Status Report: MetOpera National Council Mexico District/March, 2020

Status Report: MetOpera National Council Mexico District/March, 2020

As we approach our third annual round of auditions on November 12, 2020 in San Miguel, the Mexico District of the MetOpera National Council can proudly point to these milestones achieved in our short 2.5 years of existence:

We have launched international careers in the United States for 3 hugely talented and deserving Mexican singers, all under the age of 30, with a fourth showing equal promise. Three had never been outside of Mexico before; none had ever sung outside of Mexico.

A winner of our 2018 auditions is now in residence in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program of the Metropolitan Opera, the most prestigious young artist program in the USA.

A winner of our 2019 auditions went on to the Grand Finals of the MetOpera National Council on the Met stage and was a $20,000USD winner on March 1, 2020.

n We have given dozens more young Mexican singers the ability to imagine themselves on an international stage for the very first time.

The success of our winners has affirmed the value of our four-day Prelude to New Orleans coaching experience. It will be a permanent addition to our audition cycle.

We have established an ongoing relationship with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City that will provide any qualified audition winner the visa necessary to go on to the regional auditions in New Orleans.

As a result of their generous hosting of our 2019 Prelude to New Orleans, we are forming a partnership with the School of Music and Voice Department of the University of the Americas in Puebla (UDLAP). UDLAP is one of only 2 universities outside the USA with USA accreditation.

The San Miguel MetOpera Trust, A.C. (SMMT) was formed in June, 2019 to formally incorporate the auditions in Mexico. ( The Trust is seeking long-term financial commitments from the Mexican business community, such that the auditions become a truly international enterprise. The formation of the Trust was announced at a Gala Concert in Mexico City in August, 2019, featuring four of our 2018 audition winners, with 35 Mexico City media outlets present and attended by The Honorable Christopher Landau, Ambassador of the USA in Mexico, who chose this event as his first official public appearance after his U.S. Senate confirmation 10 days before.

On January 9 of this year the San Miguel Community Foundation voted to include the SMMT as a charity it would endorse, making possible direct tax-deductible contributions from USA donors.

Our History

The Mexico District of the Metropolitan Opera National Council was informally established in July 2017 when a planning committee was formed with a goal of producing auditions in November, 2018. A partnership with Pro Musica SMA was then put in place to provide the infrastructure necessary – accounting, banking, tax-deductibility for USA citizens, online presence -- to meet that targeted date.

In February, 2018 the formation of the District was formally announced in San Miguel de Allende with a champagne reception, featuring Gayletha Nichols, then executive director of the MetOpera National Council, who had been seeking an audition site in Mexico for at least 15 years; Michael Sylvester, Assistant Professor of Voice at Wichita State University and the founder emeritus of the auditions; and Lic. Rafael Samano, whose firm, Samano Abogados, was the principal founding sponsor.

The first Mexico District auditions took place on November 8, 2018, with 34 singers performing. The judges named five as winners: Yunuet Laguna, soprano; Gamaliel Reynoso, counter-tenor; Denis Velez, soprano; Efrain Corralejo, tenor; and Juan Carlos Herredia, baritone. As district winners, they went on to New Orleans to the Gulf Coast Region auditions, where a total of 7 prizes were awarded, with 4, the majority, to Mexican singers: Yunuet Laguna, 2nd place; Gamaliel Reynoso, Efrain Corralejo and Denis Velez, encouragement award winners.

These were extraordinary young singers seeking opportunities to fulfill their talent internationally, -- a goal very hard to achieve for even the most talented Mexican singer. Lack of resources is a serious obstacle, but another is that in Mexico they lack the opportunity to be heard by opera professionals in a position to advance their careers internationally. The advancements they have attained as a result of the auditions are impressive:

Yunuet Laguna was identified as a rising star, and was the only singer mentioned by name by the National Council executive director in her March, 2019 annual report, calling her a singer “whose name you WILL hear again.” She was then recruited into the MetOpera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and began there in August, 2019. The Wolf Trap Opera has now selected her from a field of over 500 candidates as one of their Filene Artists for the summer of 2020, where she will make her USA solo debut as Mimi in La Boheme on August 7.

Denis Velez was named a semi-finalist for admission to the Chicago Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center young artist program. She progressed to the final round in September, 2019, and will move to Chicago in May of this year, as a member of the 2020-21 class at the Ryan Center.

Efrain Corralejo was invited to audition for the Domingo-Colburn-Stein young artist program of the Los Angeles Opera and was offered admission to the master’s degree program of the Curtis Institute of Music. He appeared in fall, 2019 as the Duke in Barber of Seville at Curtis and will appear later this year as a soloist on the stage of the Houston Grand Opera.

The second annual auditions took place on November 7, 2019. Sixty-one singers applied for the 45 slots available, and 40 performed. Two singers were chosen for the second time as winners: Gamaliel Reynoso, countertenor; and Denis Velez, soprano. Two more winners were named: Jacinta Barbachano, soprano; and Jennifer Velasco, soprano. Again, the results were impressive:

In the January 6, 2020 Gulf Coast Region auditions Denis Velez took first prize, which sent her on to NYC, all expenses paid, to the National Council semi-final auditions on February 24 and then to the March 1 Grand Finals Concert on the Met stage, a sold-out ticketed event, attended by dozens of international agents and artist managers. There Denis was named one of the five winners with a prize award of $20,000USD. The press coverage in Mexico City was extensive; it is no exaggeration to say that she is now a celebrity in Mexico.

Jennifer Velasco, soprano, took third prize in New Orleans. She has been invited to audition for the Domingo-Colburn-Stein young artist program of the Los Angeles Opera and for admission to the artist diploma program at Indiana University.

Our third annual auditions will take place on Thursday, November 12, and we anticipate even more applicants. It has been quite an adventure for all of us – singers, maestros, volunteers, sponsors, and the public at large all over Mexico. I am grateful to everyone, beyond words. We are in the business of changing lives, and we are only just beginning!

Respectfully submitted,

Joan M. Mitchell

President, San Miguel MetOpera Trust

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