BWW Review: Walking the Tightrope at Met's National Council Auditions Finals Concert

BWW Review: Walking the Tightrope at Met's National Council Auditions Finals Concert

BWW Review: Walking the Tightrope at Met's National Council Auditions Finals Concert
From left: Hongni Wu, Jessica Faselt, Carlos Enrique
Santelli, Ashley Dixon and Madison Leonard.
Photo: Richard Termine

Can you imagine coming out on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera--facing an audience of about 4000 and be ready to sing without really much of a chance to warm up? That takes guts--and it's what the nine finalists in the Met's National Council Auditions Grand Final Concert did on Sunday, April 29. At stake? A grand push forward for the careers in opera that they've dreamed about. (There was also some money involved: $15,000 apiece for the winners, $5,000 each for the runs up.)

The winners--announced at the end of the concert, which included arias from Met tenor Bryan Hymel and star mezzo Joyce DiDonato, the afternoon's host--were (as has been related elsewhere on the site) sopranos Jessica Faselt and Madison Leonard, mezzos Ashley Dixon and Hongni Wu, and tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli. (Runners up included sopranos Emily Misch and Danielle Beckvermit, and mezzos Megan Grey and Gretchen Krupp.) They sang a variety of music, from Gluck's ORPHEE ET EURYDICE to Dove's FLIGHT.

The concert--with Bertrand de Billy conducting the turn-on-a-dime Met orchestra--was divided into two halves, with each singer choosing arias that show of different aspects of their art. By and large, the group sounded better in the second half, with voices warmed up and nerves better under control.

However, two of the afternoon's standouts started the afternoon seemingly ready for anything: Faselt--who sang Verdi's "Tacea la notte placida..." (IL TROVATORE) and Wagner's "Dich, teure Halle" (TANNHAUSER) impressively--as did Leonard, who performed Verdi's "Caro nome" (RIGOLETTO) and Humperdinck's "Wo bin ich? Wach' ich?" (HANSEL UND GRETEL).

But that doesn't take anything away from the others on the program, including the one male singer, tenor Santelli, who did a couple of bel canto favorites, including "Ah, mes amis" from LA FILLE DU REGIMENT, which had that string of high Cs made famous by Pavarotti (and nailed them).

Of course, winning the National Council auditions doesn't guarantee anything; nor does being a runner up. In fact, there are plenty of singers who never made it this far--including DiDonato, who has done very well for herself indeed. (Both she and Hymel spoke of early disappointments and how the support of Gayletha Nichols, who's retiring as Executive Director of the Auditions, boosted them in their darkest hours.) Still, more than 100 singers who took part in the National Auditions process are currently on the Met roster.

So, three cheers for the winners, as well as for DiDonato and Hymel. All that was missing: more diversity on stage.

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Richard Sasanow Richard Sasanow has been BroadwayWorld.com's Opera Editor for more than four years, with interests covering contemporary works, standard repertoire and true rarities from every era. He is an interviewer of important musical figures on the current scene--from singers Diana Damrau, Peter Mattei and Angela Meade to Pulitzer Prize winning composer Kevin Puts, librettist Mark Campbell and director Kevin Newbury.

Earlier in his career, he interviewed such great singers as Birgit Nilsson and Martina Arroyo and worked on the first US tour of the Vienna State Opera, with Karl Bohm, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein, and the inaugural US tour of the Orchestre National de France, with Bernstein and Lorin Maazel.

Sasanow is also a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others.