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Mission Statement

Opera de San Miguel, A.C., is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to identifying and encouraging, through professional grants and performance opportunities, the most talented and promising young opera singers in Mexico, and in the process enriching and perpetuating the musical and artistic life of our community.

ÓPERA SAN MIGUEL is dedicated to discovering the most talented and promising young opera singers in Mexico and to encouraging and supporting their professional aspirations by awarding grants for advanced operatic studies and professional expenses, by providing professional performing experience, and by building a network of academic and professional opera individuals and organizations which can in turn offer opportunities to our singers. By bringing young, exciting, and often world-class operatic talent to San Miguel de Allende, we enrich both our community and the nation.

In 2008, Opera San Miguel presented the first annual Concurso San Miguel, a nationwide contest for young Mexican singers. It quickly became one of the most respected contests of its kind in Mexico. The generous grants offered through the Concurso help provide funding for the professional and artistic development of young, uniquely talented Mexican singers. All grant money awarded through our Concurso is raised privately, through generous donations from the international community of San Miguel de Allende, its residents, and its local businesses.

Each year we consider 100+ applicants for our Concurso, and we choose 10 to 12 finalists to come to San Miguel de Allende for a full week of musical, dramatic and language coachings, master classes, and career counseling, all conducted by a team of prominent international opera experts. We do not just offer our winners cash prizes, we also include scholarships, internships, and ongoing mentoring that lasts, in many cases, years beyond an initial prize award.

Concurso San Miguel, and the concerts we present featuring our winners, as well as the international exchange concerts we produce, have made San Miguel de Allende a center for opera that is unique in all of Mexico.

For further information on our Concurso, and what makes it unique in the world, please click here.

Board of Directors

Alvaro Nieto

President

Lee Tashjian

Vice-president

Shari Alexander

Secretary-Treasurer

Maria Teresa Dobarganes

Claudia Escalante Kay

Cecilio Garza Limon

Thomas D. Lips

Artistic and Administrative Team

Charles Oppenheim

Charles Oppenheim

Artistic Director

Charles graduated in Mass Communications from the Ibero American University in Mexico City, and has worked as a journalist and a translator for over 40 years in magazines, newspapers, radio, television and the Internet. He is the Editor of Pro Opera online (www.proopera.org.mx) since 1997. In parallel to his editorial career, Charles has participated as an actor in theater and cinema, and as an opera singer since 2003 he has participated in recitals and concerts, as well as in stagings of several operas. As of his debut at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City in 2005, he has sung over 35 operatic roles for bass by composers such as Donizetti, Mozart, Rossini and Verdi, as well as over 10 symphonies and oratorios, in the principal theaters and with the main orchestras of the country.

As of October 2011, Charles is a member of the Advisory Board of Ópera de San Miguel, AC (OSM) and has been a member of the audition team, translator for Concurso Week Master Classes, a judge in the annual singing competition, as well as Master of Ceremonies. In 2017 he performed at a gala fundraiser for our scholarship program, A Celebration of Nature: The Pastoral Arias of Handel. Charles was appointed Assistant Artistic Director in 2019. As of John Bills’ passing on October 3, 2020, Charles Oppenheim has been appointed Artistic Director.

 
Arlene Shrut

Arlene Shrut

Master Teacher and Artist-in-Residence
 

Opera San Miguel is pleased and proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Arlene Shrut as The Rosewood San Miguel Master Teacher - Shari Alexander Artist-in-Residence. Ms. Shrut has accepted a two-year appointment for Seasons 2020 and 2021, with an option to renew by mutual agreement. In her new capacity at OSM Arlene will coach finalists for Concurso San Miguel 2020 and 2021, conduct master classes, and serve as a jury member. We are delighted to welcome Arlene Shrut to the OSM team!

