2021 Competition

8th Annual Handel Aria Competition

August 20, 2021 at 7:30pm CDT
Grace Episcopal Church, Madison, Wisconsin

The 8th Annual Handel Aria Competition took place August 20th, 2021 at 7:30pm at the Grace Episcopal Church, Madison, Wisconsin. The finalists were selected from a field of 150 applications from around the world and accompanied by the Madison Bach Musicians under the direction of Trevor Stephenson.


First prize: Kyle Tingzon countertenor

Second prize: Sophie Michaux mezzo soprano

Third prize: Maya Kherani soprano

The finalists smiling for the camera. From left to right is Maya Kherani, Kyle Tingzon, and Sophie Michaux.
Left to right: Maya Kherani, Kyle Tingzon, and Sophie Michaux | Photo by Barry Lewis

Final Round Judges

The finalists in the 2021 Handel Aria Competition, with artistic director Sarah Brailey and judge David Ronis (far left) and judges John Holiday and Alessandra Visconti (far right) | Photo by Barry Lewis.

John Holiday

Countertenor John Holiday has established himself as “one of the finest countertenors of his generation” (Los Angeles Times). His voice has been praised as “a thing of astonishing beauty” (New Yorker), “arrestingly powerful, secure and dramatically high” (Wall Street Journal), “exceptional [and] strong…even in its highest range” (The New York Times) and “timeless” (Washington Post). Holiday’s unique voice and powerful story have been the subject of profiles in The New Yorker, CNN’s Great Big Story, Los Angeles Times, and more.

In 2021, Holiday will make his anticipated Metropolitan Opera debut in Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice as Orpheus’s Double, and is slated to make his role debut as Cherubino in Le Nozze Di Figaro at Dallas Opera. An acclaimed concert singer, Holiday has performed at world-renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, London’s Barbican Center, and the Philharmonie de Paris. His career highlights have included a tour with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Sorceress in Barrie Kosky’s production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice as Orpheus’s Double at the Los Angeles Opera; the world premiere of Daniel Roumain’s We Shall Not Be Moved with Opera Philadelphia and the Dutch National Opera; title role in Xerxes at the Glimmerglass Festival; and Caesar in Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto at Wolf Trap Opera. 

David Ronis

David Ronis, the Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, previously taught Queens College/CUNY, Hofstra University, and Wagner College. The 2018 second place recipient of The American Prize’s Charles Nelson Reilly Award for Opera Directing, he is also a nine-time National Opera Association Production Competition winner. His guest directing engagements include Shreveport Opera, SUNY Potsdam, Rutgers University, Queens Symphony Orchestra, Madison Bach Musicians, Four Seasons Theatre, After Dinner Opera, La Musica Lirica, and Manhattan School of Music’s “From Page to Stage” series. Mr. Ronis is the co-founder of the Baroque Opera Workshop at Queens College and has taught at the American Institute for Musical Studies in Graz, Austria (AIMS), Westchester Summer Vocal Institute, Druid City Opera Workshop, and La Lingua della Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy. A certified teacher of the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique and specialist in integrative acting and movement techniques for singers, Mr. Ronis has given master classes and workshops at universities throughout the United States. As a performer, he sang over 50 operatic roles with companies all over the world, concertized extensively, toured nationally in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and appeared in independent films and nationally televised commercials.

Alessandra Visconti

Alessandra Visconti grew up in Rome and has a background in music and linguistics. She has sung throughout Europe, the US and Japan, performing music from the 12th to the 20th century with the Mark Morris Dance Group, Pomerium, Voices of Ascension, the Newberry Consort, and Musica Sacra. She has recorded with Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Dorian Records and has translated numerous opera libretti. An instructor of Italian at Northwestern University, she also teaches at the Ryan Opera Center, and serves as the Italian and Latin language coach of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Every summer she teaches at Music in the Marche, an international opera program where young singers are immersed for a month in Italian language and culture. Alessandra currently lives in Evanston, Illinois, where she enjoys biking, yoga, and swimming in Lake Michigan.


