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"Music," he said, "is the one great international language. It cuts across every kind of man-made barrier. Performers reach the people in a way politicians can't. And they're the best possible ambassadors for their country."So when he graduated from Princeton, he decided on a change of careers:
"Grandmother died when I was 19. I'd grown up loving music and singing, and I did have a voice. I decided to go to Zurich and train to be an opera singer. Yes, I did receive an inheritance, but I'd have gone anyway. There were great hopes for my future, but as I've said, my nerves beat me. So I took off to Italy. I decided I'd just study. I didn't have to perform. So I studied under Tito Roffo, a wonderful old man, and also studied painting at the University of Florence."So instead of being on stage himself, Mr. Hook decided to dedicate his life to furthering the careers of other young opera singers.
"I'd always been interested in the Metropolitan Opera House, and I soon became engrossed in schemes to create a greater awareness of the Met as a national institution. What was needed was a project which would touch people not usually interested in opera, something with which people throughout the country could identify."Since 1935 the Met had been holding an annual vocal competition called the Auditions of the Air, but William Marshall, the program's Director in 1950, noticed that singers from the New York area were dominating the competition. One explanation for this was that singers had to pay for their own travel to and from New York if they wanted to compete (it was just as expensive to be an opera singer back then as it is today). It so happened that Mrs. Belmont had created the Metropolitan Opera National Council in 1952 in order to garner national support and interest for the Met, and this is where Howard Hook saw an opportunity.
"I spoke to literally thousands of people, and that made me just as terrified as singing in public! In fact, even now, the longest walk in the world is the one I take every year from the wings to the centre of the stage to give a speech after the audition finals.”From the start Mr. Hook saw the National Council Auditions on an international level. For example, he traveled to Australia in 1968 to attend the District Auditions there, which were part of the Pan-Pacific Region.
"Our idea is that after study and experience abroad the singers go home and give their own country the benefit of their training.”In 1968, Regional winners were send to New York for a week (all expenses paid) to compete in the Semi-Finals. The winners each received $2,000 which they used to study (wherever they chose) for the Finals which were held seven months later. The Finalists then competed for a Metropolitan Opera contract and a cash prize of $2,500.
|Scott Russell, Felicia Moore, John Kapusta, Lacey-Jo Benter, Pureum Jo, Takaoki Onishi and Viktor Antipenko|
|Our panel of judges: Nicholas Russell, Gayletha Nichols and Thomas Bagwell|
|Committee Member Tom Cannon Jr. and Eastern Region Chair Lara Marcon|
|Auditions Director Stefanie Van Steelandt|
|Sheila Carroll and Felicia Moore awaiting their audition in the green room|
|Takaoki Onishi and Lacey-Jo Benter|
|Brian Michael Moore|
|District Winners 2013: Scott Russell, Sheila Carroll, Kyle Oliver, Brian Vu, Felicia Moore, Paul Han, John Kapusta, Raquel González, Lacey-Jo Benter, Pureum Jo, Takaoki Onishi, Brian Michael Moore, Robert Balonek and Viktor Antipenko|
|Region Finals 2014 Winners: Scott Russell, Felicia Moore, John Kapusta, Lacey-Jo Benter, Takaoki Onishi and Viktor Antipenko|
|The Eastern Region Winners Scott Russell, John Kapusta and Viktor Antipenko|
|Photo by Kristin Hoebermann|
|Einsam in trüben Tagen at Crested Butte Music Festival's Gala |
with Maestro David Stern and the CBMF Orchestra