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Vocal Competition

The 36th Annual PS Opera Guild Vocal Competition finals will take place in Palm Springs on December 8, 2019, at the Annenberg Theatre. Do not miss out!

Visit the Event Calendar to purchase tickets.

2018 Vocal Competition Highlights

The 2018 competition was held on Sunday, December 2 at the Indian Wells Theater, Cal State University San Bernardino, Palm Desert Campus, 37500 Cook St., Palm Desert. First Place went to tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli, Second Place to soprano Grace Kahl, Third Place to soprano Taylor Haines, Fourth Place to baritone Ben Lowe and Runners Up prizes went to soprano Tara Wheeker, mezzo-soprano Brennan Blankenship, tenor Luis Leon, tenor JJ Lopez, and baritone Gerardo de la Torre. The Gracia Alkema Audience Choice Award was awarded to baritone Ben Lowe.

Produced by the Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert over the past thirty-five years, the Palm Springs Vocal Competition has awarded scholarships to hundreds of young men and women who are preparing for a career in the operatic arts. The finalists, selected through an auditioning process, perform before a live audience. The finals judges include professionals charged with discovering new talent for their productions. This year the judges were David Bennett, Managing Director of San Diego Opera, Dominic Domingo, Artistic Administrator of San Diego Opera and Susanne Sheston, conductor and Chorus Master of Santa Fe Opera.

Many of the finalists from past competitions have gone on to achieve significant success in their field. Vocal competitions like these enable emerging singers to perfect their craft and start to get recognition as they rise up in the ranks of operatic performance. Several first place winners are currently singing with major opera companies in such venues as Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, the New York Metropolitan, LA Opera, San Diego Opera and Santa Fe Opera. Four of the most famous are performing regularly in opera companies around the world. They are: soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, who sings the title roles of Aida and Tosca at the Met this season; soprano Angela Meade, the youngest singer to be on the cover of the Diva issue of Opera News who performs in Boito’s Mefestofele at the Met this season; tenor Charles Castronovo, who sings the role of Alfredo in La Traviata at Bastille Opera in Paris and at Royal Opera, Covent Garden this winter; and soprano Amber Wagner, who sings the role of Giorgetta in Il Tabarro in the Met’s production of Trittico this winter and is featured in October’s Opera News as one of their “stars to watch.”

The Palm Springs Opera Guild Vocal Competition is named after long-time Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert patron Dorothy Nocita. Dorothy had an impressive career that included setting up and collating classified materials related to the early testing of nuclear weapons. Prior to her retirement, Dorothy met the love of her life, Colonel John W Nocita and married him on July 1982. They lived in Northern Virginia until 1995 when they bought a winter home in Palm Springs. Dorothy and John have supported many charitable organizations in the Coachella Valley including Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert, Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs Art Museum, The Virginia Warring IPC, the College of the Desert, ACT for MS, Loving all Animals, and many others. She passed away in Palm Springs on December 2016. Her tremendous love and support for the Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert programs will never be forgotten.

The Guild is especially grateful to our generous sponsors: John Nocita in memory of Dorothy Nocita, Ron Lavo, Peggy Cravens, the Charles Nylund Memorial Fund, W. Harvey Hoeppner & Robert A. Richards, the Marc Byrd Memorial Fund, Karlheinz Kling & Richard McArdle, Stephen Lind, Rosemarie Vacano, Terry Hendrix and Barbara & Craig Salsbury.

Results of the 35th Annual Dorothy Nocita Memorial Vocal Competition

Results of the 34th Annual Dorothy Nocita Memorial Vocal Competition

First Place Award: $15,000, underwritten by Ron Lavo:

Soprano Liv Redpath

Second Place Award: $7,500, underwritten by Peggy Cravens:

Tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli

Third Place Award: $5,000, underwritten by Bill Galliker in memory of Mick Cressey and The Hoeppner/Richards Scholarship Fund:

Mezzo-soprano Anne-Marie Stanley

Fourth Place Award: $3,000, underwritten by Stephen Lind and Armen Kazarian:

Mezzo-soprano Alexandra Rodrick

Runners-up Awards: $2,000 each, underwritten by Rosemarie Vacano, Joe Giarrusso & Charlie Paglia in honor of Renee Glickman and Jean Carrus, the Charles Nylund Memorial Fund and the Angel Family:

Tenor Rafael Helbig-Kostka, Soprano Carolyn Hoehle, Baritone Ben Lowe, Soprano Lauren Michelle

Audience Choice Award: $2,000, underwritten by Terry Hendrix in memory of Gracia Alkema:

Soprano Lauren Michelle


To see more photos from the competition please click on this link.

2016 Competition Finalists

First Place $10,000 – soprano Amina Edris, sponsored by Ron Lavo

Second Place $7,500 – soprano Liv Redpath, sponsored by the Frank & Eva Buck Foundation

Third Place $5,000 – mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz, sponsored by Dorothy & John Nocita

Fourth Place $3,000 – soprano Madison Leonard, sponsored by the Angel Family, Armen Kazarian, Stephen Lind

Runners-up $2,000 each – soprano Marina Harris, soprano Alyssa Wills, tenor Banner Smith, baritone Michael Aiello, baritone Geoffrey Hoos, sponsored by Yvonne & Steven Maloney, Michael & Bobbi Resmo

Audience Choice $1,000 – mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz, sponsored by Terry Hendrix

Rossini First Place $5,000 – soprano Liv Redpath, sponsored by Peggy Cravens

Rossini Second Place $2,500 – baritone Michael Aiello, sponsored by William Galliker

In conjunction with the Competition, the Guild’s prestigious Peggy Cravens Rossini Award was presented to soprano Liv Redpath. Peggy Cravens again underwrote the First Place Award of $5,000 and William Galliker, in memory of Michael Cressey, underwrote a Second Place Award of $2,500 which was presented to baritone Michael Aiello.

