Six singers named winners of the 2023 Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition
New York, NY (April 23, 2023)—The Met proudly presents the winners of the 2023 Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition: tenor Anthony León, mezzo-soprano Natalie Lewis, soprano Teresa Perrotta, mezzo-soprano Sarah Saturnino, bass-baritone Christian Simmons, and soprano Meredith Wohlgemuth. After a season-long series of competitions at the district, regional, and national levels, a panel of expert judges named these six singers as the winners, each receiving a $20,000 cash prize and the prestige and exposure that come with winning a competition that has launched the careers of many of opera’s biggest stars.
The 2023 winners, their ages, the regions that they represent in the competition, and their hometowns are:
- Anthony León, 26, tenor (Western Region; Riverside, California)
- Natalie Lewis, 24, mezzo-soprano (Eastern Region; Severna Park, Maryland)
- Teresa Perrotta, 27, soprano (Great Lakes Region; Orlando, Florida)
- Sarah Saturnino, 29, mezzo-soprano (Western Region; Grass Valley, California)
- Christian Simmons, 28, bass-baritone (Rocky Mountain Region; Washington, D.C.)
- Meredith Wohlgemuth, 27, soprano (Eastern Region; Winter Haven, Florida)
Earlier this afternoon, the ten finalists performed in the Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Grand Finals Concert, hosted by soprano Latonia Moore, a Grand Finals winner in 2000. The singers each performed two arias on the Met stage, accompanied by the Met Orchestra and conducted by Michele Gamba.
The remaining four non-winning finalists, who each receive a $10,000 cash prize, are:
- Eleomar Cuello, 28, baritone (Southeast Region; Havana, Cuba)
- Yuntong Han, 28, tenor (Central Region; Shenyang, China)
- Sahel Salam, 29, tenor (Central Region; Houston, Texas)
- David Wolfe, 24, baritone (Upper Midwest Region; Shamokin, Pennsylvania)
This season, the competition had more than 1,200 applicants, with more than 900 singers qualifying to participate in 36 districts. Of the 137 singers in the regional rounds, 20 were named semifinalists.
The Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition is operated at the district and region levels by hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donors from across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. More than $500,000 in total has been awarded this season across all of the competition 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 69th 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, Susan Graham, 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 acclaim 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 2023 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition Winners
Tenor Anthony León has appeared at the Santa Fe Opera, Carnegie Hall, Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Geneva’s Victoria Hall, and Metz’s Arsenal Concert Hall, among others. During the 2022–23 season, he is a member of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program at LA Opera, where he has sung Roderigo in Verdi’s Otello, Don Curzio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, the Male Chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Spoletta in Puccini’s Tosca, and Normanno in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. He is scheduled to appear at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg Festival, sing Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at LA Opera, and can be heard on a recording of Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with the ensemble I Gemelli. Last year, he earned first prize and the Don Plácido Domingo Ferrer Zarzuela Prize at the Operalia competition.
In recent seasons, mezzo-soprano Natalie Lewis has appeared as the Third Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Marcellina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Mistress Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff. She has participated in numerous summer young artist programs, including at the Aspen Music Festival, Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artists’ Vocal Academy, Opera Neo, and American Institute for Music Studies in Graz, Austria. She placed first in Houston Grand Opera’s Concert of Arias in 2023, as well as in the New England Region NATS competition. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently finishing her master’s degree at the Juilliard School, where she is a Kovner Fellow. Upcoming performances include Zita in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the Princess in Puccini’s Suor Angelica at Juilliard Opera, Lucretia in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, and her debut at Carnegie Hall with the Cecilia Chorus of New York. During the 2023–24 season, she will join the opera studio at the Bavarian State Opera, under scholarship with the Opera Foundation.
During the 2022–23 season, soprano Teresa Perrotta joined Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artist Program, singing the Fifth Maid in Strauss’s Elektra and Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème. Additional debuts include Alice Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff at Maryland Lyric Opera and Anna in Verdi’s Nabucco with Washington Concert Opera. This summer, she will return to the Glimmerglass Festival as Mimì in La Bohème. Upcoming engagements also include debuts with Berkshire Opera Festival and the Erie Philharmonic and a return to the Santa Fe Opera, where she previously appeared as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Alice Ford. She made her international debut as Marie Antoinette in John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles at the Royal Opera of Versailles in 2019, and she has participated in workshops for Gregory Spears’s The Righteous, Kevin Puts’s The Hours, and Tobias Picker’s Awakenings. She has been a young artist at the Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Chautauqua Opera, and Ohio Light Opera. She received her undergraduate degree from the Eastman School of Music and her master’s degree and artist diploma from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Mezzo-soprano Sarah Saturnino is in her first season in LA Opera’s Domingo-Colbert-Stein Young Artist Program. At LA Opera, she has sung Lucretia in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Jocabed in Henry Mollicone’s Moses, and Emilia in Verdi’s Otello. She is a former young artist at the Santa Fe Opera, where she covered the title role of Carmen, Meg Page in Verdi’s Falstaff, Marcellina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She is also a former resident artist at Shreveport Opera, where she sang Carmen in The Tragedy of Carmen, Marcellina, Maddalena and Giovanna in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Julia Child in Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appétit. She has also sung Vera Boronel in Menotti’s The Consul with Baltimore Concert Opera and Maddalena at Painted Sky Opera, Opera San Antonio, and Amarillo Opera. She is an alumna of the Chautauqua Institution and recently made her debut with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra as the Alto Soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and performed in Dayton Opera’s Maria Callas Centennial Celebration Concert. She holds a master’s degree from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles.
Bass-baritone Christian Simmons is currently a Cafritz Young Artist at Washington National Opera, where this season he covers Ferrando in Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Colline in Puccini’s La Bohème and appears as the Policeman in Jeanine Tesori’s Blue, Colline in the young-artist performance of La Bohème, and in the American Opera Initiative. Last season, he made his debut with Washington National Opera as Zuniga in the young-artist performance of Bizet’s Carmen. He has also been a featured soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the National Symphony Orchestra and performed in Zaid Jabri’s Southern Crossings at Barnard College and as Colline at Annapolis Opera Company. He has appeared at the Morgan State University Theater, Bel Cantanti Opera Company, Washington Opera Society, Castleton Music Festival, Amalfi Coast Music Festival, Berlin Opera Academy, Bare Opera Company, and Maryland Opera Studio, and his roles have included Figaro in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, the King in Verdi’s Aida, Sparafucile in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Seneca in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea, the Duke of Verona in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Nardo in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera, and Jabez Stone in Moore’s The Devil and Daniel Webster.
Soprano Meredith Wohlgemuth recently completed her master’s degree the Juilliard School and sang in the U.S. premiere of George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence as part of Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music last August. During the 2021–22 season, she made her debut at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, performing in Beth Morrison Projects’s 21c Liederabend Op. Senses. Recently, she also made her debut at Carnegie Hall as a Renée Fleming SongStudio Young Artist and performed at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts and at New York’s Merkin Hall as a Schwab Vocal Rising Star with New York Festival of Song. This year, she will make her Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium debut with the Cecilia Chorus of New York and will be a Renée Fleming Artist at the Aspen Music Festival, where she will sing Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo. Next season, she will join the ensemble at Staatsoper Hannover.