Los Angeles and have a significant presence in Los Angeles at LA Opera."
Nominations for the award were selected by members of LA Opera's artistic staff, in consultation with Eva and Marc Stern.
ABOUT EVA AND MARC STERN
Eva Stern is a clinical social worker and philanthropist, supporting Southern California youth through the combination of education and the arts. A board member of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, in 2006 she led the effort to establish the Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School, an Alliance public charter high school. Inspired by her work with the high school, she established AMP, a special mentoring program for first-year college students. She also serves on the President’s Council at California State University, Los Angeles, is a member of The Blue Ribbon, and is a past chair of InsideOUT Writers, a creative writing program for youth in juvenile hall.
Marc Stern is chairman of The TCW Group, Inc., a Los Angeles-based asset management firm with approximately $250 billion of assets under management. Since 1990, he has held a number of senior management positions at TCW including CEO, president and vice chairman. He is a minority owner of both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Milwaukee Bucks. He serves on the boards of the Music Center, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Committee, California Institute of Technology, Alliance for Southern California Innovation and Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs. Mr. Stern was formerly a director of Qualcomm, Inc., a vice-chair of the Salk Institute, and was founding chairman of both the Mayor’s Fund Los Angeles and the President’s Council of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Marc and Eva Stern live in Malibu and have two children and six grandchildren.
ABOUT LA OPERA
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be with thrilling performances, thought-provoking productions and innovative programming. The communal and curative power of opera is needed now more than ever before, given the extraordinary challenges of the time. As LA Opera awaits its cue to return to the stage with world-class productions in theaters, the company is offering a multitude of content including live recitals, opera broadcasts and learning opportunities via its LA Opera On Now digital offerings, which have accumulated more than 800,000 views since launching last spring. The company is grateful to its supporters for helping to ensure that it has the resources needed to get through this unprecedented period through the LA Opera Relief Fund. Those wanting to support LA Opera can visit LAOpera.org/donate.
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