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III Concurso San Miguel 2010

1st prize: Zaria Soria Tinoco

2nd prize: Salvador Rivas Silva

3rd prize: Casandra Zoé Velasco

4th prize: Lorena Flores Ruiz


Finalists: Antonio Albores Mattar, Gilberto Amaro Romero, Mariano Alejandro Fernández Hernández, Alan Alberto Pingarrón Reynoso, Gizelxanath Rodríguez, Rebeca de Rueda, Adriana Valdés Santibañez.


Invitados especiales: Nancy González Cabrera, Ligia López Cedillo, Carlos López Santillán.

"Sold out" is a word that does not completely describe the number of spectators that packed the Ángela Peralta Theater in San Miguel de Allende last Saturday, March 13th. "Overcrowded" would be a more appropriate term. Five days before the grand final of the 2010 Concurso San Miguel there were no more tickets so, when the theater was asked to accommodate an additional 50 chairs in the aisles and on the balconies, they too were quickly filled.


Of the 161 singers who were heard in the first round, in Mexico City, 11 finalists were selected —who sang two arias each— to compete for $168,000 pesos in prizes and scholarships for advanced studies and professional expenses. Most of the resources were contributed by a private group of donors known as the Angels of the opera, and this year there was a generous donation from the Rosewood Artisan Residences.


In the three years that this national contest has been running, San Miguel de Allende has become the venue for one of the most important musical events in the state of Guanajuato. The Secretary of the State Government, Gerardo Mosqueda and his wife, as well as the Director of the State Institute of Culture, Juan Alcocer, attended the grand final, and he promised to organize concerts for the finalists in the cities of Guanajuato and León as well.


Finalists travel to San Miguel de Allende several days before the contest to participate in music and language workshops. “It is our goal —according to the artistic director of the contest, Joseph McClain— that each singer, whether they are a winner or not, leaves San Miguel stronger, with more confidence and artistic performance than when they arrived.”


The members of the jury were McClain himself (international singer, teacher, stage director and founding artistic director of the Lyric Opera of Austin, in Texas), John Daly Goodwin (artistic director and arranger of the New York Choral Society) and myself (tenor, member of the New York Metropolitan Opera for 26 years, and recently appointed assistant artistic director of the San Miguel Opera). Once again we counted on the brilliant pianist and coach Mario Alberto Hernández as accompanist, and whose collaboration with the contest has been a great asset.


Each contestant left a vivid impression. The lyrical baritone Mariano Alejandro Fernández Hernández convincingly interpreted 'O vin dissipe la tristesse' from Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas. The beautiful lyrical soprano Rebeca de Rueda was elegant and confident in her aria from Micaëla from Bizet's opera Carmen, showcasing a beautiful high register and the best French diction of the night. Tenor Antonio Albores Mattar showed courage in interpreting 'Asile héréditaire', from Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, despite recovering from a recent illness. Gizelxanath Rodríguez, a beautiful soprano with a mesmerizing stage presence and a genuine mastery of the verismo style, could not, however, overcome a certain stridency in the upper part of her range.


The Concurso introduced three new awards this year. The Roberta Peters award for the most outstanding young artist ($10,000 pesos) went to coloratura soprano Adriana Valdés Santibáñez (22 years old). Valdés began with the Gavotte from Massenet's Manon, which she sang with virtuosity and elegance. In 'O luce di quest'amina' from Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix, she displayed reckless, confident high notes and perfect coloratura. This young artist is a force of nature. One only wishes that she would spend the resources of her award on perfecting her French.


The Eleanor Steber Award ($10,000 pesos) went to tenor Gilberto Amaro Romero (28) for his beautifully shaded 'Pourquoi me réveiller' from Massenet's Werther, followed by Giordano's 'Amor ti vieta' from Fedora, which he delivered with a soft bright legato and brilliant high notes.


In the 2009 Concurso, tenor Alberto Alan Pingarrón Reynoso (22) appeared as a guest artist, out of competition, and showed us a beautiful voice, solid and consistent high notes, and excellent language skills. He has exceptional musicality and a natural ability to communicate with the audience. Unfortunately, he is blind, so his potential as a stage performer is limited. However, as he clearly showed with his passionate and poetic singing of 'É la solita storia del pastore' from Cilea's L'arlesiana, and 'Ah! fuyez, douce image' from Massenet’s Manon, he has great potential as a concert and recording studio artist. Pingarrón won the Artesana award for his extraordinary potential ($18,000 pesos).


The fourth prize ($15,000 pesos) went to the young dramatic soprano Lorena Flores Ruiz (25), for her extraordinary performance of Verdi's great aria 'O patria mia', from Aida. Her long phrasing was capped off by a brilliant high C. This is one of the most difficult moments in the entire opera, but it was handled elegantly. Brava!


Mezzo-soprano Cassandra Zoé Velasco (21) showed brilliant coloratura, impeccable intonation and a smooth, warm register in her interpretation of 'Una voce poco fa' from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. Her singing is of a high level and her acting has charm and good humor. Better yet was her seduction aria from Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila, which she sang with exceptional fiato control and lustrous tone. With a better French diction her performance would have been almost perfect. She this is a very talented artist, and she is clearly destined for great things. She was awarded Third prize, $20,000 pesos, which she completed with the $5,000 Audience award.


Second prize ($20,000 pesos) went to bass Salvador Rivas Silva (26). Good looking, confident, professional, Rivas performed an electrifying and sardonic 'Ecco il mondo' from Boito’s Mefistofele. At times humorous, at times frightening, his was a tour-de-force of acting and singing, which he capped off with a brilliant high F. He then offered us a humorous and dark 'La calunnia' from Il barbiere di Siviglia, sung with thunderous Rossinian crescendi. Rivas is on the threshold of an important career.


Last year the soprano Zaira Soria Tinoco (27) competed as a coloratura lyricist. She sang very well, but she didn't win any prizes. In the months that followed, she rethought her repertoire and returned to San Miguel as a lyric soprano. The change is remarkable. She now sings with opulent tones and graceful phrasing, without compromising the richness of expression that characterized her last year. Her rendition of Dvořák's “Moon Song” from Rusalka was radiant, self-assured and sparkling in brilliant high notes. But it was her performance of Puccini's La bohème act 1 aria, 'Si, mi chiamano Mimi', that scaled heights of emotion and technique that captured the emotional range of this beloved operatic heroine. This was a luminous performance by a prepared artist, which the jury awarded with the First prize, of $60,000 pesos. (Two days after her triumph, she was invited to participate in the final concert of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, one of the most prestigious opera workshops in the United States.)


Continuing the tradition that began in 2009, during the jury's deliberation, the audience was entertained by three special guests: young artists under the age of 23 that the Concurso wanted to recognize out of competition, for their promise and exceptional achievement. Mezzo-soprano Ligia López Cedillo, baritone Carlos López Santillán, and soprano Nancy González Cabrera were invited to the previous workshops for the Concurso, and they had no problem demonstrating why to the public. We can expect to see these three artists in some future final of the Concurso.


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