Boston Conservatory voice student Rudy Giron (M.M. '17, opera) was recently named winner of the Puerto Rico District in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a prestigious vocal competition held annually across the United States and Canada. Giron reflects on his experience and what it was like to win his district.
How did you find out about this competition and what made you decide to participate?
I’ve known about the competition for a couple of years now. I first discovered it when I was looking at new arias to sing and an article about the then-current winners popped up. Ever since I learned about this competition, I wanted to participate. I decided to enter it this year because I felt that I had a reached a point in my musicianship and technique that I could finally represent myself in a professional way, and perform at a level that I could be proud of. Since this was my first time competing, I didn’t expect to win at all—I was just looking forward to getting feedback and maybe, if I was lucky, an encouragement award. So, when they called my name as a winner, I was shocked, and a little thrown off. But I am very grateful, and it truly would have been an amazing experience, regardless of winning or losing.
What was the process like? Were there multiple rounds?
There are four rounds in total for this particular competition. There is a district level, a regional level, semi-finals, and finals. The district levels take place all around the country, so I decided to compete in Puerto Rico, which is where I’m originally from. It was interesting going to San Juan and being there with a bunch of singers I did not know and who didn't know me. I was surprised by how friendly and open every contestant was. Everyone was so gracious, and it made me feel very welcome and at ease in a situation that would have otherwise been stressful. I thoroughly enjoyed competing in Puerto Rico, and met some lifelong friends from this competition.
What piece(s) did you prepare for this competition? Which one did you feel most comfortable performing and why?
The Met asks you to prepare five arias, so I prepared two Handel arias ("Stille Amare" from Tolomeo and "Svegliatevi nel core" from Giulio Cesare), two English arias ("I Know a Bank" from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and "Dawn, Still Darkness" from Flight) and a Russian aria ("Ratmir’s Aria" from Ruslan and Lyudmila). I felt comfortable with all of them, which is why I felt like I was ready to compete this year. I like "Stille amare" best because the drama is so well reflected in the music that it makes it a very compelling and beautiful piece.
Besides practicing your repertoire, are there any other key strategies you use to prepare for performances or auditions?
I think it helped me to journal and to mentally and physically imagine what it was going to be like to go out on that stage, under that pressure, in front of that audience, and allow myself the freedom to say what I needed to say and to perform.
What advice would you give peers preparing for a competition or audition?
Sing your arias over and over and over again, and when you are sick of them, sing them 10 more times. Be sure that you can confidently and consistently getthrough your pieces, and that you can get through them back to back. The way the competition works is you bring five selections—you start off with a piece of your choice, and then the judges ask for a second and maybe even a third. You have to be prepared to sing all of them because you never know what pieces a particular set of judges will want to hear.
How did your studio teacher help you to prepare for this experience?
My teacher, Rebecca Folsom, really helped get all the details of my performance into shape. In the weeks leading up to the competition, she had me running through my pieces back to back, pinpointing weaknesses to help me resolve them. We did a lot of detailed work to make my arias as seamless and spotless as possible, which was grueling, but absolutely necessary. I could not have advanced without her help or the guidance my wonderful coaches, Michael Strauss and Yukiko Oba.
How did your training at the Conservatory prepare you for success in this competition?
It allowed me to get multiple perspectives on my pieces. I was able to sing my pieces for all of the different voice faculty and they provided insight that allowed me to shape my arias in a refined way that I think really set me apart. I also think that, through the faculty’s encouragement, I found the confidence and strength to be my own artist, and use that confidence to express myself. The Conservatory does not train its students to be cookie-cutter performers, but individual artists that have distinct points of view. This is what really sets our students apart.
What do you love most about the voice program at the Conservatory?
My colleagues. I remember texting my friends the day of the competition, and the constant love and support I received meant the world to me. It also allowed me to vent, and was a way to calm myself and my nerves. Again, it was my first competition ever and to have that kind of support was amazing; I can’t imagine going through that experience without it. That’s another thing I’ve valued at my time at the Conservatory—the friendships I’ve made. I feel like a have a family within the vocal department and that these people are going to be there to help and support me throughout my life.