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PREVIEW: The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Soprano Jessica Faselt singing at Bethel University in the 2017 round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council – Upper Midwest Region Auditions. Faselt won the Regional audition and competed in New York City in the Semi-Final Round of the auditions. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera National Council – Upper Midwest Region.

If you like opera and love to say, “I knew them before they were famous”, this is one of the most exciting weekends in the Upper Midwest. On Saturday, 40 young opera singers will gather at Bethel University in St. Paul for the Metropolitan Opera National Council’s Minnesota District Auditions. On Sunday, the Minnesota District winners will compete again with the Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota-Manitoba, and Wisconsin District winners in the Upper Midwest Regional Auditions.

What’s at stake? The winner of the Regional auditions will continue on to New York City for the Semi-Finals (and, hopefully, Finals) for one of the most-watched competitions in opera. It’s such an event that casting agents, directors, and artist managers flock to New York City to see the Grand Finals Concert, imagining how these singers might fit into their next seasons and rosters.

A hallmark of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions is that most rounds are open to the public. With such a competitive playing field, the level of performance is always high; many district and regional auditions have loyal audiences who make an annual pilgrimage to try their own hand at the scoring game and guess who will make it to New York. This is often a multi-year journey, but watching how a promising young singer returns the next with remarkable new refinement is part of the pleasure.

“Last year, in New York City for the National Semi-Finals,” said Minnesota director and Upper Midwest Region chair Connie Fullmer, “We watched soprano Jessica Faselt come so close to being a finalist, after seeing her progress through the audition process three times. This year we are thrilled that she is coming back to audition in Minnesota and we have our fingers crossed that she will go all the way!”

Soprano Jessica Faselt (left) and Connie Fullmer (right) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 2017. The Semi-Final round includes coaching with staff members at the Met.

Faselt is not the only singer returning or testing the waters in Minnesota. Last year, some 32 singers competed in the Minnesota District; this year, 40 will compete on Saturday. From that pool, the judges select a limited number for the Upper Midwest Region round, held on Sunday. (Singers from the Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota-Manitoba, and Wisconsin Districts will also be competing on Sunday.)

Past National Council winners include many of the world’s greatest opera singers, including Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, Teresa Stratas, Shirley Verrett, and Frederica von Stade. Current Met singers who were winners in the National Council Auditions include sopranos Renée Fleming, Angela Meade, Susanna Phillips, and Patricia Racette; mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Blythe, Susan Graham, and Dolora Zajick; and baritones Thomas Hampson and Eric Owens. Each season at the Met features almost one hundred National Council Audition alumni singing in various roles.

What / When / Where

Minnesota District Auditions

  • Starting at 10 AM on Saturday, 3/24 at Bethel University’s Benson Great Hall
  • Free and open to the public
  • Free parking

Upper Midwest Region Auditions

  • Starting at 12 PM on Sunday, 3/25 at Bethel University’s Benson Great Hall
  • Free and open to the public
  • Free parking

Packing a lunch and/or snacks is strongly recommended.

Saturday By the Numbers

  • 1 contralto
  • 1 countertenor
  • 5 baritones
  • 6 tenors
  • 7 mezzo-sopranos
  • 19 sopranos
Basil Considine
Basil Considine is the Performing Arts Editor and Senior Classical Music and Drama Critic at the <em>Twin Cities Arts Reader</em>. He was previously the Resident Classical Music and Drama Critic at the <em><a href="https://www.tcdailyplanet.net/author/basil-considine/">Twin Cities Daily Planet</a></em> and remains an occasional contributing writer for <em><a href="https://www.classical-scene.com/author/basil-considine/">The Boston Musical Intelligencer</a></em> and <em>The Chattanoogan</em>. He holds a PhD in Music and Drama from Boston University, an MTS in Sacred Music from the BU School of Theology, and a BA in Music and Theatre from the University of San Diego. Basil was named one of <em>Musical America</em>'s <a href="https://www.musicalamerica.com/news/newsstory.cfm?archived=0&storyid=39353&categoryid=7">30 Professionals of the Year</a> in 2017.
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