Talent Honed By Effort

Emily Fons

Emily Fons

The singing started at 10:00 am and ended at 5:00 pm, after thirty-seven splendid vocalists completed a total of seventy-four solo performances. It was the Metropolitan Opera’s 48th National Council Auditions for the Upper Midwest Region, Wisconsin District, held on Saturday, October 10, at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield.  That completes the reporter’s work.

For the performers it was part job fair and part job interview session–a very public interview session–sweetened with the possibility of a cash prize.  For the untroubled spectator who cares more about experiencing fine singing than witnessing the outcome of a competition, attending the auditions is–as one decidedly non-operatic singer crooned a few years ago– like “knocking on heaven’s door.”  You’re not in paradise yet, but mighty close.

Verdi, Gounod, Britten, Bellini, Wagner, Bernstein,  Gluck,  Richard Straus, Handel, Donizetti, Bizet, Stravinsky, Moore, Puccini, were on the program. And Mozart, lots of Mozart, whose work is, as one vocalist informed me, ” a litmus test for singers.” If you can’t sing Mozart, you shouldn’t try out for the Met.

They could sing Mozart.

Here was a corps of highly-trained performers, motivated since childhood to perfect the “instrument” bestowed on them at birth, seeking  an opportunity to display the result of talent honed by effort to pursue their live’s work.  Watching these artists at work is almost as good as listening to them sing.

But it was an audition, which meant that only some succeeded. Six singers received offers to perform in Milwaukee and Madison. They will also move on to the Regional Auditions and, perhaps, to the final test at the Met in New York.

Wisconsin-born, mezzo-soprano Emily Fons was the winner, as measured by an invitation to the Regionals, job offers from Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera and Skylight Theater,  plus cash prizes, including the People’s Choice award bestowed by an audience made up largely of family and friends of her rivals.  Such is opera. Such is art as it should be.  Hard but honest.

And they’ll be back at work for the 49th audition next year.

–Michael Goc

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