On January 29th, Pittsburg State University hosted the 5th Annual Barbara Rondelli Kansas Statewide Classical Voice Competition at the Bicknell family center for the arts.
The competition consisted of 4 categories of singers- sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, tenors, and baritones (all undergraduate students)- competing a repertoire of arias to win their categories, and a 1500 scholarship. Songs were performed in various languages- from German, to English, to Italian, to Latin. The Rondelli Voice Competition is known as a great way to get the best of the best vocalists in the state together to perform beautiful music.
Barbara Rondelli Perry was a lyrical soprano, with a notable and extensive career in Europe, South Africa, the U.S., and Mexico. She graduated from Pittsburg State University, and the Royal Academy of Music in London- studying on a two-year Fulbright Scholarship. Highlights of her career include the prizewinner in the International Bavarian Radio Competition in Munich, a Diploma Winner in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and the title role of Madame Butterfly with the New York City Opera and the Honolulu Opera, alongside dozens of notable international performances. Later in life, the Barbara Rondelli Perry scholarship for Superior Achievement in Vocal Performance was endowed by Dr. Richard R. Perry at PSU in 2005, and later in 2016 the couple established the Rondelli Kansas Statewide Classical Voice Competition- awarding the top soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone undergraduate student in the competition held at PSU each year.
Beginning with a rigorous audition process, students across Kansas were asked to submit a few selections of arias and classical songs, sung by themselves on video and submitted for review back in November of 2021. Finalists were chosen – the top 4 vocalists in each category. These top 4 singers were then asked to choose 2 more pieces to add to their repertoire to perform for a judging panel. After the competition is held and the judges’ evaluations are final- a winner is chosen and awarded a $1500 scholarship.
Courtland Reinholtz, a senior in vocal performance and business accounting, performed as a baritone in the competition.
“I was actually a first alternate for this competition, and I was told 2 weeks ago that one of the other baritones had to cancel, so I have been working on these pieces for about 2 weeks. So, it’s been pretty stressful, but I feel like I gave a good performance,” Reinholtz said.
Couri performed such pieces as Se Vuol Ballare by Mozart, Liebst du um Shonheit by Gustave Mahler, and Take O Take Those Lips away by Roger Quilter, among other classical pieces.
Soloists can be graded on any number of factors- from technique to stage presence. Reinholtz noted on what a soloist can be critiqued on in their performance.
“You can be graded on stylistic techniques, styles. You can’t sing a love song and look angry all of the time, that doesn’t fly,” Reinholtz said. “You have to look hopeful and add characterization. You have to use your posture, and vocal techniques, like singing from the diaphragm and not the throat.”
Typically following the announcement of the winners, a winner’s reception will be held as well as a concert. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, this was not held. In addition to the difficulties of lesser celebrations, challenges come in just the performance from each contestant. Couri noted on the challenges he experienced in preparing for the competition.
“The hardest part for me right now is that I’ve only had 2 weeks to get these songs together. The biggest problem I’ve had was memorizing all of it, especially the wordy songs,” he said. “They’re all in different languages, so it’s hard to learn it all. But a way to strengthen that is to learn the English translation and then add your own meaning to it too, and focus on what each section means, and that can help with memorization.”