The baritone and Peabody Institute graduate wowed the audience with his powerful voice.
Dressed in a cobalt blue frock and filling the auditorium with the sounds of Italian opera, the soprano and Allegheny College lecturer and teacher commanded the attention of everyone.
Kevin Wetzel and Diane Kalinowski were just two of eight finalists competing Sunday afternoon at the 27th annual Vocal Competition held by the Annapolis Opera at Maryland Hall.
The judges listened to 30 semifinalists on Saturday then narrowed them down to eight finalists.
Baritone’s Wetzel and Andre Chiang, tenor’s Yi Li and Matthew Vickers, sopranos Kalinowski and Ariana Wehr, mezzo-soprano Yun Kyong Lee and lyric soprano Shannon Jennings made the cut.
Audience members selected just one singer for the audience choice award while the panel of four judges was tasked with awarding prizes, ranging from $500 to $2,500, among the singers.
“It was amazing to hear the different voices,” said Barbara Barbour, a resident of Forest Hills in Harford County. “I don’t know how the judges are going to pick because they were really wonderful.”
Longtime Annapolis Opera supporters James and Sylvia Earl agreed.
“Must be a terrible problem deciding,” James said.
“Every year, it gets better and better,” Sylvia said.
While each singer was awarded a prize, Kalinowski, a native of Cochranton, Pennsylvania and recent winner of the Connecticut Concert Opera American Opera Idol Award, took home three of the 10 prizes.
The University of Kansas graduate won the $2,500 Marie E. Crump Memorial Award, $1,000 Director/Conductor Grand Prize Winner Award and the $500 Victoria Waidner and Felix Rosario Memorial Audience Choice Award.
Kalinowski said she remained calm in front of the audience and judges.
“I’m sort of at a point now where I have been doing this a lot so I felt very relaxed,” she said.
Her resume includes the grand prize at the LaDue Professional Recital Competition at Rochester Lyric Opera, a prize at the Alfredo Silipigni Competition at the New Jersey State Opera, and being selected as one of five finalists in the Elizabeth Connell Prize, an international competition.
“You never go into it thinking you’re going to win,” she said. “As soon as they announced I was announced a finalist, I was really grateful.”
Patrizia Conte served as a semifinals judge and said she was pleased at the talent who performed all throughout the competition.
“The range of talent, I thought was wonderful,” she said. “We heard a broad range of styles and they were able to sing convincingly in various languages.”
Former Annapolis Opera board member Michael Teems said he was amazed by the singers.
“It’s just wonderful that we have so much talent readily available to us,” he said.
“This is the very best free show in Annapolis. It’s just one of the gems in Annapolis along with the ballet and the symphony.”
Annapolis resident Marlyn Crump, one of several hundred to attend the finals, enjoyed the competition as well.
“It was wonderful,” she said.
“The singers were just high quality singers and I was very impressed.”