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March 7, 2013/For Immediate Release, high res. photo available

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, whitakerl@uncsa.edu




(Winston-Salem) Richard Ollarsaba could become the fifth graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Ollarsaba, an alumnus of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute in UNCSA’s School of Music, will sing in the Metropolitan Opera’s Grand Finals Concert Sunday (March 10) on the Met’s stage in New York.


Ollarsaba is a bass-baritone who studied with faculty-artist Marilyn Taylor. He received his Master of Music in 2010 and a Professional Artist Certificate in 2012. 


“This is huge,” said Music Dean Wade Weast. “For a young opera singer, there is nothing more important than the Metropolitan Opera competition.”

he Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is a program designed to discover promising young opera singers and assist in the development of their careers. The auditions are held annually in 13 regions of the United States and Canada. The 13 regional winners advanced to the National Semi-Finals, at which 10 singers, including Ollarsaba, advanced to the finals.

Richard Ollarsaba

After the Final round, approximately five equal Grand Finals Winners will receive $15,000 each, and the remaining Grand Finalists receive $5,000 each.

The Met competition has helped launch the careers of some of today's greatest singers, including Stephanie Blythe, Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Ben Heppner, Patricia Racette, Samuel Ramey, Deborah Voigt and Frederica von Stade.

Singers from UNCSA who have won the Met’s national competition in the past include René Barbera in 2008, Jennifer Welch-Babidge in 1997, Derrick Lawrence in 1991, and Tichina Vaughan in 1989.


Weast said Ollarsaba’s success so far highlights the excellence that abounds in the Fletcher Opera Institute. “The students and the faculty are exceptionally talented and extremely disciplined. With his talent and the excellent training that he received here, Richard has the potential for great success,” he said.

While with the Fletcher Opera Institute, Ollarsaba performed in a recital alongside von Stade, the renowned mezzo-soprano who won the Met competition in 1969.

He also performed such roles as Lord Cecil (Maria Stuarda), Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte), and Sir John Falstaff (The Merry Wives of Windsor). In his time in Winston-Salem, Ollarsaba made his debut with Piedmont Opera Theatre in the role of Ferrando (Il trovatore) and was seen again with Piedmont Opera in its 2011-12 productions of Don Giovanni as Masetto and Robert Ward’s The Crucible as Reverend Hale.

Ollarsaba earned his Bachelor of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio, where he studied under Mary Schiller. While in Cleveland, he made his Opera Cleveland debut in the 2008 production of Le nozze di Figaro in the role of Antonio. Shortly after, he debuted with the Kansas City Symphony in its performances of Handel’s Messiah. The Kansas City Star said that “despite his youth, he exhibited a marvelous resonant voice” and that “this is one singer to watch in years to come.”

In 2011, Ollarsaba placed second in the Metropolitan Opera Council’s Southeast Region Auditions. He was the winner of the Fifth Annual Charles A. Lynam Vocal Competition: Young Artist Division, which earned him featured performances with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, where he was praised for his “wonderful artistry and beautiful and moving voice” (Classical Voice North Carolina). In July 2012, he performed as the bass soloist in Beethoven's Choral Fantasy as part of Tanglewood's 75th Anniversary Celebration gala concert. The concert was broadcast on PBS’s “Great Performances” in August 2012.

Ollarsaba is currently a Resident Artist with Minnesota Opera for its 2012-3 season, performing the High Priest (Nabucco), Lord Rochefort (Anna Bolena), Horatio (Hamlet), and Timur (Turandot).

As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.