Danger, Will Robinson

Multiple requests this week to talk about last Saturday’s Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Mid-Atlantic Regional finals at the Kennedy Center. I was one of three judges, and I’ve gotten emails, calls, and blog comments asking for some detail on how the panel arrived at its decisions.

Of course, that’s pretty much not possible without violating a series of professional confidences. What I am able to do, though, is call your attention to the guidelines that all MONC judges follow. IMPORTANT: This is not confidential or proprietary information. It may also be found on the MONC website.

The purpose of The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is:

1) To discover exceptional young talent.

2) To provide a venue for young opera singers from all over the country and at all different levels of experience to be heard by a representative of The Metropolitan Opera and to assist those with the greatest potential in their development.

3) To identify new talent for The Metropolitan Opera and for possible participants in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

Number 1 is obvious. But pay particular attention to Numbers 2 & 3. And if you have questions about the outcome of MONC auditions, revisit the performances while keeping this rubric at the front of your consciousness.

Note what it does not say. It is not a mandate to simply choose the singer who gives the most satisfying, musical, or crowd-pleasing performance. It is not an imperative to choose the singer who is likely to have the most successful career. (Note: Number 2 does not say the greatest career potential, but rather the greatest potential for development.]

My experience with public competitions is that most of the time, the persons or persons who meet the specific qualifications for the competition are often the same ones who give the most compelling performances. But that’s not always the case, and that’s when public opinion and panel decisions diverge.

One of the more curious (but wholly predictable) things about the comments I’ve gotten about last Saturday’s competition is that they all disagreed with the panel, but each one disagreed with the others. What a great art form this is.

Audition Comments Firestorm

Many of you have talked me back off the ledge, so more audition comments will be forthcoming. I’ve received 2 negative responses to previous comment postings and 15 encouraging ones. So, assuming that this little exercise has value, I’ll post some more this weekend. If you’re someone who is afraid of unfliching feedback (even if it’s anonymous), then consider this an opportunity to desensitize yourself. We used to call it Flooding Therapy.

Life Goes On

Meanwhile, back at the Trap, we push papers, drown in emails, go to meetings and work on our new Figaro. Even though the blog is still mired in audition talk, my days are spent in pre-production mode. And for my sanity (and maybe for yours: Step away from the audition preoccupation!), next week’s blog talk turns toward opera.

P.S. If you don’t recognize the picture at the top, you weren’t watching TV in 1965.



I love your audition comments: They are exactly the sort of things I thought people wrote down, and honestly It’s a relief to know that one bad note isn’t going to kill my whole audition, that’s sort of an empowering feeling.

Chris Foley

The above picture is none other than the robot from the TV show Lost in Space, mothballed for many years following the show’s run and currently advertising for Altoids, but slated for PR appearances for an upcoming Lost in Space remake.

Next question.


Have purposefully stayed out of this morass, but now will say just two things:

1- Am personally very big on flooding/ desensitization therapy, so all that really worked for me!

(1a- if I remember “Soprano on her Head” at all correctly, while you all are writing comments, we’re supposed to be picturing you in clown masks wearing only your underwear or something like that…)

2- Getting feedback is great afterwards, too, no matter what the actual “outcome” is, if the judges are willing to share it with you you might learn something.


People forget that we are merely looking in on a process. Every year, judges are hand-picked by the MET Opera National Council Executive Director. Regional volunteers invite these highly qualified opera singers, administrators, and professors to decide which singers qualify to advance in their local districts and regions, and finally to New York for the Semi-Finals and Grand Finals Concert. Period. It’s a contest, and audiences are to merely sit back and enjoy the singing. Get to a MET Opera HD Broadcast sometime and see just what these judges are looking for. You’ll understand.

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