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Opera San Miguel Celebrates 10th Concurso

John Bills, OSM Artistic Director

By Shari Alexander

Another sold-out audience is expected on March 3 to celebrate the 10th Concurso San Miguel de Allende, the internationally celebrated contest for young Mexican opera singers produced annually by Opera San Miguel.

This year, more than 130 singers applied, and 85 participated in a first round of live auditions held in January at the Rosewood Hotel here in San Miguel, a major sponsor of the contest. From those 85 hopefuls, artistic director John Bills chose 12 extraordinary singers who will compete in the final round for more than 500,000 pesos in career grants and performing opportunities.

From its modest beginnings, Concurso San Miguel has grown to be one of the most respected contests in Mexico, and in terms of cash and performance awards, the country’s most generous. Surpisingly, it is the only contest in Mexico that is 100 percent funded by private contributions from individuals and businesses in San Miguel de Allende. Everything about the contest is unique.

“We don’t just hand our winners a check,” says Bills. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to our donors to spend their money wisely, which is why we require our winners to present a clearly defined career-advancing proposal for how they will use their grant.”

Since taking the helm of Opera San Miguel in 2010, Bills has refocused the company’s priorities towards promoting the careers of the singers it discovers. “We are part conservatory, part singers’ agents, part concert producers,” he says. Finalists are invited to San Miguel for the entire week leading up to the Concurso, are housed in private homes, and given a modest per diem. During the week, the singers participate in intensive musical, dramatic, and language coaching and master classes and career counseling, all conducted by a team of international opera luminaries headed by artist-in-residence and Metropolitan Opera soprano Maureen O’Flynn. The insights and new directions gained by working with the OSM team are often life changing.

“Once [they become] prize winners of our Concurso,” says Bills, “we actively promote their careers by arranging auditions and scholarships, arranging entry into international contests, establishing exchange programs, writing letters of recommendation, producing concerts, and much, much more. Frankly, I know of no other contest that follows the progress of its winners and continues to help develop their careers long after they have won a prize. Our singers are now performing on important opera stages around the world.”

Another unique aspect of Concurso San Miguel is its development of very young singers. Each year Maestro Bills chooses three or four singers in their late teens and early 20s to become invitados especiales. These singers, though not competing in the contest, are invited to observe all coaching and master classes during Concurso Week and to perform twice during the week—once at a private party for OSM’s major donors, and again before the Concurso audience during the jury’s deliberations. Many former invitados have returned in later years as finalists and winners. Is it any wonder why Concurso San Miguel is beloved among Mexico’s aspiring opera stars?



Concurso San Miguel X

Sat, Mar 3, 7:30pm

Teatro Ángela Peralta

Tickets on Sale Feb 15 at the Box Office

850, 800, 750, 500, 250 pesos




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