About Our Shows

5 Reasons to See The Pearl Fishers

On October 7, Angelenos experienced a rare treat. We opened George Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers – lesser known than his famous Carmen, but no less stunning for both opera aficionados and newbies. Critics have already been raving about the production, calling it “stunning” (LA Times), “enthralling” (Broadway World) and “eye-dazzling” (LA Daily News).

A scene from Penny Woolcock's production of The Pearl Fishers at the Metropolitan Opera (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

A scene from Penny Woolcock’s production of The Pearl Fishers at the Metropolitan Opera (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

If the critics’ response isn’t enough, here’s a list of more reasons why The Pearl Fishers is a must-see this fall:

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Nabucco and Verdi’s Creative Identity

A scene from Washington National Opera's Nabucco (2012); Photo: Scott Suchman

A scene from Washington National Opera’s Nabucco (2012); Photo: Scott Suchman

Giuseppe Verdi regarded Nabucco, his third work to reach the stage, as the catalyst that set the rest of his career in motion.

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James Conlon Talks the Carmen Myth

Ana María Martínez as Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Georges Bizet’s last opera has struck deeply into the soul of Western Civilization.

Its music is universally loved and its meaning constantly analyzed, debated and reinterpreted. As a protagonist, Carmen is unique. Contrary to many mythological characters who served as operatic subjects, she transcended her stage existence and then evolved into an archetype, a popular and modern myth. Unlike Don Juan, Faust and numerous Greek, Roman and Nordic mythological characters adapted for the opera stage, Carmen had little prehistory. But like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, her obvious male counterpart, she became immortal thanks to the genius of a composer. The protagonist of a short story by Prosper Mérimée, she was perfectly realized the moment Bizet set her to music.

Who is Carmen and what does she represent?

Ask a dozen opera lovers, and there will be a dozen answers. Evil temptress, femme fatale, erotic demon, 19th-century Eve for some; victim of racism, gender inequality and social injustice, symbol of emancipation and feminine empowerment for others.
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What’s In Store For 2017/18

LA Opera’s 2017/2018 season opens September 9

Our 2016/17 season may have come to an end, but 2017/18 is just around the corner. Next season has something for everyone from the classic gems to the avant-garde. Get to know the season below and don’t forget to buy your tickets early for the best seats.

CARMEN (September 9-October 1)

Ana María Martínez as Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

On September 9, we open with Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Ana María Martínez stars as opera’s most famous femme fatale. Nobody—not even a lover—can tame Carmen, who bursts into life onstage with an intoxicating whirl of thrilling choreography, vivid orchestrations and heart-stopping drama. Bizet’s unforgettable score is an endless parade of one great melody after the other, from the languid allure of Carmen’s sensual songs to the macho boasts of the dashing bullfighter.

THE PEARL FISHERS (October 7-28)

A scene from The Metropolitan Opera's production of The Pearl Fishers (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

A scene from The Metropolitan Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

A beautifully detailed staging, complete with stunning special effects, brings a rare and exotic story to life. Soprano Nino Machaidze, one of LA Opera’s favorite leading ladies, returns as a veiled priestess with a hidden past, pursued by two lifelong friends and romantic rivals. The complicated triangle pushes forbidden love into a final struggle for life and death, until a nearly forgotten secret saves the day.  Internationally acclaimed tenor Javier Camarena makes his company debut as Nadir.

The ravishing score, an early treasure by the composer of Carmen, features a rapturous duet for the two rivals that has become one of opera’s all-time greatest hits.

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Mukhtar Mai Travels To LA To See The Opera She Inspired

A talk back after the west coast premiere of Thumbprint; from left - composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz, creative producer Beth Morrison, and they are joined by Mukhtar Mai, whose life inspired the story, and her translator Gyanam Mahajan

A talk back after the west coast premiere of Thumbprint; from left – composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz, creative producer Beth Morrison, and they are joined by Mukhtar Mai, whose life inspired the story, and her translator Gyanam Mahajan

Mukhtar Mai’s smile lights a room. She’s recently arrived in Los Angeles and when we speak she chats about her eagerness to see Thumbprint – the opera her life inspired – and meet with friend Freida Pinto who lives in the area.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Mukhtar Mai, she’s an incredible woman.
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The Sounds of Thumbprint, what makes them?

