Nine Young Opera Singers Advance To Final Round of Met's National Council Auditions

By: Mar. 15, 2017
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Following yesterday's highly competitive semi-final competition, nine young singers will advance to the final phase of the Metropolitan Opera's 2017 National Council Auditions, America's most prestigious vocal competition. The selected finalists, chosen by a panel of experts from the classical music industry, will compete on the Met stage on Sunday, March 19 at 3 p.m. The winners will receive individual cash prizes of $15,000 and the prestigious-and potentially career-launching-title of National Council Auditions Winner. The Grand Finals Concert will be hosted by Renée Fleming, a 1988 National Council Winner, and feature Nicola Luisotti conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra as each finalist performs two arias. During judges' deliberations, Amber Wagner, Jamie Barton, and Michael Fabiano will perform; all three singers came to prominence as winners of the 2007 auditions, which were documented in the film The Audition.

The 2017 finalists, the regions they represent in the competition, and their hometowns are: Natalie Image, 24, soprano (Western Region: Tsawwassan, BC, Canada); Kirsten MacKinnon, 26, soprano (Middle Atlantic Region: Vancouver, BC, Canada); Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez, 24, soprano (New England Region: Meriden, CT); Vanessa Vasquez, 26, soprano (Middle Atlantic Region: Scottsdale, AZ); Samantha Hankey, 24, mezzo-soprano (Eastern Region: Marshfield, MA);Richard Smagur, 26, tenor (Central Region: Clarkesville, GA); Kyle van Schoonhoven, 28, tenor (Central Region: Lockport, NY); Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, 23, countertenor (Eastern Region: Brooklyn, NY); and Cody Quattlebaum, 23, bass-baritone (Eastern Region: Ellicott City, MD) round out the list of contestants competing on Sunday.

Full bios of each singer are below.

The concert will be hosted by Renée Fleming and feature past 2007 National Council Auditions winners Amber Wagner, Jamie Barton, and Michael Fabiano as guest artists singing during the judges' deliberations. Tickets for the Grand Finals Concert may be purchased at the Met Box Office, by phone at 212-362-6000, or online at

The Met Auditions, currently in their 64th year, are a major stepping stone to a career as an opera singer. Over 100 singers on the Met roster this season have participated in the Auditions, which were crucial in introducing many of today's best-known stars, such as Lawrence Brownlee, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Sondra Radvanovsky, Deborah Voigt, and Frederica von Stade.

The finalists were chosen from nearly 1,200 singers who participated in auditions held in 42 districts and 12 regions throughout the United States and Canada, sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera National Council and administered by National Council members and hundreds of volunteers from across the country. Given the reach of the auditions, the number of applicants, and the program's long tradition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions are considered the most prestigious in North America for singers seeking to launch an operatic career.

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Full Bios - 2017 National Council Finalists

Samantha Hankey

MEZZO-SOPRANO (Marshfield, Massachusetts)

Recipient of numerous awards including a 2016 Sara Tucker Study Grant, Samantha Hankey is currently pursuing a master's degree at the Juilliard School as a recipient of a Kovner Fellowship. This season at Juilliard, she will sing the title role in Handel's Agrippina and Varvara in Janá?ek's Ká?a Kabanová. She has recently appeared as Diana in Cavalli's La Calisto and Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, at Juilliard, as well as Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Mercédès in Carmen at the Aspen Music Festival. Later this season, she will perform as a winner at Juilliard's Vocal Arts Honors Recital and sing the title role in Rossini's La Cenerentola as an artist with San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program. She has also participated in live-stream and documentary master classes with Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, Thomas Hampson, and Fabio Luisi. EasternRegion.

Natalie Image

SOPRANO (Tsawwassan, British Columbia, Canada)

Natalie Image was a 2016 winner of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) Concerto Competition and will perform Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 there in May. Later this year, she will make multiple concert and recital appearances in California and sing Aurore in Massenet's Le Portrait de Manon at SFCM and Clorinda in La Cenerentola with San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program. She recently appeared in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking with Opera NUOVA and as Johanna in Sweeney Todd with Opera on the Avalon, and she has sung with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, Cathedral Bluffs Orchestra, Christ Church Cathedral Summer Concert Series, and the SFCM New Music Concert series. She has studied at The Glenn Gould School at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music and is currently pursuing a master's degree at SFCM. Western Region.

