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A Small City with A Large Opera Presence

By Alexis White

From The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions to the Concurso, Bel Canto and Pro Musica, San Miguel Supports Opera competition, education and performance

Our city is tiny by comparison to other opera centers, yet when it comes to supporting the genre, San Miguel de Allende is a worthy contender against many of the country’s largest cities.

In less than two weeks, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (MONCA) will hold its first competition in Mexico, and San Miguel is hosting this historic event. MONCA’s decision to establish a Mexico District in San Miguel is a tribute to the city’s cultural vibrancy and its support of opera institutions and programs that contribute to that energy.

“The arrival of The Met can only enhance San Miguel’s reputation as a center for opera excellence in this country,” said Michael Pearl, president of Pro Musica San Miguel de Allende, the partnering organization for MONCA. “At a time when arts budgets in Mexico have declined, the San Miguel community has been devoting more and more resources to opera and to opera competition, opera education, and opera performance,” he added.

Pro Musica will present the MONCA Mexico District Winners’ Concert on November 10, and Rigoletto, its ninth annual, full-length opera, in February.

MONCA is a four-stage process that starts in November and culminates in March on the stage of The Metropolitan Opera, when up to 11 semifinalists compete for US$15,000 prizes and invaluable career-making exposure. Over 1,000 singers, ages 20 to 30, from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and now Mexico will participate in this sixty-fifth year of competition. MONCA has been helping young singers launch major operatic careers since 1954. Its roster of winners includes many famous opera stars, often seen on screen at the Biblioteca’s Teatro Santa Ana, where world-class opera films have been shown on a weekly basis for more than two decades.

Now in its second decade, Opera de San Miguel (OSM) is the producer of the Concurso de Opera San Miguel, an important private opera competition for Mexican singers. Founded in 2008 by Joseph McClain and now led by John Bills as artistic director, the competition finishes with a Grand Concurso that showcases its winners in a glittering gala finale. OSM also presents the annual Mexico-Canada Co-OPERA-tive concert. This cultural exchange program features Canadian artists and Concurso winners.

In 2015, McClain, founder of Austin Lyric Opera (now Austin Opera), and Michael Silvester, whose 30-year career included title roles at The Metropolitan Opera and other world-renowned companies, cofounded the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto (SMIBC). An intensive training program, SMIBC prepares young opera singers to audition internationally. They are selected for their potential to achieve major professional careers and taught by a world-class faculty. The singers present several public concerts during the SMIBC program.

“The Metropolitan Opera has been aware for some time that talented Mexican singers exist in abundance, but until now, most Mexican singers have been unable to participate in MONCA’s program, held annually across the US and Canada,” said Pearl. “Holding Metropolitan Opera auditions here opens important new doors for the singers and gives San Miguel yet another opportunity to attend live opera,” Pearl concluded.


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