Thumbprint (2017); Photo: Larry Ho

Thumbprint (2017); Photo: Larry Ho

The music of Thumbprint is infused with the sounds of South Asia, melding classical Hindustani music with western classical music.

Kamala Sankaram, who is both the piece’s composer and plays the leading role of Mukhtar Mai, has woven traditional instruments – piano, flute, violins, drums, and what you’d expect in a band – with some that are not often seen in opera.

The sounds that form the musical language of Thumbprint and provide its regional nuances come from the traditional instruments of South Asia.

Harmonium – like an accordion, the harmonium is a small pump organ.

Harmonium

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Writing Mukhtar Mai’s Story

Kamala Sankaram as Mukhtar Mai in Thumbprint; Photo: Noah Stern Weber / Beth Morrison Projects

Kamala Sankaram as Mukhtar Mai in Thumbprint; Photo: Noah Stern Weber / Beth Morrison Projects

NEWS: We’re thrilled and honored that Mukhtar Mai – whose historic bravery inspired “Thumbprint” – is traveling from Pakistan to witness her story told and join us for the talkbacks after each performance. If you don’t have a ticket yet, this is your chance to be part of this powerful moment.

After a brutal attack meant to destroy her, Mukhtar Mai became the first woman in Pakistan to bring her rapists to justice. Since then, Mai has become an international icon for women’s rights. She used the reparations money she received from the government to build schools for girls and continues to support women through her Mukhtar Mai Women’s Organization. Mai’s story resonates beyond borders in its implicit belief that even in the darkest times, one person, one voice, through a single act of courage, can change the lives of thousands.

Writer Susan Yankowitz has told Mai’s story for over a decade – as a monologue, then part of a play called Seven and now in the opera Thumbprint.
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Directing Thumbprint

A scene from the 2014 premiere production of Thumbprint; Photo: Noah Stern Weber / Beth Morrison Productions

A scene from the 2014 premiere production of Thumbprint; Photo: Noah Stern Weber / Beth Morrison Productions

NEWS: We’re thrilled and honored that Mukhtar Mai – whose historic bravery inspired “Thumbprint” – is traveling from Pakistan to witness her story told and join us for the talkbacks after each performance. If you don’t have a ticket yet, this is your chance to be part of this powerful moment.

Thumbprint tracks the extraordinary transformation of Mukhtar Mai. As a young woman in Pakistan, Mai is the victim of a brutal crime meant to destroy her. With incredible courage, Mai reports the crime, brings her perpetrators to justice, and becomes an international champion for women’s rights in Pakistan.

Rather than track Mai’s transformation in a literal fashion – with events happening on stage chronologically – director Rachel Dickstein brings Mai’s story to life in a different way that serves the opera’s impressionistic structure.

“When I first came on to Thumbprint, I was drawn to the impressionistic structure that Kamala and Susan had created,” recalls Dickstein. “Mai’s story does not unfold in a traditional or literal way. Everything that happens is from Mai’s perspective so therefore told through the lens of memory.”

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How far would you go to save the one you love?

Everyone has their limits – Tosca’s plight reflects today’s world more than Puccini could have imagined.

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Tosca is one of the greatest works of music theatre ever written and its importance is undiminished more than a century after Puccini wrote it. Its narrative is deceptively simple. It involves the lives of three principal characters. Mario Cavaradossi is a talented young painter, earning his living by creating ecclesiastical art in Roman churches. Floria Tosca, his lover, is a well-known opera singer, adored by her public. Baron Scarpia is the chief of police in a military state that is cracking down on all opposition, including artists and the support they draw.

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6 Treats You’ll Get at Plácido Domingo’s Superstar Celebration Concert

LA Opera is hosting a special concert on April 1 and here are some reasons why this concert is not-to-be-missed.