Arlene Shrut served on the Senior Coaching Faculty of The Juilliard School’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts where she was recently honored for her twenty-five years at Juilliard, and was also a member of the Vocal-Piano Recital Faculty at Manhattan School of Music. In 2018 she was appointed to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Music Artist Faculty. As a member of the Aspen Music Festival faculty for fourteen summers, she taught classes and coached productions centering on Mozart and German operas. Arlene also served as head of the Accompanying Department at Syracuse University and on the Evening Division Faculties of The Juilliard School and Mannes College.  She is currently head coach and pianist at Atlantic Music Festival and presents master classes across the country in subjects ranging from audition techniques to musical collaboration and entrepreneurship. In 2003, Classical Singer magazine named Arlene their inaugural “Coach of the Year.” As a musical visionary, Arlene has been at the forefront of music’s changing landscape to advance training, generate opportunities, and create innovative solutions to promote classical music.

As a collaborative pianist, Arlene Shrut performs with the elite performers of today while training the musicians of tomorrow. She has collaborated with Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Angela Meade, Isabel Leonard, Michael Fabiano, and many others. She regularly serves as official pianist and judge for international opera competitions sponsored by The Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, The Giulio Gari Foundation, The Loren Zachary Society, The Marcello Giordani Foundation, and the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation. In 2018 she was official pianist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Charlotte, NC and will return in January 2019 in this capacity. Arlene has recorded for Dorian, Albany, Summit, Centaur, and Orion labels. Her discography includes works from the classical canon and recording premieres by contemporary composers.

Academically, Arlene Shrut holds a BM and MM in Piano from the Eastman School of Music, and earned her DMA in Keyboard Collaborative Arts at the University of Southern California (USC). She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Germany in Vocal Coaching.

Arlene’s complete resume is too extensive to include here. We encourage you to visit her website at www.ArleneShrut.com.

 
Mario Alberto Hernandez

Mario Alberto Hernández

Resident Pianist and Coach
 

Since 2008, Opera San Miguel has been proud to have Maestro Hernández as its Resident Pianist and Coach. His inexhaustible energy, talent as a pianist, vast knowledge of operatic repertoire and style, and unique ability to communicate with his singers have made him invaluable to the Concurso. Originally from León, Gto., Maestro Hernández has been a Piano Accompanist/Coach and Assistant Conductor of the Festival Internacional Cervantino, the Festival of Sinaloa, and the Festival of the Ciudad de México and has participated in activities with the Orquesta Sinfónica of UNAM, the Filarmónica of Mexico City, and the Orquesta de Minería, of which he is Music Director. Since 1989, he has served on the faculty of the Escuela Superior de Música del INBA.

 
Alberto Pacheco

Alberto Pacheco

Company Manager
 

Joining our team in 2011, Alberto Pacheco brings more than 40 years experience as a graphic designer, computer expert, website designer, and team manager to his new post as Opera San Miguel’s Company Manager. His expertise is responsible for the redesign of our website, making it more efficient and user-friendly, and for streamlining all technical aspects of the organization. He is chief coordinator between the Artistic Team, the Administrative Team, and the Board of Directors and works closely with our Publicity and Community Relations Director. His graphic design skills are evident in our advertising campaigns, our program design, and stage backgrounds. In addition, Alberto’s enthusiasm, humor, energy, ability to supervise and coordinate the work of others, and bilingual translation skills make him an ideal choice as Company Manager. Born in Mexico City, Alberto lives in San Miguel de Allende with his wife Wendy, a medical journal editor, and their Border Collie Mac. Their son Justin lives in Annapolis, Maryland, and their daughter Emily lives in New York City.

 

Advisory Board

Eduardo Alvarez

Eduardo Álvarez

EDUARDO ÁLVAREZ has conducted orchestras around the world, including Germany, United States, Italy, Moscow, Netherlands, El Salvador, China, Guatemala. Among the many outstanding soloists who have collaborated with him are Mikail Svetlev, fellow Advisory Board member Paul Plishka, Fernando de la Mora, Eugene Fodor and Placido Domingo. In 1995 he was appointed Artistic Director and Artistic Coordinator of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1998, Álvarez was selected by the Governor of the State of Guerrero to found the Acapulco Philharmonic Orchestra where he has since served as Artistic Director and Conductor. Under his auspices the 1st Prize winner of Concurso 2012 was awarded a debut performance with his orchestra.

