Metropolitan Opera Launches 55th Annual Competition for Young Singers

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Metropolitan Opera Launches 55th Annual Competition for Young SingersYoung singers from around the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico will compete for $15,000 cash prizes and the chance to perform in the Grand Finals Concert on the nation's most prestigious opera stage when the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions launches its 55th annual auditions program this fall. Over 1,500 singers between the ages of 20 and 30 years old will participate in the National Council Auditions, the oldest and most wide-reaching singing competition in the country.

Past award winners include many of today's leading operatic artists such as Renée Fleming, Hei-Kyung Hong, Deborah Voigt, Patricia Racette, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick, Nathan Gunn, Ben Heppner, Thomas Hampson, and Samuel Ramey. Over one hundred alumni of the National Council Auditions sing in Met performances during a typical opera season.

Singers aspiring for a place as a 2009 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Winner must compete in four rounds of auditions. The first level of the competition will be held in 45 Districts; the winners of the Districts will receive a cash prize and advance to one of the 15 Region Finals.  Both District and Regional auditions will take place from September through January.  Region winners receive a cash prize and will be sponsored to go to New York in February for the National Council Auditions Semi-Finals. There, they will sing in a closed competition, accompanied by piano on the Met's stage, for a place as a National Council Auditions Finalist.  The Finalists will then perform at the Grand Finals Concert on February 22nd on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, under the baton of conductor Patrick Summers, and up to five singers will be selected as National Council Auditions Winners. The Winners will each receive a $15,000 prize and will join the National Council Auditions' impressive roster of alumni.

Members of the Met's artistic staff and other professionals from the opera world judge the auditions and give each singer feedback, which includes career advice and suggestions of future possibilities. Hundreds of volunteers across North America help the Met organize and fund the National Council Auditions in their respective Districts and Regions. They also help the Met raise nearly $500,000 in prize money that the National Council Auditions awards annually at the District, Region and national levels of the competition.

This year's National Council Grand Finals Concert will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at 3 p.m., at the Metropolitan Opera. The Grand Finals Concert is open to the public.  For more information on the National Council Auditions please visit www.metopera.org, e-mail ncouncil@metopera.org or call 212-870-4515.

 Documentary Film of 2007 Auditions

The Audition, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Susan Froemke about the Met's National Council Auditions, was recently shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October.  During the 2007 Auditions, Froemke's crew followed singers from the early District rounds in San Antonio to the Regional auditions in Boston, San Antonio, Seattle, and finally to the Semi-Finals and Finals in New York. As judges narrowed down the field to 22 Semi-Finalists and then 11 Finalists, the stakes got higher and the pressure grew more intense. The documentary crew, which had unprecedented access to the singers, judges, and events backstage at the Met, filmed as the aspiring young artists handled the pressure, drama, excitement, and heartbreak of pursuing their dreams. Plans for future screenings will be announced in the coming months.

 About the Met

Under the leadership of General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine, the Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company's repertory.  The Met has made a commitment to presenting modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, with highly theatrical productions featuring the greatest opera stars in the world.

The Metropolitan Opera's 2008-09 season pays tribute to the company's extraordinary history on the occasion of its 125th anniversary, while also emphasizing the Met's renewed commitment to advancing the art form. The season features six new productions, 18 revivals, the final performances of Otto Schenk's production of Wagner's Ring cycle conducted by Levine, and two gala celebrations; the galas include the season-opening performance which starred Renée Fleming, as well as a 125th anniversary celebration on March 15.  New productions include the company premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic as well as the Met's first staged production of Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust since 1906, Massenet's Thaïs, Puccini's La Rondine, Verdi's Il Trovatore, and Bellini's La Sonnambula.

Building on its 77-year-old radio broadcast history – currently heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network – the Met now uses advanced media distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to attract new audiences and reach millions of opera fans around the world.

The Met: Live in HD series reached more than 935,000 people in the 2007-08 season, more than the number of people who saw performances in the opera house.  These performances began airing on PBS in March 2008, and eight of these HD performances are now available on DVD, on the EMI and Universal labels.  In the 2008-09 season, the HD series expands to feature 11 live transmissions, which started with the Met's Opening Night Gala and spanning the entire season. The HD productions will be seen in over 850 theaters in 28 countries around the world. Five new productions will be featured, including the Met premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic. The Opening Night transmission was shown in the Americas only; the remaining ten high-definition productions will be shown live worldwide on Saturdays through May 9 with encores scheduled at various times.

Live in HD in Schools, the Met's new program offering free opera transmissions to New York City schools in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, reached more than 7,000 public school students and teachers during the 2007-08 season. This season, Live in HD in Schools expands to reach schools in 18 cities and communities nationwide.

Continuing its innovative use of electronic media to reach a global audience, the Metropolitan Opera introduces Met Player, a new subscription service that will make its extensive video and audio catalog of full-length performances available to the public for the first time online, and in exceptional, state-of-the-art quality. Beginning October 22, 2008, 120 historic audio recordings and 50 full-length opera videos will be available during the first month of the new service, including over a dozen of the company's acclaimed The Met: Live in HD transmissions, known for their extraordinary sound and picture quality.  New content, including HD productions and archival broadcasts, will be added monthly.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 is a subscription-based audio service broadcasting both live and rare recorded historical performances.  In addition to providing audio recordings through the new Met on Rhapsody on-demand service, the Met also presents free live audio streaming of performances on its website once every week during the opera season with support from RealNetworks®.

The company's groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with New York's Lincoln Center Theater (LCT), provides renowned composers and playwrights with the resources to create and develop new works at the Met and at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater.  The Met's partnership with LCT is part of the company's larger initiative to commission new operas from contemporary composers, present modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, and provide a venue for artists to nurture their work.

The Met has launched several audience development initiatives such as the company's Open House Dress Rehearsals, which are free and open to the public; two take place this season, La Damnation de Faust on November 4, 2008, and La Sonnambula on February 27, both at 11:00 a.m..  The Met also presented a free performance of the Verdi Requiem on September 18, in tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti.  Other company initiatives include the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met which exhibits contemporary visual art; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program which provides deeply discounted orchestra seats two hours before curtain time; and an annual Holiday Series presentation for families.  This season's special Holiday Presentation is Julie Taymor's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, an abridged, English-language version of the opera which is given four special matinee performances and one holiday evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.

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