Domingo, Domingo, Domingo
When Plácido Domingo is your general director, you get the benefits of his artistic vision, his influence and his talent. For this one-night only concert, Maestro Domingo has brought together some of the worlds most acclaimed opera singers – Sondra Radvanovsky, Diana Damrau and Nicolas Testé. He’s also invited back many celebrated alumni of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist program, including Joshua Guerrero, So Young Park and Brenton Ryan. They’ll sing together and alongside the very talented artists currently in the distinguished program. And as if singing weren’t enough, when he’s not singing, he’ll conduct the LA Opera Orchestra. (When he is singing, Resident Conductor Grant Gershon will take the reins.)

Simon Boccanegra (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

Simon Boccanegra (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

Duets
The world of opera is filled with famous duets – some romantic, some reflective, some heroic.  Here’s what we’re excited about: Plácido Domingo and Sondra Radvanovsky singing the recognition scene from Simon Boccanegra and the beloved Merry Widow duet (“Lippen schweigen”); Domingo joining with tenor Joshua Guerrero for the gorgeous Pearl Fishers duet; as well as Diana Damrau and Nicolas Testé performing the seductive “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni. … Continue reading

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Meet Patricia Racette and James Conlon

Our Grammy Award Winning Duo - LA Opera Music Director and world renowned soprano Patricia Racette are back together in Salome.

Our Grammy Award Winning Duo – LA Opera Music Director and world renowned soprano Patricia Racette are back together in Salome.

Together again –  LA Opera Music Director, James Conlon and Patricia Racette (Salome) will host a special CD signing.

When: Thursday, March 16, 2017 – immediately following the performance
Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – Grand Avenue Lobby

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About The Abduction from the Seraglio

Morris Robinson as Osmin (left) and Brenton Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Morris Robinson as Osmin (left) and Brenton Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

The Abduction from the Seraglio takes the stage two more time this month. In case you’ve missed the Roaring Twenties, Orient Express, and Mozart fun, we’ve collected a bunch of articles for you to check out below.

Get To Know The Abduction from the Seraglio

James Conlon Talks Mozart and The Abduction from the Seraglio

Maestro James Conlon, who is celebrating his 10th season as LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director, discusses Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio.

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Salome’s Two Worlds Projected

LA Opera first presented its provocative production of Salome during its inaugural season in 1986. That iconic production featured a backdrop of hand painted, psychedelic projections envisioned by designer John Bury. Salome returns to LA Opera this month and features new projections that build upon Bury’s original designs and showcase the title character’s mental state throughout the opera.

Bury’s original projections (see below) were abstract and textural, containing a dark color scheme (reds, blues, and purples). Some projections feature shapes that look like bubbles or blood cells, while others create patterns using horizontal lines.

A still from John Bury's original projections

A still from John Bury’s original projections

Updated since their original use, the new projections are no longer hand painted. Projection Designer Alisa Lapidus digitized Bury’s projections and used them as the base for the new projections (which are both digital and animated). These new projections reflect director David Paul’s emphasis on Salome’s journey between two worlds – the one she lives in and the one in her head.

A still from the new projections for Salome

A still from the new projections for Salome

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Bring Your Family to the Opera for a Day of 1920s-Inspired Fun

On February 12, LA Opera will host its first family day of the season. Tickets to the matinee performance of The Abduction from the Seraglio are half-off for children and teens ages 9 to 17 (as always), and there will be several activities inspired by the Roaring Twenties-set production.

1920s Dance

1920s Dancing

Here are some of the fun activities for families on February 12:

Swing Into the 1920s Spirit with Dance Lessons

From 11:30am-12:40pm, members from MASS Historia will be on hand teaching families how to fox trot like its 1925. There will also be professional demonstrations and dancing open to everyone after the performance in Stern Grand Hall.

