Soprano Renee Fleming got her big break as a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, held on the legendary Metropolitan Opera stage at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Now, a tenor from Lockport has carried off the same victory.
Kyle van Schoonhoven, 28, an alumnus of SUNY Fredonia, was one of six singers to be selected as grand prize winners of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera audition finals, held March 19 in New York City. He receives a $15,000 cash prize in addition to priceless prestige. The Met auditions have launched many of opera’s biggest stars.
Currently, Schoonhoven holds a fellowship with the San Francisco Opera. 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 Bizet's "Carmen," Alfredo in Verdi's "La Traviata," Bacchus in Richard Strauss' "Ariadne auf Naxos," Hoffmann in Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffman" and Tamino in Mozart's "The Magic Flute."
He began the round of auditions that led to this prize by competing in the Central Region. Western New York is part of the Great Lakes Region, but singers are free to compete in whatever region they like. Schoonhoven competed in Buffalo in 2015, and advanced that year to the Great Lakes Region level.
Schoonhoven is the oldest among the winners of this year's competition, which is open to singers up to 30 years old. The other winners are Samantha Hankey, 24, a mezzo-soprano from Marshfield, Mass.; Kirsten MacKinnon, 26, a soprano from Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, 23, a countertenor Brooklyn; Richard Smagur, 26, a tenor from Clarkesville, Ga.; and Vanessa Vasquez, 26, a soprano from Scottsdale, Ariz.
At the gala competition finals, each singer was accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. Renee Fleming was the evening's host.
Other singers besides Fleming to come to fame thanks to the Met auditions include Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Stephanie Blythe, Eric Owens, Deborah Voigt, Angela Meade and Frederica von Stade.