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VIII Concurso San Miguel 2016

1st prize: Ligia Cedillo

2nd prize: Armando Piña

3rd prize: Graciela Morales

4th prize: Daniel Gallegos


Finalists: Jessika Arévalo, Darenka Chávez, Andrés Moreno, Ibeth Ortiz, Neri Ramírez, Salvador Ramos, Héctor Valle.


Invitados especiales: Antonio Azpiri, Julietta Beas, Abel Rangel, Ethel Trujillo.

Angela Peralta Theater. When Ligia Cedillo woke up this morning in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, she never imagined that, on this same date a year from now, she could be opening her eyes somewhere in China...


This is the type of prize that is becoming more and more frequent for the participants of Opera de San Miguel’s Concurso. Each year, this contest allows the finalists to compete for resources that will allow them to continue their studies, participate in lyrical programs and workshops abroad, and even provide them with opportunities to sing, as was the invitation Ligia received to participate in a concert tour in China next year.


This singing competition, the fifth under the artistic direction of John Bills, who for 25 years was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Choir, was held again at the Ángela Peralta Theater. In this five-year period, thanks to his contacts with artists who have stood out as soloists at the Met, such as soprano Gilda Cruz-Romo, bass Paul Plishka, tenor Michael Sylvester and soprano Maureen O'Flynn, he has been able to invite them to teach master-classes to the finalists who compete each year. Bills has also managed to help several graduates of the Concurso in their subsequent training, in prestigious institutions such as the Mannes School of Music; he has promoted the international connection of the OSM with lyrical institutions of Canada and the Netherlands; and some singers awarded by the OSM have already made their debut in some prestigious theaters abroad.


This year, five sopranos, a mezzo-soprano, two tenors, two baritones and a bass —all of them with admirable voices— competed for the generous prizes offered by the OSM to all participants. None of the contestants returned home empty handed. They performed works by composers as diverse as Bellini, Delibes, Gounod, Handel, Mascagni, Massenet, Mozart, Poulenc, Rossini, Johann Strauss, and Verdi.


During the week prior to the grand final of the contest, the finalists have coaching and staging sessions with the invited teachers so that, when they appear before the public, they not only sing but interpret the arias they selected. Thus, for example, when the baritone Armando Piña concluded his aria, 'O Carlo, ascolta… Io morrò' from Verdi's Don Carlo, he fell to the ground, “killed” by a treacherous bullet. Tenor Héctor Valle offered such an intense version Werther's aria 'Pourquoi me réveiller', that the lady sitting next to me was so moved that she had to get up and go out to the lobby for a moment.


Like every year, pianist Mario Alberto Hernandez, a keyboard wizard who also extracts the most sublime and dramatic sounds from the piano, was an ideal accompanist for the contestants. In addition to Mr. Bills, the jury included Maureen O'Flynn, renowned soprano and teacher at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, artist-in-residence at the OSM; John Daly Goodwin, music director for more than 25 years of the New York Choral Society; Alain Nonat, general director of the Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20 and founder of the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques competition in Montreal; and bass Charles Oppenheim, editor of Pro Opera magazine.


While the jury deliberated at the end of the contest, the public listened to the invitados especiales or "special guests": young singers who could possibly be future contestants: soprano Ethel Trujillo, bass-baritone Antonio Azpiri, tenor Abel Rangel and mezzo-soprano Julieta Beas.


And it was time for the award ceremony. The last mention went to the first prize winner: the mezzo-soprano Ligia Cedillo, with a prize of $75,000 pesos, plus $10,000 from the Audience award and, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, an invitation to participate in a concert tour through several Chinese cities in 2017.


The second prize went to the aforementioned baritone, Armando Piña, with a cash award of $40,000 pesos, plus the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques prize of $10,000 pesos to audition in Montreal this year before opera directors from Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. The third prize went to Graciela Morales, soprano, of $30,000 pesos, plus the prize for best interpretation and style, of $12,500, as well as the invitation to participate in the semifinal of the Marmande International Singing Contest, in France, this year. And fourth prize, at $25,000 pesos, went to the young baritone Daniel Gallegos, who also received the Director's Award (another $25,000 pesos).


The other finalists were sopranos Jessika Arévalo, Darenka Chávez, Ibeth Ortiz and Neri Ramírez, tenors Andrés Moreno and Héctor Valle Loera, and bass Salvador Ramos.


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