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WSU students to compete in national opera competition

Opera singer Renee Fleming talks about singing the national nthem at Super Bowl XLVIII at the Rose Theater in New York on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. (Joe Barrentine/Tacoma News Tribune/MCT)
In 1988, Renee Fleming, above, won the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council competition. Since then, Fleming has become a famous opera singer. (Joe Barrentine/Tacoma News Tribune/MCT)

Bright lights, lavish costumes, tragic deaths, sumptuous infidelity and fierce competition will all mix together in one place. At first, opera might not seem like any of these things, but when multiple operas and opera singers are brought together to compete against one another, one can only expect that tears will be shed.

This year, three WSU students will be entering into the Metropolitan Opera National Council competition on Saturday, Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Libby Gardner Hall in Salt Lake City.

Sarah Singer, Caleb Jardine (juniors in vocal performance) and Heidi Robinson (senior in music) have been preparing for years to be able to participate in the Met National Council competition.

The Met National Council competition is an annual competition for young opera singers ages 21 to 29. Beginning in the fall, up to 50 students compete at the districts throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Finalists from the district level move on to regional competition, then to semifinals and finals where 10 students perform on the Metropolitan Opera stage, accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. From the 10 finalists, five are chosen as grand winners. Grand winners receive a $15,000 award, finalists receive $5,000 and semifinalists receive $1,500.

Singer said she became interested in the National Council Auditions after hearing about Rebecca Pedersen, a BYU student, winning the national finals back in March 2013. At 21, Pedersen is one of the youngest singers to ever win the Met National Council competition.

While Singer doesn’t intend to win even the district competition, she said she’s still going to give her best effort, noting that the experience is what is most valuable to her.

“Saying that I can do it and I have done it is something for me to say,” Singer said. “I’m nervous, but I’m going in with the attitude that I’m going to sing my best and I’ll get feedback from the judges.”

Robinson agreed. She said that competing in the Met National Council auditions isn’t about winning and going to New York to sing at the Met. It’s about gaining experience and becoming a better performer.

“It’s always nice to have goals set and things to prepare for,” Robinson said. “Also I want to get over my nerves of performing and I feel like performing at this competition can help me with that.”

In addition to preparing for the Met National Council auditions, Robinson has also been preparing for her senior recital, an hour-long recital where the performer showcases multiple languages and styles of singing. Robinson said none of her repertoire for the competition and her recital overlap, making preparing for both difficult and time consuming.

“Music brings so much joy to my life and to others’ lives and I want to share that,” Robinson said. “I’m a pretty shy person, so the easiest way to portray my feeling and myself is through song and music.”

Jardine said that he didn’t always know that opera is what he wanted to do for a living, but that music has always been something he has enjoyed.

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” Jardine said. “Besides the fact that I love it, anything that I’ve tried besides music is just not as good. It’s like the old adage that ‘if you work at a job you love, you won’t work a day in your life’ and that’s what music is to me so that’s why I stick with it.”

Singer, Robinson and Jardine all encouraged WSU students to attend the Met National Council auditions and support their fellow Wildcats.

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