History of competition
Based on the love of Bel Canto, “beautiful singing” in Italian, opera devotee Raymond F. Giargiari created a live-audience based competition that would explore the unlimited wonders of the human voice. The competition was fashioned in memory of his late father and brother, both opera fans and AVA supporters. Thus, AVA’s Giargiari Bel Canto Competition was born. This annual aria competition features Academy of Vocal Arts’ Resident Artists as they perform in front of an audience and esteemed panel of elite judges for the top prize and the equally prestigious audience favorite award. This annual competition is another platform from which the Academy of Vocal Arts launches its Resident Artists into the operatic spotlight.
Past Winners – Where are they now?
James Valenti, tenor (’06) – Internationally acclaimed and sought after tenor, Valenti has built a global reputation for his “Italianate lustre,” commanding stage presence, and elegant vocal style. After graduating from AVA, Valenti made his professional debut at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma playing Rodolfo in Franco Zeffirelli’s production of La bohème. Since his debut, Valenti has triumphed role after role, won the 2010 Richard Tucker Award, and this January will perform a concert with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Saint Barthelemy, French West Indies. Valenti will follow this performance with his debut as Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca with Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Tosca in concert with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Stephen Costello, tenor (’07) – Philadelphia-born tenor and Richard Tucker Award winner, Costello came to national attention upon graduating from AVA when he made his Metropolitan Opera debut on the company’s season-opening night. Since his debut, Costello has appeared at many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and music festivals in the United States and Europe. Most recently, Costello could be seen alongside wife Ailyn Pérez promoting their first debut album “Love Duets.” For the next two months, Costello will be performing with Houston Grand Opera’s Cos fan tutte and in December will perform in The Metropolitan Opera’s La traviata.
Angela Meade, soprano (’09) – No stranger to receiving awards, including the 2012 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the 2011 Richard Tucker Award, the Washington-born soprano began her professional career in 2008 when she substituted for an ill colleague on the Metropolitan Opera Stage in Verdi’s Ernani. Of Meade’s talent, the New Yorker stated, “Meade is astounding… she has exceptional dynamic control, able to move from floating pianissimos to sudden dramatic swells…” Meade has prevailed in countless roles and competitions and this season will be performing around Europe with the BBC Scottish Symphony and back in the US for Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell.
Michelle Johnson, soprano (‘12) – Praised for her “clean vocal lines and magnetic immediacy” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Texas-born Johnson’s career trajectory took off since she became the 2011 Grand Prize Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Debuting as the title role in last season’s Opera Philadelphia’s Manan Lescaut, Johnson prepares for a busy year performing with Kentucky Opera in Puccini’s La fanciulla del West and with Sarasota Opera in Verdi’s Don Carlos.
Diego Silva, tenor (’15) – Currently a fourth-year Resident Artist at AVA, Mexican-born Silva is no stranger to competition. Last year, he was awarded Second Prize in the Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition and was a National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions both in 2014. Silva has performed leading roles in various AVA productions including Manon, Eugene Onegin, Il barbiere di Siviglia and L’elisir d’amore. He will graduate this year.