USC Thornton students take the top prize at opera competition


Opera, not Oprah · Yelena Dyachek, a graduate student in the Thornton School of Music, sings an operatic piece for her Metropolitan Opera Council auditions on Nov. 1. Dyachek sang selections from Mozart and Tchaikovsky. - Arya Roshanian | Daily Trojan

Opera, not Oprah · Yelena Dyachek, a graduate student in the Thornton School of Music, sings an operatic piece for her Metropolitan Opera Council auditions on Nov. 1. Dyachek sang selections from Mozart and Tchaikovsky. – Arya Roshanian | Daily Trojan

On Nov. 1, two USC students were among the 13 finalists of the Western Region competition: soprano Yelena Dyachek and bass-baritone Andrew Dwan. The Western Region finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions were held in Zipper Hall at The Colburn School.

Dyachek, a graduate student in the Thornton School of Music’s Vocal Arts program, received first place in the Western Regional finals. Her win also came with a prize of $4,000 and the opportunity to advance to the competition’s semifinals. She spoke about her reaction just moments after her win.

“I’m absolutely in shock,” Dyachek said. “I don’t even know how to process my emotions.”

The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is regarded as one of the most prominent singing competitions in the world. Since its commencement in 1954, the sole purpose of the competition has been to discover young talent and foster the growth of future generations of opera singers. Winners of the competition often go on to celebrated and respected operatic careers.

There are four levels of the competition: the district level, regional level, the semifinals and the finals. Last year, approximately 1,500 singers competed at the district and regional levels, of whom 20 were selected to compete in the semifinals. Of those 20, around 10 singers advance to the finals, in which five to six singers were finally announced as national winners of the competition. Dyachek will compete in the semifinals in New York City this March.

Dyachek, a native of Ukraine, completed her master’s degree in vocal arts at USC last spring. She is currently receiving her Graduate Certificate in Vocal Arts under the tutelage of soprano Elizabeth Hynes, who Dyachek has also worked with for several summers at the Aspen Music Festival.

“I owe everything to [Hynes],” Dyachek said. “It’s reassuring to know that all this hard work is paying off.”

Dyachek presented “Come Scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte as her first selection, which she sang impeccably; Dyachek has a large voice that is well-suited for Mozart. The judges then asked Dyachek to perform an excerpt from Tatiana’s Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which culminated with a large ovation from the audience.

Upcoming performances for Dyachek include the role of Vitellia in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito in mid-November with USC Thornton Opera. She is also scheduled to perform the role of Der Komponist in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos this spring, also with USC Thornton Opera. In addition, Dyachek will be featured in workshop performance of Frau Schindler, a new opera co-written by Vocal Arts department chair Ken Cazan.

Andrew Dwan, an alumnus of the Vocal Arts program, was also singled out among the singers; he received a special encouragement award and a prize of $1,500 to help further advance his vocal studies. Dwan currently resides in the Bay Area.

Dwan, a previous student of Hynes, is currently covering the role of Figaro in Opera San Jose’s production of The Marriage of Figaro. He said that the training he received at USC was invaluable.

“Ken Cazan’s direction [with acting] has helped me tremendously in the professional world,” Dwan said. “In addition, [Hynes] set me up with very solid technique — I finally feel like I’m beginning to understand my voice.”

More information about the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions can be found online.

  • Nuttyprof1

    And both of them are graduates of the undergraduate program in vocal performance of the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific. Just sayin’…