Ten Singers Advance to the Final Round of the 2024 Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition

Finalists to compete at the Grand Finals Concert, accompanied by the Met Orchestra led by Maestro Evan Rogister, and hosted by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves on March 17 at 3PM ET

New York, NY (March 13, 2024)—Following the semifinal competition on March 11, ten singers have advanced to the final round of the 2024 Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition. The finalists will compete on the Met stage on March 17 at 3PM ET, hosted by Denyce Graves, American mezzo-soprano and Competition alumna, who will perform in this season’s revival of Kevin Puts’s The Hours. The event will also include a special performance from bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, a 2011 winner and star of this season’s revival of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones.

Finalists were chosen by a panel of judges comprising artistic leaders from the Met and other companies. During the Grand Finals concert, each finalist will perform two arias accompanied by the Met Orchestra and conducted by Evan Rogister, who will also conduct Fire Shut Up in My Bones this season. The winners will receive individual cash prizes of $20,000, while the remaining finalists will each receive $10,000.

The Laffont Grand Finals Concert is open to the public and will be audio streamed live on the Met’s website and broadcast on Metropolitan Opera Radio on the SiriusXM app. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased at the Met box office by phone at 212.362.6000 or online at metopera.org.

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

  • Nathan Bowles, 27, tenor (Gulf Coast Region; Minot, ND)
  • Ruby Dibble, 28, mezzo-soprano (Midwest Region; Kansas City, MO)
  • Daniel Espinal, 24, tenor (New England Region; Sarasota, FL)
  • Lydia Grindatto, 28, soprano (Midwest Region; Tijeras, NM)
  • Navasard Hakobyan, 25, baritone (Eastern Region; Yerevan, Armenia)
  • Tessa McQueen, 26, soprano (Rocky Mountain Region; Loveland, CO)
  • Meridian Prall, 28, mezzo-soprano (Central Region; Fort Wayne, IN)
  • Emily Richter, 26, soprano (Great Lakes Region; Arlington, VA)
  • Demetrious Sampson, Jr., 24, tenor (Southeast Region; Atlanta, GA)
  • Eric Taylor, 29, tenor (Gulf Coast Region; St. George, UT)

Full biographies of each singer are below.

The Laffont Competition is open to singers from the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as other international entrants training or residing in those countries. This season, the competition had more than 1,500 applicants, with more than 900 singers qualifying to participate in 36 districts and 11 regions. Nineteen 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.About the Competition

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.

Finalist Biographies

Nathan Bowles recently made his mainstage debut at the Dallas Opera as Benvolio in Roméo et Juliette. He has performed with the Dallas Opera outreach as Miguel in Offenbach’s Pépito and as Dandini in The Billy Goats Gruff. With Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Lyric Theatre, he has appeared as the Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia and Judge Danforth in Ward’s The Crucible, and with Western Plains Opera, he has sung Alfred in Die Fledermaus, the Baker in Into the Woods, John Styx in Orpheus in the Underworld, and Don José in Carmen. Concert performances include Vaughan Williams’s Hodie, Adolphus Hailstork’s I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Annual Gala. He is a graduate of Minot State University and holds a master’s degree from Southern Methodist University. Gulf Coast Region.

Ruby Dibble holds a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and Conservatory and a master’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music. She is working towards an artist diploma in opera studies at the Juilliard School. At Curtis, she sang Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Elle in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine. She has also appeared at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in concerts under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, sung Flora in La Traviata at Wolf Trap Opera and Berta in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and covered Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera. She was a semifinalist in the 2022 and 2023 Lotte Lenya Competitions and the second-place winner of the 2023 Cooper-Bing Competition. She spent this past summer at the Aspen Music Festival as a Renée Fleming Artist, singing Carmen in Jimmy López Bellido’s Bel Canto. Upcoming roles include Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito at Juilliard and covering the title role of Kevin Puts’s Elizabeth Cree at the Glimmerglass Festival. Midwest Region.

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.

Tessa McQueen is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Rice University. This summer, she will join San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, where she will cover Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Last summer, she joined Wolf Trap Opera as a studio artist and covered Marguerite in Faust. She was a studio artist at Central City Opera in 2022, singing Krystyna Żywulska in Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness: Two Remain, and received the Young Artist of the Season Award and was a season-sponsored artist by the El Pomar Foundation. She also placed third in the Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition in 2023. On the concert stage, she has sung Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor with the Washington City Choir and John Rutter’s Requiem with the Rice Chorale. She is an alumna of Oklahoma City University and the Larry Keller studio. Rocky Mountain 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.

A 2022 alumnus of Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artists Vocal Academy, Demetrious Sampson, Jr., finished his undergraduate studies at the Georgia State University School of Music in 2023, before joining the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio, where he sang the Third Esquire in Parsifal and appeared in the Studio Showcase and Giving Voice concert. Last summer, he joined San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, and this summer, he makes debuts with Cincinnati Opera as Gastone in La Traviata and Wolf Trap Opera as the Kronprinz in Kevin Puts’s Silent Night. He will also appear in concerts with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and Savannah Philharmonic. He was a second-place and Audience Choice winner in Houston Grand Opera’s 35th Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition in 2023, second-prize winner at the Opera Ebony Competition and Opera Grand Rapids Vander Laan Prize, and grand finalist in the Schmidt Vocal Arts Undergraduate Awards. Southeast Region.

Eric Taylor’s recent performances include Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at Detroit Opera and Houston Grand Opera (HGO). In summer 2023, he was a Filene Artist with Wolf Trap Opera (WTO), where he sang the title role of Faust. He recently completed his time in the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio, and while at HGO, he appeared as Narraboth in Salome and Chevalier de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites and covered Mark in Smyth’s The Wreckers, the title role of Werther, Don José in Carmen, and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. He won first prize in the Eighth Annual Saengerbund Awards and second prize in HGO’s 2021 Eleanor McCollum Competition. As an apprentice artist at the Santa Fe Opera in 2019 and 2022, he appeared as Melot in Tristan und Isolde and covered Rodolfo in La Bohème and Don José. In 2021, he completed his master’s degree at Rice University, where he appeared as Sam Polk in Susannah and Tito in La Clemenza di Tito. Later this year, he will sing Don José with the Jacksonville Symphony and return to WTO to appear as Rodolfo. Gulf Coast Region.