The Metropolitan Opera today announced the winners of the 2012 National Council Auditions. They are: Janai Brugger, soprano from Darien, IL; Anthony Clark Evans, baritone from Owensboro, KY; Matthew Grills, tenor from Newtown, CT; Margaret Mezzacappa, mezzo-soprano from Euclid, OH; and Andrey Nemzer, countertenor from Moscow, Russia. The winners were selected from nine finalists who performed arias with the MET Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Davis. Each winner receives a cash prize of $15,000, as well as invaluable career exposure: the audience for the auditions includes influential opera executives, artist managers, and music critics, and some of the biggest stars in opera received their first major recognition as National Council Winners.
The Grand Finals Concert was hosted by renowned bass-baritone Eric Owens, a 1996 National Council Auditions winner. During the judges' deliberations, he gave a special performance of "Ella giammai m'amò," King Philip's aria from Verdi's Don Carlo.
The Grand Finals Concert was recorded for broadcast at a later date on public radio stations across the United States.
Nearly 1,500 singers between the ages of 20 and 30 participated in this year's auditions, which are held annually in 41 districts and 14 regions throughout the United States and Canada and are sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera National Council. Given the reach of the auditions, the number of applicants, and the long tradition associated with them, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions are considered the most prestigious competition in North America for singers seeking to launch an operatic career.
The remaining four finalists: Will Liverman, baritone from Virginia Beach, VA; Kevin Ray, tenor from Cornwall, NY; Lauren Snouffer, soprano from Austin, TX; and Michael Sumuel, bass-baritone from Odessa, TX, were each awarded $5,000.
Past winners of the Met Auditions include many of today's leading operatic artists such as Renée Fleming, Hei-Kyung Hong, Angela Meade, Susanna Phillips, Sondra Radvanovsky, Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Stephanie Blythe, Dolora Zajick, Nathan Gunn, Lawrence Brownlee, Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey. During a typical opera season, over one hundred alumni of the Auditions are on the Met roster. In 2007, the National Council Audition process was captured in an acclaimed documentary, The Audition, which was shown on PBS and released on DVD.
Winners Biographical Notes
The following are brief biographical notes for the 2012 National Council Auditions winners. The region in which each singer won the earlier round of competition is noted.
Soprano (Darien, IL. Winner of the Western Region)
Janai Brugger is a second-year artist with Los Angeles Opera's Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. This season's highlights include Musetta in La Bohème with the Los Angeles Opera, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette for her debut with the Palm Beach Opera, and the First Lady in Die Zauberflöte at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Last season she appeared in Los Angeles as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro and the Page in Rigoletto. She holds a bachelor's degree from De Paul University and recently received her master's degree from the University of Michigan (where she sang Tatiana in Eugene Onegin). In 2009 she sang Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the "Opera in the Neighborhoods" Program and the following year joined the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program. She was a 2011 finalist in the Loren Zachary Competition and a Midwest Regional (Detroit district) winner of the 2008 Met National Council Auditions.