In Achievements and Awards, Opera, Students

Hoskins competed as a semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

New York’s Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center is one of the most prestigious and beloved stages in the genre. A Met performance is a bucket list item for even the most renowned opera stars and is among the loftiest dreams of aspiring professional singers.

Graduate student Mary Hoskins was one of 20 semi-finalists in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. (Courtesy of Mary Hoskins)

This dream came true in March for 20 of the top young opera singers in the country — including BYU’s own Mary Hoskins.

The 65th annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions started at the district level with each singer bringing five arias to the competition. Hoskins won the Utah District auditions alongside her brother Jonah and advanced to the regional level, where she became one of four singers from the Rocky Mountain Region to continue on to the semi-finals in New York.

“I couldn’t quite comprehend it when it first happened,” said Hoskins on learning that she would be performing at the Met. “Even when I was there, I don’t think it hit me until I was actually singing on the stage.”

In an industry steeped in competition for roles and professional opportunities, Hoskins was surprised by the camaraderie and support she felt during the semi-finals and in the instructive workshops that had been prepared for the singers.

“I was hit by how homey it was,” said Hoskins. “I expected to be really overwhelmed, but when you sit on the ground floor of the Met, the stage doesn’t feel quite as big. And everyone was just so warm there — one of the things they said when we first got there was, ‘you are the 20 semi-finalists, so you’re part of the Met family now.’”

That family includes some of the biggest names in opera, including Frederica von Stade, Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt and Thomas Hampson — all former winners of the National Council Auditions.

Mary Hoskins and her teacher, Darrell Babidge, at the Metropolitan Opera House. (Courtesy of Mary Hoskins)

The adrenaline of the performance kicked in for Hoskins when the stage manager came to get her from the principal dressing room. The stage manager helped her settle into a calmer state of mind before and between her two songs, the second of which was selected from her repertoire by the judges.

“Before I went on, the stage manager took my hand and said ‘just take a second, take a deep breath, look into my eyes — you’re going to do so great,’” recounted Hoskins. “When I came off between my songs, he was there ready to hand me a cup of water. The water spilled because I was shaking so bad, so he took my hand again and breathed with me for a minute before I went on for my second song.”

Despite a few fleeting jitters, Hoskins’ overall emotion wasn’t anxiety, but excitement to be performing in such an iconic venue.

“When you’re on the stage, it’s amazing and beautiful and the sound is actually not bad; I expected it to swallow my voice, but it didn’t,” said Hoskins. “I was surprised by how much it felt like any other performance, but bigger. We got to sing on stage for about 20 seconds before we sang for the competition, and that was probably my favorite time, because I didn’t have to worry about the competition at all — I was just enjoying the space.”

In addition to the encouragement she received from the National Council Auditions organizers and crew, Hoskins felt the support of her family members — six of whom were invited to cheer her on from the audience during her Met performance — as well as that of her BYU friends and mentors back home.

“My family was with me every step of the way,” said Hoskins. “And I couldn’t have done it without my teacher, Darrell Babidge. This year we worked a lot on acting and giving my all to my singing. It’s always good to have someone who really knows your voice and knows where you need to go with it. I felt a lot of support from the BYU vocal area in general.”

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