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Opera winner a resounding No. 1; Competition: Bass baritone thrills the house, while a soprano who placed fifth charms the crowd.


As in past years, the Annapolis Opera's annual vocal competition, held Sunday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, turned out to be one of the joys of the concert season.

Eight young singers studying in Maryland competed for recognition and prize money before one of the largest audiences to attend this delightful event. Admission was free, thanks to a grant from the Helena Foundation, an organization in Crownsville that sponsors cultural and educational projects.

Annapolis Opera artistic director Ronald Gretz anchored the judge's panel, which included Naval Academy organist Monte Maxwell and Charlotte Wesley Holloman, a Washington voice teacher.

I doubt anyone had a problem with their choice of a winner. Bass baritone Dae-San No thrilled the house with his contrasting arias; a sophisticated, richly dramatic "L'onore! Ladri!" from Verdi's "Falstaff" and a gorgeously lyrical "Warm Is the Autumn Night" from Douglas Moore's "Ballad of Baby Doe."

His voice is deep, warm and characterful, and his Italian sounded first-class. The $800 prize went to the right person.

Elsewhere, though, the judges and I parted company.

Mezzo-soprano Ryu-Kyung Kim gave a lustrous "Must the Winter Come So Soon" from Samuel Barber's "Vanessa," but the coloratura runs in her baroque aria from Handel sounded harsh, if not downright nasty. I loved her agility, but wouldn't have placed her second.

Runner-up honors should have gone to soprano Cristina Nassif. Her voice sounded younger and less developed than some of the others, but her aria from Rossini's "Semiramide" had more than enough charm and substance to rate her much higher than fifth place.

Surely she deserved a higher ranking than Jose Sacin, the throaty tenor with the awful French who finished third.

The audience awarded Nassif the Aris Allen Memorial Prize of $150 as the popular favorite.

Kudos also to soprano Lisa Lockhart of Poolesville, who finished fourth. When her vocal technique catches up with her expressive intensity, she's going to be quite something.

Pub Date: 2/11/99

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