David and Barbara Bender

David and Barbara Bender

DAVID AND BARBARA BENDER, followed acclaimed solo careers on the international operatic stage by founding Career Bridges, the distinguished U.S. mentoring organization for young opera singers, where they serve as Artistic Directors. This year Career Bridges celebrates its 10th year, during which the organization has mentored nearly 100 singers, ten of whom are now enjoying major careers, and six have signed contracts with the Metropolitan Opera. The Benders conducted master classes and career counseling sessions at Concurso 2012 and presented the Career Bridges Encouragement Grant. “We are proud to have been a part of Concurso San Miguel and we look forward to assisting talented young Mexican singers in the future.”

Ken Benson

Ken Benson

KEN BENSON was Vice-President of Columbia Artists Management in New York City for 25 years. Today he gives classes for Young Artist Programs at major opera companies and at the Juilliard School of Music on auditioning techniques, repertoire, and career building. Benson says, “Even for the most talented young singers, beginning a career is difficult. Ópera de San Miguel provides a wonderful service to these young artists, not only in the form of much-needed financial support, but equally important, it gives them valuable guidance from, and exposure to, important professionals in the world of opera.”

Javier Camarena

Javier Camarena

JAVIER CAMARENA is the most celebrated Mexican tenor performing today. He made his debut in 2004 in Mexico at the Palacio de Bellas Artes singing Tonio in La Fille du Régiment. Since 2007 he has been resident tenor at the Zurich Opera in Switzerland and has been a guest at the Vienna Staatsoper, the Brussels Opera and the Paris Opera, and in Germany with the opera companies of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Dresden. He debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 2011 in a broadcast performance of The Barber of Seville, and returned in 2014 to star in Bellini’s La Sonnambula and Rossini’s La Cenerentola. His last minute substitution for Peruvian star tenor Juan Diego Flores in Cenerentola resulted in a sensation, and the most glowing reviews in the New York press in years. In his last two performances the audience insisted on an encore of his aria, the first such “bis” in more than 12 years at the Met. The Huffington Post review was echoed by the New York Times when it said, “Camarena is quite simply the most thrilling young tenor singing today. The Mexican-born tenor has a voice that is as pure and brilliant as gold. He tosses off complicated runs and cadenzas effortlessly, then hits high notes that are as clear and ringing as bells in a campanile and that leave his listeners breathless. Camarena is on his way to being the next tenor superstar.” Opera San Miguel is delighted that “Javi” has agreed to join our Advisory Board.

Gilda Cruz-Romo

Gilda Cruz-Romo

GILDA CRUZ-ROMO is unquestionably the most illustrious Mexican soprano of the past 50 years, starring at the Metropolitan Opera in the title roles in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, and Suor Angelica, as well as all the great Verdi heroines, Aida, Elizabeth de Valois, Desdemona, Amelia, Violetta, Luisa Miller, and both Leonoras (Il Trovatore and La forza del destino). Ms. Cruz-Romo also starred at the Chicago Lyric Operal, London’s Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, Rome Opera, the Bolshoi and La Scala. “Ópera de San Miguel is quite close to my heart; I feel honored and proud to be a member of its Advisory Board.”

Cesar Delgado

César Delgado

CÉSAR DELGADO is the first member of our Advisory Board to be a veteran of the Opera de San Miguel Concurso, as a finalist in 2012, and winner of the Third Prize in 2013, and First Prize in 2015. Winner of several other national and international vocal competitions, César studied with Enrique Patrón de Rueda at the Mazatlán Opera Workshop in Sinaloa and is a graduate of the the Mannes College of Music in New York City. Since his debut as an opera singer in 2012, he has performed on several opera stages and concert halls in Mexico, Europe and the United States. César is a lyric tenor who has sung over a dozen leading roles in operas by Donizetti, Montsalvatge, Mozart, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi, as well as the Mexican composer Daniel Catán.

PaulPlishka

Paul Plishka

PAUL PLISHKA sang his final performance at the Metropolitan Opera in January, 2012, capping a 45-year career as a leading bass with an astounding 1644 performances! In addition to his Met career, Paul appeared regularly with the opera houses of Chicago, San Francisco, Munich, La Scala, Hamburg, Barcelona, Vienna, Berlin, Zurich, Paris, and London, and appeared in recordings and telecasts with every major singer of his day. “After 45 years of performing at the Met, one of my greatest pleasures is watching and hearing young singers find their way in the opera world. I was always very thankful when offers of help came to me, whether from colleagues, coaches, or conductors. These are not easy times for young singers or classical music organizations. Good luck with your project!”

