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Metropolitan Opera announces grand prize winners

The curtain has fallen on the grand finals of the Metropolitan Opera auditions, held Sunday in New York City, and the winners have emerged.

They are Nicholas Brownlee, bass-baritone (Western Region: Mobile, Alabama); Marina Costa-Jackson, soprano (Middle Atlantic Region: Salt Lake City, Utah); Joseph Dennis, tenor (Eastern Region: McKinney, Texas); Reginald Smith, Jr., baritone (Southeast Region: Atlanta, Georgia); and Virginie Verrez, mezzo-soprano (Eastern Region: Brive La Gaillarde, France, currently living in New York, New York).

None of these young singers was among the Buffalo area’s crop of auditioners. This was a good year for Western New York nonetheless. Two singers who participated in the Buffalo/Toronto auditions, held in January at Nichols School’s Flickinger Performing Arts Center, went on to triumph in the Great Lakes Regional Auditions, held in the same place the next day. They were Jenni Bank and Abigail Rethwisch. Also at the Great Lakes Regional Auditions, Niagara Falls soprano Rebecca Witty won third prize, a significant achievement. Witty, who because of a technicality had auditioned initially in Pittsburgh, sang recently in Buffalo Opera Unlimited’s production of “Cosi Fan Tutte.”

Sunday’s grand finals took place on the Met stage. Each winner received a $15,000 cash prize and the prestige and exposure that come with winning the competition that launched the careers of many of opera’s biggest stars.

The remaining four finalists – who also sang in the finals but did not take top honors – each received a cash prize of $5,000. They are Jared Bybee, baritone (Middle Atlantic Region: Modesto, Calif.); Allegra De Vita, mezzo-soprano (New England Region: Trumbull, Conn.); Kathryn Henry, soprano (Upper Midwest Region: Sheboygan, Wis.); and Deniz Uzun, mezzo-soprano (Central Region: Mannheim, Germany, currently living in Bloomington, Ind.).

The host of the grand finals was Met star Angela Meade, a winner in the 2007 National Council Auditions. Meade sang the famous aria “Ebben ... Ne andrò lontana” from Catalani’s “La Wally” and “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s “Norma” while the judges deliberated.

The concert was recorded for broadcast at a later date on public radio stations across the United States.

email: mkunz@buffnews.com

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