Discontinuance of the Rosa Ponselle
INTERNATIONAL Competition for the Vocal Arts

The Rosa Ponselle Foundation presented the last of its INTERNATIONAL Competitions during the Centenary year of Rosa Ponselle in 1997. Following the Competition, the Foundation made a determination not to offer the INTERNATIONAL Competition, and explained its position in the following communiqué to young artists and music institutions.

Following the year 1997, The Rosa Ponselle Foundation decided not to offer its INTERNATIONAL Competition for the Vocal Arts nor the Rosa Ponselle "YOUNG NEW YORKERS'" Competition to young aspiring opera singers until further notice.

Given the paucity of competent trainers in the field, the decline in the technical and artistic achievements of our young vocal talents due to their inability to be adequately prepared for the demands of the art, The Rosa Ponselle Foundation will no longer expend sums of money within the INTERNATIONAL and "YOUNG NEW YORKERS'" Competition formats to uncover our latest worthy talents. Since initiating the INTERNATIONAL Competition in 1984, The Rosa Ponselle Foundation has awarded, in cash prizes and study grants, over $497,000 during its nine presentments. Above and beyond that figure, over $2,000,000 has been spent for hall rentals, accompanists fees, international jurists, their transportation, hotels, per diems, meal expenses; and PR and advertising. The above figures do not represent the costs expended for the 1996 Rosa Ponselle "YOUNG NEW YORKERS'" Competition nor the eight Annual Rosa Ponselle "ALL MARYLANDERS'" Competition presentments. That figure would be placed at an additional $400,000.

Without consistent and competent technical and artistic training of young singers, the potentials of our fine young talents cannot be realized. As institutional training will only provide for one lesson per week (when a young developing singer requires three to four), it is pointless for The Rosa Ponselle Foundation, which bears the name of such an exemplary vocal artist, to sponsor the funding of young vocal artists who, through no fault of their own, are unable to be either competently or thoroughly trained.

Perhaps our young generation of singers, after listening to the CD recordings of our past operatic greats, will make more demands of their institutions and teachers to train them into our future operatic greats rather than keeping them in static positions in terms of their vocal and artistic development. This is all well and good for the continued employment of the teachers and the tuitions received by institutions; however, singers must be trained to sing by their late teens or very early twenties (during their optimal developmental years). Careers should begin in the early (for women) to mid-twenties (for men) and not in the late thirties and forties. Bachelors', masters' degrees and performance programs do little, if anything, to create fine vocal artists if there is inadequate frequency and competent vocal and artistic training. A voice major will not succeed in a professional career if vocal and artistic training are not given with competency and frequency. The Rosa Ponselle Foundation shall not contribute to the decline of the art by continuing to sponsor it in the manner it has since 1984.

As a competition administrator and frequent adjudicator in international competitions, I can state with knowledge and experience, that a fine singer does not need a competition! It is the competition that needs fine singers. If one has talent, the goal should be to bypass competitions and go directly into the performance career. Detours into higher degree programs and competitions are not necessary to the career. Once one knows HOW to sing and has several operatic roles under the belt, reliance can be upon competent stage directors to shepherd an artist through the performances. Opera center detours are not necessary. The professional stage should be the first step to a long and successful career--NOT THE LAST. That is if our current-day presenters will look beyond age discrimination policies such as did Gatti-Casazza with the 21-year-old Rosa Ponselle who, at THAT age, debuted as Leonora in Verdi's LA FORZA DEL DESTINO at the Metropolitan Opera House opposite Enrico Caruso on November 15, 1918. Just imagine! If Ponselle, herself, appeared in the flesh in 1999 or 2000 and requested an audition, would she be allowed one at the Met or any other regional opera house until she went through all of the detours including several years as an in-house singer in Germany and returned at age 40 to hope for an American career? By 40, Ponselle had sung all of her great roles, retired and left her legacy.

Because The Rosa Ponselle Foundation has hopes for the future, it shall seek out and fund worthy young national and international talents in a non-competition format who are deserving of receiving intensified training of three to four hours per week with competent and dedicated teachers with the highest professional integrity; and who do not charge RAPACIOUS lesson fees.

It shall also continue its "ALL MARYLANDERS'" Competition allowing Washington, D.C. residents to enter as well, beginning in the year 2000. We do hope that this innovative project, which accepts singers between ages l0 to 2l shall, one day, justify the hopes upon which our future funding is placed AND we shall see, once again, Rosa Ponselles.

We thank you for your regard of The Rosa Ponselle Foundation's dedication to young artists and are sorry we can no longer continue two of its three competitions. Perhaps the institutional programs shall, one day, seek to train our young vocal artists in a manner consistent with the needs of the art.

Very truly yours,

(Miss) Elayne Duke
President

 

 

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