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Ópera de San Miguel AC

“A voice does not a singer make”


The meaning of bel canto is not only the beauty of the singing itself, but the search for expressiveness. 

What do we communicate, what do we express when we sing? Emotions, feelings, moods. That is why, along with musicality, the singer's acting facet is equally important: his histrionics. The so-called “vis comica” or sense of humor of the basso buffo, for example. The ability to achieve the "suspension of disbelief" that a darkened theater offers us and allows us to convince others that we are the character we are portraying.            

Today, in these times of specialization, many singing teachers are concerned only with vocal technique, ignoring other equally important artistic, dramatic, psychological and emotional aspects. The language used in bel canto teaching relies heavily on similes, examples and metaphors. This is because, unlike the violinist and the trumpeter, the singer's instrument is not tangible: it cannot be seen or played. Or, in other words, the singer is the instrument.


Just as the singer cannot hear himself with his own ears (unless he records his voice to get an idea of how others hear him) and cannot see himself with his own eyes (unless he looks at his reflection in a mirror), we cannot see the vocal cords: the singer's instrument. That is why Manuel Garcia, the famous singing teacher of the 19th century, concerned about knowing what the vocal organ was like, its mechanism and its physiology, ended up inventing the laryngoscope!


In its origins, the teaching of bel canto was holistic, total: to sing, of course, it was important to have a voice, but not only that. As one of my teachers always said: "A voice does not a singer make". 


Charles Oppenheim

Artistic Director


Ópera de San Miguel, AC is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to identifying and encouraging, through professional grants and performance opportunities, young opera singers in Mexico, and in the process enriching and perpetuating the musical and artistic life of our community.


Opera de San Miguel is dedicated to discovering the most talented and promising young opera singers in Mexico and to encourage and support their professional aspirations by awarding grants for advanced operatic studies and professional expenses, by providing professional performing experience, and by building a network of academic and professional opera individuals and organizations which can in turn offer opportunities to our singers. By bringing young, exciting, and often world-class operatic talent to San Miguel de Allende, we enrich both our community and the nation. 


In 2008, Opera San Miguel presented the first annual Concurso San Miguel, a nationwide contest for young Mexican singers. It quickly became one of the most respected contests of its kind in Mexico. The generous grants offered through the Concurso help provide funding for the professional and artistic development of young, uniquely talented Mexican singers. All grant money awarded through our Concurso is raised privately, through generous donations from the international community of San Miguel de Allende, its residents, and its local businesses.  


Each year we consider over 100 applicants for our Concurso, and we choose 10 finalists to come to San Miguel de Allende for a full week of musical, dramatic and language coachings, master classes, and career counseling, all conducted by a team of prominent international opera experts. We do not just offer our winners cash prizes, but also scholarships, internships, and ongoing mentoring that lasts, in many cases, years beyond an initial prize award.

Concurso San Miguel, and the concerts we present featuring our winners, as well as the international exchange concerts we produce, have made San Miguel de Allende a center for opera that is unique in all of Mexico.


For further information on our Concurso, and what makes it unique in the world, please write to Daniela Ahlenius.

 Pianist Mario Alberto Hernández, with mezzo-soprano Daniela Cortés, sopranos Diana Mata and Dulce Guadarrama, tenor Carlos Velázquez,  baritone Daniel Gallegos and bass Charles Oppenheim, artistic director of OSM.

Who we are


Álvaro Nieto


María Teresa Dobarganes


Shari Alexander


Charles Oppenheim

Artistic Director

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Daniela Ahlenius

Executive Director

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Mario Alberto Hernández

Resident Pianist and Coach

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