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Vocal Vision Awards Competition

Opera UCLA and The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music present
Vocal Vision Awards Competition
Sunday April 7, 2024
Lani Hall

Judges and Collaborative Artists

Priti Gandhi


Associate Director Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition
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Priti Gandhi is a leader in opera administration, innovative casting, and a passionate artist advocate in the field. She recently joined the artistic department of the Metropolitan Opera as Associate Director of the Laffont Competition – an annual nationwide search for new talent in the opera industry. Among her credits, she is a frequent speaker on industry panels regarding artist advocacy and diversity in casting, a member of the artistic advisory council of the Asian Opera Alliance, and advisor on grant panels for new works (such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Midwest, and Opera America). After a long international opera career that included performances with companies like Seattle Opera, Théâtre du Châtelet, UNAM in Mexico City, the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, she then transitioned into artistic administration with San Diego Opera, Minnesota Opera, and Portland Opera. She is a graduate of the American Express Women in Leadership Music Academy, an alumna of the Opera America leadership programs, and a frequent judge for competitions such as The Richard Tucker Awards, the Friends of Eastman School of Music Vocal Competition, and the Belvedere Competition. She is a sought-after audition master class instructor and career guest lecturer for young artists, with schools like the New England Conservatory, University of Portland, University of California at San Diego, and young artist programs around the country.

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Daniel Mallampalli


Los Angeles Philharmonic Senior Programming Manager
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Daniel Mallampalli currently serves as Associate Director of Programming for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is responsible for programming and administration of the LA Phil’s Hollywood Bowl classical series as well as casting for vocal/operatic projects across all venues and management of the Dudamel Fellowship program. Mallampalli’s work involves managing and producing complex artistic projects, operas, and multi-disciplinary initiatives from inception to performance. He serves as part of the LA Phil’s programming team to design, coordinate and support cross-genre programming for festivals and projects.


Since joining the Philharmonic in 2019, he has provided key artistic oversight of the LA Phil’s operatic productions, including fully staged performances of Die Sieben Todsünden, Fidelio, Die Walküre, Tristan und Isolde, and Das Rheingold. During the 2019-2020 season, Mallampalli joined the orchestra on tours to Edinburgh, Mexico City, London, Boston, and New York. In 2022, he cast and produced a groundbreaking new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio in collaboration with Deaf West Theatre, an innovative landmark work which incorporated operatic singing and sign language choreography, making the art form accessible to deaf audiences for the first time ever. The production will tour Europe in the spring of 2024.


Mallampalli’s duties include creating concert programs, engaging guest conductors and soloists, managing creative teams and coordinating vocal casting. He is responsible for administering the LA Phil’s annual Dudamel Fellowship program, which provides mentorship, career development and assistantship opportunities for the next great generation of world’s finest conductors.


Prior to joining the Los Angeles Philharmonic in March 2019, Mallampalli held artistic positions with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra May Festival, and the Vienna State Opera. He earned a Bachelors degree in piano from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and a Masters degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

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Paul Hopper


Los Angeles Opera Senior Director, Artistic Planning
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Paul Hopper recently joined LA Opera as Senior Director, Artistic Planning. His duties include overseeing all casting for the company and serving as the artistic and strategic head of the company’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. For the five seasons before, he was the Associate Artistic Administrator at The Metropolitan Opera where he oversaw the casting of secondary roles and covers for all productions. Previously, he was the Assistant Artistic Director at Houston Grand Opera where he assisted in long term artistic planning and casting, managed special artistic initiatives, and guided a variety of audiences in learning more about opera, including numerous events in support of the company’s first Ring Cycle. As principal dramaturg for the company he worked closely with composers and librettists in the commissioning and development of new works. He regularly serves on the juries for international vocal competitions, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition, the Queen Sonja International Music Competition, the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, and the Tenor Viñas Competition. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Houston, Paul is also Artistic Advisor for the Lakes Area Music Festival. He previously held positions at the Santa Fe Opera and ADA Artist Management.

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Brandon Zhou

Brandon Zhou

Collaborative Pianist See Bio

Pianist and composer Brandon Zhou is an LA-based soloist and chamber musician with a broad range of musical interests spanning from traditional classical repertoire to works by living composers and his own arrangements. As a pianist, he has performed with acclaimed musicians such as Hilá Plitmann and Tony Arnold and with organizations such as American Contemporary Ballet and Jacaranda Music. His playing can be heard in filmmaker Kerry Candaele’s recently released documentary, Love and Justice, a film exploring striking parallels between the tragic demise of composer Jorge Peña Hen during the 1973 Chilean coup d’état and the narrative of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. As the winner of the 2020 Atwater Kent Concerto Competition, his performance of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the UCLA Philharmonia in 2021 was met with an enthusiastic reception. Recent performances include a benefit concert with flutist Anastasia Petanova in Madison, WI in collaboration with Friends of Be an Angel, a charity dedicated to supporting Ukrainian refugees, and a program of chamber works by members of the 20th century St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music at Temple Beth Torah in Ventura, CA.


Additionally, Brandon’s solo and chamber compositions have been performed as part of events across the U.S. His arrangement of Saint-Saëns’ ‘Egyptian’ Concerto for piano and string quartet was premiered to great acclaim by Inna Faliks and the Lyris Quartet at Jacaranda Music in May 2023, and his often-performed duo Three Blues Miniatures was most recently performed at the Thurnauer Chamber Music Series and Moab Music Festival. He has also had works performed at various universities in the country such as Yale University, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and UCLA.


