(Award winners: Reginald Smith, Jr., Winner; Trey Smagur, Winner; Caitlin Andrews, Winner; Nicholas Yaquinto, Encouragement award winner; John Tibbetts, Encouragement award winner; Megan Brunning, Encouragement award winner)
This year, I am proud to announce a great success in my first ever National Council Audition for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I was the youngest participant on the roster, and still walked away with an encouragement award, for which I could not be more proud. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Met, they are one of the oldest standing opera houses in the United States (Opened in 1880), and arguably currently the most prestigious establishment to perform in within the US. Every year the Met holds ‘National Council Auditions,’ designed to discover young talent and give opera singers around the country a way to be heard by professionals within their industry, and develop their careers. The auditions are held in stages, beginning with districts. The winners from the district competitions then progress to Regional finals, and the winners from these are progressed to the semi finals, which are held in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in the spring. As you progress through the levels, there are awards of cash as well as prestige, connections to other professionals, and the chance to be chosen as a grand finalist, to perform in the winners concert in New York and receive $15,000.
(For more informaton about the Metropolitan opera, click here: http://metopera.org/ )
This year, I found myself within the competition at the advice of my highly esteemed opera director at school, Carroll Freeman, as well as a good friend and the pianist for the Met Competition in Atlanta, Grant Jones. Although I thought it was out of my league so to speak, both urged me that it would be a great opportunity for me and that I should audition. So, I filed my paperwork, began coaching my 5 arias required, and before I knew it the day had come. The competition started at 10 AM on Saturday, November 22nd, and was held at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. I was quite fortunate to receive a time later in the afternoon, 2:40 PM. I arrived in the church warmed up and extremely excited to sing. The audition package I offered was as follows:
1. Mab, la reine des mensonges: Roméo et Juliette: Gounod
2. Largo al factotum: Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Rossini
3. Lieben, Hassen: Ariadne auf Naxos: Strauss
4. Bella siccome un angelo: Don Pasquale: Donizetti
5. When the Air Sings of Summer: The Old Maid and the Thief: Menotti
The way the audition process works is that you enter the stage, in this case the chapel, to find 3 judges and an audience waiting to hear you sing. You announce your name and the first piece you intend to sing, and after performance the panel of judges decides on which piece you will sing next. Typically an audition will consist of two full arias; with exceptions depending on the length of each. The audition is open to the public and completely free to attend, so a large sea of faces stared at me as I walked out. The three judges are hired by the Met and typically people of great experience and knowledge within the operatic realm, and this year was no exception. Our judges were:
1. Delores Ziegler; University of Maryland
2. James Meena; Opera Carolina
3. Ben Malensek; Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Metropolitan Opera
I opened with Mab, which was actually the piece I have known for the least amount of time. I learned it for the competition and premiered it during the audition, and was so excited to perform it. I felt great about my performance, however the judges then chose my Menotti piece. This is the only English aria I offered on my package, and honestly was the piece I had hoped most that they would not choose. The funny thing is that this second piece is the one I received the most compliments about from audience members after the fact, and one judge even said they thought that it was the most true performance of the day.
All in all it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I feel so blessed to have received such a distinguished honor at such a young age, however I know the hours of work put in before hand played a great part in making it happen. Most of all I would like to congratulate all of the fantastic singers who I competed alongside, the familiar and the new, and hope to continue with the relationships I have made within the operatic world. I look forward to the next year I am able to participate, and have my eye on the grand prize!