What is MONC?

The Purpose of the National Council Auditions Program is

To discover exceptional young talent and provide a venue for young opera singers across North America at all levels of development, to be heard by representatives of the Metropolitan Opera and to assist those with the greatest potential for operatic careers.

The National Council Auditions are held annually in fourteen Regions of the United States and Canada. There are forty-two Districts within these Regions, each providing an opportunity for talented singers to enter the Auditions Program at the local level. The auditions are administered by National Council members and volunteers in each region.  The New York District forms one whole with the New York Region.

Winners of the District auditions advance to their Region Finals where they compete to win a trip to New York to participate in the National Semi-Finals, a competition held on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Approximately ten of the Semi-Finalists are selected as National Finalists and compete the following Sunday in a public concert, the Grand Finals Concert, accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. The jury awards approximately five Grand Winner awards of $15,000 each. The concert is broadcast nationwide on the Metropolitan Opera Radio Network. The remaining National Finalists receive $5,000 each, and those singers who were National Semi-Finalists but did not advance to the National Finals will be given $1,500 to further their studies.

Many of the world’s foremost singers, among them Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Jessye Norman, Samuel Ramey, Frederica von Stade, Deborah Voigt and Dolora Zajick have received awards from the National Council. Annually, approximately 100 former auditioners appear in Metropolitan Opera productions.

The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, also known as MONC, is a competition for aspiring opera singers between 20 and 30 years of age, who are vying for the ultimate prize: the opportunity to sing on the MetOpera stage with the MetOrchestra. Winners also receive cash awards to further their careers, as well as national recognition. MONC is divided into Districts that feed into larger Regions, and although under the Metropolitan Opera umbrella of organizations, each district and region is responsible for its own fundraising to finance its auditions, and does not receive direct support from the Metropolitan Opera.

In short, the District and Regional Committees host the auditions by screening applicants, sourcing venues, selecting judges, awarding cash prizes and raising the funds to support its activities. All members of the MONC committees are uncompensated volunteers. The job of the committees is to find convenient, affordable, but acoustically appropriate spaces to house the auditions, identify and invite judges, hire an accompanist, process and schedule the singers, coordinate with the Metropolitan Opera for consistency, and to raise funds to support all of its activities.

The district auditions are the first round of the competition, where all applicants perform one or two arias for a panel of three judges. The judges are professionals; conductors, opera singers or opera house professionals. The Eastern District auditions average 90 singers in a competition that spans 2 days. The winners from the District level (on average 12) advance to the Region Finals, where singers once again perform one or two arias in front of a panel of three judges (one of them coming from the Met). If the judges recognize a special talent in a singer who still needs a little nurturing before moving on, at both levels of the competition, they can also hand out Encouragement Awards. 

Summary of the MONC Auditions
1. District Auditions (1st Round):
Run by your District or Regional Committee
No financial support from the Metropolitan Opera
Separate fundraising conducted through ticket sales or benefits
Selected singers advance to the Region Finals
Cash prizes to all singers who advance and additional Encouragement awards

2. Region Finals (2nd Round):
Run by your District or Regional Committee held in respective region (NY is the only place where there is 1 District which then becomes 1 Region, in other areas the Region Finals are comprised of several Districts coming together.)
No financial support from the Metropolitan Opera
Separate fundraising conducted through ticket sales or benefits
Cash prizes for First and Second place winners and Encouragement Awards
First Place Winner(s) advance to the Metropolitan Opera Semi-Finals

3. Semi-Finals, held at the Metropolitan Opera (3rd Round):
Singers from all the various districts and regions meet to compete
Singers perform on the Met Stage accompanied by a pianist
Closed to the public
Singers spend 4 days at the Met rehearsing and preparing
Selected winners advance to the Grand Finals Concert

4. Grand Finals Concert, held at the Metropolitan Opera (4th and Final Round):
Singers spend a week of training with in-house voice, theatrical and professional coaches
Cash prizes to singers
Singers perform with the MetOrchestra in front of a sold-out house

What MONC means to young singers

Any money that a freelance singer receives from gigs and competitions is needed and received with gratitude. So from a purely financial standpoint, winning competition money made a huge difference in my year. I am so grateful for competitions like this that allow a singer to get exposure as well as provide assistance for voice lessons, travel expenses, and much more.
— Amy Owens - 2nd Place Region Finals 2015

My participation in the MONC felt like a real push forward in my career. It made me feel like I had been making all the right choices, and that I was on the right path, which means a whole lot to a young singer.
— Felicia Moore – National Semi Finalist in the 12/13 season and Region Finalist Harold Bruder Award winner in the 13/14 season

I was terrified to do competitions for so long, and finally took the plunge with the MET National Council Auditions. I will probably never consider myself a strong auditioner, but the competition gave me a quite needed reminder that you have to put it all out there, never apologize for where you are now, and always accept the opportunity to learn more about yourself as a performer and improve.
— Kirsten Scott – 13/14 Region Finalist

Being in the Finals opened doors for me and I’m thankful for that. I got to sing Verdi with the Met Orchestra on that amazing stage in my hometown…it meant the world to me.
— Matthew Anchel – 2013 Grand Finalist

The prize money actually came at a time when I had no income. I was in the process of finding a job and being a full time college student. I had some priorities to attend to, so that money helped me to afford neccessities that I deemed helpful not only in my personal affairs but also towards school essentials as well.
— Sheherazade Holman – Encouragement Award Winner 12/13