Kirsten MacKinnon

SOPRANO (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

A recipient of a 2016 George London Award, Kirsten MacKinnon graduated as an Alfred Greenberg Memorial Fellow from the Curtis Institute of Music last year. She performed regularly with the Curtis Opera Theatre in such roles as Elettra in Idomeneo, Micaëla in Carmen, Mimì in La Bohème, the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, and the title role in Iolanta, among others. She recently appeared as the Countess in Capriccio with Opera Philadelphia, Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with the Canadian Opera Company. Upcoming performances include Micaëla with Opera Philadelphia, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with the Glydebourne Festival, the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro with Garsington Opera, and Inès in L'Africaine with Oper Frankfurt later this year. Middle Atlantic Region.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

COUNTERTENOR (Brooklyn, New York)

A 2016 participant in San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen recently won first prize in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition and was a finalist in the George London Foundation Competition. He made his European professional operatic debut at Vienna's Theater an der Wien as Timante in Gluck'sDemofonte with Il Complesso Barocco and has sung Nerone in L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Raphael in Jonathan Dove's Tobias and the Angel, and Cefalo in Cavalli's Gli Amori di Apollo e Dafne. In 2015, he received a bachelor's degree in History from Princeton University, and this summer, he will join Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist for Philip Glass and Robert Moran's The Juniper Tree. Later this year, he will join the Houston Grand Opera Studio as the first countertenor in the program's history, singing Nireno in Giulio Cesare and a Maid in Elektra. Eastern Region.

Cody Quattlebaum

BASS-BARITONE (Ellicott City, Maryland)

Cody Quattlebaum is currently pursuing a master's degree at the Juilliard School and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He has performed Claudio in Agrippina, the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Lautsprecher in Ullmann's Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Der Fischer in Toshio Hosokawa's Matsukaze, and the Colonel in a premiere workshop of Daniel Catán's Meet John Doe. He recently performed Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program and will return this summer to perform the title role in William Walton's The Bear. He has been awarded prizes in the Corbett Opera, James Toland, Gerda Lissner Liederkranz, Connecticut Alliance for Music Heida Hermanns, Opera Index, and George London Foundation competitions. At the end of March, he will perform in an honors recital at Alice Tully Hall presented by the Juilliard School and in a San Francisco Opera Schwabacher Debut Recital. Eastern Region.

Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez

SOPRANO (Meriden, Connecticut)

Nicaraguan-American soprano Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez is in her first year of the Opera Institute at Boston University. She made her debut with the Opera Institute in the fall as the soprano in Philip Glass's Hydrogen Jukebox, followed by the title role in Tobias Picker's Emmeline. She has also sung Minskwoman in Jonathan Dove's Flight, and a Greek Woman and Priestess in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. In summer 2016, she debuted in OperaHub's production of Montsalvatge's El Gato con Botas as La Princesa and was selected by Houston Grand Opera to participate in their Young Artists Vocal Academy. Upcoming performances include the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro with the Opera Institute. She received her bachelor's degree from the Boston Conservatory. New England Region

Richard Smagur

TENOR (Clarkesville, Georgia)

Richard Smagur studies with Carlos Montane in pursuit of a master's degree at Indiana University, where he was awarded the 2015-16 Georgina Joshi Graduate Fellowship. At IU, he has sung the title role of Peter Grimes, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Don José in Carmen, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, and Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore. In spring 2017, he sang Elijah with the Tucson Desert Song Festival. He has also covered des Grieux in Manon at Des Moines Metro Opera and participated in the Ravinia Steans Music Institute as a vocal fellow. He has sung Tamino at the OK Mozart Festival and will be an apprentice artist at Santa Fe Opera this summer, singing the role of Tsarevich Gvidon in Rimsky Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel. Central Region.

Kyle van Schoonhoven

TENOR (Lockport, New York)

Kyle van Schoonhoven is currently an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera and will make his debut with the company as the Young Servant in Elektra later this fall. He will also cover leading roles, including Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Aegisth inElektra, Froh in Das Rheingold, and Siegmund in Die Walküre. He participated in San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program last summer and received the Nicolai Gedda Memorial Award from the George London Foundation in 2016. His repertory includes Don José in Carmen, Alfredo in La Traviata, Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos, Hoffmann in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oronte in Alcina, and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, among others. In addition to participating in numerous young artist programs, he holds a master's degree from Westminster Choir College and a bachelor's degree from the Fredonia School of Music. Central Region.

Vanessa Vasquez
SOPRANO (Scottsdale, Arizona)

In 2016, Vanessa Vasquez received top prizes from numerous vocal competitions including the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition and the Giulio Gari Foundation International Vocal Competition, among others. She is currently in her third year as a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA), where she has sung Gilda inRigoletto, Mimì in La Bohème, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Giorgetta in Il Tabarro. Later this season, she will make her professional debut as Liù in Turandot with Des Moines Metro Opera. She has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and sung Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Opera UCLA, the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro with Oberlin in Italy, and Desdemona in Otello with the Astoria Music Festival. She earned a bachelor's degree from the Catholic University of America and a master's degree from UCLA. Middle Atlantic Region.


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