Vocal Competition Judges

Our final round judges …

Julia Cook
Artistic and General Director of Baltimore Concert Opera

Julia Cooke was named Artistic and General Director of Baltimore Concert Opera in 2019, after serving as a founding board member (three years) and Executive Director (seven years) of the company. In her current role, Julia leads artistic programming and casting, fundraising, business management, and long-term and strategic planning. Under her leadership, BCO attendance has reached 96% of annual capacity, total annual contributed revenue increased 50% from 2012 to 2019, and the company established an endowment fund in 2018. Additionally, Julia directed the development of BCO’s successful audience-building programming, a free outreach concert series for community members, and oversaw the launch of a children’s education program. She navigated the company through the challenges of the pandemic and is leading the organization through a major expansion in the 2021-2022 season.

Prior to her career as an arts executive, Julia maintained an active dual career in performing and teaching. Her 15-year singing career took her throughout the U.S. and overseas in both leading operatic roles and as a concert soloist. As a passionate educator, she spent 25 years teaching in many capacities, including as professor of classical voice at Morgan State University, Towson University, and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, conductor for the Chicago Children’s Choir and Maryland State Boychoir, and private voice teacher to dozens of rising singers. She is also a sought-after guest judge at voice competitions, as well as a guest lecturer and master class facilitator.

Julia holds a Master of Music degree in opera performance from Indiana University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and psychology from the University of Rochester.

Elizabeth Futral
Professor in the Vocal Studies department at Peabody Conservatory

American soprano Elizabeth Futral has established herself as one of the world’s leading sopranos. She is currently a Professor in the Vocal Studies department at Peabody Conservatory. 

Reared in Louisiana, Ms. Futral studied with Virginia Zeani at Indiana University. She joined the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, won the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 1991 and was catapulted to stardom with critically acclaimed performances of Delibes’ Lakmé at the New York City Opera in 1994. Career milestones soon followed, cementing her star status: a win in Placido Domingo’s Operalia Competition, the title role in Rossini’s Matilde di Shabran in Pesaro, her debut at the San Francisco Opera as Stella in the world premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and her Metropolitan Opera debut in a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

 Since that time, she has returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Princess Eudoxie in a new production of La Juive, Princess Yeuyang in the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, Elvira in I Puritani, and additional performances of Lucia. With the Lyric Opera of Chicago she has sung a vast range of roles including Cunegonde in Candide, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Handel’s Partenope, La Traviata, and The Merry Widow. She has notable relationships with the Washington, Houston, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, New York City, Vancouver, and Minnesota opera companies. Internationally, she has been heard at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Theater an der Wien, the Grand Theatre de Genève, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Hamburg Staatsoper.

Craig Kier
Annapolis Opera Artistic and Music Director

Craig Kier joined the University of Maryland School of Music In the 2014–15 season, as the director of the Maryland Opera Studio and in 2020, assumed the role of artistic and music director of the Annapolis Opera. Productions since the beginning of his tenure have included Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte and La clemenza di Tito, Handel’s Ariodante, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, Blitzstein’s Regina, Rossini’s L’occasione fa il ladro, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites. This season includes Mozart’s The Magic Flute and John Musto’s Later the Same Evening with the Maryland Opera Studio and La cenerentola, La bohème and Into the Woods with Annapolis Opera. In the 2019–20 season, he led Tosca with Annapolis Opera, was scheduled to return to the Brevard Music Center to conduct their season opening concert and Die Enführung aus dem Serail, returned to Houston Ballet to lead gala performances and The Nutcracker, which he has done since 2011, and continued his association with the National Symphony Orchestra, assisting Gianandrea Noseda. In the 2018–19 season, he made his San Francisco Merola Opera Center debut, Indianapolis Opera debut and returned to Opera Birmingham and Houston Ballet. At the University of Maryland, he served as artistic director of the year-long Kurt Weill Festival, conducting performances of The Road of Promise, Mahagonny Songspiel and Street Scene. Recent season highlights include conducting debuts with Wolf Trap Opera leading Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Brevard Opera Center leading La cenerentola, Anchorage Opera leading Don Pasquale, Arizona Opera leading Madama Butterfly and Opera Saratoga leading Verdi’s Falstaff. From 2010–13, Kier was associate conductor under Patrick Summers at Houston Grand Opera. During his time with the company, he led dozens of performances including Madama Butterfly, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Die Fledermaus, Trial by Jury and the world premiere of Huang Ruo’s Bound. Additional guest engagements for Kier include La bohème with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Il barbiere di Siviglia with Atlanta Opera, Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars with the Glimmerglass Festival, The Sound of Music with Central City Opera, Thomas’ Hamlet and La traviata with Opera Birmingham, L’italiani in Algeri with Opera Santa Barbara and The Music Man at Royal Opera House Muscat, Oman.