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Hannah Ludwig (left) and Yelena Dyachek perform in the 2013 award-winning Pacific Opera Theatre production of “Merry Wives of Windor.” Ludwig, Dyachek, Andrew Dwan and Ted Pickell were all in that production and all competed this year in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Hannah Ludwig (left) and Yelena Dyachek perform in the 2013 award-winning Pacific Opera Theatre production of “Merry Wives of Windor.” Ludwig, Dyachek, Andrew Dwan and Ted Pickell were all in that production and all competed this year in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

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Arts and Culture

Fantastic four sing their way to The Metropolitan Opera stage

Dec 4, 2015

[Editor's note: Hannah Ludwig '14 competed Feb. 14 in the Gulf Coast Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and won an Encouragement Award, but did not advance to the semifinals.]

They sang together to take home the National Opera Association’s top prize. Now they are singing against one another in one of the oldest and most prestigious opera competitions in North America.

Four recent graduates of University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music have been vying for a place in opera history, a year-long journey that has taken twists and turns rivaling the most dramatic librettos. Yelena Dyachek ‘13, a soprano from Sacramento, and Andrew Dwan ‘14, a bass-baritone from Santa Clara, won district honors in Los Angeles and San Francisco last fall, earning spots in the regional finals in LA in November. Dwan took home an encouragement award, while Dyachek advanced as one of only 20 singers to the national semifinals, which will take place at the Metropolitan Opera on March 6.

Yelena Dyachek

Meanwhile, Hannah Ludwig ‘14, a mezzo-soprano from Sacramento, won in the Puerto Rico District and will compete next in February to determine whether she will join Dyachek on the Metropolitan Opera House stage in New York City as a national semifinalist. A fourth artist, Ted Pickell ‘14, a bass-baritone from El Dorado Hills, won the Illinois District competition, but was bested in the Central Regional Finals in Evanston, Illinois.

Ultimately, the 20 semifinalists, who will emerge from an initial field of 1,800 from throughout the United States and Canada, will be pared down to 10 singers. These 10 will then compete in the 2015-16 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions grand finals on March 13.

Yelena Dyachek Ludwig

For a distinctive opera program such as the Conservatory of Music’s to have one recent graduate in the 80-year-old competition would be rare, but to have four advance as far as they have in a single year is considered extraordinary.

“To have four Pacific-trained artists recognized in four different districts as winners so early in their careers is phenomenal,” said Daniel Ebbers, interim dean of the Conservatory of Music and a professor of voice. “Moreover, to have all this level of success so soon after their experience at Pacific further augments the significance of the accomplishment. You have to understand that this is the equivalent of our student-athletes going to the NCAA tournament finals in their sport. This is the most prestigious voice competition in the world and this competition has been the defining step in the careers of some of the greatest opera stars.”

Cash and talent agents

The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, established in 1935, are designed to discover promising young opera singers and help them with artistic and career development. Winners receive cash prizes and, most importantly, the opportunity to train with the Met’s artistic staff, sing on the Metropolitan Opera House stage, and display their professional potential before top opera talent agents and artistic directors.

The students studied under distinguished faculty at the Conservatory of Music. Lynelle Weins, director of the Voice and Opera Program at Pacific, and Professors Burr Phillips and Ebbers each had individual students represented in the competition, but equally important has been the guidance of the opera director, James Haffner.

“The majority of our graduates in the voice program will attribute their success to the collective efforts of our voice faculty, whether it be in their individual lessons, the classroom, or in their opera rehearsals,” Ebbers said.

Singers credit Pacific training

Dyachek and Ludwig each said their time at Pacific readied them for the competition.

“I am very proud to represent the Pacific Conservatory as an alum,” Ludwig said. “My professors gave me the resources and guidance so that by the time I graduated I could succeed in the professional field as an opera singer. I owe all of my success to the fundamentals that the Conservatory gave me.”

Dyachek, who already spoke English, Russian and Ukrainian fluently, pointed to the language requirements as “one of the most valuable aspects” of her Pacific voice performance education. It allowed her to also study Italian, German and French while at Pacific and those language skills are a “crucial tool” in her graduate education and professional work.

“I also took Opera Workshop, an acting-for-singers class, all eight semesters of my undergraduate studies, which pushed me further into character exploration and risk-taking, on stage and off,” Dyacheck said.

She said Pacific undergraduates studying voice receive much-needed stage time that they might not get at larger conservatories. Dyacheck participated in every opera production while at Pacific, including three leading roles, and made valuable connections at Stockton Opera.

She said she was looking forward to the semifinals in March.

Next steps

Ludwig is now immersed in preparation for the Feb. 14 Gulf Coast Region Finals in New Orleans, mastering five challenging arias. “I have to know those pieces inside and out – characterization, language, history of the piece and the opera itself,” she said.

If Ludwig succeeds to advance to the national semifinals on March 6, she may find herself facing off against Dyachek. The two have shared a stage before. Dyachek and Dwan, who both graduated in 2013, and Ludwig and Pickell, who graduated in 2014, all were in the cast of the 2013 Pacific Opera Theatre production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” which was awarded first place in that year’s Opera Production Competition sponsored by the National Opera Association.

“These results – the first place for ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ and having four recent grads receive recognition on so many levels of the Metropolitan Opera Competition–are compelling evidence that quality and dedication of our students and faculty are producing tangible and dramatic outcomes,” Ebbers said.

Learn more about:

Yelena Dyachek

Andrew Dwan

Hannah Ludwig

Ted Pickell

Media contact:
Keith Michaud | 209.946.3275 (office) | 209.470.3206 (cell) |
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