Opera Theater sings praises of voice competition
Competitions haven't always been a central part of musical life, particularly in opera. Nowadays, they can be critical to starting a career.
There's plenty of drama in the final rounds of competitions as singers fight their nerves and strive to sing the best they ever have. That's why the public-performance portions of competitions can be exciting for audiences.
The final rounds of the 2013 Mildred Miller International Voice Competition take place Nov. 2 and 3 in Oakland and are open to the public. Two rounds of semi-finals are on Nov. 2, the finals on Nov. 3.
The competition is administered by Opera Theater and named for its founder. The winners of the first two years of the Miller competition — countertenor Andrey Nemzer and tenor Juan Jose de Leon — already have contracts with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
The top three winners of the 2013 competition will receive cash prizes totaling $9,000 and an invitation to perform at Opera Theater's Summerfest 2014.
This year, the competition received 183 applicants from nine countries, who sent information, a photo and three audio recordings of complete arias. One of the arias was required to be in English because Opera Theater is committed to performing opera in English.
Competition director Laura Very and Opera Theater artistic director Jonathan Eaton each listened to all the recordings and assigned a numerical score.
“The general consensus is that the quality goes up each year,” says Very, who wasn't involved with the competition in 2012. “The stature of the competition draws finer and finer singers. The word is getting around.”
With the singers selected for the semi-finals, Very and Eaton step aside.
“It's the fairest thing to do,” she says. “Now, I'm focused on the set up and running the competition smoothly. This year, we offered limited homestays for the singers. It's one thing when kids go to New York (for a competition because they're likely to) have friends they met at a summer festival. But they may not have people here. We've been able to get nine into homes. It removes a financial burden. I think it might have helped a few more to arrive for the competition.”
Miller, who is one of the judges for the final rounds, sang hundreds of performances over a 25-year career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Some of those performances have been issued by Sony Classical, such as a 1955 “The Tales of Hoffmann” conducted by Pierre Monteux. She also made recordings still available on Sony of Gustav Mahler and Johannes Brahms with the legendary conductor and Mahler disciple Bruno Walter.
The operatic world was different in many ways in Miller's heyday, when voice competitions were not part of the equations.
“Of course, I auditioned for the Met. (General director) Rudolf Bing actually paid for me to come from London after I had my first child,” she recalls.
Bing had heard about Miller from Germans in the opera business and auditioned her in Munich.
“When he sent a telegram offering a contract, I was pregnant, so I couldn't accept it,” she says. “It was a couple of months later, after my son, Wesley, was born, that he sent another telegram saying, ‘Can you come?' That was opportunity knocking twice.”
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.