Five Singers Named Winners of the 2024 Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition

New York, NY (March 17, 2024)—The Met announces the winners of the 2024 Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition: tenor Daniel Espinal, soprano Lydia Grindatto, baritone Navasard Hakobyan, mezzo-soprano Meridian Prall, and soprano Emily Richter. Following a season-long series of competitions at the district, regional, and national levels, a panel of varied judges named these five singers as the winners. Each winner receives a $20,000 cash prize and the prestige, exposure, and networking opportunities that come with winning a renowned competition that has launched the careers of many of opera’s most well-known stars.

The 2024 winners, their ages, the regions that they represent in the competition, and their hometowns are:

  • Daniel Espinal, 24, tenor (New England Region; Sarasota, FL); Faith P. Geier Award
  • Lydia Grindatto, 28, soprano (Midwest Region; Tijeras, NM); Fernand Lamesch Award
  • Navasard Hakobyan, 25, baritone (Eastern Region; Yerevan, Armenia); Dominique Laffont Award
  • Meridian Prall, 28, mezzo-soprano (Central Region; Fort Wayne, IN); Patricia Misslin Award
  • Emily Richter, 26, soprano (Great Lakes Region; Arlington, VA); The Birgit Nilsson Award of the American-Scandinavian Foundation

Earlier today, the ten finalists performed in the Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Grand Finals Concert, hosted by competition alumna and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. The singers each performed two arias on the Met stage, accompanied by the Met Orchestra and conducted by Evan Rogister.

The remaining five non-winning finalists, who each receive a $10,000 cash prize, are:

  • Nathan Bowles, 27, tenor (Gulf Coast Region; Minot, ND)
  • Ruby Dibble, 28, mezzo-soprano (Midwest Region; Kansas City, MO)
  • Tessa McQueen, 26, soprano (Rocky Mountain Region; Loveland, CO)
  • Demetrious Sampson, Jr., 24, tenor (Southeast Region; Atlanta, GA)
  • Eric Taylor, 29, tenor (Gulf Coast Region; St. George, UT)

This season, the competition had more than 1,500 applicants, with more than 900 singers qualifying to participate in 36 districts. Of the roughly 900 singers in the regional rounds, 19 were named semifinalists.

The Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition is operated at the District and Region level by hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donors from across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. More than $300,000 in prize money has already been awarded in the district and regional rounds.

The Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition, formerly known since its founding in 1954 as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, is now in its 70th season. The Met’s vocal competition is a career-making opportunity for aspiring opera singers, given the reach of the auditions, the number of applicants, and the program’s long tradition. The Competition has been crucial in introducing many of today’s best-known opera stars, including Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, Eric Owens, Stephanie Blythe, Hei-Kyung Hong, Sondra Radvanovsky, Lawrence Brownlee, Michael Fabiano, Latonia Moore, Lisette Oropesa, Jamie Barton, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Ryan Speedo Green, and Nadine Sierra. 

The Competition gained international renown with the release of the 2008 feature-length documentary The Audition, directed by award-winning filmmaker Susan Froemke, which chronicled the 2007 National Council Auditions season and Grand Finals Concert.

Biographies of the 2024 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition Winners

Daniel Espinal is currently in his final year of his graduate degree at Yale University, having previously received a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan School of Music (MSM). He was also a young artist in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program during 2022–23 season. He appeared as Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, and the Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia at Yale Opera and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Alfredo in La Traviata, and the tenor soloist in Mozart’s Requiem at MSM. In the coming season, he will join the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago as an apprentice artist. New England Region.

Lydia Grindatto is currently a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA), where she recently sang the title role of Anna Bolena, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Violetta in La Traviata, and Tatiana in Eugene Onegin. Later this year, she will join San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico, where she began her musical training and performed several seasons with Opera Southwest, including in the choruses of Norma and Tosca, covering Violetta, and singing a Page in Lohengrin. In 2023, she made her debut at the Santa Fe Opera singing the Second Wood Sprite and covering the title role in Rusalka. She has won several prestigious competitions, including the Opera Index Vocal Competition, Loren L. Zachary Society Competition, and Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition, and earned the top prize in AVA’s Giargiari Bel Canto Competition. She has appeared as a soloist in concerts with Antigua y Moderna, the University of New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the AVA Orchestra, and Opera Italiana Is in the Air. Later this year, she will make debuts with Arizona Opera as Donna Anna and Columbus Opera as Tatiana. Midwest Region.

Navasard Hakobyan won first prize in the Dallas Opera’s 2024 National Vocal Competition and third prize and the Don Plácido Domingo Ferrer Prize of Zarzuela in the 2023 Operalia competition. He is in his second year as a Houston Grand Opera Butler Studio Artist. His 2023–24 season includes appearances as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at Houston Grand Opera, his debut as Grégorio in Roméo et Juliette at the Dallas Opera, and his debut at Carnegie Hall in a concert dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninoff’s birth. Future seasons include a debut at the Semperoper Dresden and a solo concert in Prague. Additional recent appearances include Marcello in La Bohème at Music Academy of the West and Baron Douphol in La Traviata, Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro, and the Second Nazarene in Salome at Houston Grand Opera. From 2018 to 2023, he was a member of the young artist program at the National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Yerevan, where his roles included Silvio in Pagliacci, Germont in La Traviata, and Sgt. Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore. He received his master’s degree at Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan and was named the 2019 winner of the President of the Republic of Armenia Youth Prize. Eastern Region.

Meridian Prall recently made her debut at the Santa Fe Opera as the Third Wood Sprite in Rusalka. In 2023, she was a Sullivan Award recipient and made additional house debuts as Meg Page in Falstaff at Palm Beach Opera and the Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. She was recently featured in the Hart Institute for Women Conductors Showcase Concert at the Dallas Opera, and later this year, she will appear at the Atlanta Opera as Schwertleite in Die Walküre and the Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte and return to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as Cornelia in Giulio Cesare. She began her journey as an artist as a violinist and started taking voice lessons as a sophomore in high school. She followed her voice teacher, Denise Bernardini, to the University of Toledo and graduated in 2018. She continued her studies at the University of Michigan and graduated in 2020. After winning the University of Michigan Concerto Competition, she gave the United States premiere of Joseph Marx’s song cycle Verklärtes Jahr with the University of Michigan’s University Philharmonia Orchestra. Central Region.

Emily Richter is currently in her second year as a resident artist with Pittsburgh Opera, where her recent highlights include performances as the title character of Iphigénie en Tauride and Ginevra in Ariodante, as well as covering the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. She has also sung Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and the Governess in The Turn of the Screw at McGill University, covered Micaëla in Carmen at the Santa Fe Opera, and made her debut with the Seattle Symphony as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah. She has spent her summers as a young artist at the Santa Fe Opera, Central City Opera, and Seagle Festival. She graduated with her master’s degree from McGill’s Schulich School of Music and her bachelor’s degree from Lawrence University. She is a winner of the Wirth Vocal Prize and the Mildred Miller International Voice Competition. She will join the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago for the 2024–25 season. Great Lakes Region.