Opera San Miguel’s 9th Season Ends on a High Note
By Shari Alexander
The stunning growth of Opera San Miguel of recent years was on thrilling display this season, managing to astonish even longtime fans. Under the creative leadership of Artistic Director John Bills, the company’s focus has widened from presenting a small regional contest for young singers, to the most generous contest in all of Mexico, and a major force for developing the careers of the country’s most promising young opera singers.
OSM has produced nine editions of Concurso San Miguel since 2008, one each year, except for 2011 when the contest was suspended in order to re-organize under Bills’ new vision. “I didn’t think it was enough for us to audition singers and hand out checks,” he said. “We needed to find ways to become active partners in their career development and to be able to track the effectiveness of our assistance. At the same time we recognized that the cost of pursuing a career in opera is daunting, and we needed to be able to show our contributors that their donations were achieving tangible success for our singers.”
OSM has helped put dozens of Mexico’s most talented singers on a career path to international success. Former contestants of its Concurso have made or are scheduled to make debuts in the US (Los Angeles Opera, Florida Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera) and in Europe (Bucharest Opera, Teatro Liceu in Barcelona, Tel Aviv Opera, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Helikon Opera of Moscow, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, the Czech National Orchestra, and the Salzburg Festival). Through the direct assistance of Opera San Miguel, numerous Mexican singers have competed and will compete in prestigious international contests in Canada, France, Italy and the Czech Republic. Recording contracts for principal roles have followed for two recent winners, one in Turandot conducted by Zubin Mehta and one in Manon Lescaut with Anna Netrebko in the title role.
Concurso 2017 set a historic new record among all voice contests in Mexico, awarding more than 500,000 pesos in career grants and performance opportunities with all monies raised privately in San Miguel from individuals and businesses. It remains the only contest in the nation to operate without government assistance. OSM’s principal corporate sponsor, Rosewood San Miguel, makes it possible every year to invite international opera stars like Javier Camarena, Paul Plishka, and Artist-in-Residence Maureen O’Flynn to conduct Master Classes and serve as guest judges. This season the company presented four public events in addition to its flagship Concurso: the 3rd Annual Mexico-Canada Co-OPERA-tive Concert; a reception and concert of Handel arias presented in the bucolic setting of Rancho Santa Amalia in Comonfort; the José Mojica Tribute Cocktail Party and Concert in Mojica’s historic San Miguel home; and the 2nd Annual Winners Concert. It is customary for Concurso San Miguel to sell-out, but this year each OSM event was a total sell-out with standing room only for the season finale.
“We are already hard at work planning our 10th Concurso for 2018,” said John Bills. “With the continued generosity of our ‘Angels of the Opera,’ and the incredible help of my partners in this effort: the endlessly imaginative Shari Alexander, who directs our donor relations and organizes the most glamorous parties in San Miguel; my invaluable right-hand man, Alberto Pacheco; our brilliant and passionate president, Alvaro Nieto; our dynamic volunteers; and my enthusiastic and supportive board, I am confident our 10th season will be our best yet!”
Opera San Miguel, A.C. exists solely to discover and develop the careers of the most promising of Mexico’s young opera singers, through grants for advanced study and professional expenses, and by providing and facilitating performances for its singers, here and around the world. Singers never pay a fee to participate in our programs. OSM is not affiliated with the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto or Pro Musica Opera. We are a charity that is sustained exclusively by contributions from individual donors and local businesses. Donations can be tax deductible in the US, and now in Canada through www.amistadcanada.org. For further information please visit operasanmiguel.org.