From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, Philadelphia

by Megan Meister

Last weekend I was in Philadelphia to judge the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions along with my colleagues Doris Yarick-Cross, artistic director of the opera program at Yale, and Peter Russell, general director of the Vocal Arts Society in Washington, DC (and former director of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.)

We heard almost forty singers between the ages of 21 to 30, and ranging in experience from practically never having sung in public to artists who already have contracts to perform with major opera companies.

There were several outstanding singers, and quite a few more who displayed great artistic promise.  First of all, there was a 24 year old tenor from Mexico named Diego Silva, who we were able to send on to the next round of auditions, who was very impressive.  Ultimately, there were eight other singers whom we were in agreement should be heard in the regional level of the Met auditions, but for me the most remarkable singer was a 25 year old bass named Brandon Cedel, who was the last singer in a very long day.  From the very first phrase of Purcell’s “Arise Ye Subterannean Winds” we knew that we were in the presence of a major talent.  In these auditions, the judges are expected to choose the second selection, and I was able to persuade my colleagues on the jury to request the cavatina from Rachmaninoff’s opera Aleko, a favorite aria of mine.  Mr. Cedel sang it superbly, and everyone in the room sensed that we had just heard something truly special.

The greatest pleasure that I have had over my many years in the opera world has been helping identify and encouraging young talent.  Plucking some promising young artist from relative obscurity and giving them a “break” early in their development gives me enormous pleasure.  The circumstances have varied—I might have heard them in an audition or competition out of town or in some young artists’ program somewhere (or even at an audition for the Dallas Opera chorus.)  It doesn’t matter where it was, but I have taken great pride in having been instrumental (no pun intended) in launching such remarkable talents as Raymond Aceto, Clifton Forbis, Latonia Moore, Jay Hunter Morris, Ava Pine and Vivica Genaux, among many others.   There have also been a long list of singers to whom I was able to offer engagements in leading roles at the very beginnings of their careers, people such as Cecilia Bartoli, Stephen Costello, Renée Fleming, Rod Gilfry, Eric Halfvarson, Brandon Jovanovich, Patricia Racette and Ruth Ann Swenson, all of whom have gone on to have major international careers.

I hope that there will be many more names added to this list in the years to come, but don’t be surprised if one of them is Brandon Cedel.

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