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Why Not Give Opera a Try in the New Year?

Author: Leah Wietig, Owner, Main Stage Studios, and Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions for the Buffalo/Toronto District

If you’re interested in trying new things this year, then we have just the event for you. The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (MONC) will be auditioning singers, ages 20-30, on Saturday January 12th and on Sunday January 13th at the Nichols School. The winners from Saturday’s district competition will compete in Sunday’s regional competition with winners from the Pittsburg and Michigan district. The competition is open to the public on both days; there is no charge for admission, however voluntary donations will be accepted at the door.

The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is the oldest singing competition in the country. For the last 65 years, hundreds of volunteers across the country have raised money to support this competition in 41 districts. The Buffalo/Toronto district has hosted auditions for twenty-eight years and has helped foster the careers of numerous aspiring opera singers, including the current Buffalo/Toronto District Director, Leah Wietig, who states that “My experience competing in the MONC Auditions was by far the most important, influential moment of my singing career. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and feedback I received, and now I am able to give back to future opera singers by helping to continue to host the competition in Buffalo, NY.”

Applicants are competing for a chance to advance to the Grand Finals on March 31st at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. The Grand Finals occur on the Met stage where the singers will be accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; applicants compete for a chance to win $15,000 in cash prizes and invaluable career-making exposure and feedback. Many MONC Winners go on to perform on the Met Stage and beyond.

Past winners are among some of the world’s best-known opera stars, including Rochester native Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Jessye Norman and Frederica von Stade.

Melissa Wegner, a Buffalo native, has been the Deputy Director of the National Council Auditions and Artistic Administration Associate since 2017; this season she has been named the Auditions’ Executive Director. Commenting on the importance of the auditions, Ms. Wegner states that “The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions are unique in that these are live auditions in front of an audience, and at the end every singer gets feedback from the distinguished judging panel. It’s this information that helps singers to improve their skills, to explore opportunities in the industry, and to deepen their understanding of the operatic talent that exists today. It’s possible to sing really well twice this weekend and then in March to end up on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. This incredible opportunity is what makes the audition weekend exciting for both singers and audience alike.”

Although opera originated in the late 16th century, today’s performers still sing about the same emotions and stories we often hear on the radio and TV. Opera singers sing about bad break-ups, cheating partners, illnesses, and of course love. The opera singers may be expressing themselves in a language you don’t understand, but you can feel the meaning through the singers’ acting and the music.

Come join us this weekend for seven minutes or seven hours. We welcome you to give opera a try or indulge your love for opera!

MONC Auditions:

Buffalo/Toronto District Audition – Saturday January 12th, 10am-5pm (winners perform next day)

Great Lakes Region Finals – Sunday January 13th, 1-5pm

Auditions will be held at Nichols School – Flickinger Performing Arts Center.

Photo Credit is Richard Termine/Metropolitan Opera. L-R: Hongni Wu, Jessica Faselt, Carlos Santelli, Ashley Dixon, Madison Leonard

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