Brandon earned his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where he studied with Inna Faliks. Additionally, he has been a longtime student of composer Richard Danielpour. He currently serves as a coach and collaborative pianist at Mount Saint Mary’s University, organist at Panorama Presbyterian Church, and collaborative pianist at UCLA

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Victoria Kirsch

Collaborative Pianist See Bio

Collaborative pianist/vocal coach Victoria Kirsch has created and performed innovative programs throughout Southern California, including concerts based on museum exhibitions and staged art song/poetry programs. She serves as a vocal and opera coach at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music.

Victoria has worked with national and regional opera companies, including LA Opera and Long Beach Opera, and served as an official pianist for the Operalia Competition and the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. She played for soprano Julia Migenes (Carmen in the award-winning opera film directed by Francesco Rosi), touring the world for many years with the celebrated singing actress.

Victoria is the music director of OperaArts, a Coachella Valley-based performance organization. She has been a faculty member of the Los Angeles-based Angels Vocal Art summer program, a teaching artist for LA Opera’s Community Programs Department, and has served on the faculties of USC’s Thornton School of Music and SongFest. She was associated with the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara for many years, playing in the studio of renowned baritone and master teacher Martial Singher and serving as a member of the vocal faculty

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Julia Maria Johnson

Soprano, MM in Vocal Performance 2021 See Bio

Julia Maria Johnson is a soprano hailing from Washington State. After earning her M.M. in Voice Performance from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music in 2021, she has gone on to perform all over the West Coast and beyond. Ms. Johnson was most recently a Resident Artist at Opera Naples singing the roles of Phyllis in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe and Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. At the 2024 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, she was a Washington State District Winner and a Northwest Region Encouragement Winner. In the 2023/2024 season, Ms. Johnson has been so thrilled to be performing both new and standard works with companies including Pacific Opera Project, The Opera Buffs, New Opera West, and Lyric Opera of Orange County, as well as singing on many premiere recordings for composers in Los Angeles. Ms. Johnson is also currently on the Voice Faculty at California Lutheran University.

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Peter Kazaras
Director of Opera UCLA, Distinguished Professor of Music, Inaugural Susan G. Covel and Mitchel D. Covel MD Chair in Music (2016-2021)


Suzanne Weiss Morgen
Sponsor of the Vocal Vision Awards Competition



A Musical Offering

Notes Dance

Music by Suzanne Weiss Morgen and Brandon Zhou
Text by Suzanne Weiss Morgen

Soprano: Julia Maria Johnson, MM in Vocal Performance 2021
Pianist: Brandon Zhou


2024 Vocal Vision Awards Competition



Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes

Street Scene

Lonely House

Kevin Corrigan


Amy Beach/William Shakespeare

3 Shakespeare Songs

Take, O Take Those Lips Away

Milla Moretti


Douglas Moore/John Latouche

The Ballad of Baby Doe

Willow Song

Habin Kim


Maury Yeston/Arthur Kopit



Olivia Lewinski


Ben Moore/William Butler Yeats

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Leland Smith


Jake Heggie/Edna St. Vincent Millay

Songs and Sonnets to Ophelia


Krystal Mao


André Previn/Toni Morrison

Honey and Rue

First I’ll try love

Gina Han


Gian Carlo Menotti

Amahl and the Night Visitors

All that gold!

Pearl Vaynman


Benjamin Britten/W.H. Auden

On This Island


Katya Lynch


Elinor Remick Warren/Sara Teasdale

If you have forgotten

Madison Prince


Benjamin Britten/Thomas Hardy

Winter Words

The Choirmaster’s Burial

Andres Delgado


Lee Hoiby/Wilfred Owen

Songs for Leontyne

Winter Song

Virginia Douglas


Leonard Bernstein/Edna St. Vincent Millay


What my lips have kissed

I-Chin Feinblatt


Kurt Erickson/Brian Turner

Here, Bullet


Joshua Valdes


Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II


People Will Say We’re In Love

Rachel Hahn


William Bolcom/Arnold Weinstein and Arthur Miller

A View from the Bridge

New York Lights

Romeo Lopez


Libby Larsen/Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary Hickock

Songs from Letters

A Working Woman

London Hibbs


Tom Cipullo/Billy Collins

Another Reason I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House

Christopher Shayota



Donor Acknowledgement


The Vocal Vision Awards competition was created by Suzanne Weiss Morgen to honor the memory of her beloved grandmother, Dr. Bertha D. Hirsh and her beloved mother, Mrs. Goldine Weiss. Mrs. Weiss was a fine amateur pianist who also loved to sing. Her piano bench was absolutely filled to the brim with wonderfully diverse compositions. Dr. Hirsh had a beautiful voice and enjoyed singing classical musical theater, art songs and arias as a young woman. Later in her life, she decided to become an optometrist at a time when there were practically no women doctors. She opened her office on Hollywood and Vine, treating many of the Hollywood stars of the day. Suzanne views the awards as reflecting her grandmother’s forward-looking vision. Both women were truly passionate music lovers, particularly of opera and the vocal arts.

Suzanne herself graduated from UCLA with a degree in music vocal performance. She went on to perform and has sustained an ongoing successful vocal teaching career for decades. Suzanne was the recipient of many vocal awards as a young singer, two of which she received while a student at UCLA. This was a strong motivator toward establishing the Vocal Vision Awards, as she remembered the enormous boost the awards gave to her. The rewards were not only monetary, but also provided confidence and encouragement as well as broader performance exposure. The Vocal Vision Awards provide vocal scholarships to deserving young singers, allowing them the opportunity to hone their technical and performance skills and supporting them as they mature toward professional careers in voice and opera.

With special thanks to Henry Morgen.

Program Notes

Text for Notes Dance:

Notes dance in the open air
Free fearless and fabulous
Feasting on sumptuous melodies
A beautiful song can pry open the heart
Rekindle a waning flame
Name your pleasure and measure by measure
You will surely hear it
The wondrous celebration of your soaring spirit