Mezzo-Soprano Jamie Barton Wins the 2017 Beverly Sills Artist Award
Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton has been named the winner of the 12th annual Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers at the Metropolitan Opera. The $50,000 award, the largest of its kind in the United States, is given to extraordinarily gifted singers between the ages of 25 and 40 who have already appeared in featured solo roles at the Met. The award, given in honor of Beverly Sills, was established in 2006 by an endowment gift from the late Agnes Varis, a managing director on the Met board. Barton, who came to prominence as a winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions in 2007, has distinguished herself in recent seasons with acclaimed Met performances of Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma, Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, and Fenena in Verdi’s Nabucco. She is currently in rehearsals for her role debut as the witch Ježibaba in Mary Zimmerman’s new staging of Dvořák’s Rusalka, which opens February 2.
The Sills Award was created to help further recipients’ careers, including funding for voice lessons, vocal coaching, language lessons, related travel costs, and other professional assistance. Sills, who passed away in 2007, was well known as a supporter and friend to developing young artists, and this award continues her legacy as an advocate for rising singers. The 36-year-old Barton is the 12th recipient of the award, following baritone Nathan Gunn in 2006, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in 2007, tenor Matthew Polenzani in 2008, bass John Relyea in 2009, soprano Susanna Phillips in 2010, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in 2011, soprano Angela Meade in 2012, tenor Brian Hymel in 2013, tenor Michael Fabiano in 2014, baritone Quinn Kelsey in 2015, and soprano Ailyn Pérez in 2016.
“I am truly humbled to be receiving an award given in honor of Beverly Sills, whose lively presence helped opera shine even where classical music previously felt unreachable and elite,” Barton said. “Her offstage commitment to cultivating and celebrating homegrown American artistry and her onstage collaborations with people from all walks of art – from “Sills and Burnett at the Met” to “The Muppet Show” and “The Tonight Show” – helped make opera accessible to all and addictive to many. Her ability to communicate an unfolding story with every vocal nuance continues to inspire me – it’s that kind of artistry that moves me as an audience member, and it’s the kind of storytelling I strive for in my own performances. To be not only honored by the Metropolitan Opera but also to become part of a legacy that includes such strong advocates for our art form is one of the greatest honors I can imagine.”
A native of Rome, Georgia, Barton was a winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions in 2007, a process that was documented in the award-winning film The Audition. She made her company debut in 2009 as the Second Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and her other roles with the Met include Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma, followed by Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, and most recently this season, Fenena in Verdi’s Nabucco. In February, she will star as Ježibaba in the Met’s new production of Rusalka, followed by Waltraute/Second Norn in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung at the Houston Grand Opera and Princess Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Deusche Oper Berlin.