Arlene Shrut

Arlene Shrut

Opera San Miguel is pleased and proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Arlene Shrut as The Rosewood San Miguel Master Teacher - Shari Alexander Artist-in-Residence. Ms. Shrut has accepted a two-year appointment for Seasons 2020 and 2021, with an option to renew by mutual agreement. In her new capacity at OSM Arlene will coach finalists for Concurso San Miguel 2020 and 2021, conduct master classes, and serve as a jury member. We are delighted to welcome Arlene Shrut to the OSM team!

Arlene Shrut served on the Senior Coaching Faculty of The Juilliard School’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts where she was recently honored for her twenty-five years at Juilliard, and was also a member of the Vocal-Piano Recital Faculty at Manhattan School of Music. In 2018 she was appointed to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Music Artist Faculty. As a member of the Aspen Music Festival faculty for fourteen summers, she taught classes and coached productions centering on Mozart and German operas. Arlene also served as head of the Accompanying Department at Syracuse University and on the Evening Division Faculties of The Juilliard School and Mannes College.  She is currently head coach and pianist at Atlantic Music Festival and presents master classes across the country in subjects ranging from audition techniques to musical collaboration and entrepreneurship. In 2003, Classical Singer magazine named Arlene their inaugural “Coach of the Year.” As a musical visionary, Arlene has been at the forefront of music’s changing landscape to advance training, generate opportunities, and create innovative solutions to promote classical music.

As a collaborative pianist, Arlene Shrut performs with the elite performers of today while training the musicians of tomorrow. She has collaborated with Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Angela Meade, Isabel Leonard, Michael Fabiano, and many others. She regularly serves as official pianist and judge for international opera competitions sponsored by The Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, The Giulio Gari Foundation, The Loren Zachary Society, The Marcello Giordani Foundation, and the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation. In 2018 she was official pianist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Charlotte, NC and will return in January 2019 in this capacity. Arlene has recorded for Dorian, Albany, Summit, Centaur, and Orion labels. Her discography includes works from the classical canon and recording premieres by contemporary composers.

Academically, Arlene Shrut holds a BM and MM in Piano from the Eastman School of Music, and earned her DMA in Keyboard Collaborative Arts at the University of Southern California (USC). She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Germany in Vocal Coaching.

“I am humbled and honored to join John Bills and all the Opera de San Miguel team in their important mission supporting gifted Mexican classical singers in their home country and as they share their art world-wide.”

Carol Vaness

Carol Vaness

CAROL VANESS has for 30 years been the pre-eminent Mozart soprano of her day, singing some 200 performances of the great Mozart heroines at The Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Chicago Lyric Opera, Gran Teatro del Liceo in Buenos Aires, and the Salzburg Festival. She premiered six new productions at the Met, sang in numerous broadcast and telecast performances, and sang the title role in Puccini’s Tosca opposite Luciano Pavarotti in the legendary tenor’s final operatic performance. Writing in Opera magazine, the distinguished music critic Martin Mayer said, “Vaness is one of the great sopranos of our time: I tell my children boastfully that I heard Callas and Tebaldi in their prime, and that they will tell the world 35 years from now that they heard Carol Vaness.” Of the next generation of singers, Ms. Vaness says, “They are the hope for all of us in opera. If I can help them in any way, I WILL!”

Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh

MICHAEL WALSH, a graduate of Eastman School of Music, was named chief classical music critic of the San Francisco Examiner in 1977, leaving in 1981 to become classical music critic of TIME magazine, a post he held for 16 years. His cover story subjects included James Levine, Vladimir Horowitz and Andrew Lloyd Webber. In 1980 he won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music criticism. From 1997-2002 he was a visiting fellow of the University Professors, Professor of Journalism and Professor of Film & Television at Boston University. In addition, he is the best-selling author of eleven books, including five works of non-fiction as well as the novels Exchange Alley, As Time Goes By (the authorized sequel to the movie Casablanca), and And All the Saints, a winner of the 2004 American Book Award for fiction. “I am thrilled and honored to join the Advisory Board of Opera San Miguel and look forward to assisting this important work in any capacity I can.”