Named for P. E. MacAlllister, Indianapolis businessman and philanthropist, the first vocal competition was held in 1979 and then became an annual event. MacAllister founded the competition and funded it. Through a series of nationwide auditions, finalists were chosen to compete in Indianapolis for the largest nonrestricted monetary awards in North America for young opera singers, age 36 and under.

Judges were usually managers or artistic directors of nationally recognized opera companies or singers with international careers. Applicants in the professional division had to have performed a staged role and be citizens of the United States. The top 20 finalists received awards; first prize was $10,000.

A youth division, ages 13 to 18, began in 1987; a college division, college-enrolled and 25 years of age and younger, followed in 1988. The youth division was open to Indiana residents only. The Indiana Opera Theatre sponsored the event. A broad base of community support also came from individuals and corporations.

The MacAllister Award was last presented in 2002. It was a prestigious honor among opera singers. Established vocalists used it as a stepping stone in their careers. Winners of the event included Cynthia Lawrence, who gained prominence through “The Three Sopranos” in the late 1990s and 2000s, and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.

Revised March 2021

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