Meet Your 2017 Met National Council Audition Finalists

By David Salazar

The Nine finalists for the Met National Council Auditions have been announced. Below we take a look at some fun facts for each of these talented singers, of which a handful will enter into history as winners of this historic competition.

Samantha HankeyMezzo-Soprano (Marshfield, Massachusetts)

Hankey’s major accomplishments include a 2016 Sara Tucker Study Grant. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Juilliard School as a recipient of a Kovner Fellowship.

Her recent roles have included Handel’s “Agrippina,” Varvara in Janáček’s “Káťa Kabanová” Diana in Cavalli’s “La Calisto,” Marcellina in “Le Nozze di Figaro,” Dorabella in “Così fan tutte” and Mercédès in “Carmen.” She was also an artist with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program.

Natalie Image – Soprano (Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Canada)

As a winner of the 2016 San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concerto Competition, Image will perform Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915.” Other upcoming performances include recitals in California, Aurore in Massenet’s “Le Portrait de Manon” at SFCM and Clorinda in “La Cenerentola” with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program.

Other appearances include Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” with Opera NUOVA and as Johanna in “Sweeney Todd” with Opera on the Avalon.

Kirsten MacKinnon – Soprano (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

MacKinnon, an Alfred Greenberg Memorial Fellow from the Curtis Institute of Music, is a recipient of a 2016 George London Award and has regularly performed with the Curtis Opera Theatre in such roles as Elettra in “Idomeneo,” Micaëla in “Carmen,” Mimì in “La Bohème,” the Countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro,” and the title role in “Iolanta,” among others.

She has made appearances with such notable companies as Opera Philadelphia, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and the Canadian Opera Company. She is slated for more work with Opera Philadelphia, the Glyndebourne Festival, Garsington Opera, and Oper Frankfurt

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen – Countertenor (Brooklyn, New York)

Nussbaum is a 2016 participant in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program and recently won first prize in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition and was a finalist in the George London Foundation Competition. His European professional operatic debut at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien came in Gluck’s “Demofonte.”

Other roles include Nerone in “L’Incoronazione di Poppea,” Raphael in Jonathan Dove’s “Tobias and the Angel,” and Cefalo in Cavalli’s “Gli Amori di Apollo e Dafne.” This summer, he will join Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist for Philip Glass and Robert Moran’s “The Juniper Tree.” He is also slated to become the first countertenor in the Houston Grand Opera Studio’s history.

Cody Quattlebaum – Bass-Baritone (Ellicott City, Maryland)

Cody Quattlebaum was also a part of San Francisco’s Merola Program and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Juilliard School. Recent roles include Claudio in “Agrippina,” Figaro in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Lautsprecher in Ullmann’s “Der Kaiser von Atlantis,” among others. He has been awarded prizes in the Corbett Opera, James Toland, Gerda Lissner Liederkranz, Connecticut Alliance for Music Heida Hermanns, Opera Index, and George London Foundation competitions.

Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez – Soprano (Meriden, Connecticut)

The Nicaraguan-American made her debut with Boston University’s Opera Institute in the fall as the soprano in Philip Glass’s “Hydrogen Jukebox” before taking on the title role in Tobias Picker’s “Emmeline.” She made her OperaHub debut in summer 2016 and was selected by Houston Grand Opera to participate in their Young Artists Vocal Academy.

Richard Smagur – Tenor  (Clarkesville, Georgia)

Richard Smagur studies at Indiana University, where he has sung lead roles in such operas as “Peter Grimes, “Madama Butterfly,” “Carmen” and “Die Zauberflöte, among others. He has performed at the Tucson Desert Song Festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, the Ravinia Steans Music Institute and the OK Mozart Festival.

Kyle van Schoonhoven – Tenor (Lockport, New York)

An Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, van Schoonhoven will debut with the company in “Elektra.” The tenor is also slated to cover such roles as Don Ottavio in “Don Giovanni,” Aegisth in “Elektra,” Froh in “Das Rheingold, and Siegmund in “Die Walküre.”

He was also a participant in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program last summer and received the Nicolai Gedda Memorial Award from the George London Foundation in 2016. Other lead roles in his repertory include “Don José in “Carmen,” Alfredo in “La Traviata,” Bacchus in “Ariadne auf Naxos,” and Hoffmann In “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” among others.

Vanessa Vasquez – Soprano (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Vasquez has garnered top awards at such competitions as Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition and the Giulio Gari Foundation International Vocal Competition, among others.

As a third-year resident at Academy of Vocal Arts, she has sung such roles as Gilda in “Rigoletto,” Mimì in “La Bohème,” Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni,” and Giorgetta in “Il Tabarro.” Later this season, she will make her professional debut as Liù in Turandot with Des Moines Metro Opera.

She has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera UCLA, and Astoria Music Festival, among others.