By Max Dickstein
Bigger and better than ever, the Italian Idol Singing Competition at Wagner College in Memory of Licia Albanese will mount its 20th edition to celebrate Italian Heritage Month.
The Wagner College Department of Music and the Da Vinci Society will host the beloved singing competition on Friday, October 20, at 5 p.m. in the Music Performance Center in Campus Hall.
“Over the years, the competition has grown in size and prestige,” said Competition Director and Curator Anthony Turner, a Wagner College voice professor. “With the help of the voice faculty, our professional judges come from the highest ranks of the community of vocal performers and teachers in New York City.”
The competition is open to Wagner undergraduate sophomore, junior and senior students who currently study voice. Students perform an Italian song or aria to compete for significant cash awards. A top-tier panel of renowned opera singers, voice teachers, coaches and opera critics will serve as judges.
Among the attendees will be Roger Wesby, the Wagner professor emeritus who founded the event in collaboration with the Da Vinci Society. In 2003, then-Provost Devorah Lieberman was looking for ways to reinvigorate the annual observances of Italian Heritage Month at Wagner College. Wesby proposed a singing contest.
“It really turned a corner when Anthony became interested in it several years later,” Wesby said. “I go every year — Anthony insists.”
Another major coup came six years ago when former Wagner trustee Al Palladino ’61 attended the competition with a colleague from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation board, which was liquidating its assets. Impressed by the quality and organization of the event, the board decided to give the competition a $50,000 gift to cover prize money and payments to the event’s piano accompanist, judges and videographer. In recognition of this generous gift and a dramatic breakthrough for the event, organizers named the event in memory of Licia Albanese, a famed Italian-born soprano who died in 2014.
Singers in the competition will compete for prizes that range from a $2,000 first prize to a $500 prize for an honorable mention. The winner will also receive an offer of a substantial scholarship to the Orfeo Vocal Arts Academy (OVAA) summer program in Dresden, Germany from its director, Professor Alan Dornak, a Wagner College voice instructor.
Audience members will enjoy Contest Italian works either by Italian-born composers (e.g. Verdi, Bellini) or by composers strongly influenced by Italian music and culture (e.g. Mozart, Händel), many of them works from the go-to songbook for voice students and instructors, Twenty-Six Italian Songs and Arias.
“Almost any voice student has one of these books under their arm walking around campus,” Wesby said. “They’re really good on the voice and beautiful artistically.” The winners will be named on the Wagner College website. For further information, please contact Turner at email@example.com.