EVANSTON, Ill. --- Bienen School of Music graduate student Samantha Barnes, soprano, and Bienen alumnus Ryan Belongie (02), counter-tenor, were co-winners of the 2008 Metropolitan Opera National Council Central Region Auditions. Barnes is a student of Sunny Joy Langton, assistant professor of voice and opera at the Bienen School. Belongie studied for eight years with Karen Brunssen, associate professor of voice and opera, as well as additional studies with Professor Langton. Both singers will proceed on to the National Semi-Finals that take place on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on February 15, 2009.
The success of Barnes and Belongie means that four Bienen School students have been national semi-finalists in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions over the last four years. In 2006, baritone Matthew Hanscom took first place in the Central Region auditions. In 2005, bass Paul Corona won the Central Region auditions and went on to become a Grand Winner.
The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is a program designed to discover promising young opera singers and assist in the development of their careers. The auditions are held annually in 17 regions in the United States and Canada. Regional winners proceed to New York to participate in the National Semi-Finals. Approximately 10 Semi-Finalists are selected as National Finalists, and compete in a public concert where up to five Grand Winners are named who each receive a cash prize of $15,000. The remaining National Finalists receive $5,000 each. Those singers who were National Semi-Finalists, but did not advance to the National Finals, each receive $1,500 to further their studies.