Young Opera Singers Ready for Grand Finals of National Council Auditions
by Ellie Amalie
New York, NY: Twenty semi-finalists arrived in New York today, ready to rehearse with the Metropolitan Opera’s musical staff for two days in preparation for the Semi-Finals competition on Sunday, March 3. The winners of that event will go on to sing in the Grand Finals Concert accompanied by the Met Orchestra on March 10 at 3 p.m. The finalists will have a week of preparation with Met musical and dramatic coaches to prepare for the Concert, which is open to the public. Tickets for the Grand Finals Concert may be purchased at the Met Box Office, by phone at 212-362-6000, or online at www.metopera.org.
The twenty young singers each won local and regional competitions in both the US and Canada and have come to New York where they will have a chance to sing on the Met stage as they compete in the semi-finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. The Met Auditions, this year celebrating their 60th anniversary, are a major stepping stone to a career as an opera singer and were crucial in introducing many of today’s best-known stars, such as Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey, Deborah Voigt, and Dolora Zajick.
The semi-finalists with the regions they will represent in the competition and their hometowns are: Matthew Anchel, bass (Eastern Region; New York, NY); Michael Brandenburg, tenor (Central Region; Austin, IN); Brandon Cedel, bass-baritone (Middle Atlantic Region; Hershey, PA); Tracy Cox, soprano (Western Region; Dallas, TX); William Davenport, tenor (Middle Atlantic Region; Rockville, MD); Hye Jung Lee, soprano (Gulf Coast Region; Seoul, South Korea); Juan José de León, tenor (Great Lakes Region; Corpus Christi, TX); Christopher Lowrey, countertenor (New England Region; Johnston, RI); Sydney Mancasola, soprano (New England Region; Redding, CA); Felicia Moore, soprano (Eastern Region; Princeton, NJ); Edward Nelson, baritone (Mid-South Region; Los Angeles, CA); Musa Ngqungwana, bass-baritone (Middle Atlantic Region; Port Elizabeth, South Africa); Richard Ollarsaba, bass-baritone (Upper Midwest Region; Tempe, AZ); Rebecca Pedersen, soprano (Rocky Mountain Region; Bountiful, UT); Thomas Richards, bass-baritone (Central Region; Burnsville, MN); Efrain Solis, baritone (Western Region; Santa Ana, CA); Jessica Strong, soprano (Northwest Region; Winnipeg, Manitoba); Karen Vuong, soprano (Eastern Region; Los Angeles, CA); Benjamin Werley, tenor (Midwest Region; Pittsburgh, PA); Melinda Whittington, soprano (Southeast Region; Charlotte, NC).
Update 3/3/13: Competition Continues as Ten Finalists Announced
This year’s finalists are: Matthew Anchel, 25, bass (Eastern Region; New York, NY); Michael Brandenburg, 26, tenor (Central Region; Austin, IN); Brandon Cedel, 25, bass-baritone (Middle Atlantic Region; Hershey, PA); Tracy Cox, 27, soprano (Western Region; Dallas, TX); Sydney Mancasola, 25, soprano (New England Region; Redding, CA); Musa Ngqungwana, 28, bass-baritone (Middle Atlantic Region; Port Elizabeth, South Africa); Richard Ollarsaba, 25, bass-baritone (Upper Midwest Region; Tempe, AZ); Rebecca Pedersen, 21, soprano (Rocky Mountain Region; Bountiful, UT); Thomas Richards, 24, bass-baritone (Central Region; Burnsville, MN); Efrain Solis, 23, baritone (Western Region; Santa Ana, CA).
The finalists, between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, will be competing for individual cash prizes of $15,000 each at the Grand Finals Concert. Even more important than the prize money is the contestants’ opportunity to perform with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra on the historic opera house stage before an audience that will include opera company executives, artist managers, music critics, and other opinion-makers of the music world.
On Monday, March 11, at 7 p.m., this year’s newly selected winners will perform a concert of varied operatic repertory at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR, New York City’s all-classical station. They will be joined by a Met star and former National Council winner, bass-baritone Eric Owens. The event will be broadcast live on WQXR and there will be a live video webcast on both www.wqxr.org and www.thegreenespace.org.
The regional winners were chosen from nearly 1500 singers who participated in the auditions held in 40 districts and 13 regions throughout the United States and Canada, sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera National Council. Given the reach of the auditions, the number of applicants, and the long tradition associated with them, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions are considered the most prestigious in North America for singers seeking to launch an operatic career. In 2007, the National Council Audition process was captured in an acclaimed documentary, The Audition, which was shown on PBS and released on DVD.