Sunday, May 20, 2012

Taking some Mystery out of the National Council Auditions

The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, also known as the MONC, is a competition for aspiring opera singers between 20 and 30 years of age, who are vying for the ultimate prize - the opportunity to sing on the Metropolitan Opera house stage with the Met orchestra. Winners also receive cash awards to further their careers, as well as national recognition. The MONC is divided into Districts that feed into larger Regions. Although under the Metropolitan Opera umbrella of organizations, each district and region is responsible for its own fundraising to finance its auditions and does not receive direct support from the Metropolitan Opera.
For those with some time to spare, here is an in depth history of the Auditions since they started in the 1950’s. For the rest, in short, the District and Regional Committees host the auditions by screening applicants, sourcing venues, selecting judges, awarding cash prizes and raising the funds to support its activities. All members of the MONC committees are uncompensated volunteers. The job of the committees is to find convenient, affordable, but acoustically appropriate space to house the auditions, identify and invite judges, hire an accompanist, process and schedule the singers, coordinate with the Metropolitan Opera for consistency, and to raise funds to support all of its activities. The Eastern Region, for example, holds a Benefit Gala, featuring winners from its Regional competition. All proceeds from the Gala support the following year’s auditions prizes and activities.

The district auditions are the first round of the competition, where all applicants perform one or two arias for competition judges. Competition judges are professionals in the opera industry and are can be conductors, opera singers or opera house professionals. The Eastern District audition averages 100 singers in a competition that spans 3 days. The winners from the District level advance to the Regional Competition, where singers perform arias, or portions of arias, selected by the competition judges. The Regional auditions are typically held in one day. The winners from the Regions across the country then convene for the Met Opera’s Semi-Finals and Grand Finals.

The Met Opera National Council Auditions are essentially a young artist competition, broken down into 4 stages, which are events in themselves:

1.District Audition Competition (1st Round):
Run by your District or Regional Committee held in respective region (visit the Eastern Region (NY) website here)
No financial support by the Metropolitan Opera
Separate fundraising conducted through ticket sales or benefits
Selected singers advance to the 2nd round, the Regional Auditions
Cash prizes to all singers who advance

2. Region Audition Competition (2nd Round):

Run by your District or Regional Committee held in respective region (visit the Eastern Region (NY) website here)
No financial support from the Metropolitan Opera
Separate fundraising conducted through ticket sales or benefits
Cash prizes for First and Second place winners and Encouragement Award
First Place Winner(s) advance to the Metropolitan Opera Semi-Finals

3. Semi-Finals, held at the Metropolitan Opera (3rd Round):

Singers from all the various districts and regions meet to compete
Selected winners advance to the Grand Finals Auditions

4. Grand Finals Concert, held at the Metropolitan Opera (4th and Final Round):

Singers spend a week of training with in-house voice, theatrical and
professional coaches (the documentary The Audition is a great film for those
with additional interest)
Cash prizes to singers
There are 42 districts and 14 Regions throughout the United States. Each district or region is responsible for financially supporting its own operations and is not allocated funds from the Metropolitan Opera. Fundraising is done through ticket sales, benefit events and from generous donations received by local opera lovers who believe in ensuring the survival of opera. Through these contributions, young talent is afforded a highly accessible opportunity to pursue recognition from one of THE premier opera organizations in the world, the Metropolitan Opera.

These local committees are comprised entirely of volunteers, who devote countless hours to the organization and fundraising of their auditions. The Eastern Region Committee is comprised of a 12 volunteers who meet regularly throughout the year and staff the local auditions. The Eastern Region holds a fundraising gala at the conclusion of the auditions, featuring a concert by the winners from its competition. Each committee runs its budget so that operating costs are minimal and donations primarily go to the cash prizes that support the singers’ careers.

How can you donate?
Contact your District/Regional Committee, in our Eastern Region (NYC) case, here is our information
Purchase tickets to attend our elegant Black Tie Benefit Gala
If you attend the District and/or Regional Audition Competitions as an audience member, a small donation is requested

How can you get involved?
Click here to volunteer or sign up to receive our e-newsletter.

The Eastern Region would like to thank our esteemed donors for perpetuating the fine art of opera, and for giving these young singers the opportunity to compete on the world's stage.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Singer Update - D'Ana Lombard's Ongoings

To share some more news from our 2011/12 Season Auditioners, Miss D'Ana Lombard has been enjoying some exciting experiences, namely the Mannes College production of Don Giovanni (along with Ricardo Rivera) at the Kaye Playhouse on May 4th. She had "a wonderful time singing with all my amazing colleagues." Here is an article/review that calls out her performance:

If that were not enough - in August Miss Lombard will be starting her new position as a Young Artist at LA Opera's Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program!

A BIG Congratulations to D'Ana!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Singer Update - Julie Lima's Ongoings

Here is a synopsis of Julie's recent and upcoming performances:
April 26 2012 - as the Queen of the Night in "The Magic Flute" by Mozart with Opera Company of Brooklyn, conducted by Jay Meetze.
 May 4 2012 - as Armida in the pastiche "The Armida Project" by Handel, Vivaldi, Broschi, Porpora; at the historical building the Angel Orensanz Foundation; read the review here.

May 3 and 5 2012 - performing various arias and songs in the concert program "Spring Sing" with Riverside Opera Company with conductor Alan Aurelia.
June 1 2012 - as 1st Dame in "The Magic Flute" with the Opera Company of Brooklyn
September 8 2012 - as the Queen of the Night  in "The Magic Flute" with the Opera Company of Brooklyn

Congratulations Julia!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Met Scene: Season Preview with Peter Gelb

Every year, Patrons of the Metropolitan Opera gather in the auditorium to listen to General Manager Peter Gelb as he presents next season's new productions.  This is a great way to get some insight in what will be on stage next year, and it sometimes makes it easier to understand what is going on when the actual opera premieres.

