idgefield, CT was once the home
of a music festival that brought leading opera and chamber music personalities to a private theater on an estate called Dunrovin. William Matheus Sullivan, a New York City lawyer and patron of music, bought it as his country home in 1936 and converted a carriage house into a theater modeled after Frederick the Great's opera house in Bayreuth, Germany. In 1938 he began featuring singers like Lily Pons, Grace Moore, Lawrence Tibbett, Edward Johnson, and Geraldine Farrar in private concerts. When war broke out in Europe in 1940, Mr. Sullivan turned over the concert proceeds to the Red Cross. Suspended during the war, the festivals resumed in 1946, but ended with his death in 1947. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Sullivan was an attorney for the Metropolitan Opera and for many of its singers, and sponsored young artists who went on to become leading singers and musicians. An art and antiques collector, he hung Van Dyck's "The Holy Family," in his playhouse. He was often seen in the village with his English sheepdogs, one of which was the gift of his friend, the Duke of Windsor. In his will, Mr. Sullivan established the William Matheus Sullivan Musical Foundation which is now in its sixtieth year of awarding study grants to promising singers.
—Ridgefield Historical Society
About the Foundation
The Foundation was established through the bequest of a prominent lawyer, William Matheus Sullivan, to identify talented young singers and help them develop professional careers through a unique program combining major awards with five years of additional support. Its first director was Edward Johnson, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, and its board has always been made up of distinguished professionals in the field.
The Foundation holds auditions every year in New York, and gives generous cash awards to gifted young singers in the early stages of professional careers. Ten 2017 winners received $10,000 awards, and for the next five years may apply for additional Role Preparation Grants to support musical, dramatic, vocal, and language coaching for new professional engagements. In addition, five singers received $5,000 Career Development Grants.
Winners receive Role Preparation Grants by presenting a future contract to perform (not cover) an operatic role, an oratorio, or other engagement with full orchestra for which they have not already received Foundation assistance. The number of awards and grants varies with the resources of the Foundation.
Close to 500 singers have earned Sullivan Awards, among them Christine Brewer, Jessye Norman, Jerry Hadley, Kathleen Battle, Michael Devlin, Renee Fleming, Leona Mitchell, Susan Graham, Patricia Racette, Elizabeth Futral, and many more.
Board of Directors
Charles MacKay, President
Bruce Donnell, Vice-President
Peter J. Merrill, Treasurer
Peter S. Heller
Andrew Y. Rogers