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Concurso San Miguel announces 2014 finalists, an inside look at the selection process

By Shari Alexander

John Bills congratulates 2013 Concurso Winner Germán Olver

Opera San Miguel has just announced the finalists for this year’s Concurso San Miguel, and the company promises a ‘Battle of the Stars.’ Contest rules allow finalists and prizewinners from previous contests to re-enter, and this year a record number have done so. Of the 12 finalists who will compete for more than 150,000 pesos in career grants and performance opportunities, 10 have previously been finalists, and 7 have been prizewinners!

Concurso San Miguel 2014
Sat, March 8, 7:30pm
Teatro Ángelta Peralta

The finalists will all travel to San Miguel in March for a week of musical, dramatic and language coaching, master classes, aria preparation, and career development counseling, culminating in Concurso San Miguel 2014 at 7:30pm on Saturday, March 8, at Teatro Ángela Peralta. The High Cs will be soaring for this perpetually sold-out event.

Preliminary auditions were held here in San Miguel de Allende. Asked to describe the selection process, Bills told us, “Almost without exception, we hear two arias from each contestant. We take detailed notes about each singer and rate them on a 3-point scale, with + or – added where helpful. A score of 1 means “unacceptable,” a score of 2 means ‘worth considering,’ and a score of 3 means we’d be proud to present them to our audience. In the end typically 25% of auditioners score an average of 3 points, which means we then have the often heart-breaking task of choosing 12 finalists from about 40 well-qualified candidates.”

“Then come all the subjective considerations,” Bills says, “who seems best prepared, who shows the most confidence and stage presence, who has a real understanding of their own talent and repertoire, who has the personality to really connect on a visceral level with the audience? In short, who among these 40 singers most possess the many ingredients that make a performer ultimately successful in their careers? And then the final consideration: who is ready now?” He continues, “We are investing in the futures of these young people, and I feel a real fiduciary responsibility to invest well on behalf of our major donors, the ‘Angels of the Opera,’ without whom this contest would not be possible.”

With those criteria in mind, Bills and his fellow first-round judges, John Daly Goodwin and Joseph McClain, try to reach a consensus. “There is a little haggling back and forth, but in the end we achieve remarkable unanimity. We all have been listening to voice auditions for more than a combined 75 years, and this is the third year we have been working together on the first round, so we all know what we are looking for.”

“We are so gratified to have this record number of singers knocking on our door again this year,” Bills says. “This is a real compliment to Opera San Miguel, and a sign of the respect our Concurso has in the Mexican opera world. I think this ‘Battle of the Stars’ is going to be our most closely contested Concurso yet, sure to be an edge-of-your-seat night of superb singing.”

Concurso San Miguel 2014 ~ The Finalists

María Fernanda Castillo, soprano
Cassandra Zoe Velasco, mezzo-soprano
Daniel Noyola, bass-baritone
Yamel Domort, soprano
José Carillo Rodríguez, tenor
Lorena Flores, soprano
Octavio Rivas, tenor
Adriana Valdés, soprano
Carlos López, baritone
Sofia Troyo Martínez, soprano
Juan del Bosco, tenor
Oscar Velázquez, bariton

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