After a very exciting final round held on Saturday, December 2nd in Pollack Hall, we are excited to announce that soprano Anna-Sophie Neher is this year’s winner of the Wirth Vocal Prize. Alongside collaborative pianist Esther Gonthier, Anna-Sophie performed works by Mozart, Morlock, Poulenc, Wolf and Rossini to secure the title.
The finalists, selected after a preliminary round, each presented a thirty-minute program made up of pieces performed in a minimum of three languages and including at least one opera aria. Anna-Sophie received a prize that includes $25 000, performance opportunities in Montreal and Toronto and career coaching sessions with Marie-Catherine Lapointe of Boulevart Artists’ Management in Montreal. She also received a 14k gold pin in the form of the prize logo. This year’s other finalists, bass-baritone Jean-Philippe Mc Clish, soprano Gina Hanzlik and soprano Carolyn Beaudoin, were each awarded a cash prize of $1 000. Jury members included Stéphane Lemelin, Chair of Music Performance, Stefano Algieri, Voice professor and Chair of the voice area, Kathleen Kelly, American conductor, coach, and collaborative pianist and Joseph Rouleau, renowned Canadian bass opera singer.
Anna-Sophie found a true passion in music at an early age. She studied piano at the Conservatoire de musique de Gatineau for more than 10 years and has distinguished herself in many competitions. Although she seemed destined to a pianistic career, at 19 years old she discovered the world of classical singing and decided to change vocation. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from le Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, Anna-Sophie spent a year in New York at Bard College studying with Dawn Upshaw and Sanford Sylvan. Back in Montreal to complete her Master’s degree, she is now working with Dominique Labelle at the Schulich School of Music. Recently, she has won the Prix Étoiles Stingray from l’Opéra de Montréal, third prize at the Canadian Opera Centre Stage Competition and first prize in the voice category at the OSM Manulife Competition.
Anna-Sophie has sung the roles of Adele in Die Fledermaus with Opera McGill, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Bard College, Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Æneas with the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro with the Orford International Summer Festival. In concert, Anna-Sophie was a soloist for many professional orchestras and choirs including l’Orchestre symphonique de Gatineau and l’Orchestre du festival international de Lanaudière. This season, Anna-Sophie will sing Handel’s Messiah with l’Orchestre symphonique de Gatineau and the role of Blanche in Dialogue des carmélites with Opera McGill.
The Wirth Vocal Prize was instituted in 2015 thanks to the immense generosity of Elizabeth Wirth. This prize highlights the excellence of one vocal student from the Schulich School of Music who has proven their talent and shows the potential to pursue a career on the international stage. The vocal professors at the Schulich School of Music can recommend full-time undergraduate or graduate students who demonstrate a high level of achievement. Past winners include Chelsea Rus and Simone McIntosh.
Photo by Peter Matulina. From left to right: Stéphane Lemelin, Brenda Ravenscroft, Anna-Sophie Neher, Kathleen Kelly, Joseph Rouleau, Stefano Algieri, Esther Gonthier.