Painters Galore

Members from the California Art Club, one of the oldest and largest professional arts organizations in the country, will be staged throughout the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion capturing the spirit of family day in paintings and showing families how fun art and opera can be. … Continue reading

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Mozart and the Orient Express: Using Comedy to Transcend Cultural Differences

The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

LA Opera’s production of The Abduction from the Seraglio is not a traditional staging of the Mozart treasure. Historically, the 18th-century comedic opera which follows the hero Belmonte as he tries to rescue his love Konstanze from the seraglio (“harem”) of Pasha Selim is set in the Pasha’s grand palace. Our staging, envisioned by director James Robinson, updates the story to the 1920s and sets the action entirely aboard the famed Orient Express, traveling from Istanbul to Paris.

The 1920s was a decade of transition—socially, politically and culturally. The world was still reeling from the Great War and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Grand world changes lend themselves well to the east-meets-west nature of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. This opera explores the comedy, not the tragedy, that arises when people from different cultures collide.

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Beyond Salome’s Veils

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

Salome the virgin vamp has had her ups and downs—from the opera stage to burlesque, from fine art to novelty songs like “When Miss Patricia Salome Did Her Funny Little Oo-La-Pa-Lome.” And who can forget Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, finally ready for her close-up, descending the staircase as the delusional Norma Desmond playing Salome? So many Salomes—one can only draw back the veils, one at a time, in order to get at the truth.

Unveiling Salome’s Origins

The mythical origins of Salome reach back to the ancient fertility figure Ishtar who performed a Welcome Dance to celebrate the renewal of nature. In classical times, this fertility figure became Demeter who gave humanity agriculture and her daughter Persephone who personified vegetation, withdrawing into the earth after the harvest only to return again in the spring. Most of us know the biblical Salome, whose name is similar to the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom,” and who appears in the books of Mark and Matthew, a beautiful virgin dancing to appease the lust of Herod.

But there was also a real Salome, born about 15 AD and married first to a Palestine governor and later to a ruler in Asia Minor. She also appears in the histories of Flavius Josephus, who was the first to name her as the daughter of Herodias, a detail retained by Seneca, Livy, and Plutarch.

"Salome in the Graden" by Gustave Moreau

“Salome in the Graden” by Gustave Moreau

Unveiling the Artful Salome

From these origins, we can already see a number of themes emerging: mysterious femininity, sexual power, a mixture of the earthy and the mystical. Interest in Salome grew as Europeans encountered other cultures through conquest or exploration, especially following Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt and Syria. A fascination with the orient spread throughout Europe in architecture, painting and the decorative arts. This orientalism (a controversial but useful term) also flowered in literature. The appearance in the late eighteenth century of the French translation of One Thousand and One Nights was followed by English versions in the nineteenth century, some bowdlerized for Victorian readers, some with all the juicy bits. It is easy to imagine Salome as the naughty cousin of Scheherazade, the resourceful and imaginative narrator of Nights who kept herself from being beheaded by entertaining the king with fascinating tales.

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James Conlon Talks Salome

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

“Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search for new sensations. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. Desire, at the end, was a malady, or a madness, or both.”

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Arriving on the heels of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio in our season, it is difficult to compare these totally different works without reflecting on how the world had changed. European civilization was sitting on a fault line when Richard Strauss wrote Salome. Strauss, who placed “the miracle Mozart, immediately after Bach,” could not turn to the latter for operatic prototypes, but found immeasurable inspiration in Mozart’s operas.

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Get To Know the 2017/2018 Season

We’ve just announced the 2017/2018 season and it’s all about the new. Five of the six mainstage productions are new to Los Angeles and two of them are company premieres. There will also be two major concerts – the first celebrating the 50th anniversary of Plácido Domingo’s first appearance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the second featuring Audra McDonald.

Can’t wait for the excitement to begin? Take a look below and get to know all the 17/18 season has in store for Los Angeles.

MAINSTAGE PRODUCTIONS
(presented at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)

Ana María Martínez returns as the famous opera femme fatale in Carmen

(Sep 9–Oct 1, 2017; production new to L.A.) — Georges Bizet

James Conlon conducts a cast that also features Alexander Vinogradov as Escamillo and Amanda Woodbury as Micaëla. The production is directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, winner of Tony, Emmy and Olivier Awards.