Left to right: Hannah De Priest, Maya Kherani, Bradley King, Kyle Tingzon, Margaret Carpenter Haigh, Sophie Michaux, and Paulina Francisco | Photo by Barry Lewis

Margaret Carpenter Haigh soprano

Praised as “fiery, wild, and dangerous” (Classical Voice North Carolina) with “a talent for character portrayal” (Chicago Classical Review), soprano Margaret Carpenter Haigh captivates audiences with her “flawless intonation” and “perfect vocalism” (CNVC). Commanding “expressive power, exquisite diction, and a clear, flexible voice” (Cleveland Classical), Margaret is in demand as a soloist and chamber musician throughout North America. Her dazzling technique and formidable skills as a collaborative artist shine in performances of repertoire spanning from the Renaissance and Baroque to the modern day.

Recent highlights include appearances with Memphis, Winston-Salem, and Portland Symphonies; Messiah Festival of the Arts; Bach Akademie Charlotte; National Sawdust; Arizona MusicFest; and Evansville Philharmonic. She can be heard regularly with some of the nation’s premier ensembles including The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Handel and Haydn Society, Bach Akademie Charlotte, and GRAMMY©-winning Apollo’s Fire. She is co-artistic director of L’Académie du Roi Soleil, with which she has performed in venues across the United States and the United Kingdom.

Margaret holds degrees from Case Western Reserve University; the University of Cambridge, where she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar; and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Recent scholarship includes work on physical gesture in the madrigal repertoire of the concerto delle donne in late sixteenth-century Ferrara, and she is active as an educator, teaching voice and leading workshops on physical gesture for singers. Margaret lives in New York City and is a member of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. More at www.margaretcarpenterhaigh.com.

Hannah De Priest soprano

Hailed as a “natural Handelian” (Chicago Classical Review), lyric soprano Hannah De Priest performs a wide range of repertoire with signature warmth and “impeccable” technique. Recent performances include “vivid portrayals” (Schmopera) of Medée and Circé with Les Délices, singing as the sole American finalist of Le Concours Corneille, where she was lauded as “the most masterful voice” (Olyrix), attending the Carmel Bach Festival as a Virginia Best Adams Vocal Fellow, and, with pianist Michael Pecak, being chosen for Oxford Lieder’s prestigious Mastercourse and named a 2021-22 Pegasus Rising Young Artist. Opera credits include an “irresistible” (L’Opera) Belinda in Dido & Aeneas, Ïole (Hercules), Oberto (Alcina), Drusilla (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Isabelle (cover) in André Campra’s Le Carnaval de Venise.

A 2021 finalist in North America’s two major Bach competitions, Hannah is an in-demand soloist for masterworks including Handel’s Messiah and Dixit Dominus, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and many others. This season, she dèbuts with Columbus Symphony for performances of Bach’s St. John Passion. Other 2021-22 performances include return engagements with Les Délices, Bella Voce, Ars Musica Chicago, and song projects with duo partner Michael Pecak. Next, Hannah flies to Innsbruck to compete in the International Cesti Competition.

During the peculiar 2020-21 season, Hannah organized multiple recitals and recording projects, including a live-stream of Beethoven’s seminal An die ferne Geliebte. She was twice featured on the early music webseries SalonEra and participated in online training programs through the Schloss Weißenbrunn Foundation and ARTEK. Her dèbut with Les Délices, (released digitally), was recognized as “sensational.”

Paulina Francisco soprano

Paulina Francisco is a versatile singer and interpreter of early music and a practitioner of historically informed performance. While spending the last several years in Bloomington, IN pursuing a DM in Historical Performance at Indiana University, Paulina has performed with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Christ Church Cathedral, Bourbon Baroque, Alchymy Viols, the Bloomington Bach Cantata Project, and the Beecher Singers of Second Presbyterian Church. Notable solo engagements include; Calliope in Handel’s serenata Parnasso in Festa directed by Jeffrey Thomas, Bach’s St. John Passion directed by John Butt, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater led by Stanley Ritchie, as well as Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri and Haydn’s Missa Brevis in B-flat at Christ Church Cathedral. Paulina is a founding member of Las Aves, an ensemble that specializes in performance of 17th century and early Baroque chamber music. Las Aves has performed at the International Sacred Music Festival in Quito, Ecuador and the Bloomington Early Music Festival.

