Major Milestone for Opera San Miguel: Concurso Winner to Debut at MET
By Shari Alexander
Mezzo-soprano Cassandra Zoe Velasco, “Outstanding Potential” prize winner of Concurso San Miguel 2014, and third prize winner and Audience Favorite of Concurso San Miguel 2010, will become the first singer discovered and assisted by Opera San Miguel to debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Ms. Velasco will sing in the first-ever Metropolitan Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, opposite super-star soprano Anna Netrebko. And on February 14, 2015, the opera will be telecast worldwide as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series.
Opera San Miguel annually sponsors a nationwide contest to discover and promote the careers of the most talented and promising young singers in Mexico. Each year the final round is held at Teatro Angela Peralta before a sold-out audience. Many of the finalists and winners of Concurso San Miguel have gone on to achieve important successes in Mexico and around the world. But Ms. Velasco is the first to debut at the Metropolitan Opera, widely considered the most important and prestigious opera house in the world.
“When I became Artistic Director of Opera San Miguel in 2011,” John Bills said in response to the news, “I hardly dared dream that one day soon one of our singers would make it to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. In just three short years that dream has come true. Of all the singers whom our Concurso has given wings, Cassandra has flown the highest so far. We are immensely proud of her success.”
The encouragement young singers receive through Concurso San Miguel gives them a real springboard to future success. Ms. Velasco, whose career Opera San Miguel has been encouraging since 2010, is a perfect example of why its annual contest is so important: a proven track record of finding the most talented and promising young singers in Mexico and giving them the boost they deserve to achieve success. Dozens of young artists have been nurtured through master classes, coaching, and career counseling with internationally recognized figures in the opera world; with grants for advanced study and professional expenses; and through continuing support and encouragement. “We don’t send our singers off into the world with a kiss and a check,” Bills says. “We approve their projects, we follow their progress, we give them performing experience through our own concerts, as in our enormously successful Gala with orchestra last March, and we recommend and arrange auditions for them for producers and conductors. We help open doors for our singers in opera programs and companies around the world.”
Opera San Miguel and its national Concurso are entirely funded by contributions from the international community of San Miguel de Allende, principally through the gifts of major donors known as the “Angels of the Opera.” Ms. Velasco credits the support she has received from Opera San Miguel and elsewhere for making it possible to continue in her career. “A singing career is very expensive, requiring singing lessons, pianists, coaches, books, language lessons, acting classes, airfare, hotel payments, food, makeup, clothes, photos, publicist, agent. There is a world behind each singer,” she says. Opera San Miguel is proud to be part of that world.
Concurso San Miguel 2015 will be held on March 7, Teatro Ángela Peralta. To become an Angel of the Opera, or to join in a celebration of Cassandra’s debut, email SAlexander@operasanmiguel.org.