The 2012-2013 season will open with a new production of L'Elisir d'Amore by Donizetti.  Because seasons get planned so far in advance (the Met is now working on the 2017-2018 season), many things can go wrong and change in the intervening years.  L'Elisir was not meant to be the season opener, especially since it had such a great revival in March with Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau, but it will be great to see a fresh and new production by Bartlett Sher.  The story will be set in 1836, and the main focus will be the relationship between real and unreal; in this case, for example, real water but fake houses.  Anna Netrebko will once again open the season, together with Matthew Polenzani.  Mark your calendars for Opening Night on September 24th, because there is nothing like Opening Night at the Met.

In October, the Met will have its premiere of Thomas Ades' The Tempest.  The Tempest is a modern opera, it had its premiere in London in 2004, and this will be the third production of it since then.  The Met's production by Robert Lepage is set in La Scala of the Eighteenth Century.  The production will be filled with lots of theatrical magic, which can be expected of a production by Lepage, who was also the mastermind behind the Met's new Ring Cycle.  There will be lots of acrobatics and very imaginitive costumes.  The story is based on Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. 
Thomas Ades will conduct his own masterpiece, starring Simon Keenlyside as Prospero.  Also on the roster is Alek Shrader, winner of the 2007 Grand Finals and who you may remember from the documentary The Audition.  

The third premiere of the season will be David Alden's new production of Un Ballo in Maschera, which will be the first new production in twenty years.  The action of the opera is set back in Europe, just like Verdi intended it.  Verdi had to set his own Ballo in Boston due to censorship in Italy.  This was because the main component and inspiration for the opera was the political assassination of Gustavo III of Sweden in 1792.  Alden places this production in the early Twentieth Century, in a dreamlike and nightmarish environment.  Look for similarities with Icarus.  I am very excited for this production because it stars Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and I just fell in love with him last week when I saw him perform in La Traviata.  His voice carried me away.  He will be joined by Marcelo Alvarez and Kathleen Kim, among others, who is also one of my favorites after I heard her in Les Contes d'Hoffman (in the Doll Song).

Next up will be part two of Donizetti's 3 queen operas, Maria Stuarda.  David McVicar will tackle this production, and like Bolena, his interpretation will be historically accurate. However, this opera will be more abstract: free and romantic.  The storytelling should happen mainly through the music, and the librettist took some creative liberty with regards to this.  In the opera, Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I meet, but this never actually happened.
This Bel Canto opera will have its premiere on New Year's Eve.  Joyce DiDonato takes on the role of Mary, while Elza Van Den Heever plays Elizabeth I.

Rigoletto is finally up for a new production as well; the old one dates from 1989.  The first technical rehearsals will begin in a few weeks on the Met stage.  A technical rehearsal is when all the technical aspects of the production are tried out on the stage, but no singing is involved yet.  Peter Gelb brings famed Broadway producer Michael Mayer to the Met stage.  He searched for a period in history that will make the story timeless and universal, and he found it in the neon-lit Las Vegas of the sixties.  It makes sense to the story, which opens in a casino: the Duke is a Las Vegas star and Rigoletto is his hang on guy, kind of like the Rat Pack.  The cast will consist of Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala and Željko Lucic.

Parsifal will receive its first new production in 24 years by film director Francois Girard.  Jonas Kaufman will be the star of the production, which will feature a minimal staging, consisting of a dry earth with one stream of water running through it.  The environment will be mystical, spiritual and timeless; eventually the water will turn to blood.
It is very hard to explain an opera in a few sentences, and that seems to be the case with Parsifal, but the season brochure describes Parsifal as "the innocent who finds wisdom."  It will be a must-see production, as this is another one of Wagner's masterpieces.  Also starring in this production are René Pape and Peter Mattei.

The last new production of the season is Giulio Cesare, a Baroque piece by Handel which will also be staged by David McVicar.  This is a very entertaining production, and features a variety of tunes: romantic, comic, adventurous... The story is a fictional account, but it somehow remains true.  It will be a playful account, even with some Bollywood influences.
The amazing countertenor David Daniels, who you might have seen in this season's The Enchanted Island, will sing the title role.  He will be joined by Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra.

In addition to these seven new productions, there will also be sixteen revivals.  There will be seven Verdi operas next season, in celebration of his bicentennial.  Les Troyens is finally being brought back to the stage as well.  It is not often performed because it is a very expensive production to mount.  

In the future, we should expect to see many more new productions.  Peter Gelb believes in new productions, and every opera should receive an update every few years.  For people who have a problem with the more minimalistic and modern productions, La Traviata, for example, was always supposed to have been set by Verdi 100 years later than what he eventually managed to bring to the stage.  As is often thought, minimalistic sets are not used to cut costs, the best way to do that is by making co-productions with other opera houses around the world.  I happen to like the new productions on the Met stage; it is just important to have an open mind.

If you are as excited about next season as I am, check out the online brochure and order your subscription right now.  You are sure to find a whole bunch of Grand Finals winners on the roster next season.

Pictures courtesy of

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Singer Update - Ricardo Rivera in Mannes' Production of Don Giovanni

A pity that I found myself out of the country on May 5, as the production of Don Giovanni from Mannes appears to have been an absolute hit! Congratulations to Ricardo Rivera who played the title roll and the cast and crew of the show. Again, judging by all the fanfare plastered on Ricardo's Facebook page, I am sorry I missed it!

Here is a review from Asia Times Online

Wednesday, May 2, 2012