Mexican soprano Denis Vélez is one of five candidates selected in a competition for the chance to audition for the Metropolitan Opera, held by the Metropolitan Opera National Council (MONC) in New York on March 1.
She is the first Mexican to win a shot at an audition, which comes with a US $25,000 prize.
“I do not have the words to express my excitement and the profound gratitude to my family and my teachers that have accompanied me throughout my education to make it to this point. As a Mexican, I feel profoundly honored to be the first finalist … to represent the young talent of Mexico at one of the world’s top-tier competitions. It is a dream come true.”
Despite her triumph, Vélez admits that she didn’t grow up with opera or classical music. Born in Puebla in 1992, she heard Mexican popular music, her initial contact with classical music being through Disney movies. That changed when she was 17 and entered the Conservatory of Puebla. She fell in love with opera though she hasn’t entirely left her musical roots behind.
“Yes, (Mexican) popular music influences me, and I feel that much of the musical ability I have comes from it. For me, there is no clear line between popular and classical music, although it can certainly be difficult for people to appreciate it as opera is not Mexican.”
Vélez continued her studies at the National School of Music in Mexico City and soon became part of the Opera Chorus at the Palace of Fine Arts. For two years, she was part of an intensive program for new talent at the Ryan Opera Center, part of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
She has won regional competitions in the past, her major national triumph being with the Carlo Morelli National Singing Competition at the Palace of Fine Arts in 2018.
Last year she was fourth-place winner at the 11th Concurso San Miguel held in San Miguel Allende for promising young opera singers.
Her current repertoire includes Le nozze di Figaro (Contessa and Susanna), Bastián y Bastiana (Bastiana) and Così fan Tutte (Fiordiligi) by W. A. Mozart, along with L’elisir d’amore (Adina) by Gaetano Donizetti, and La Bohème by Puccini.
Vélez was also chosen to join the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera in Chicago for the 2020-2021 season.
She is returning to Mexico to sing on March 7 at the 90th anniversary of the Isauro Martínez Theatre in Torreón with Mario Rojas and the Chamber Orchestra of Coahuila.
MONC was founded in 1954 with the express purpose of finding new talent and giving them the chance to work with the Met. It holds the most important competition of its type in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. This year, Mexico became a permanent site for Met Opera auditions.