Met Opera Names 2012 National Council Auditions Winners

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The "American Idol" of opera, the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions concluded on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Center, yielding five winners from nine finalists. The winners each took away $15,000 in cash; the remaining four received $5,000 a piece.

The contest is considered to be the most prestigious in opera, giving singers ages 20 to 30 a chance to perform in front of some of the nation's top managers and talent scouts. Finalists are chosen from a field of 1,500 from across the U.S., auditioned at the district and regional levels.

This year’s winners: Janai Brugger, 29, soprano from Darien, IL; Anthony Clark Evans, 27, baritone from Owensboro, KY; Matthew Grills, 25, tenor from Newtown, CT; Margaret Mezzacappa, 24, mezzo-soprano from Euclid, OH; Andrey Nemzer, 29, countertenor from Moscow, Russia.

The winners represent a range of backgrounds. Brugger is a second-year artist with Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, after having received a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. Grills is a second-year master’s degree student at the Eastman School of Music; Mezzacappa is in her third year as a resident artist at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts.

Nemzer, the first Russian-born singer to advance to the contest’s finals, is currently pursuing an artist diploma at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University. Evans arguably came the furthest, having studied voice at Murray State University but for the past two years worked as a car salesman in Kentucky.

Andrew Davis conducted their arias with the Met Orchestra. Bass-baritone Eric Owens served as host.

Past winners include Renee Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Ben Heppner, Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey.