2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

(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)

Finalists and encouragement award winners for the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council District winners
Finalists and encouragement award winners for the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council District winners

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!

Elle passe, elle fuit


As I come to the end of my undergraduate career, many questions pass through my mind in a flurry, both clouding my vision and providing true insight. What happens next? Will my hard work and dedication in pursuit of a degree in music be in vain? What is the correct next step for me, and how do I begin to make an income with the skills I have acquired in the last 4 years? How many licks DOES it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

As I pensively move through the motions of considering graduate schools, wading through the endless numbers of applications for young artist programs, and contemplating the horror of moving towards a full time position in the service industry, I sense that this is a time for self reflection and gut decision making. It has been a dream of mine since I was a child to live abroad, and I believe the time has finally come for me to embark upon that vast journey. My recent visits to Europe have been but a taste of the delightful vintage of wine that is a life abroad, and I think I have decided that the particular lineage that I have acquired a taste for is Paris. A beautiful city, the most beautiful city, with tastes and sights and experiences just waiting to be enjoyed. I want to experience nightly walks around the Seine, frequenting small brunch cafes on mornings off, submerging myself in a foreign culture, becoming truly fluent in a language that I have been slowly progressing in, and understanding how music and life are approached with a completely different view of the world. The only problem is, how do I go about finding a way to live in a foreign country and provide for myself as an adult? I am in the beginning stages of reviewing Universities and artist programs that may be able to provide for me as a young singer, but with so many things to consider and minute details to plan, I am overcome with apprehension and doubt. I will be applying to L’ Atelier Lyrique Opéra national de Paris in hopes of receiving an audition for the upcoming year. If I am granted one I will then be able to audition in early January, which coincides with my vacation time in France I have planned for this winter. This is my main hope for the next year abroad, however I feel it is necessary to find other options if that does not pan out. I will also be auditioning to L’Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, a conservatory designed to work with international students studying in Paris. If you have information or resources to help me in my endeavor to go abroad, please reach out to me! I would be quite gracious and thankful for any information on this matter. (You can contact me through the form found here: http://nicholasyaquinto.com/contact-hire/)

(If you would like to check out a little more about L’Atelier, there website can be found here: https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/les-artistes/l-atelier-lyrique)

In the mean time I continue with current endeavors, working towards finishing this degree that I have worked so hard for, and reaping the benefits of positive relationships and experiences that I have accrued in my 4 years here in Atlanta. Ambition will either be the life of me or the death of me, but I feel that if ever there were a time to reach for my dreams, it is now. Truly I have no fear towards my future, and I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. After all, c’est la vie!

Tis the Season!


As the holiday season approaches, many professions find a time of relaxation and holiday breaks. Musicians, however, often find this time to be the most busy season of the year, and for me this year is no exception! After finishing 4 performances Il Barbiere di Siviglia last weekend, I now find myself upon the ‘crunch time’ of the school year, all coinciding with a season of auditions and performances. This weekend I will be performing in Georgia State Opera Theaters’ presentation of ‘Opera Goes to Church,’ a scenes program consisting of repertoire from all spectrums of opera, to be performed Friday through Sunday at the locations listed below. I’m performing in two scenes, one from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the other from Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring. The following Monday I’ll be performing in a conjoined choir concert between the Georgia State University Singers and the University of Georgia Hodgson Singers at All Saints Episcopal Church, 7:30pm, November 17th. That same week Pulitzer prize winning composer Michael Colgrass will be coming to Georgia State to lead a performance of his piece Zululand featuring combined band, orchestra, and choir, in which I will be featured as the male soloist. The following Saturday I will be participating in the Metropolitan Opera Competition at Peachtree First Presbyterian Church, which is free and open to the public for anyone wanting to attend. Fortunately I will then have a week off to rest up and celebrate my birthday/ Thanksgiving with family and friends back home in Savannah, before heading off to Chicago to audition for Central City Opera in Colorado this coming summer. All of these opportunities are both exciting and unsettling, however I look forward to facing them and giving each opportunity my all. My success in the coming weeks will also play a role in my acceptance to audition at L’Atelier Lyric opera national de Paris this coming January, which is the opportunity I anticipate most for the coming year. Apprehension turns into inspiration, and inspiration into success! Everyone enjoy a happy and restful holiday season, and take time to enjoy the things in life that matter most.