Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aspiring singers aim for the opera world

Renee Fleming. Denyce Graves. Jessye Norman. The three opera stars are just a sampling of the singers launched with the help of the Metropolitan Opera National Council, whose annual auditions are kicking off across the country -- Queens University of Charlotte on Saturday.

There's no guarantee that you'll hear the next opera-world luminary, but who knows? The Charlotte auditions' 2008 winner -- Rene Barbera, a tenor who studied at the UNC School of the Arts -- went on to be one of the nationwide victors in New York. Last summer, Barbera (pictured) made a splash at Opera Theater of St. Louis in Donizetti's "The Daughter of the Regiment," the source of the showstopper tenor aria that helped him win his Met prize.

On Saturday, 27 young singers will compete for scholarship money and the chance to go to the regional round in Atlanta. The contestants, aged 20 to 30, are required to have five arias ready, and each singer typically will perform two during the day. So a day at the auditions can be quite a feast of operatic music, familiar and otherwise.

The judges will include Mark Rucker, the baritone who appeared last year as Germont in Opera Carolina's production of Verdi's "La Traviata." He also portrayed Verdi's Macbeth here in 2004.

The contest starts Saturday at 10:30 in Queen's Dana Auditorium, 1900 Selwyn Ave. The suggested donation is $3 -- a bargain price for a full day of opera.