Nine young singers took the Metropolitan Opera stage March 1 in the grand finals recital for the company's National Council Auditions. Each year, the presentation of up-and-coming classical artists marks the culmination of the months-long series of competitions at district, regional, and national levels.
To commemorate the program's journey into the new decade, host Lisette Oropesa (a 2005 National Council winner who is currently sings Violetta in the Met's La Traviata) announced that she had donated a total of $25,000 to go directly toward the winners' earnings, inspiring other donors to join in an effort to permanently increase award amounts.
The five winners, who each take home $20,000 (up from $15,000 in recent years), are:
- Gabrielle Beteag, a 25-year-old mezzo-soprano from Lilburn, Georgia
- Blake Denson, a 24-year-old baritone from Paducah, Kentucky
- Jonah Hoskins, a 23-year-old tenor from Saratoga Springs, Utah
- Alexandria Shiner, a 29-year-old soprano from Waterford, Michigan
- Denis Vélez,a 27-year-old soprano from Puebla, Mexico
The additional four finalists—mezzo-soprano Lindsay Kate Brown, baritone Xiomeng Zhang, and sopranos Chasiti Lashay and Jana McIntyre, each receive a $10,000 cash prize (up from $7,500).
The National Council auditions, now in its 66th year, bring in over a thousand young singers a year, holding auditions in 40 districts across North America. Selected singers advance to 12 regional finals before moving on to New York for the national semi-finals and, ultimately, the grand finals recital, featuring the Met Opera Orchestra (conducted this year by Bertrand de Billy). The 2020 recital also featured a performance by guest artist Javier Camarena.
Opera stars who participated in the program early in their careers include Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Sondra Radvanovsky, Lawrence Brownlee, Eric Owens, Latonia Moore, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Nadine Sierra, Jamie Barton, and Ryan Speedo Green.