Idaho State University to host MET Opera Idaho/Montana district auditions Nov. 7; master class with Mezzo-soprano Cynthia Munzer set Nov. 8

POCATELLO — The annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions for the Idaho/Montana district will take place in Jensen Grand Concert Hall in the Stephens Performing Arts Center at Idaho State University on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m.

Auditions are open to the public for a small entry fee and the audience will once again have the opportunity to vote for its favorite singer with the Audience Choice Award.

“When you’re auditioning, you’re actually auditioning to become part of the Metropolitan Opera roster,” said Diana Livingston Friedley, professor of vocal studies at ISU.

The MET Auditions are broken down into 42 districts, 14 regions, and finals on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Participants in the Idaho/Montana District auditions who are selected to move on to the regional level compete in Seattle, one of the 14 regional auditions. One finalist is then selected from each region to audition in the finals in New York City. After a pre-screening at the finals, approximately 10 finalists move on to the grand finals at which time participants sing with the Metropolitan Orchestra.

“It’s a really prestigious opportunity for these singers because, even if you don’t make it to the grand finals, you’re still going to be picked up by some opera companies,” Livingston Friedley said. “It’s a really big deal to win this competition or even make it to the finals in New York because all kinds of producers and artistic directors are listening to you.”

Participants must have five arias, or songs, prepared for the judges in different styles and languages, which may include English, Italian, French or German. Participants select one piece to sing, then the judges select another from the remaining four arias. Twenty-five participants are accepted to audition at the Idaho/Montana district level.

The judges for this year’s Met opera auditions include Cynthia Munzer, internationally-renowned mezzo-soprano; Matthew Horner, senior vice-president and director of the vocal division of IMG Artists in New York; and Joshua Winograde, senior director of artistic planning at Los Angeles Opera.

“In the past, we’ve had ISU students participate and move on to the regional level, but it’s not going to be every single year because it depends on who you have in the program and who is ready to compete at that level,” Livingston Friedley said. “Teira Burge, a former student of Professor Kathleen Lane, went on to the regional audition in Seattle and is now living in Chicago and singing. John Punt, one of my former students, received an encouragement award and the audience choice award last year and is now at Indiana University working on his master’s degree in voice.”

With help from the ISU Foundation and the ISU College of Arts and Letters, an endowment has been secured to help continue hosting the MET auditions in the future, as well as funding the award or scholarship money.

“We have this magnificent facility in Stephens Performing Arts Center, and it just makes sense that we would host this competition,” Livingston Friedley said. “What the award money does for participants is it hopefully helps them get to the next level. Traveling all over the place is expensive and having coachings and lessons in between auditions costs money as well.”

She continued, “One of this year’s award sponsors will be Molinelli Jewelers in downtown Pocatello. I’m very proud of the fact that as a site in little southeastern Idaho, we’re able to award substantial money. We’re also able to award an audience choice award, which is always a lot of fun for those who come for a day of listening to these participants sing.”

This year’s Audience Choice Award is sponsored by Rayna Valentine, in memory of Harold D. Wilkes.

The Met auditions will be followed up by a master class with Munzer on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 10 a.m. in the Marshall Rotunda of Stephens Performing Arts Center. The master class is free and open to the public.

“One of the greatest benefits for the Department of Music and our students is the fact that we bring in renowned artists to work with our voice majors,” said Livingston Friedley. “Because each year when we hold the MET auditions, we’ll always secure a judge who will stay after the competition and work with our students. It’s expensive to bring in guest artists, you don’t always have the funding for it, but this vehicle has made it possible for us to be able to do this for our students. It’s been a great joy of mine for us to be able to have these master classes on Sunday mornings where our students practically get a lesson with some renowned artists.”

Prior to the auditions, Opera Idaho will be performing Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Jensen Grand Concert Hall Friday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for The Magic Flute are available online at isu.edu/tickets, at the Stephens Center Box Office or by calling (208) 282-3595.