The American Wagner Project

In the Beginning -- The Emerging Singers Program

In 1999, The Wagner Society of Washington DC joined with famed baritone Thomas Stewart, the most prominent Wotan of his generation, and his wife, the soprano Evelyn Lear, who was a prominent Lulu of her generation, to establish the Thomas Stewart and Evelyn Lear Emerging Singers Program. The mission of the program, as described by Maestro John Edward Niles, the program’s coordinator, was to identify and promote the careers of unheralded American singers who had the capability to sing the Wagner canon.

Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart

With the support of the WSWDC, those selected came to Washington for coaching from Evelyn and Thomas to participate in a concert sponsored by the Society. The Society sponsored 24 Emerging Singers concerts, primarily at the German Embassy and the Arts Club of Washington DC. Other ESP concerts were held in cooperation with the Washington Chorus at the Kennedy Center (2011) and the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra (2008).

Over 700 singers applied to enter the ESP, and some 80 were selected. Program alumni include the dramatic soprano Jennifer Wilson, famed for her role as Brünnhilde in the Valencia Ring; the baritone Jason Stearns, who recently sang with the Met, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the Baltimore Opera; and Jay Hunter Morris, who sang Siegfried in both the San Francisco Ring (2010) and the Metropolitan Opera Ring (2011-12). The program's other prominent Brünnhildes include Rebecca Team, who sang in the Opera Lübeck Ring, and Carolyn Whisnant, who sang for the Essen Oper and Karlshrue Rings.

The American Wagner Project and Institute for Young Dramatic Voices

In 2012, with the passing of Evelyn Lear, the Society entered into a partnership with the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, founded in 2006 by Dolora Zajick, Rosemary Matthews, and Sarah Agler.  This partnership, called the American Wagner Project, will continue to support the ongoing training of future Wagnerian singers as well as present annual Wagner concerts in Washington along with a series of symposia. The great Wagnerian and voice teacher, Luana DeVol, is the Artistic Director of the American Wagner Project and heads the German program at the Institute. The Wagner Society’s John Edward Niles will serve as director. The Society will provide support for Ms. DeVol to coach the German repertoire and provide acting and language instruction. Issachah Savage, who recently performed a solo concert at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, is the first singer under the American Wagner Project. (Click here to see the performance.)

Dolora Zajick Luana DeVol

Issachah Savage

We anticipate that the American Wagner Project will continue the mission of the ESP in identifying and supporting American singers who have the capability of singing the Wagner canon. We plan to hold annual or semi-annual auditions for the American Wagner Project, and those selected will attend the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. In addition, the Wagner Society will award an annual stipend to one or more American singers selected for the American Wagner Project. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Ms. DeVol, the American Wagner Project, Ms. Zajick, and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices.

Are You a Singer Who Might Be Ready to Sing Wagner?

Applications for the Emerging Singers Program will now be made directly through the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. For additional information on the Institute, click here. For application instructions, click here.

For additional details on the American Wagner Project, click here.

Donate to the American Wagner Project

The American Wagner Project is a reality because of the generous contributions of our donors. Won't you consider participting in this important effort to continue the Wagnerian tradition among emerging singers? All contributions are tax-deductible.