Concurso San Miguel Winners Take on the World

By Shari Alexander

Propelled by the extraordinary success of Concurso San Miguel last March, its winners are now being offered important opportunities around the world. Opera San Miguel’s celebrated national contest, under the dedication and perseverance of Artistic Director John Bills, has grown into one of the most prestigious and respected contests in Mexico, with a new and growing international reputation.

In the beginning, Concurso San Miguel followed the norm for voice contests: a public final round and the presentation of cash prizes. When he became artistic director in 2011, Mr. Bills quickly realized that in order to give real-world, practical help to its singers, he needed to find ways to put them firmly on a career path. “It was not enough just to send our winners home with a check and a handshake,” Bills says. Because of his long career at the Metropolitan Opera, he was able to cultivate relationships with individuals and organizations around the world and could be helpful to his singers. Those efforts escalated over the years, reaching critical mass this summer.

“Through strategic partnerships and year-round networking, we have now achieved important opportunities on behalf of our singers, many of whom are already reaping success,” Bills told Atención. Among the organizations now actively offering opportunities to singers from Opera San Miguel are Career Bridges and Opera Index in New York City, both awarding substantial career grants; Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques in Montreal; Opera Tampa; the Netherlands Touring Opera; Placido Domingo’s training program in Valencia, Spain; and several major European competitions.

These latest accomplishments come on the heels of four OSM singers winning full four-year scholarships at Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia, one full scholarship student just completing the Masters Vocal Studies program at Mannes College of Music in Manhattan, one member of the LA Opera Studio, two on full scholarships at this year’s “Oberlin in Italy” summer opera training program, and the much-heralded 2015 debut of Cassandra Zoe Velasco at the Metropolitan Opera. Bills say he expects to have even more good news to announce before the end of July.

International tenor sensation Javier Camarena, just named Best Male Singer of 2014-15 by the prestigious Bachtrack Opera Awards, recently flew to San Miguel de Allende from Europe just to donate a master class for Opera San Miguel, held at the Rosewood Ballroom. He told the 2015 Concurso winners, “Realistically it is not possible to make an operatic career without leaving Mexico.” Camarena credits his success to having the early opportunity to study and perform at the opera studio in Zurich, Switzerland. Today he is able to donate his time helping young singers, as he did for OSM, and to return to perform in his home country. “Without the opportunity to have access to international quality training and to be heard by a wider audience as a young singer, Javi might never have achieved the worldwide success he enjoys today,” says John Bills. “We hope his story will be repeated by our Concurso winners through the doors we are opening for them around the world.”

As the impressive list of successes listed above attest, Concurso San Miguel singers are firmly on the pathway to international success.

Opera San Miguel, its Concurso, and its programs on behalf of young Mexican singers, are entirely funded by private donations from the international community of San Miguel de Allende. For information on how you can become an “Angel of the Opera,” please email

A partial list of OSM singers’ recent accomplishments includes the following:

• Career Bridges Top Grant Winners, New York City (USD$2,000 annually for three years, plus numerous performance opportunities) 2014 César Delgado, tenor; 2015 Daniel Noyola, bass-baritone

• Opera Index Encouragement Grant Winners, New York City: 2015 César Delgado, tenor; Daniel Noyola, bass-baritone

• International Award Winner 2014 Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques $1,000, plus debuts at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and Helikon Opera, Moscow: Fabián Lara, tenor

• Debut, Season 2016-2017, Nederlander Reis Opera: Pablo Aranday, baritone; César Delgado, tenor; Alejandra Sandoval, soprano

• Placido Domingo Training Program, Valencia, Spain: Germán Olvera 2014-2015. Invitations to five additional OSM singers to audition for the program in July (Adriana Valdés and Karen Gardeazabal, sopranos; Fabián Lara, Edgar Villalva and Octavio Rivas, tenors; Pablo Aranday, baritone)

• Invitations to enter International Voice Competitions at the semi-final round in Italy (Adriana Valdés and Lorena Flores, sopranos), France (César Delgado, tenor, Germán Olvera, baritone, Rebeca de Rueda, soprano, and Jacinta Barbachano, mezzo-soprano), Estonia (Zayra Ruiz, mezzo-soprano), United States (Maria Fernanda Castillo, soprano), and Russia (Germán Olvera, baritone)

• China Concert Nine-City Tour 2016: Pablo Aranday, baritone

• International Invitees 2016 Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques de Montreal: Karen Gardeazabal, soprano, and Germán Olvera, baritone


Karen Gardeazabal (3rd Prize Concurso San Miguel 2015 ~ far left in photo) and Pablo Aranday (2nd Prize Concurso 2015 ~ 2nd from right in photo) and Fabián Lara (Rosewood San Miguel Audience Favorite Award Winner 2015) have all been accepted into the new class at El Centre de Perfeccionament Plácido Domingo del Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía! Of the 13 singers accepted three are winners of Concurso San Miguel!


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