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.
Artistic and Administrative Team
Between 1977 and 2004, tenor John Bills sang in literally thousands of performances at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City under virtually every major conductor of his day. He can be heard on CDs and DVDs with colleagues such as Plácido Domingo, Renata Scotto, and Luciano Pavarotti. He sang with Mr. Pavarotti in New York’s Central Park before a crowd of 75,000 and was chosen to solo with him and Mirella Freni in a gala performance of La Bohème. In 2008 he was a founding judge of Concurso San Miguel and in 2011 was selected by the Board of Directors to become Artistic Director. During his tenure, Mr. Bills has greatly expanded the educational and performing activities of Opera San Miguel, and grown the company’s international reputation as one of the most important and prestigious in Mexico, as well as attracting internationally renowned opera figures to participate in the annual Concurso. He lives in San Miguel de Allende with his wife Shari Alexander, who is active with OSM as Director of the Angels of the Opera and Director of Public Relations, as well as serving as OSM Secretary. Mr. Bills is a regular correspondent for Pro Opera magazine in Mexico City.
Master Teacher and Artist-in-Residence
Maureen O’Flynn enjoyed a 28-year career as a leading soprano with virtually every major opera house in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg Staatsoper, Teatro La Fenice in Venice, and La Scala, Milan. Legendary conductor Riccardo Muti chose her for Nanetta in Verdi’s Falstaff at La Scala, and to repeat the role in his Sony CD recording. Ms. O’Flynn’s definitive performance of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto was heard by audiences in London, Venice, Palermo, Naples, the Arena di Verona, and in the U.S. at the Met, the New York City Opera, and the opera companies of Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia and San Diego. Today she has a thriving cabaret career, including performances at Feinstein’s in New York City, while sharing her experience with aspiring singers at her private studio in NYC and on the faculty of the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. Ms. O’Flynn is the “Rosewood San Miguel Master Teacher” and is the “Shari Alexander Artist-In-Residence.” In those positions she is responsible for presenting Master Classes and coaching and preparing the finalists of Concurso San Miguel for their performances in the contest’s Final Round.
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.
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.
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, 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 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 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 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.”
John Daly Goodwin
JOHN DALY GOODWIN recently stepped down after 25 seasons as Music Director and Conductor of the New York Choral Society, having performed in nearly 50 concerts in Carnegie Hall and at Lincoln Center, as well as 10 international concert tours. “Having been a juror for the Concurso since 2009, I have been witness to the important role OSM plays in the development of fine young Mexican singers at a critical stage in their careers. It is both a privilege and a pleasure for me to serve on the Advisory Board of Opera de San Miguel.”
CHARLES OPPENHEIM is a member of the board of directors of Pro Ópera, a 25 year-old non-profit organization devoted to promoting opera in Mexico. Since 1997 he has been the Editor of its bi-monthly magazine Pro Ópera, the only Spanish language publication in the Western Hemisphere entirely devoted to opera. “In these difficult times for opera in Mexico and elsewhere, it is good to know that San Miguel de Allende has become a sanctuary for nurturing and supporting the career aspirations of the next generation of Mexican singers. Through Concurso San Miguel, the best new talent is spotlighted, allowing them to increase their opportunities for development.”
MAUREEN O’FLYNN enjoyed a 28-year career as a leading soprano with virtually every major opera house in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, London’s Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg Staatsoper, Teatro La Fenice in Venice and La Scala in Milan. She has performed under many of the leading conductors of her day, including the legendary Riccardo Muti, who chose her for Nanetta in Verdi’s Falstaff at La Scala and to repeat the role in his Sony CD recording of the opera. Her televised performance of Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro received rave reviews, Ms. O’Flynn's definitive interpretation of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto was heard by audiences in London, Venice, Palermo, Naples, and the Arena di Verona, and in the U.S at the Met, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia and San Diego. More recently she has returned to her first love, the Great American Songbook, with a thriving cabaret career including several acclaimed appearances at Feinstein's in New York City. Ms. Flynn now shares her experience with aspiring opera singers at her private studio in New York City and at the Hartt School of Music. Ms. O’Flynn is the “Rosewood San Miguel Master Teacher” and is the “Shari Alexander Artist-In-Residence.” In those positions she is responsible for presenting Master Classes and coaching and preparing the finalists of Concurso San Miguel for their performances in the contest’s Final Round.
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!”
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, 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.”