Juilliard's Novick Career Advancement Grants Awarded to Three Newly-Graduated Singers: Baritone Alexander Hajek; Mezzo-Soprano Nathalie Mittelbach; and Mezzo-Soprano Naomi O'Connell

Start Date

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

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Juilliard’s Novick Career Advancement Grants, awarded for only the second time, have been given to three just-graduated singers from the School’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts, and have produced immediate benefits for each vocalist as they embark on their careers. The recipients are: baritone Alexander Hajek—Toronto, Ontario, Canada; mezzo-soprano Nathalie Mittelbach—Basel, Switzerland; and mezzo-soprano Naomi O’Connell—Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland.   

Featured in the Summer 2012 issue of Opera Canada, grant recipient Alexander Hajek discusses his beginnings as a promising singer and is praised for “easily encompassing every demand” in his recent appearance as Leporello in the Met/Juilliard production of Don Giovanni. Mr. Hajek will use his grant to defray expenses related to auditioning at opera houses throughout Germany, after spending the summer in an intensive study of German language and diction. He also will perform with the Junges Ensemble at the Sächsische Staatsoper in Dresden, Germany.

Grant recipient Nathalie Mittelbach recently won first prize in the Ernst Häflinger Competition—a co-production of the prestigious institutions Konzerttheater Bern and the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, and the first-ever competition for young opera singers in Switzerland. Ms. Mittelbach, who was praised by the Häflinger jury for her “quality of voice and exceptional musicianship,” will utilize her grant in the fall by participating in an ambitious schedule of competitions and European theater auditions and performances.

Grant recipient Naomi O’Connell returns to Juilliard in the fall to perform the lead role of Despina in Così fan tutte, a co-production of the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and The Juilliard School. Praised as “a star in the making” for her recent UK operatic debut in the lead role of Garsington Opera’s sold-out production of Offenbach’s La Périchole, Ms. O’Connell will use her grant during the upcoming season to support a demanding agenda of recitals, including her Carnegie Hall debut in March 2013.

About Juilliard’s Novick Career Advancement Grants in Vocal Arts

Stephen A. Novick, former vice-chairman of Grey Global Group and now senior advisor of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, provided seed money for the grant as a way to help alleviate financial strain on newly-graduated Juilliard singers. Recipients are awarded an initial prize of $2,500, and may apply for additional funding up to a total of $10,000, applicable to voice lessons, coachings, and purchasing printed music, among other professional needs. Those selected must show great promise as emerging professionals.

Upon establishing the Novick Career Advancement Grants program last year, Mr. Novick said: “It’s quite remarkable to see how a relatively modest amount of money can have such a profound impact on a young artist’s career. Each of the recipients has expressed enormous gratitude, but the truth is, it is I who am grateful to be able to play a small role in the career of such talented young graduates.”

Additional donors and foundations are being sought to join the lead contributors to the fund that include the S. Daniel Abraham Foundation, Ark Restaurants Corporation, The Cantor Foundation, George Friedman, the Gladstein Family Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Paul Lee, Macy’s, Inc., NYC & Company, Inc., The Rosenthal Fund, Art Stainman, The Budd Sugarman Foundation, Robert and Jane Toll Foundation, and The Zankel Fund.

Juilliard’s Novick Career Advancement Grants will complement the program in the School’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts that has re-aligned its focus on the development of the ‘complete’ singer—one who successfully meets the challenges of today’s profession with good technique, good health, and in good voice. A host of courses and activities in acting, stagecraft, and related arts, health, and nutrition are part of the educational process that helps young singers develop the right priorities to sustain such a career. Juilliard’s Novick Career Advancement Grants are designed to further close gaps that exist during the initial post-graduate, but pre-major career phase.

2011’s inaugural recipients are finding success in the 2012-2013 season as a result of being honored with Novick Career Advancement Grants, after investing them in opportunities such as private lessons, coachings, auditions, and competitions. Soprano Meredith Lustig joins the Resident Artist Program with the Pittsburgh Opera; soprano Haeran Hong performs a series of recitals in Brazil and appears in The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Parsifal; tenor Andreas Aroditis performs in a gala concert for the Rialto Theater in Limassol, Cyprus; mezzo-soprano Carla Jablonski begins her contract with the Florida Grand Opera, singing mainstage roles in three productions; and mezzo-soprano Lacey Jo Benter finishes her tenure as Apprentice Artist with Central City Opera before returning to Juilliard to begin her Artist Diploma in Opera Studies program.    

