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African American countertenor John Holiday wins prestigious Anderson opera award

John Holiday, the countertenor, is the recipient of the 2018 Marian Anderson Award (photo: Fay Fox.)

John Holiday is an impressive figure on an opera stage. He’s one of the sweetest-voiced countertenors I’ve encountered, with a mellifluous sound supported by clean crisp diction. He’s physically imposing: large and powerful.

And on Thursday, the Kennedy Center and the Washington National Opera announced that he is the winner of the Marian Anderson Award, given every two years to a young singer of particular promise.

[Glimmerglass season shines with vibrant vocal performances.]

Holiday joins an impressive list of singers including Jamie Barton, Lawrence Brownlee, Eric Owens and, most recently, Janai Brugger, who was the 2016 honoree. (Holiday is officially the honoree for 2018, according to the Kennedy Center’s website.) There’s no requirement that the Anderson award has to go to a singer of color, though Holiday does happen to be one. Its past roster, though, is not distant from that of winners of the Richard Tucker Award, another prestigious grant for a young singer given on the basis of nominations from within the industry rather than applications or auditions from the singers themselves.

Holiday wins a $10,000 cash prize, and will give a recital at the Kennedy Center in February 2018. Before that, he will take on the title role in Xerxes at the Glimmerglass Festival this summer. Mark your calendars now.