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II Concurso San Miguel 2009

1st prize: Linda Gutiérrez

2nd prize: José Manuel Chu

3rd prize: Alejandra García Sandoval

4th prize: Alba Marina Ramos


Finalists: Enrique Ángeles, Diana Blanco, Gustavo Castillo-Estrada, Ricardo López, Enivia Mendoza-Mondragón, Zaria Soria.

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It's not often that you go to a show and walk away feeling like you've witnessed something historic. That was the experience I felt last June 20th when Ópera de San Miguel presented its second annual national competition aimed at discovering and developing the most promising young operatic talent in Mexico. Once again, the event took place at the Ángela Peralta Theater in San Miguel Allende, with sold-out seats and an audience of fans who gave their support to the young operatic talent from Mexico.


Among the attendees, it is worth mentioning the “Angels of the opera”, a group of individual donors who generously provided the funds for the $100 thousand pesos in total that were awarded that night in the form of prizes. There were 11 finalists from all over the country, chosen from a total of 136 young people who applied to participate, who competed to win cash prizes, scholarships for advanced studies and support to cover professional expenses.


This contest is unique in Mexico as it is not only a singing competition, but also an intensive learning experience for the finalists. In the vision of the artistic director, Joseph McClain, each singer is offered multiple opportunities to work with musical repeaters and language coaches, stage exercises and master classes with McClain and the pianist Mario Alberto Hernández, musical director of the Contest. This year's singers also had an additional experience: two days of master classes with the legendary soprano Gilda Cruz-Romo, star of the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper and La Scala, and the most celebrated Mexican soprano of the last 50 years.


In addition to the master teacher Cruz-Romo and Mr. McClain, the jury was also made up of James W. Wright, general director of the Vancouver Opera, John Daly Goodwin, artistic and musical director of the New York Choral Society, and myself, a tenor and member of the choir of the Metropolitan Opera for 26 years.


The finalists were even, as all exhibited good voices, musicality and excellent stage presence. In addition to the main prize winners, several singers left good impressions, particularly the soprano Zaira Soria, for her sensitive 'Oh, quante volte' from Bellini's I Capuletti and Montecchi; baritone Ricardo López, for his moving interpretation of 'Vision fugitive' by Massenet's Herodiade; and the soprano Enivia Mendoza-Mondragón, for her 'Sempre libera' from Verdi's La Traviata, which culminated with an exciting high E-flat.


At the end of the contest, four singers were selected for their exceptional promise. Fourth place went to Alba Marina Ramos for her magical “Marietta’s Lied” from Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, and for her intense 'Un bel dì' from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Third place went to coloratura soprano Alejandra García Sandoval, for her impeccable 'Ah, non credea mirati' from Bellini's La sonnambula, and her lively characterization of 'Glitter and by gay' from Bernstein's Candide.


The tenor José Manuel Chu impressed us with a lyrical and confident 'Quando le sere al placido' from Verdi's Luisa Miller, followed by a portentous 'Nessun dorma' from Puccini's Turandot, which earned him the Audience award, as well as Second prize.


But at the end of the day, the one who took First prize was the lyrical soprano Linda Gutiérrez, with her elegance and opulent timbre, with which she interpreted the radiant high notes of Rusalka’s “Song to the Moon” by Dvořák, and from Puccini's Tosca, she gave us an anthological 'Vissi d'arte'.


Thanks to the format of the contest, the singers must spend several days together, listening to and learning from each other, in a palpable atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect, so that even those who did not win any prize commented: “This has been the best week of my life!"


Ópera de San Miguel's mission is to discover and provide practical assistance to young singers who find themselves on the slippery bridge between academia and professional life. McClain's work leading the Concurso deserves gratitude for his vision and altruism, not only by the singers, who get the most out of it, but by all of us, the future public of these talented artists.


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