Winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Announced

New York, NY (March 22, 2015) — After a months-long series of
competitions at the district, regional, and national levels, five young singers
have been named the winners of the nation’s most prestigious vocal
competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Each winner
receives a $15,000 cash prize and the prestige and exposure that come with
winning the competition that launched the careers of many of opera’s biggest

This year’s winners are Nicholas Brownlee, bass-baritone
(Western Region: Mobile, Alabama); Marina Costa-Jackson,
soprano (Middle Atlantic Region: Salt Lake City, Utah); Joseph
, tenor (Eastern Region: McKinney, Texas); Reginald
Smith, Jr.,
baritone (Southeast Region: Atlanta, Georgia); and
Virginie Verrez, mezzo-soprano (Eastern Region: Brive La
Gaillarde, France, currently living in New York, New York).

Earlier this afternoon, nine finalists performed on the Met stage in the
final phase of the competition. Each sang two arias with the Met orchestra, led
by the company’s Principal Conductor, Fabio Luisi. The
audience for the Grand Finals Concert included artistic directors of leading
opera companies, artist managers, important teachers and coaches, music
critics, and many other industry professionals with the potential to play an
influential role in the career of a young singer.

The Met Auditions, currently in their 62nd year, were the public’s first
introduction to many of today’s best-known stars, including RenÈe Fleming,
Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Eric Owens, Sondra Radvanovsky, Frederica von
Stade, and Deborah Voigt. Recent winners who have gone on to embark on major
operatic careers include Paul Appleby, Jamie Barton, Anthony Roth Costanzo,
Michael Fabiano, Lisette Oropesa, Susanna Phillips, Alek Shrader, and Amber
Wagner. 126 singers who participated in the National Council process early in
their careers are on the Met’s roster in the current season.

The Grand Finals Concert was hosted by current Met star Angela
, who first came to prominence in 2007 as a winner of the
National Council Auditions. Meade sang “Ebben?…Ne andrÚ lontana” from
Catalani’s La Wally and “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s Norma
while the judges deliberated. The concert was recorded for broadcast at a
later date on public radio stations across the United States.

The remaining four finalistsJared Bybee, baritone (Middle
Atlantic Region: Modesto, California); Allegra De Vita,
mezzo-soprano (New England Region: Trumbull, Connecticut); Kathryn
, soprano (Upper Midwest Region: Sheboygan, Wisconsin); and
Deniz Uzun, mezzo-soprano (Central Region: Mannheim, Germany,
currently living in Bloomington, Indiana)—each received a cash prize of

The regional and district-level auditions, held across the U.S. and Canada,
are sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera National Council and administered by
National Council members and hundreds of volunteers from across the country.
Given the reach of the auditions, the number of applicants, and the program’s
long tradition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions are
considered the most prestigious competition for singers seeking to launch an
operatic career.

The Winners

Nicholas Brownlee
Bass-Baritone (Mobile, Alabama)
Age 25

In the 2015-16 season, Nicholas Brownlee will be returning for his second
year as a Domingo Colburn Stein Young Artist at Los Angeles Opera, where he
will be heard as Colline in La BohËme, the Speaker in
Die Zauberflˆte, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, and the
Gardener in Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. Next season also includes his
Atlanta Opera debut as Colline. He will also be returning for his second season
at Santa Fe Opera this summer as the First Soldier in Salome. This
season he made debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as the bass soloist in
the Beethoven Choral Fantasy, as well as London’s Barbican Centre in
performances of Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland, co-produced with
the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is a First Place winner of the Palm Springs
Opera Guild Competition as well as a national semi-finalist in the 2011
Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Western Region.

Marina Costa-Jackson
Soprano (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Age 27

Marina Costa-Jackson is a third-year resident artist at the Academy of Vocal
Arts in Philadelphia, where she is heard this season as MimÏ inLa BohËme
and as Marguerite in Faust. In Philadelphia, she has also sung
Lisa in The Queen of Spades and Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera.
She appeared at Madison Square Garden last year with Andrea Bocelli and
has recently returned from a concert tour in Russia with Dmitri
Hvorostovsky’s “Dmitri and Friends”. She received first prize in the
Giulio Gari Foundation, was a second place winner with the Marcello Giordani
Foundation, a finalist in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition,
and an award winner with the Opera Index, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation,
Mario Lanza Institute, Sergio Franchi Music Foundation, and George London
Foundation. She will make her professional debut next season with Michigan
Opera Theater as Musetta in La BohËme. Middle Atlantic Region.

Joseph Dennis
Tenor (McKinney, Texas)
Age 30

In 2013 Joseph Dennis appeared with the Santa Fe Opera as Giuseppe in La
and last summer returned to that company for the title role in
the American premiere of Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. This season he
sings äteva in Jen?ufa with Des Moines Metro Opera. He has also
appeared with the Palm Beach Opera as Malcolm in Macbeth and in
productions of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Les Contes
. He pursued theater studies at Collin College and vocal
performance at Stephen F. Austin State University, where his roles include
Elder Gleaton in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Kaspar in Menotti’s
Amahl and the Night Visitors, Alfred inDie Fledermaus, and
Gastone in La Traviata. At the University of Oklahoma he sang Pylades
in Gluck’s IphigÈnie en Tauride and Fenton in Falstaff.
This fall he joins the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera. Eastern Region.

Reginald Smith, Jr.
Baritone (Atlanta, Georgia)
Age 26

Reginald Smith, Jr. is a studio artist with the Houston Grand Opera and his
operatic repertoire includes the title role of Falstaff, Germont
inLa Traviata, Marullo in Rigoletto, the Speaker in Die
, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, and Figaro in Le
Nozze di Figaro
. On the concert stage he has appeared with the Houston
Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Lexington Philharmonic,
Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, Johnson City
Symphony, the Evansville Symphony Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Pops. He has
been a reward recipient in the George London Foundation Competition, Dallas
Opera Guild Vocal Competition, and received first place in the Orpheus Vocal
Competition and National Opera Society Competition. This summer he joins the
Wolf Trap Opera as a Filene Young Artist where he will sing Count Almaviva in
Le Nozze di Figaro. Southeast Region.

Virginie Verrez
Mezzo-soprano (Brive La Gallarde, France)
Age 26

Virginie Verrez received her bachelor of music degree from the Juilliard
School where she is continuing her music studies on a Kovner Fellowship. Last
month at Juilliard she sang Clytemnestre in Gluck’s Iphigenie en Aulide
as part of the Met+Juilliard program. She has previously sung Beatrice in
Wolf-Ferrari’s Donne Curiose, Zenobia in Handel’s
Radamisto, and Junon in Charpentier’s Acteon at Juilliard,
and additional performances include Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana with
Avignon Opera and MercÈdËs in Carmen with Wolf Trap Opera. In 2014
she was a soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Philadelphia
Orchestra and made her Carnegie Hall debut in Bruckner’s Te Deum.
She is a prize winner of the Opera Index Competition, McCammon Competition,
Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, and Gerda Lissner Foundation. This fall
she will become a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist
Development Program. Eastern Region.

image_description=2015 National Council Winners: (from l to r) Reginald Smith, Jr., Virginie Verrez, Joseph Dennis, Marina Costa-Jackson, Nicholas Brownlee [Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
product_title=Winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Announced
product_id=Above: 2015 National Council Winners: (from l to r) Reginald Smith, Jr., Virginie Verrez, Joseph Dennis, Marina Costa-Jackson, Nicholas Brownlee

Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera