The Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions are the country’s biggest vocal competition, and they have a new wrinkle this year, with both the semifinal and final rounds being livestreamed for the first time. You never know what you’re going to get, a la Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, which is part of the attraction: 2021 may just turn out to be like 1988, when the winners included future A-listers Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, and Ben Heppner.
Of the 23 semifinalists this year, 11 — almost half — are sopranos, which is not an unusual ratio. Five are mezzo-sopranos, one is a countertenor, and there are three tenors and three baritones or bass-baritones. The competition started with district auditions in 31 cities during November, December, and January, then continued through regional auditions in 10 cities during February and March.
Three semifinalists are slated to sing solo roles in the Santa Fe Opera’s 2021 season as apprentices. Soprano Cheyanne Coss, a New England Conservatory graduate, performs Barbarina in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Tenor Duke Kim, a Rice University graduate and current member of the Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera, is Lysander in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Baritone Ethan Vincent, a Northwestern University graduate, performs the Captain and understudies the title role in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Purely from a DNA standpoint, the frontrunner would have to be New Orleans-born mezzo-soprano Emily Treigle. Her mother is the well-known soprano and voice teacher Phyllis Treigle; her grandfather was bass-baritone Norman Treigle, one of the greatest singer-actors America has produced, famous for his interpretations of the title characters in Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov.
The semifinal round of the auditions begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 9. The National Grand Finals Concert, in which four to six winners typically participate, is on May 16, starting at 1 p.m. Both events are free of charge but require registration at concerts.kiswe.com/metopera.