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Young Opera Theatre Stars Win Top International Prizes


Tenor René Barbera takes his nine high C’s from OTSL stage to three first place wins at Operalia

 Soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen takes two first place awards at Belvedere Singing Competition


St. Louis, MO — Tenor René Barbera – star of Opera Theatre’s 2011 production of The Daughter of the Regiment ­­– won three first place prizes on Sunday, July 24 at the 2011 Operalia Competition in Moscow.  Operalia is an international contest founded by tenor Placido Domingo to promote the best young talent in the opera world.

Barbera’s performance of “Ah mes amis!” from Daughter was met with a rousing ovation by the international audience.  He took top honors in three categories: 1) Men’s First Prize for Opera, 2) Men’s First Prize for Zarzuela (a traditional Spanish style of music akin to operetta), and 3) Audience Favorite. 

Barbera made his Opera Theatre debut this past season, after having won the 2008 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and participating in the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  His OTSL portrayal of Tonio in Daughter was hailed by critics and audiences as a triumph for the quickly rising star.  The New York Times wrote, “the charming tenor hit his notorious nine high C’s and considerably more, securely and seemingly effortlessly.”

 “Singing The Daughter of the Regiment in St. Louis helped quite a bit with my performance of the aria at Operalia,” said Barbera.  “I was able to incorporate the staging and some of the discoveries I made about the character.  It certainly helps that the cast I had at OTSL was incredible!”

 “Everyone at OTSL is thrilled about this huge success for René,” said Timothy O’Leary, Opera Theatre’s General Director.  “He is the latest example of Opera Theatre’s mission to discover and promote the very greatest operatic talent of each generation.  St. Louis audiences should stay tuned for news of René in a future season, as we’re working to bring him back as soon as possible.”

Another Opera Theatre artist taking home top honors at a major international competition is soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen.  Willis-Sørensen won first prize for both opera and operetta among nearly 3,000 young singers from around the world who took part in Vienna’s Belvedere Singing Competition on July 8.  She will make her OTSL debut next season as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte

Opera Theatre’s 2012 season opens on May 19, 2012. Mozart’s sparkling comedy Così fan tutte plays in repertory along with the company’s second Sondheim production, his 1979 masterpiece Sweeney Todd, the first OTSL starring role for St. Louis’s own rising international opera star Kendall Gladen in Bizet’s Carmen, and the much-anticipated American premiere of Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang’s Alice in Wonderland.


About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

 Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions featuring the finest American singers, sung in English, and accompanied by members of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.  As of 2011, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 22 American premieres – which is perhaps the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” and by Opera Today as, “the leading summer opera destination in the United States,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis welcomed visitors from 45 states and 12 foreign countries in 2011.  Although the size of the theater limits box office income to 26% of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

 Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.