District Auditions 17/18 Information

Judges' Bios

Melissa Wegner joined the artistic staff of the Metropolitan Opera in 2011 and currently serves as Deputy Director of the National Council Auditions and Artistic Administration Associate. She auditions hundreds of young singers annually and is passionate about assisting them with their career development. Additionally, Ms. Wegner hears artists in stage and screening auditions at the Met and facilitates the casting of covers and comprimarioroles. A frequent judge for the District and Region auditions of the Met’s National Council Auditions, Ms. Wegner has also adjudicated the SAI Vocal Competition, the McCammon Voice Competition, and the Belvedere Competition in South Africa and Russia.  As a soprano, Ms. Wegner has performed opera, concerts and recitals in the United States and Europe. She joined New York City Opera as a Supertitles Associate and continues this work on a freelance basis with organizations including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, and Opera Orchestra of New York. Ms. Wegner is a member of Families of FANA WNY, which fundraises to support the orphanage in Colombia from which she was adopted. She is a Trustee of the Foundation Board of SUNY Potsdam, and founding member of the Alumni Board of Bard Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program.  Ms. Wegner holds degrees from Bard College, The Manhattan School of Music, and The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.

Longtime Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, Dennis Giauque is a pianist and vocal coach based in New York City.  He was the pianist and head of musical preparation for the award-winning recording of Ariadne auf Naxos, recorded with James Levine and the Vienna Philharmonic.  He has assisted Maestro Levine at summer festivals in Salzburg and Ravinia, as well as with the Boston Symphony.  In addition to assisting Maestro Seiji Ozawa on Der Fledermaus and Carmen for the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy, he has recently been musical assistant and consultant for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Der Rosenkavalier and Das Rheingold, Caramoor Summer Music Festival’s Fidelio, and the International Festival of Milano’s Akhnaten, by Philip Glass.  He is also an instructor at the Atkins Young Artist Program of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Chamber music is also an important part of Dennis’ musical career. He has collaborated as pianist on the recital stage with such singers as Luciano Pavarotti, Dawn Upshaw, Hei Kyung Hong, James Morris, and many others, as well as regularly performing in chamber music concerts with some of the finest chamber music players of today.  Before coming to New York, he was a coach on the music staffs of opera houses in Nürnberg and Stuttgart, Germany; and assistant chorus master for the San Francisco Opera.

Ken Benson is one of the leading managers for opera singers, including 25 years as Vice- President of Columbia Artists Management, Inc.,where his artists included Thomas Hampson, Aprile Millo,, Jerry Hadley, Florence Quivar, Susanne Mentzer, Marcello Giordani and Jamie Barton. He is Vocal consultant at Juilliard School of Music, and he regularly gives classes and consultations at Yale, UCLA, Mannes, Manhattan School of Music, Boston Conservatory, DePaul, Roosevelt and Indiana Universities. He also offers private consultations. Mr. Benson is invited to serve as adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Council's auditions, as well as to judge in most of the major vocal competitions throughout the US. Frequently, he lectures on operatic subjects, includes a series of talks on Wagner's "Ring" at the Metropolitan Opera House. He is also heard as frequent Host and panelist on the Metropolitan Opera broadcast's Opera quiz. As a writer, he regularly contributes to such publications as Opera News and Classical Singer magazine. He has recently returned to Artists Management, representing a select group of the most talented singers from the emerging generation.