2015 Competition Finalists


First Place: Baritone Alex DeSocio, sponsored by Ron Lavo

Second Place: Soprano Lauren Michelle, sponsored by Terry Hendrix

Third Place: Tenor Mario Rojas, sponsored by Armen Kazarian and the George Klauss Memorial Fund

Runners-up: Soprano Yelena Dyachek, Soprano Aurelie Veruni, Soprano Anishka Lee-Skorepa, Soprano Alyssa Wills, Tenor Arnold Geis sponsored by Yvonne & Steven Maloney

Audience Choice: Soprano Lauren Michelle, sponsored by Terry Hendrix in memory of Gracia Alkema

Inaugural Peggy Cravens Rossini Award recipient: Mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz, sponsored by Peggy Cravens

2014 Competition Finalists


2014 Finalists Marina Harris, Lauren Michelle, Ben Lowe, Aurelie Veruni, Moises Salazar, Shabnam Kalbasi, Nicholas Brownlee, Alexa Jarvis and Michelle Bradley

Nine finalists competed and an Audience Choice Award of $1000 was given.  First prize was $7000, 2nd prize $5000 and 3rd prize $3000.  Each runner-up received $1000.  The winners were:

First Place: Bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee, sponsored by Ron Lavo

Second Place: Soprano Lauren Michelle, sponsored by Terry Hendrix, Jean Carrus, Michael Cressey, Bruce Johansen and Stephen Lind

Third Place: Soprano Marina Harris, sponsored by Craig & Barbara Salsbury and Armen Kazarian

Runners-up: Soprano Michelle Bradley, Soprano Alexa Jarvis, Mezzo-soprano Shabnam Kalbasi, Baritone Ben Lowe, Tenor Moises Salazar, Soprano Aurelie Veruni, sponsored by Yvonne & Steven Maloney

Audience Choice: Soprano Lauren Michelle, sponsored by Terry Hendrix in memory of Gracia Alkema

2013 Competition Finalists

Photos by Lani

Dmitruk, Lau, Jarvis, Castillo, Adams, Geis, Vasquez, Solis, Ludwig, Bradley

First Place: Adam Lau, Bass

Second Place: Efraín Solís, Baritone

Third Place: Michelle Bradley, Soprano

Fourth Place: Julie Adams, Soprano

Fifth Place: Vladimir Dmitruk, Tenor

Runners-Up: David Castillo, Baritone; Arnold Geis, Tenor; Alexa Jarvis, Soprano; Hannah Ludwig, Mezzo-soprano and Vanessa Vasquez, Soprano

Audience Choice Award: Michelle Bradley, Soprano

2012 Competition Finalists

2012 Vocal Competition Finalists

Ludwig, Garnier, Počkaj, Harris, Dyachek, Rapier, Guerrero, Chang, Bliss, Adams

First Place: Renée Rapier, Mezzo-soprano

Second Place: Hae Ji Chang, Soprano

Third Place: Julie Adams, Soprano

Fourth Place: Marina Harris, Soprano  (Appeared in Opera in the Park April 7th)

Fifth Place: Hannah Ludwig, Mezzo-soprano

Runners up: Joshua Guerrero, Tenor, Yelena Dyachek, Soprano, Benjamin Bliss, Tenor, Alannah Garnier, Soprano and Jure Počkaj, Baritone.  (Mssrs Guerrero and Počkaj and Alannah Garnier appeared in Opera in the Park April 7th)

Encouragement Award: David Castillo, Baritone.  (Appeared in Opera in the Park April 7th)

2011 Competition Finalists

2011 Competition Finalists Blake, Adams, Gallaway, Garcia, Zammit, Guerrero, Lau, LaGesse, Avetisyan and Vu with Kenneth Morris and Mona Lands

Blake, Adams, Gallaway, Garcia, Zammit, Guerrero, Lau, LaGesse, Avetisyan and Vu with Kenneth Morris and Mona Lands

First Place:  Anush Avetisyan, Soprano

Second Place: Adam Paul Lau, Bass

Third Place: Ricardo Garcia, Tenor

Fourth Place: Joshua Guerrero, Tenor

Fifth Place: Nicholas Zammit, Countertenor

Runners-Up: Julie Adams, Soprano, Aaron Blake, Tenor, Jenina Gallaway, Soprano, Nicholas LaGesse, Baritone and Julia Metzler, Soprano

Encouragement Award:  Brian Vu

2010 Competition Finalists


Fontaine, Kim, Harris, Hirsch, Sayapin, Batalles, Vinzant and Vuong

First Place: Jacquelynne Fontaine, Soprano

Second Place: Yujoong Kim, Tenor

Third Place: Karen Vuong, Soprano

Fourth Place: Joshua Guerrero, Tenor

Fifth Place: Marina Harris, Soprano

Runners-Up: Melissa Batalles, Soprano, Rachael Hirsch, Mezzo-Soprano, Alexey Sayapin, Tenor, and Valerie Vinzant, Soprano

Encouragement Award: Anna Schubert, Soprano

2009 Competition Finalists

2009 Vocal Competition Winners

Cox, Walker, KnJoi, Fontaine, Arsenault, Park, Ruthenberg, Na, Guerrero and Carpenter

First Place: Tracy Cox,  Mezzo-soprano

Second Place: Danielle Walker, Soprano

Third Place: Samantha KnJoi, Soprano

Fourth Place: Jacquelynne Fontaine, Soprano

Fifth Place: Julian Arsenault, Baritone

Runners-Up: Douglas Carpenter, Baritone;  Joshua Guerrero, Tenor;  Bora Na, Soprano; Yoosun Park, Soprano; Tatyana Ruthenberg, Soprano