2012 Recipients of Novick Career Advancement Grants

Canadian baritone Alexander Hajek recently earned his Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at The Juilliard School. Mr. Hajek has worked with Maestro James Levine in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, under the direction of Stephen Wadsworth. Recent critically-acclaimed appearances include the title role in Gianni Schicchi at Juilliard, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro at Opera on the Avalon, Hans Scholl in the North American premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Kommilitonen!, Leporello in Don Giovanni, and Hidroat in Armide at Juilliard. Mr. Hajek is a graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio in Toronto where he sang Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and Morales in Carmen. In the vocal competition circuit, he recently won first prize in the George London Foundation competition in New York. Mr. Hajek completed undergraduate, master of music degrees while studying under Daniel Ferro, and he completed the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies under the tutelage of Cynthia Hoffman.

Mezzo-soprano Nathalie Mittelbach is a native of Basel, Switzerland. A student of Edith Wiens, she has just completed her second year of study in the master of music degree program at Juilliard, where she was a recipient of the Rita Greenland Scholarship and the Regina Sarfaty Rickless and Miriam Sarfaty Babin Voice Scholarship. Most recently, Ms. Mittelbach performed in a recital with the Hugo Wolf Academy in Stuttgart and in the St. Matthew Passion in Hannover. Ms. Mittelbach’s opera roles include Clarina in Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio (Juilliard Opera), Amore in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea under the direction of Harry Bicket (Juilliard Opera), Hänsel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel (in concert) with NDR Orchestra Hannover, and Doctor/Prison Guard in the U.S. premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Kommilitonen! (Juilliard Opera). Ms. Mittelbach was a winner of the 2006 DAAD prize (Deutsches Akademische Austauschdienst), the winner of the Scholarship of the Richard Wagner Foundation in 2009, a participant in the International Summer Academy Mozarteum, and a prizewinner of the Hamel Foundation. She was a young artist at the 2011 International Meistersinger Academy Neumarkt, and at the 2009 International Summer Academy Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. In 2010, Ms. Mittelbach performed St. John’s Passion in Munich under the direction of Heiko Siemens, Mozart’s C-Minor Mass with Collegium Musicum Lucerne, and Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel with Helmut Deutsche, Munich.

Hailed by The New York Times as “a radiant mezzo-soprano,” Irish singer Naomi O’Connell began 2012 by making her West End debut as young, aspiring opera singer Sharon Graham in the Tony Award-winning play Master Class. This season, Ms. O’Connell will perform the title role in Garsington Opera’s sold-out production of Offenbach’s La Périchole. This summer, she returned to the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont for a second residency, performing chamber music with some of the world’s finest young musicians. An international prizewinner, Ms. O’Connell was recently awarded first prize in the 2011 Concert Artists Guild competition and the Altamura/Caruso International Singing Competition in New York. She has performed with the Marlboro Music Festival, Steans Musical Institute at Ravinia, the Juilliard FOCUS! Festival, and the New York Festival of Song, where critics hailed her performance as “evocative, appealing, and expressive.” She made her Lincoln Center debut in the Juilliard Honors Recital at Alice Tully Hall with pianist Bret Funderburk in 2010. Ms. O’Connell is a recent graduate of The Juilliard School in New York where she completed an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies with her voice teacher, Dr. Robert White. She also holds a master of music degree from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Ms. Marlena Malas. Ms. O’Connell’s operatic roles include Monteverdi’s Ottavia, Ravel’s L’enfant and Concepción, Purcell’s Dido, Mozart’s Cherubino, Bizet’s Carmen, Handel’s Ariodante, and #3 in Conrad Susa’s chamber opera Transformations. Ms. O’Connell has performed in master classes with artists such as Dame Gwyneth Jones, Joyce DiDonato, Sir Thomas Allen, Malcolm Martineau, Roger Vignoles, and Ann Murray. Ms. O’Connell has performed in venues throughout the United States, Europe, the UK, and Ireland.  

For further information on the Novick Career Advancement Grants, please contact: Edward Sien, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations at (212) 799-5000, ext. 278 or by email at esien@juilliard.edu.