2020-2021 Wirth Vocal Prize Winner Announced


Published: 17May2021
Emily Richter, soprano and Rebecca Klassen-Wiebe, piano on stage performing at the Wirth Vocal Prize Final
Image by Dominick Gravel.

Congratulations to soprano Emily Richter, winner of the 2020-2021 Wirth Vocal Prize! 

On Sunday, May 16, three finalists filled Pollack Hall with songs and arias spanning three centuries of music. Soprano Jacqueline Woodley with pianist with Jennifer Szeto and lutenist Sylvain Bergeron, tenor Wesley Harrison with pianist Esther Gonthier and soprano Emily Richter with pianist Rebecca Klassen-Wiebe lit up the stage with their talent and skill.  

A student of Dominique Labelle, Emily’s award-winning programme included mélodies by Henri Duparc and lieder by Richard Strauss as well as Donna Elivira's aria “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata” from Act II of Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni and Gustave Charpentier’s sublime “Depuis le jour” from his opera, Louise. Emily shared that though it’s hard to pick a favourite piece in her program, she really enjoyed how the Strauss and Duparc both contrasted and complemented one another. She went on to share, “This year in Song Interpretation I've been focusing on Duparc. I think it's really taught me how to trust the music I'm singing and expand into phrases instead of trying to always ‘make music happen.’ I'm learning to receive more from the music I make. It's so tempting to try to ‘make moments’ but sometimes the most beautiful musical moment is when you trust the music to tell you how to phrase.”  

For the final, each singer performed a twenty-five-minute programme, which included at least one aria, and showcased a minimum of three languages, as outlined in the competition requirements. The jury for the final round was comprised of celebrated Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, Music Director of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Emeritus of l’Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil Marc David, and violinist and head music librarian at the Marvin Duchow Music Library, Houman Behzadi and was chaired by Prof. Douglas McNabney, Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at the Schulich School of Music. 

The winner of this year’s Wirth Vocal Prize received a generous scholarship, valued at $25,000, as well as a smaller likeness of the Wirth Vocal Prize logo — a small crown — in the form of a 14-karat gold lapel pin. In addition, the winner will perform in the upcoming Schulich concert season and receives 6 hours of career coaching sessions with Marie-Catherine Lapointe of Boulevart Artists’ Management in Montreal. Runners-up in the final were awarded a $1,000 cash prize. 

About the Wirth Vocal Prize 

The Wirth Vocal Prize in vocal performance was established in 2015 through the extraordinary generosity of Elizabeth Wirth to the Schulich School of Music of McGill University, along with new Student Excellence Awards, and an innovative Student Initiatives Fund. Awarded yearly since its inception, the Wirth Vocal Prize recognizes a voice student who demonstrates exceptional talent and significant promise for an international career.  

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