The Mildred Miller International Voice Competition was founded in 2011 to identify and nurture talented young singers. The competition is named for Pittsburgh Festival Opera founder Mildred Miller Posvar, who sang for 26 illustrious seasons at the Metropolitan Opera and other world capitals. Miller's acclaimed recordings include Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with conductor Bruno Walter, Mozart's Le Nozze de Figaro with Erich Leinsdorf, and the commemorative concert and album celebrating the Boston Pops Orchestra 100th anniversary with Arthur Fiedler.
From an initial pool of over 220 applicants, approximately 20 semi-finalists are invited to come to Pittsburgh to sing for a panel of internationally-acclaimed judges, led by the company founder and competition’s namesake Mildred Miller Posvar. The Semi-Final Round is open to the public free of charge.
The following day, eight singers selected by the judges from Saturday's Semi-Final Round, present arias during the Final Round. From these eight finalists, three are selected as winners and a fourth chosen as “Audience Favorite.” Winners receive prizes and resident artist contracts ranging from $4,000 to $6,000 in Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s summer season. Afterwards, audiences enjoy delicious food and drink while they mingle with Mildred, the judges, and the event's finalists at a ticketed party/reception.
As well as awarding monetary prizes, the Mildred Miller International Voice Competition offers young singers leading roles in productions, helping them develop their performing experience and build their repertoire. Previous Competition award winners include:
Meghan Kasanders, first-prize winner in 2017, has been lauded by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for her “…important voice, big and opulent,” Kasanders is quickly gaining recognition as a promising young dramatic soprano, and is currently working towards an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School, under the direction of Stephen Wadsworth.
Alasdair Kent, first-prize winner in 2016, was hailed in his 2017 appearance with Wolf Trap Opera, and he made his European debut with the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. This fall, he performs in Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri with the Opéra National de Montpellier, France.
Kisma Jordan placed first in the 2015 MMIVC competition. Kisma has appeared in multiple recital series around the country since winning the competition and appeared last fall as Michaëla with the Western Opera Reserve.
Karen Chia-ling Ho placed first in the 2014 MMIVC event. She sang Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with San Francisco’s prestigious Merola Opera and made her debut at St. Petersburg Opera (Tampa) as Liu in Turandot.
Soprano Elizabeth Baldwin, the 2013 MMIVC winner, received critical acclaim for her performance in the title role of Ariadne on Naxos in the 2014 Festival, and has contracts with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. She was recently seen as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin at Chautauqua Opera Company and the title role in Tosca at both the California Theater and Opera San Jose.
Tenor Juan José de León, 2012 winner, is a rising star in demand to sing leading Rossini roles. He was showcased at the Festival as Tamino in The Magic Flute, a role he also sang as a resident artist at Pittsburgh Opera. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the world premiere of Two Boys. He has since sung with the opera companies of La Scala, Paris, Rome, Verona, Mallorca, Stuttgart, and Tel Aviv, among others.
Countertenor Andrey Nemzer, 2011 first-place winner, was cast in leading roles in Festival productions and went on to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and was a third place winner in the prestigious Operalia competition led by Placido Domingo. At the Met, Nemzer covered for David Daniels in the title role of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, a role he sang for the first time in Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s 2016 Festival. In 2017, he appeared in the title role of Handel’s Xerxes with the Festival Opera.