Choosing Opera

Do you know that every year, New York’s Metropolitan Opera holds auditions across the U.S. searching for the best young opera singers?  Hundreds of singers compete for a place in the finals on the stage of the Met at Lincoln Center accompanied by the full Met orchestra.  The 2013 competition, the 60th, concluded just last month with six winners each awarded $15,000 and four runners up $5,000 apiece.  All of the participants received valuable exposure in launching their professional careers.

The Audition is an entertaining and informative DVD in St. Thomas Public Library’s collection, which focuses on the eleven finalists of the 2007 edition of these National Council Auditions. Each of the six men and five women are given a week to prepare two arias for the adjudication which is held on a Sunday afternoon with a full orchestra and before a live audience at the Met.  In the week leading up to the big day, the camera follows each of the performers as they interact with the behind-the-scenes people involved in the event, all of whom are very supportive of the young performers.  These range from Met general manager Peter Gelb, to maestro Marco Armiliato, with whom they rehearse, and to special advisers on voice and stage manner.   Six winners are chosen for the big prizes, just as in 2013, but the week is, without a doubt, a memorable experience for all.

The DVD includes a bonus feature in which Renee Fleming leads a discussion with Susan Graham and Thomas Hampson, all of them former National Council Audition winners, and all of them established opera stars today.  They and all the participants in the 2007 competition chose opera to give expression to their voice.  At its best, opera combines magnificent voices, resplendent music, colourful stories, and a magical set to create a thrilling onstage spectacle.

Of course, it’s not always possible to see and hear opera live, but, thanks to collections available at the library, seasoned and new opera fans alike can enjoy this music.  For example, there’s The Opera Gala (with Anna Netrebko and others) on DVD, and Carmen, one of the best loved operas of all time (with Maria Callas) on CD.  If you would like to know more about the stories, an illustrated book you may enjoy reading is At the Opera: Tales of the Great Operas. 

A young performer in the recently concluded Rotary Music Festival chose to sing a selection from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (aka Le Nozze di Figaro), and won a prize, perhaps a first step in a long path to a career in music.  Clearly, opera music will live as long as there are new performers to sing it, and new listeners to hear it.  Among the many choices you are offered at the library, you can choose opera.


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