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Concurso San Miguel Winner Advances to Finals in Italian Opera Contest

By Shari Alexander

Octavio Rivas, one of the prize winners of Opera San Miguel’s 2017 contest for young Mexican opera singers, was chosen last week as a finalist in the 24th Annual Riccardo Zandonai International Competition in Riva del Garda, Italy. Rivas was the Audience Favorite Prize Winner and the winner of the Oliver Deehan Memorial Prize at Concurso San Miguel 2017. At the same time, he also won his place as a semi-finalist in the Zandonai contest, where he made such an impression that he advanced to the final round competing with 36 singers from across the globe. Although he does not leave Italy with a prize, one cannot overstate his accomplishment: this is only the second time a Mexican singer has been selected for the finals of this prestigious European competition.

Mr. Rivas was able to enter the Zandonai contest because of Opera San Miguel’s unique relationship with judge and Advisory Board member Alain Nonat. Nonat sits on the juries of dozens of international contests, and because of his reputation and experience he is able to place singers he hears in other venues as automatic semi-finalists in those contests by-passing all preliminary rounds. In addition to the Zandonai competition, Nonat has previously selected singers from Concurso San Miguel to compete in France, Russia, Canada, and Italy. Previous to Octavio Rivas, Mr. Nonat awarded the Zandonai prize to the First Prize Winner of Concurso San Miguel 2014, soprano Adriana Valdés, who then advanced to the final round in 2015.

John Bills, Artistic Director of Opera San Miguel, reacted to the news from Italy, “First I want to thank Maestro Alain Nonat for opening these doors to singers from Mexico. We are very grateful for his support of our singers. This is further proof that the young Mexican singers, whom we are discovering and assisting through our Concurso and other programs, can share the stage with top singers from anywhere in the world. They just need the opportunity to be heard. That is our purpose and goal at Opera San Miguel, to provide real-world opportunities for these exceptional young artists. We are proud to have sent Octavio to Italy for this prestigious contest. He has brought honor to his country and to Opera San Miguel.”

Octavio Rivas was effusive when contacted in Riva del Garda: “Opera de San Miguel was the first organization to believe in me. You saw potential in me that I didn’t know I had. The first time I sang for you I was still wondering if I was made for a singing career. You pointed me in the right direction and now I know that I have a future singing. You opened the doors of the world for me in many senses, even of my own world. The vision and perspective I gained through the Concurso master classes and by being in contact with you has been gigantic, and it is exactly what is required of me as a professional in the world. I learned the rules of the ‘real world’ with you!”

Speaking about his experience in the Zandonai contest, Rivas said, “Being able to come to Italy to compete was an absolutely wonderful opportunity. OSM gave me both entry into the competition and the funding to travel here and so many more important things to prepare me, like stage experience. I wouldn’t be here without OSM. That’s a fact. I am immensely thankful and honored to be part of the OSM family. And I know that in all the success the future may bring, OSM will always be a part of it.”

Rivas went on, “I can say with all certainty that Opera San Miguel is an amazing world-class organization. The greatest testament to that is the success of the singers who have been part of OSM. For me OSM has been a fundamental, life-changing, career-building, world-opening experience. I would like to thank personally everyone involved: the Master Teachers, each one of the Angels, and, of course, Shari Alexander and Maestro Bills. Opera de San Miguel is very dear to my heart and I will always consider it my home.”


Opera San Miguel, AC 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 Pro Musica Opera or the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto. We are a charity sustained exclusively by contributions from individual donors and local businesses. Donations can be tax deductible in the US and now in Canada through For further information please visit


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