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Puerto Rican Tenor Wins Opera Contest; Baton Rouge Singers Take 2nd, 3rd Places
By Keith Marshall, Classical music writer
February 9, 2004
A 30-year-old tenor from San Juan, Puerto Rico, took first place in the Gulf Coast regional finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions on Sunday afternoon at Loyola University's Roussel Hall.
Judges selected Juan Carlos Rodriguez from a group of 12 competitors from the auditions program's Gulf Coast and Puerto Rican districts.
He received a prize of $8,000 and will advance to the semifinal round of the national competition at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on March 14.
In an unusual result, the second- and third-place finishers also were tenors.
Each contestant sang one aria of his or her choice and one that the judges selected from a list submitted by each singer. For his first selection, Rodriguez chose "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot"; the judges requested "Celeste Aida" from Verdi's "Aida." His powerful voice filled the hall during the two numbers, impressing both audience and judges.
Rodriguez is in his fourth year at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico and has sung with the Central Florida Lyric Opera. He is studying with Puerto Rican vocal coach Zoraida Lopez. He will soon audition for the Dresden, Germany, opera company, and he will perform in a zarzuela, a form of Spanish operetta, in the fall in Puerto Rico.
"I have no words to express how I feel about being able to sing on the stage of the Met," Rodriguez said. "I am just so excited and thankful. I thank the Lord for the gift that has been given to me, and I hope to use my voice in praise."
The second-place winner, who received $3,500, was Joseph Haughton of Baton Rouge. Chauncey Packer, also of Baton Rouge, received the third-place prize of $2,000.
Judges for the competition were Gayletha Nichols, executive director of the council's auditions; Ruth Falcon, a Metropolitan Opera soprano and voice teacher; and James Stuart, a tenor and founder of Ohio Light Opera.
Joseph Barnett, president of the Metropolitan Opera National Council, spoke of the role that the council plays in the careers of young artists.
"It's easy to watch a star in a recital and know that you would want to hear them in a full opera," he said. "It's much more difficult to listen to young singers and determine which ones will grow into the stars of the future. But the role of these auditions is not just to seek out the stars of the future who will perform in the big opera houses of the world, but also to encourage singers who will fill the smaller houses of the world with their artistry."