Gunn was selected by Sills, the great soprano and former chair of the Met; Nathan Leventhal, the former president of Lincoln Center; and Agnes Varis, the Met managing director who endowed the award.
The award caps a season in which Gunn, a favorite for years among aficionados for his singing as well as his good looks, made the jump into opera stardom, in part through his portrayal of Clyde Griffiths in the world premiere of Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy at the Met.
After seeing Gunn in An American Tragedy, Sills said, "we knew we had found our choice. I congratulate him not only on his past performances, but I am convinced that this is only the beginning of a brilliant future career."
The award includes a $50,000 cash prize, intended to fund voice lessons, travel, and other career costs. It is open to singers between the ages of 25 and 40 who have appeared in solo roles at the Met.
Born in South Bend, Indiana, Gunn studied at the University of Illinois. He was a winner of the 1994 Met National Council Auditions, the 1998 ARIA award for young singers, and a 1997 Tucker Foundation Career Grant. In the 1990s, he was a member of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and has sung 11 different roles with the company.
Gunn has also appeared at the Royal Opera, Paris Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, and other companies; his roles include Billy Budd and Figaro.