October 31, 2011 — Vol. 27 No. 43
Idaho State University senior performing arts major Teaira Burge was one of three sopranos to win the District Metropolitan Opera Auditions at the ISU Stephens Performing Arts Center Saturday, Oct. 29.
The winners move on to Seattle for the regional auditions Jan. 22.
Fifteen contestants from as far away as Minnesota and Texas arrived here for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Eastern Washington/Idaho/Montana District Auditions. Along with Burge, winners included Arielle Nachtigall of Missoula, Mont., and Jessica Jones of Houston.
As well as proceeding to the next level of competition, the three winners each received $1,000 from the Bistline Foundation. Soprano Cynthia Bauder of Spokane, Wash., and tenor Kenneth Olsen of Missoula, Mont., also received $500 encouragement prizes from the Bistline Foundation.
"Even though I'm Teaira's voice teacher, I was amazed to see an Idaho undergraduate among the winners," said ISU music Professor Kathleen Lane of the ISU Department of Music after the win.
"Teaira has always been a very special performing artist, but she's only 23, and the age limit is 30," Lane added. "Some of the other singers have professional resumes and graduate degrees from prestigious conservatories."
When Burge heard her name announced first among the winners, she reacted with disbelief.
"They were all such fabulous singers," she said. "They came from all over the country, and there were some heavy hitters - I thought my ears were playing tricks on me."
The best known of Saturday's adjudicators, noted soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, singled out the coloratura as "my favorite" among the contestants. "You have something to say," she told Burge after the competition, "and you must never be afraid to say it."
For a developing singer, a win at any level of the Met Auditions can prove transformative, Lane said.
"Heidi Grant Murphy won the nationals back in the 1990s and went on to an international career," she said.
"But even if you only win at the district, as I did back in 1985, it can change your life," Lane added. "Even though I didn't win regionals, one of the adjudicators was the eminent soprano Anna Moffo, who encouraged me to continue serious vocal studies.
"I ended up in the Yale Opera Program, much to my own surprise," Lane said. "If it weren't for the Met Auditions, I'd still be teaching high school choir."
Burge is currently working part-time in retail while carrying a heavy 18-credit course load in order to graduate with her Bachelor of Music Performance in Voice this spring. Her next move will be to Portland, Ore. ,for advanced vocal studies with Lane's graduate-school mentor, Ruth Dobson.
"Ruth just had one of her students debut at the Met in the coloratura role of Queen of the Night last year," Lane said. "It will be the perfect transition for a young singer from Pocatello. Portland is big enough to offer performing opportunities, but it's not like sending a small-town girl straight from Idaho to New York City."