April 12, 2016 8:15AM
Barbara Rondelli Perry recalls listening to the Metropolitan Opera on an AM radio in Chicopee, Kan., as a child in the 1940s and ‘50s. Now, this internationally known lyric soprano wants to encourage collegiate-level vocalists with a statewide contest designed to single out the best voices in Kansas.
Thanks to a gift from Barbara and her husband, Richard R. Perry, the Barbara Rondelli Kansas Statewide Classical Voice Competition will be held at Pittsburg State University on March 11, 2017. The competition will award a significant prize to one winner in each of the categories of soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone/bass.
“(This competition,) for classical voice students of Kansas colleges and universities will feature the finest singers,” Rondelli Perry said. “I hope it will serve as an inspirational experience for the competitors to continue their classical voice studies, preparing them for successful professional careers.”
Susan Marchant, chair of the Pittsburg State University Department of Music, said the department and the university are excited to host the event.
“This competition will surely feature some of the finest vocalists in the state,” Marchant said. “It will also serve as a marvelous reflection of the strong vocal traditions of southeast Kansas.”
Marchant said although the competition is still a year off, work has already begun to plan for the event. That includes selecting nationally recognized judges and notifying college vocal music programs around the state.
Rondelli Perry, whose father was the principal at Cherokee High School and whose mother was an elementary school teacher, said she was encouraged to pursue music by her parents. Early in life she was taught by some of the best musicians in the area, including piano teachers Dorothy Lampton and Will Humble, who was a member of the university faculty.
Rondelli Perry performed her first recital on the McCray Recital Hall stage in 1956 at the age of 16, under the mentorship of faculty member Judy Bounds Coleman. She earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from PSU in 1960, and a master’s degree in vocal performance in 1978.
From PSU, Rondelli Perry went to the Royal Academy of Music in London on a two-year Fulbright Scholarship, where she studied under the internationally acclaimed soprano Dame Eva Turner. Barbara was the first student from PSU to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. From there, she launched a long and busy international career.
Rondelli Perry has performed more than 40 major operatic roles, and more than 50 major oratorio roles in Germany, England, the United States, Mexico, and South Africa, in addition to many song recitals. She appeared in the title role of Madama Butterfly with the New York City Opera and the Honolulu Opera; soprano soloist in New York’s Carnegie Hall in Bach’s B minor Mass, “St. Matthew Passion,” and “St. John Passion,” Helmuth Rilling conducting.
Other notable international performances include her role as soloist in Monteverdi’s “Vespers to the Virgin,” Pierre Boulez conducting; soloist in Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” for Radio Lisbon; soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Bamberger Symphoniker, and the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester in Hamburg; soloist in “Carmina Burana” with the Hamburg Symphony; soloist in Verdi’s “Requiem” for the Swiss Radio in Basel; soloist in Hasse’s “Attilio Regolo,” and all soprano roles of Handel’s “L’Allegro, Il Pensieroso, ed Il Moderato” for the Göttinger Händelfestspiele and the Sommerliche Musiktage Hitzacker, both concerts recorded for the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (North German Radio); soloist in Stravinsky’s “Les Noces”, for the Hessian Radio in Frankfurt; recorded several song recitals, Mozart’s “Exultate, Jubilate” and opera arias from “The Barber of Seville” and “La Traviata,” for the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Johannesburg, South Africa; soloist in the opera “Venetian Festival,” of Campra, for the Schwetzinger Festspiele, and soloist in Jomelli’s “Miserere für zwei Soprane und Streichorchester,” both recorded for the Southwest German Radio.
Rondelli Perry was a Prizewinner in the International Bavarian Radio Competition in Munich, and a Diploma Winner in the International Tschaikovsky Competition in Moscow. She can be heard as soloist on CD with the Bach Collegium Stuttgart in Bach Cantata No. 19, and on the Colosseum Label in “Faun and Shepherdess of Stravinsky” (sung in Russian), and Genzmer’s “Jim?nez Cantata” for soprano, chorus and orchestra.
Rondelli Perry’s recent performances span a variety of solo recitals and concerts including “Songs of the British Isles” (England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales); a concert featuring songs and arias of Hungary; “La Bella Italia” (Italian songs and arias); opera arias with the university orchestra; the “Voices of Music Concert;” “La Belle Musique de France,” featuring Rondelli Perry and her students; and a solo recital, “Salute to America-Songs of America” in the Great Gallery of the Toledo Museum of Art.
From 1975 until 2011, Rondelli Perry served as professor in the Department of Music at the University of Toledo. She was named Professor Emerita in 2012.
During her tenure at the University of Toledo, in the Annual Spring Festival of New Music, Rondelli Perry always performed the songs and arias of the visiting American composer, or recently composed music of other American composers. She is also the composer of “Cadenzas and Embellishments for 17th and 18th Century Italian Songs and Arias.”
In April of 2015, in conjunction with the Richard R. and Barbara R. Perry Program Excellence Fund, Rondelli Perry sponsored an Alumni Concert in Doermann Theatre, featuring songs and arias performed by her former students of the University of Toledo Music Department.
In 1963, she married South African born orchestral conductor Johan van der Merwe. He died in 1996. In 2000, she married Richard Russell Perry, a professor of higher education, emeritus, at the University of Toledo.
Richard Perry endowed the Barbara Rondelli Voice Scholarship at PSU in 2005, which has awarded scholarships to outstanding voice majors in the PSU Department of Music. He also endowed the Barbara Rondelli Perry Voice Scholarship at the University of Toledo in 1998. A total of 48 voice students have been scholarship recipients. In 2012, the scholarship was changed to the Barbara Rondelli Perry Competition for Superior Achievement in Classical Voice Performance, and is now in its fifth anniversary year.