It is time for a report on the opera competition of Saturday evening. I feel compelled to explain that I am not pretending to be someone who I am not in connection with this opera thing. I am just a country boy who took a shine to opera for some reason, and I continue to be nothing more than a dilettante. I know only something of the Italian composers and a couple of the Frenchies and Mozart. I know nothing of German opera.
Fred and I sat up there in the first balcony above the box seats. La Mexicana, who is Director of Administration of Ópera de San Miguel, sat down in row two with all the big wigs of course. I am sure that Fred and I looked like just another one of the gay couples in attendance. Fred and I were able to score tickets to the invitation-only party afterward. I borrowed the photos below from another friend, Naomi, who sat down there in La Mexicana's vicinity.
These are two people whom I am very proud to count as friends now. In the center is John Bills, now retired and residing here, who sang tenor with the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1977 to 2004. He is simply a wonderful guy. On the right is Joe McClain, the Artistic Director of Ópera de San Miguel, whose career in opera and the dramatic arts is too complex and varied to set out here. They acted as two of the three judges.
The thing about this Ópera de San Miguel event that makes it truly fun is the competition angle. This makes the annual concurso here, which is a national competition among young singers for scholarships, especially entertaining. Each of the singers does a solo during the first round. Then there is an intermission. At that point nearly everyone in the crowd has adopted a favorite. After the intermission, each one sings another solo.
A panel of three judges picks the overall top three in 3-2-1 order. There are some other miscellaneous awards. Also, there is an award for crowd favorite. All of us in the audience get a ballot with our program. There is then an award for crowd favorite, which it seems always goes to a different singer from the one picked by the judges as a winner. During the second round, the crowd becomes even more responsive than during the first round and urges these young singers on as they each come out to do their second piece. Quite cool, really. And quite different in atmosphere than a normal, run-of-the-mill recital.
I must say, though, that the thing that strikes me as odd is that there are no categories. In other words all the females of the different ranges are competing with all of the males of different ranges. A male bass singer is competing with the female sopranos and mezzosopranos as well as the other male singers, tenors and baritones. That is just the way it is. One big category. Opera singers.
This is young Alberto Pingarrón Reynoso along with his entourage. Alberto is blind. He is a big favorite among many and not simply by reason of some soppy sentimentality respecting his blindness. He is an intensely dramatic singer. Overwhelming in that regard, actually. He would have gotten Fred's vote for crowd favorite if Fred had not promptly lost his ballot on the way to our seats. Alberto won the special artesano award on the judge's vote.
This is a soprano, Gizelxanath Rodriguez from Baja California, along with one of her pals. Gizelxanath got my vote in an unauthorized category, sexiest female singer. It seems to me that if you want to be a big time soprano, you gotta be willing to show a little. Gizelxanath was willing in that regard, and she had every reason to be proud. That is only an old man's opinion.
This is Cassandra Zoé Velasco in the center, a mezzosoprano from Ciudad de México. I voted for her as crowd favorite, and she won as crowd favorite. I wish I had a better photo of her. The judges awarded her third place. It appears to me that mezzosopranos have an uphill battle to win it all.
A soprano named Zaira Soria Tinoco of Chihuahua won the competition on the judges' votes. Nothing wrong with that. "Professional ears" hear things that I do not. Still, my little mezzo ought to have won in my entirely not-so-humble opinion.
The women in silver with La Mexicana is Shari Alexander, John Bills' wife whom I have written about before. She is a special woman and a special pal of mine. For many years Shari owned and operated a very successful restaurant in The Hamptons, The Ship's Galley. She met John in her later life. Shari is a volcano--a real room filler, and I am roundly entertained by her.
In spite of being married to a man who sang with the Metropolitan Opera, Shari contends that she does not really give a shit about opera. That is almost, not quite, a direct quote. Nonetheless, she has worked very hard raising funds for Ópera de San Miguel. It is a perfect role for her. Shari is personality plus, and it is difficult to say no to her regarding anything. I myself would never even try. When she tells me where to go and what to do, and I go there and do it.