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Met hopefuls

It's opera's equivalent to "American Idol" -- the Metropolitan Opera's national auditions, which take place this weekend at the Flickinger Performing Arts Center at Nichols School. Even for a novice, the Met auditions are a thrill to observe.

This weekend, Buffalo will be welcoming more than 50 professionally trained, aspiring opera singers between the ages of 20 and 30. They will be competing for cash prizes and, perhaps, roles in local and regional opera productions. The singers' highest hope will be to compete in the Grand Finals Concert on the Metropolitan Opera stage.

The competition begins at 10 a.m. Saturday with the Four City District competition. The Four City District is actually five cities: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto and Montreal. But any qualified singer who attends school or lives in America or Canada is free to enroll in our division. This year, Buffalo will welcome singers from New York, Quebec, Boston, Fort Worth and Portland, Ore.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, the winners of Saturday's competition will face off against winners in the Michigan and Pittsburgh districts for the Great Lakes region competition. The region winner or winners will travel to New York City at Metropolitan Opera expense to compete with 14 other regional winners for a place in the semifinal and grand final competitions.

This year's judges include officials from the Cincinnati Opera, the Florentine Opera and the Sante Fe Opera, in addition to distinguished voice teachers.

There is no admission charge for students and singers' families. For all others, a $5 donation is suggested. Call Mary Berlow at 885-2727, or Dianne Rubin at 875-5301.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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