After seeing Carmen, experience The Pearl Fishers another Bizet gem

(Oct 7–28, 2017; company premiere) — Georges Bizet
Plácido Domingo and Grant Gershon will each conduct performances of a rarely performed treasure, directed by Penny Woolcock. Nino Machaidze returns as Leïla, her seventh leading role in Los Angeles, with superstar tenor Javier Camarena making his company debut as Nadir. The cast also includes Alfredo Daza as Zurga and Nicholas Brownlee as Nourabad.

Plácido Domingo and James Conlon unite for Nabucco

(Oct 14–Nov 19, 2017; production new to L.A.) — Giuseppe Verdi
Plácido Domingo sings the title role of the monumental opera that made Verdi famous, conducted by James Conlon. Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger, the production also features Liudmyla Monastyrska in her LAO debut as Abigaille, with Morris Robinson as Zaccaria, Mario Chang as Ismaele and Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Fenena.

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James Conlon Talks Mozart and The Abduction from the Seraglio

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

“Nothing is as ugly as vengeance, whereas the quality of great souls is to be humanely kind and forgive without selfishness.” (Act III, The Abduction from the Seraglio*)

In the final months of his life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed two operas, written simultaneously in 1791: The Magic Flute, a German Singspiel (“singing play”) alternating musical numbers with spoken dialogue; and La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus), an Italian opera seria. He might just as well have given his earlier Singspiel, 1782’s The Abduction from Seraglio, a different title: The Clemency of Pasha Selim. After all, the planned abduction fails to materialize. And of the many issues addressed in this work, the rejection of vengeance and the power of forgiveness are at its center, embodied in the person of Pasha Selim.

Impatient to impress Kaiser Joseph II, one of Europe’s greatest Enlightenment monarchs, Mozart jumped at the opportunity to “lift the national German stage to recognition in music!” He showed that not just he, but German music, could be freed from the virtual monopoly of Italian opera. Taking the popular form of Singspiel, he merges it with Italianate sophistication. This, in time, would lead to The Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Fidelio and the 19th-century German genre of Spieloper (“opera play”).

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

Mozart was 20 when British historian and man of letters Horace Walpole reiterated in a private letter what was to become his famous epigram: “The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.” The highly cultured Walpole might even have heard about the young genius from Salzburg.

Comedies make us think through provoking laughter and humor. Tragedies and melodramas make us feel, and sometimes weep. In the 18th century, Italian opera was compartmentalized: opera buffa made us laugh, opera seria made us think. Most importantly, they both pleased the ear. Mozart clouded this distinction by elevating the level of comic opera to deal with more serious subjects.

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Salome Cover Art Contest Winners Announced

Salome Art Contest Winner - Marshall Dahlin

Salome Art Contest Winner – Marshall Dahlin

The votes are in…Congratulations to our winners!

This past fall, LA Opera hosted a contest for currently enrolled college art and design students in southern California. Students were asked to submit artwork for LA Opera’s spring production of Strauss’s Salome for a chance to be featured on the cover of the show’s performance program and displayed at the home of LA Opera, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Thanks to the generous support of GRoW @ Annenberg, more than 35 students from 14 different southern California institutions competed for cash prizes and to see their artwork on this season’s Salome program cover. The winners were chosen by a jury, chaired by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten of the Annenberg Foundation and by Regina Weingarten, a member of the LA Opera board of directors. The jury also included Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera President and CEO; Diane Bergman, LA Opera Vice President of Marketing and Communications; Keith Rainville, LA Opera Brand Manager; and Tim Johnson, Film Director at DreamWorks Animation and a member of the LA Opera board of directors. We are pleased to announce our three winners: Marshall Dahlin, David Kwock, and Lauren Moss.

The top submission (see below), by Marshall Dahlin of Cal State Fullerton, was selected for the Salome cover, and earned him a $5,000 prize.

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