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Judging for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions during a pandemic.

By: Clare Burovac, New Orleans Opera General Director

I have been judging for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (MONC) for almost ten years.  It’s always a wonderful experience:  fly to the host city, meet the amazing volunteers who organize and fund-raise for the competition, listen to approximately 30 young opera singers competing for prize money, and, my favorite part, providing feedback to all of the singers about their audition: what they did well, how they can improve, and what impression they made during their performance. 

This season is a year like no other in the arts, and the MONC auditions are no different!  I salute Melissa Wegner and her team at the Metropolitan Opera who were determined to continue the program in whatever way they could, and this year, that meant doing it all virtually.  I had the honor of judging the Florida District level competition on Sunday, January 17, 2021, from the comfort of my home office.  The MONC competition used a company named Kiswe, a cloud-based video company that creates real-time live streams, for this year’s auditions.  All judges participated in a Zoom tutorial in the fall in order to acquaint us with the technology and make sure that we were equipped to participate, both in terms of hardware, internet connections, and audio capability. Then on the morning of January 17, my fellow judges and I met up in the virtual audition room to make sure that we were ready to go and get last minute instructions from MONC. 

I cannot emphasize enough how smoothly the process went!  We had a MONC staff member running the technology, muting and unmuting us whenever necessary.  For those of you who have been participating in Zoom calls over the last month, you know how valuable that was!  The volunteers from the great team in the Florida District brought the singers into the “green room” just before their audition time, and then welcomed them into the “audition room” when it was their turn to perform.  Singers in the Florida District were auditioning from every corner of the United States, including one from Baton Rouge, and we even had one singer who was auditioning from Amsterdam.  Following the deliberations, the MONC staff was able to live-stream the announcement of the winners to social media for all to see.  Feedback was also available – all the singers and judges met on Zoom so that we could provide praise and constructive criticism to the auditionees. 

Although I look forward to hearing live auditions in person again, I was amazed at how successful these auditions were, and I certainly don’t feel like the process was compromised by the technology at all.  Bravi tutti to all of the singers who took the leap of trusting the process to audition for us in this virtual format, and congratulations to the MONC team for the terrific organizational job they did.  (But please don’t tell them that I was judging the auditions in my fuzzy slippers.) 

For more information about the Metropolitan National Council Auditions, visit https://www.metopera.org/about/auditions/national-council-auditions/, or for more specific information regarding MONC in New Orleans, visit http://amicimonc.org/