Opera Critic » National Council Auditions

It is no easy task to write a review of a competition in which five of the nine contestants emerged as equally placed winners, but the Metropolitan Opera’s vaunted National Councils Auditions program has presented such a challenge this season.  Hosted by Met soprano and past winner Patricia Racette with conductor Stephen Lord on the podium, this enjoyable afternoon gave our ears to such talent that it was hard to believe none of the contestants was over age 25.  Although the judges made no distinction among the winners, the star of the afternoon was 24 year-old baritone Edward Marks.  An Oberlin graduate now pursuing a master of music degree at Yale, he radiated great power and energy in arias from The Pearl Fishers and Die Tote Stadt.  Jennifer Johnson’s initial foray with Erika’s short arioso from Barber’s Vanessa belied the gorgeous mezzo that she later employed admirably in Sesto’s aria from La Clemenza di Tito.  Rene Barbera employed a sparkling tenor in two Donizetti selections: the famous Daughter of the Regiment aria with the nine high C’s and “Una furtiva largrima” from L’Elisir d’Amore.  These three really stood apart from the rest, though, as Ms. Racette noted throughout the afternoon, are clearly accomplished even to have made it so far.  After the competition portion of the concert ended, Michelle DeYoung, another past winner and Met performer, reminded us of how far National Council Auditions can take a singer.  Her sultry performance of Dalila’s aria “Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse,” and Sieglinde’s lusty “Du bist der Lenz” demonstrated all the range, intensity, and power that go into making a successful singer on the Met stage.