By Nicole Mills
Soprano Denis Vélez was the only Mexican among the five winners at the National Council Auditions Grand Finals, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, on March 1. She received her US$20,000 award from the hands of Mexican tenor Javier Camarena, a surprise guest at the event.
The overjoyed opera singer is now on her way to Chicago where she will participate in the Chicago Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center young artist program for the next two years.
Vélez made her first appearance in the Met’s newly formed Mexico District San Miguel back in the fall of 2018, and advanced to the regional round in New Orleans. Already showing the signs of a disciplined mind, she decided to work, study, and perfect her art until “my friend, Joan Mitchell, the president of the San Miguel MetOpera Trust, convinced me to try again,” says the young singer.
And so she did, in November, 2019. This time she went on to win the US$3,000 first prize in the New Orleans region, sending her on to New York City for the semi-final round at the Met. History was in the making!
“Denis is on a path,” says Joan Mitchell. “Not only does she have incredible talent, she believes in discipline, in hard work, and more importantly, in herself. She has what it takes to propel her to an international opera career.”
Mitchell adds: “Cori Ellison, a leading figure in the opera world, came to San Miguel as a competition judge last year, and she knew nothing about Mexican singers. Now she says, ‘From my experience with young singers both in SMA and in New Orleans, it is clear to me that the future of opera as we know it lies in the voices and souls of Latin America, particularly Mexico’ this could not better describe Denis Vélez,” said Mitchell.
Denis Vélez did not start her singing career thinking of opera. She knows every Disney film tune by heart and she wanted to become the next Lady Gaga. Then a voice teacher in Puebla told her that she had an opera voice.
She listened. And now, 10 years later, she has already been on the Metropolitan Opera stage. What’s next?