Photo of Igor Gorin singing to a group of people in a field

Christian Pursell of San Francisco Opera receives 2019 Igor Gorin Memorial Award

The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona is pleased to announce that bass-baritone Christian Pursell is the recipient of the Igor Gorin Memorial Award 2019 Award.   Mr. Pursell is currently an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera. As the recipient of the 2019 Igor Gorin Memorial Award, Mr. Pursell received a $10,000 unrestricted award to help relieve some of the financial burden that often hinders young artists at the onset of their career.

Winner of the Sullivan Foundation’s prestigious Theodor Uppman Award, his 2017 season saw debuts at both Houston Grand Opera and the Vienna State Opera, and a critically acclaimed performance of Dandini in La Cenerentola with the Merola Opera Program.

Mr. Pursell’s 2018 season included his debut with San Francisco Opera as Walter Raleigh in Roberto Devereux.  That same year he was named recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant and was Second Award winner of the Jensen Foundation Competition. Mr. Pursell’s upcoming engagements include Samuel in Handel’s Saul with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Handel’s Messiah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Mr. Pursell shared, “I am so honored to receive the Igor Gorin Memorial Award!  Thank you for this immense support.  I am so, so grateful.”

Igor Gorin Memorial Award History

The Igor Gorin Memorial Award was established in 1987 by Mary Gorin as a fitting way to honor the memory of her husband, Igor Gorin, a world-renowned opera singer.  This unrestricted award is given out once a year to help aspiring opera singers with expenses associated with hiring accompanists and coaches, and auditioning as they transition from school into professional careers.

Held at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, this Fund has awarded more than $306,000 to 45 individual young artists since 1993.  Today, the Igor Gorin Memorial Award is one of the most prestigious and generous awards of its kind in the country.

Mr. Gorin was a Russian refugee who, in the late 1920’s, escaped to Vienna before immigrating to the United States.  His star began to rise as a member of the Czechoslovakian Opera Company. Later, he was invited to the United States by a synagogue in Providence, Rhode Island where he assumed cantorial duties.  This was the beginning of a spectacular career in radio, film, stage and television.

Earning a reputation as the “Prince of Baritones,” Igor Gorin’s career spanned the 1930s through the 1960s. During WWII, he gave more of his time and talent entertaining the troops than anyone in Hollywood.  He had a personal motivation, as his father, brother and sister were in Auschwitz and Igor desperately wanted to see them freed.  Singing to the troops, he later said, was his way of saying “thank you.”

Igor and Mary Gorin retired to Tucson in 1965. Before long, University of Arizona President Richard Harvill invited Igor to begin a second career teaching opera at the university. In working with the next generation of voices, Igor was reminded of his own early struggles to survive and launch his career.

Information for the 2020 application round will be available at in July 2019.  To learn more, please contact Enedina Miller at or (520) 770-0800 Ext. 7111.