Sally and I attended the Grand Finals Concert of the 2011 National Council Auditions yesterday. Neither of us had ever attended and we will make sure not to miss in the future. It was so much fun - way better and just as tense as any sports competition for sure. It was hosted by mezzosoprano Joyce DiDonato. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee provided entertainment while the judges deliberated. He sang “Je crois entendre encore” from Les Pêcheurs de Perles and a thrilling “Ah! mes amis” from La Fille du Régiment.
There were eight finalists under the age of 28 - 3 women, 5 men, no mezzos, no tenors. The finalists were Joseph Barron, bass-baritone from Pittsburgh, PA; Deanna Breiwick, soprano from Seattle, WA; Sasha Djihanian, soprano from Montreal, Canada; Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone from Suffolk, VA; Michelle Johnson, soprano from Pearland, TX; Joseph Lim, baritone from Seoul, South Korea; Nicholas Masters, bass from New Canaan, CT; and Philippe Sly, bass-baritone from Ottawa, Canada. The winners were Michelle Johnson, Joseph Barron, Ryan Speedo Green, Joseph Lim and Philippe Sly.
Michelle Johnson was the most amazing of the eight. From her very first note of Io son L'umile ancella from Adrianna Lecouvreur , I had chills. She has the lightest, purist soprano voice I have ever heard live. I was blown away by the artistry and beauty of her voice. Before she even finished singing the aria, the packed house was applauding thunderously and screaming. Sally turned to me and said, "I think we have a winner." Her second aria was Dove Sono.
The other winners were Joseph Lim, Philippe Sly, Ryan Speedo Green and Joseph Barron. The family circle was full of family and fans of the singers, probably students at their respective schools. It was exciting! You may have seen the documentary "The Audition," a behind the scenes look at the 2007 class of finalists, among whom were Angela Meade, of whom I've become a huge fan. All of the semi-finalists received $5,000 and the winners received $15,000 each. It will be very exciting to hear all of these wonderful singers in the future.