University of Kentucky soprano Afton Battle did not advance in today's national semi-final round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Nine singers were chosen for next Sunday's national finals of the auditions, which are frequently referred to as the American Idol of opera.
Battle (photo, left, by Tim Collins, courtesy of the University of Kentucky) wowed audiences at the Kentucky District and Tri-State Regional rounds of the auditions at UK's Memorial Hall with her huge voice and repertoire that included major arias from Giacomo Puccini's Turandot and Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore. Sunday night, University of Kentucky opera theatre director Everett McCorvey said that same material could have turned into a liability in New York, if judges thought the 26-year-old soprano was singing material beyond her years.
Gail Robinson, Battle's teacher and the former national director of the auditions and the Met's Young Artist Development Program, expressed a similar concern in an interview Friday. Opera experts generally believe sopranos' voices are not mature enough to sing arias as big as the ones Battle has been auditioning with until they are in their 30s.
"I hope she's not penalized for singing big rep," said Robinson, who holds UK's endowed chair in vocal performance. "It will be interesting, because Afton does stand out among singers because of her huge vocal qualities."
Battle was Robinson's first student to advance to the Met Auditions national rounds since she came to the University of Kentucky in 2000. She has had a number of students advance to the competition's regional rounds. The last UK students to advance to the national semi-finals of the auditions were Mark Whatley and Corey Crider in 2002. Whatley made it to the finals, but did not win. Gregory Turay remains UK's last Met Auditions winner. He won the 1995 competition.
As of early Sunday night, McCorvey said he had not had a chance to talk to Battle.
"It will be interesting to hear how it went for her," he said.
Win or lose, McCorvey added, the auditions were a great opportunity for Battle to be heard by agents and directors. "Some good things could come out of this for her," he said. And, of course, Battle can compete in the Met Auditions again.
Jonathan Lasch, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music baritone who also advanced to the national semifinals from the Tri-State regional round at UK, also missed the cut.