Jacob Watson, a fall 2011 Ouachita Baptist University graduate, recently was named the winner of the Arkansas District Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council along with Kristin Lassiter from Dallas, Texas. As a district audition winner, Watson will move on to the next round of competition, the regional auditions, in February.
Metropolitan Opera National Council district audition co-winners pose with the judges (L-R): judge Fred Potkin, co-winner Kristin Lassiter, judge Samuel Ramey, co-winner Jacob Watson and judge Jane Bunnell. photo courtesy Wayne Bryan, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Tri-Lakes Edition
Each competitor prepared five operatic arias. They presented one aria of their choice, and the judges selected one additional aria from their list of five. Watson sang “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from Das Land des Lächelns by Franz Lehar. The judges then selected “Questa o quella” from Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Winning this level of the competition “has definitely affected my future,” said Watson, a Wynne, Ark., native. “All through my career at OBU I focused on musical theatre (my first love) with only a secondary glance at opera. Working hard on my five arias all semester and winning this competition has shown me that I can have a future in opera as well.”
“Any award given during the audition circuit of the Metropolitan Opera National Council is extremely prestigious,” said Dr. Jon Secrest, Watson’s vocal coach at Ouachita. “The judges, nationally and internationally reputable performers and opera scholars with their own impressive credentials, select only the young singers who are demonstrating the most elite vocal skill set of those who perform. Even if Jacob advances no further in the competition, his award at the district level is quite an accomplishment.”
Describing the recognition as “quite an overwhelming feeling,” Watson said, “When I approach a competition, I try not to worry about the outcome. To me, it’s more about being on stage and creating at my top level. It was such a fun day full of great performances. The fact that I won was definitely icing on the cake!”
Because winning the district auditions allows Watson to move on to the regional auditions, he said his post-graduation plans have changed.
“My original plan was to move to New York City in mid-February, but the next round of this competition is in mid-February so I’m staying in Arkansas for a little longer than expected,” Watson said. “My plan now is to see this competition through and to take any and every audition that is available to me in musical theatre, theatre and opera. Eventually, I plan to move to New York City. I’ve always felt called to move there. But all I can do now is work hard daily and the Lord will place me where He wants me.”
Watson will compete in the regional auditions on Feb. 11 at the Germantown Performing Arts Center in Memphis, Tenn. The two winners of the regional competition will receive awards of $1,500 each and will compete for the opportunity to move on to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as a national semi-finalist.
OBU staff accompanist Phyllis Walker collaborated with Watson on his presentation. OBU coach accompanist Louis Menendez also played for 10 singers in the competition and assisted Watson in rehearsal. Ouachita seniors Rachel Harris, a vocal performance and musical theatre major from Springdale, Ark., and Grace Johnson, a vocal performance major from Tyler, Texas, also participated in the event and were accompanied by Walker.
For more information, contact Dr. Jon Secrest at email@example.com or (870) 245-5134.
By Nicci Fillinger