Mr. Barnum Invites You To Jenny Lind Concert Featuring 12 Sopranos At UB

Julie Anne Hamula
Julie Anne Hamula, 2012 American Jenny Lind.

This is a cool event, free and open to the public. Barnum Museum Executive Director Kathy Maher, event organizer, says it all.

“Everything about the Barnum Festival embraces the true spirit of P.T. Barnum. He loved art and music, and above all else, he loved making people happy. Remarkably, Barnum’s 1850 tour of Jenny Lind was without question the first American Idol! More so than any other of Barnum’s extraordinary enterprises, it was the Jenny Lind tour that established Barnum as a genius in marketing and advertising, and defined him as the Great American Showman! It’s an honor to work with and as a Barnum Festival volunteer on such an important and historic program!”

The final round of the 65th Annual Jenny Lind competition will take place on Saturday, May 18, at 1 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the Arnold Bernhard Center, 126 Park Avenue, on the campus of the University of Bridgeport. The event is free and open to the public.

Twelve sopranos from five different states will compete to become the Barnum Festival’s American Jenny Lind. The Jenny Lind title includes a $2,000 cash prize and the winner will perform a joint concert with her counterpart, the Swedish Jenny Lind, at the historic Bijou Theatre in Downtown Bridgeport on June 27 at 7:30 p.m. This annual event is sponsored by the Barnum Festival with support from the Norden Club. John F. Stafstrom Jr., a partner with the Bridgeport office of Pullman & Comley, is the 2013 Barnum Festival Ringmaster.

The Jenny Lind Competition and Concert have been part of the Barnum Festival since the annual salute to showman began in 1949. The Festival created the competition for promising local sopranos to compete for the title and launch their operatic careers. The winner was awarded the Jenny Lind title, a cash prize, and would serve alongside the Ringmaster and Royal Family at many Barnum Festival events. A similar competition is held each year in Sweden, and both American and Swedish Jenny Linds perform together in Bridgeport at the June concert.

The Swedish 2013 Jenny Lind Scholarship went to Soprano Magdalena Risberg. Magdalena is in her last year of the University College of Opera in Stockholm and was selected based on “a voice that is natural and simple, yet rich and moving, showing great musicality.”

In 1850 Barnum’s promotion of “the Swedish Nightingale,” Jenny Lind, the most celebrated European soprano, represented a new showcase for Barnum. Before Jenny Lind even set foot in America, Barnum unleashed an avalanche of publicity luring thousands to the wharfs in New York to greet her arrival. It established Barnum as a legitimate cultural impresario.

Commemorating the historic success of the Jenny Lind tour, organizers of the Barnum Festival sought to revive the glorious original program and bring the wonder of classical, operatic entertainment to the regional community. The competition and concert have been featured Barnum Festival programs ever since.

Finalists who will perform on May 18th:

Kathryn Bowden – is from Glastonbury, Connecticut. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and she was a member of the Chataqua Opera program in the summer of 2012. She is actively pursuing a career in opera at this time.

Jamilyn Manning-White – was born in Pocatella, Idaho. She grew up in Smithfield, Utah and is currently residing in New Haven, CT. She has degrees from Utah State University and Arizona State University. She has also earned an Artist Diploma from Yale University.

Jane Pappas – is from Roxbury, CT. She studied voice at NYU in New York City. She has also studied at The Juilliard School and at La Sorbonne in Paris, France.

Emily Misch – studied at Mannes College in New York City and at Yale University. She has also studied and performed in Italy and France.

Vanessa Isguen – was born in Los Angeles California and is currently residing in New York City where she is pursuing a career in opera. She has studied at the University of North Carolina, Boston University and at Mannes College. She has also studied in Graz, Austria.

Kinneret Ely – was born in New Haven, CT. She studied voice at Hunter College and at the Manhattan School of Music. She has also studied abroad in Israel, Italy and France. She presently lives in New York City.

Chelsea Davidson – was born in Oswego, NY., and she is currently living in Cleveland, Tennessee. She studied at Lee University in Tennessee, and she toured Japan with a chamber group in 2012.

Ashley Becker – was born in Hanover New Hampshire. She studied at McGill University in Canada. She is presently residing in New York and has been singing professionally in the United States and Canada.

Ashley Bell – was born in New York City. She studied at Yale University and also in Italy. She has performed in operas in Spain, and she has future performances scheduled with the Long Island Opera Company.

Keely Borland – was born in Merrysville, Pennsylavania. She attended Middlebury College in Vermont and Lawrence University in Wisconsin. She was also a student at the University of Southern California, and she has studied and performed in Europe.

Elizabeth Fagan – was born in Hartford, CT and is now residing in New York. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago, and has studied and performed extensively in Italy.

Erin Smith – was born in Lansing, Michigan and is now residing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She graduated from Western Michigan University and she has done graduate work at the University of Iowa. Erin has also studied and performed in Graz, Austria.

About The Barnum Festival

The Barnum Festival was established in 1949 to celebrate the life and times of P.T. Barnum and to commemorate the history of Bridgeport. The Barnum Festival is dedicated to providing exciting family entertainment which enriches the community, embraces diversity and celebrates life. Events produced through the passion of our volunteers brings to the community The Jenny Lind Competition & Concert, Champions on Parade, The Wing Ding Parade for Children, the “Got Talent” Vocal Competition, a spectacular fireworks display at Seaside Park and The Great Street Parade. For more information, please visit or call 203-367-8495.



  1. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Arena last weekend.
    NYC Chancellor of Schools and UB graduate Dennis Walcott was the commencement speaker. Our “Education Mayor” and Bloomberg friend played hooky!

    John gets his whip and whistle today.

  2. Love this concert every year. Show up–really, it is a great and inspiring event. UB has been gracious in hosting it and if the mayor doesn’t attend, it is his loss. No one ever overestimated his brain power. Geez.


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