On Thursday afternoon I flew down to Houston for the finals of the Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers. This concert featured two arias each performed by nine young singers ranging in age from 22 to 30, all accompanied by Eric Melear, music director of the Houston Opera Studio. Representatives from the Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington Opera and the Fort Worth Opera, as well as several artists’ managers from New York were also in attendance. I think that the outcome was fairly evident to everyone in the audience, as well as to my colleagues, since the first place winner, 22 year old soprano Andrea Carroll, also won the audience favorite award.
The following afternoon, all of my colleagues and I returned to the Wortham Center for stage auditions from the current members of the Houston Opera Studio, HGO’s wonderful young artists’ program. Among the eight singers were two familiar faces. Mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin, in her third and final year in the studio, received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas in 2006, and was third in the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition in 2009. Tenor Scott Quinn, who was Resident Young Artist with the Dallas Opera for two years, and sang the role of “Normanno” in our opening production of Lucia di Lammermoor earlier this season, has just started his first year in the HGO studio.
Friday night was the opening of a new production of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, with a wonderful cast, which included Josh Hopkins, who made his TDO debut last season as “Mercutio” in Roméo et Juliette, and the amazing Judi Forst, who has sung so many roles at TDO over the years. Saturday night’s performance of La traviata, wonderfully conducted by Patrick Summers, starred Albina Shagimuratova as “Violetta” in a beautifully sung performance. The “Alfredo” Chad Shelton, was a last minute replacement for an ailing colleague, and it was Houston’s great good fortune to be able to get him. Chad, who has sung “Jacquino” in TDO’s Fidelio and “Alfred” in Die Fledermaus, was already singing in a production of Lucia di Lammermoor with Austin Lyric Opera, and was able to sing in Austin on Friday night, drive to Houston and sing that evening’s performance La traviata in Houston Saturday night, and then drive back to Austin for the matinee performance of Lucia on Sunday. I am not sure how he managed to do it, but bravo Chad!