Searching for San Jose's next opera star

SAN JOSE, Calif.

It is the 13th year of the West Coast auditions where Opera San Jose hosted other opera companies looking for talent for their companies. It saves money for the companies and for performers who often have to travel for auditions. Judges from several opera companies rate them.

"It gives companies an opportunity to hear people in a space where they can really evaluate the voices," explains Joanne Barnes, director of auditions.

"If you're a good singer you will land 10 percent of the jobs you audition for," says mezzo-soprano Cathleen Candia. "So if you want to do three or four shows a year you have to audition 30 to 40 times a year and be prepared to be rejected."

Candia was in Opera San Jose's production of "The Barber of Seville." So was Adam Meza, who originally wanted to be a doctor.

"I wouldn't have been a great doctor," says Meza. "I'm definitely a better singer than I would have been a doctor."

"To go to an audition is like feeling naked in front of somebody. It's nerve-wracking," says Lofti Mansouri, former director of San Francisco Opera. "They have their future career at risk."

These singers started opera careers after college. Lyric soprano Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste wanted to go into medicine until she sang an aria.

"I was there. You didn't have to convince me. I had to sing," she says. "I felt a really deep connection, deeper than anything I've ever tried."

The top 10 will sing-off at the fifth Irene Dalis Vocal Competition. It's where emerging opera stars compete for $50,000 in prize money. The winners the past two years have signed with New York's Metropolitan Opera.

Dalis is the woman who brought Opera San Jose back to life.

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