The Eastman opera department has certainly had its hands full this month as many of their productions are being performed and their opera season is only just beginning with the fifth annual Friends of Eastman Opera voice competition at 3 p.m. Nov. 19 in Kilbourn Hall.

The contest will be a showcase of Eastman’s exceptional voice students. Its goal is to provide opera students with an opportunity to display their outstanding talents for the entire Rochester community.

The competition and the organization both serve to support the Eastman opera department program.

Not only do the winners of the competition receive cash prizes totaling $1,700, but they’re also able to add another achievement to their rsums.

They also have the opportunity to be heard by a director of a professional opera company and to perhaps build a professional relationship with that individual.

In this way, the competition provides a solid foundation for their future opera careers.

It is a chance for them to participate in a renowned competition and perhaps get a foot in the door for future roles in famous productions.

“The competition is kind of like taking a final exam,” Friends of Eastman Opera Chair of Voice Competition Riki Connaughton said. “This isn’t the kind of thing they can cram for the night before.”

The first-prize winner of the 2001 competition eventually went on to play the lead role in Broadway’s 2003 production of “La Boheme.”

Auditions for the contest usually yield upperclassmen and graduate voice students.

Voice faculty members nominate several voice students from the department, who then audition for the remaining eight openings in the competition a few short weeks before the day of competition.

This is only the second year in which students have been allowed to audition for positions in the competition. In the past, the contestants were hand picked by the Eastman voice faculty. Seventeen students auditioned last year for the eight contestant positions.

Their selection of arias is really part of a greater role preparation for their future careers, which they begin with the help of their voice instructors.

They choose arias from shows that they have previously performed or would like to perform in the future.

Once the finalists have been selected, the competition will begin. The students will have selected three arias to perform in two languages.

At the competition, the students begin with one aria of their choice.

After that, the adjudicator will choose which of the other two the finalist will perform and, in a case like last year’s competition, may even ask the student to perform both remaining arias.

Of course, planning takes place far in advance of the competition to allow time for the students to prepare themselves and to find an adjudicator.

This year’s competition will be adjudicated by General Director of Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera William Florescu.

Florescu has also served as General Director of the Columbus Light Opera and the Lake George Opera.

The competition will be followed by a reception in Cominsky Promenade, while the adjudicator adjourns for his deliberations.

However, the decision hasn’t always been easy. Many past judges have commented on the difficulty they experience in choosing the winners out of the talented group of vocalists.

“My fellow competitors [last year] were all so wonderful,” graduate student Marc Webster said. “I was just honored to be among them.”

The competition and the reception will be free and the public is encouraged to witness the exceptional talent of the Eastman opera department.

Figueredo can be reached at

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