A 24-year-old Elverta soprano sang her way into the winners’ circle Sunday afternoon at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a closely watched event that has launched the careers of up-and-coming opera singers.
Just last week, Oak Ridge High School graduate Yelena Dyachek belted out two arias that landed her in one of nine finalist spots in the auditions – the culmination of a months-long process that began last fall with a pool of 1,500 singers auditioning in 42 districts and 13 regions throughout the U.S. and Canada. Competing in the semifinals in itself was a “surreal” experience for Dyachek, she told The Sacramento Bee.
During the final phase of competition, Dyachek again performed on the Met stage in front of judges and music-industry professionals. Just getting the chance to sing at the Met had been a dream for Dyachek since she was an undergraduate music student at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, she said.
The five winners in the 63rd annual competition each bring home a $15,000 cash prize, as well as priceless exposure.
More than 100 past winners have gone on to perform in Met productions later in their careers, according to a Met news release. They’ve included sopranos Jessye Norman and Renée Fleming, and baritones Thomas Hampson and Ben Heppner.
Dyachek, a Ukrainian immigrant who settled in the Sacramento area as a girl, earned a master’s degree in music at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, where she has starred in several opera performances. In weeks, she’ll begin rehearsals as a member of the prestigious Merola Opera Program’s production of “Cosi fan tutte” in San Francisco.
The other winners were Emily D’Angelo, 21, of Toronto; Jakub Józef Orliński, 25, of New York; Sol Jin, 30, of Fort Lee, N.J.; and Sean Michael Plumb, 24, of Philadelphia.