Tenor Matthew Grills, a second year master’s degree student at the Eastman School of Music, has been named a finalist in the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Along with eight other finalists, he will perform in a Grand Finals Concert this Sunday, March 18, in New York City. From this group, winners are chosen and these singers receive a cash award of $15,000.
Past winners of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions include Eastman graduate Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Frederica von Stade, and Jessye Norman, among others. Annually, approximately 100 former auditioners appear in Metropolitan Opera productions.
Grills, 25, was the winner of Eastman’s 2011 Jessie Kneisel Lieder Competition and received third place in the 2011 Friends of Eastman Opera Voice Competition. His performance credits include Prunier in La Rondine, Prince Charming in Massenet’s Cendrillon (sung in English), the Prologue from Britten’s Turn of the Screw, and Ferrando in Così fan tutte at the Seagle Music Colony in 2011.
In spring 2011 at Eastman, Grills performed the role of Jamie in The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. Last fall, he played the dual role of the Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald in Eastman Opera Theatre’s production of Assassins and will perform the role of Jenik in the Thursday and Sunday casts of its upcoming production of The Bartered Bride March 29 to April 1. He also has been named one of 12 finalists in the 2012 Lotte Lenya Competition sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music; the finals of that competition will be held at Eastman on April 21.
Earlier this month, Grills and six other Eastman vocal students performed at the John F. Kennedy Center as part of its Conservatory Project, which showcases exceptional young artists from the nation’s leading conservatories and music schools. At Eastman, Grills studies with Associate Professor of Voice Robert Swensen, who said, “Matthew Grills is a supremely talented tenor and has developed wonderfully at Eastman. But more than that, he has a stage presence that is magical and a voice that reaches into the heart. I could not be more proud to be his teacher.”
After graduating from the Eastman School of Music this May, Grills will spend the summer in the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program and begins a year-long long residency with the Portland Opera in the fall.
Finalists in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions went through three earlier rounds of competition in which they performed two or three arias. For the Finals Concert, the jury selects two arias which each competitor will sing accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. In the audience on Sunday will be Grills’s family and friends, coming in from their homes in Connecticut to support him.
In February 2011, Grills was one of three Eastman tenors joining Renée Fleming for a concert encore during her appearance in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. How does he feel about being a finalist in the competition she won in 1988?
“It’s really special,” he answered. “There was a rehearsal the day before the concert (in Kodak Hall), so there was an opportunity to watch her process. She’s a brilliant artist and also a kind person. I remember walking backstage during one of her arias and feeling very emotional. It was so surreal. She also waltzed with me and kissed me on the cheek! I will never forget that experience, and the same goes for the Metropolitan Opera auditions.”
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