Maya Kherani soprano

Praised for her “rich, soaring soprano” and “crystalline tone” (Opera News) in repertoire from the Baroque to the modern, Maya Kherani is currently a Resident Artist at Opera San José for the 2020-21 season. Career highlights include starring in the title role of Handel’s Partenope with Opera NEO, Bea in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers opposite Susan Graham at Opera San José, and Meera in the world premiere of River of Light, commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera. Upcoming engagements include Drusilla/Fortuna (Poppea cover) in L’incoronazione di Poppea at the 2022 Festival d’Aix-en-Provence under the baton of Leonardo Garcia Alarcón, Messiah with Boston Baroque, Belinda in Dido and Aeneas at Opera San José, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Modesto, and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera San José. She received First Place and the Audience Favorite award at the James Toland Vocal Competition (Tier II), the 2015 McGlone Award from Central City Opera, two fellowships to travel to Venice from the Fondazione Giorgio Cini (Seminari di Musica Antica), two Encouragement Awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and last year, was the only American soprano to compete as a Semifinalist in the international Glyndebourne Opera Cup. Prior to her singing career, Ms. Kherani graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a BSE in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Bradley King tenor

Based in New York, tenor Bradley King has been praised by reviewers and audiences for his “profound” and “engaging” style (Zadar Festival Review). Established as a singer of unique versatility, Bradley performs regularly in a broad range of programs from contemporary to ancient. As a specialist in early music, he performs regularly with the Rose Ensemble, the Thirteen, and Les Canards Chantants. Bradley also frequently collaborates with composers on new works having created the roles of Dr. Neare in The Analyzing Engine by Andrew Lovett and the titular role in Tam Lin by Elliot Cole and Fiona Gillespie. On the recital stage, Bradley’s unique blend of power and sweetness has earned him accolades at home and abroad, notably First Prize at the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition, and performances at the Mozarteum Academy in Salzburg. Bradley holds degrees in voice and conducting from DePauw University and the University of North Texas.

Sophie Michaux mezzo-soprano

Praised for her “warm, colorful mezzo” by Opera News, Sophie Michaux has become one of Boston’s most versatile and compelling vocalists. Born in London and raised in the French Alps, Sophie’s unique background informs her artistic identity, making her feel at home in an eclectic span of repertoire ranging from grand opera to French cabaret songs. Recent solo engagements include a solo recital of Barbara Strozzi’s vocal music (Fundazione Cini in Venice, Italy), the role of Siface in Cavalli’s Scipione Affricano (Haymarket Opera), Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater (Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra) and the world premiere of Rudoi’s Our Transcendental Passion (Boston Cecilia). A consummate singing actor, Sophie appeared as Ceres in Boston Early Music Festival’s production of Lalande’s Les Fontaines de Versailles, garnering acclaim from the Boston Musical Intelligencer for her “astonishing range and flexibility.” She has sung the title roles of La Cenerentola (NEMPAC), Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia (Opera Brittenica), and Rinaldo (Boston Opera Collaborative) for which she was nominated Best Female Performer in an Opera for the 2015 Arts Impulse Theatre Awards. With the Lorelei Ensemble, Boston’s groundbreaking professional women’s ensemble, she has performed alongside the Boston Symphony Orchestra, A Far Cry, and others, and she has been featured in numerous works from Renaissance polyphony to Björk. She is also a frequent collaborator with Blue Heron. She has sung under the direction of Andris Nelsons, Leonardo García Alarcón, Lidiya Yankovskaya, Beth Willer, Scott Metcalfe, Gil Rose, Gabriel Garrido, Michael Sakir, among others.

Kyle Sanchez Tingzon countertenor

Filipino countertenor Kyle Sanchez Tingzon is a newcomer to the Bay Area music scene. Recent performances include a role debut of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (as Ottone), scenes from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (as Baba the Turk), Handel’s Xerxes (as Arsamenes), and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (as Orfeo) at San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2020-2021. 

In 2020, Kyle won third prize at the Rochester International Vocal Competition in New York, organized by the Rochester Oratorio Society. 

Kyle’s past performances in the Philippines include J. Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis, Händel’s Messiah and Dixit Dominus. He has also performed Vivaldi’s Gloria in D at the Svenska Kyrkans Gosskörsförening, a festival of male choirs in Rättvik, Sweden. He was a street singer and featured soloist in a performance of Bernstein’s Mass at the Esplanade in Singapore. Kyle was also featured as a soloist at the annual International Bamboo Organ Festival in Las Piñas City, Philippines, a festival dedicated to the performance of early music. Kyle is currently pursuing his postgraduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, studying under César Ulloa. In 2021, he graduated with a Master of Music degree in Voice, with a Historical Performance emphasis, from the same institution. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Management, minor in Economics, from Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. He also studied voice privately under Christopher Arceo.


8th Annual Handel Aria Competition Program

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