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'Sky's the limit' for IU's latest Met Opera winner

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Like a proud papa, Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Music Timothy Noble has fond memories of his star student, Jordan Bisch, one of four grand-prize winners in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions on Sunday (March 20).

"I went to hear him sing in New York (on Sunday), and it was fun, but the best part for me was remembering when I first got Jordan's audition tape," Noble said. "He had taped it at his high school, and I could hear the bell ringing and people running around in the background. But I knew this was someone I wanted to teach. His talent was amazing."

Noble thought so highly of Bisch, a 23-year-old bass singer from Vancouver, Wash., that he made him his first recruit at the IU School of Music. Five years into their partnership, which Noble described as a "father-son relationship," he continues to sing his student's praises.

"Jordan has enormous potential," Noble said. "He's got the kind of voice that doesn't come around that often."

Bisch was one of nine finalists at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Selected from more than 1,500 competitors between the ages of 20 and 30, the nine finalists survived district-level competitions, regional auditions and the national semifinals in New York City. Then they were invited to sing on the stage of the Met Opera House on Sunday in the Grand Finals Concert. The four grand winners were chosen by a panel of judges, and each will receive $15,000.

Bisch is the School of Music's 33rd grand winner overall and its fifth grand winner in the last five years.

"It feels pretty good. Some pretty high-profile people have won this competition," Bisch said.

For his winning performance, which was accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Bisch performed an aria, O wie will ich triumphieren from Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, and a cavatina, Ves' tabor spit from Rachmaninoff's Aleko. The Grand Finals Concert will be broadcast from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday (March 27) on WFIU (103.7 FM in Bloomington, 95.1 FM in Terre Haute, 100.7 FM in Columbus, 106.1 FM in Kokomo).

"It was a little daunting," Bisch said of singing on the Met Opera stage for the first time. "It's so big, you have to be careful with your singing and your technique. The orchestra pit is so deep and so far that when you're performing in front of the stage, you have a really great distance between you and the front row. You also don't want to look up."

Bisch joins such singing luminaries as Angela Brown, Elizabeth Futral and Sylvia McNair as former IU music students to be named national audition winners. He is the first male singer from the IU School of Music to win since Larry Brownlee accomplished the feat in 2001.

Bisch will perform with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis this summer, which will kick off its 2005 season with Verdi's Rigoletto on May 21. Bloomington audiences heard Bisch sing the role of Prince Gremin in last fall's Eugene Onegin.

Bisch, who reached the regional auditions round last year, is humble about his victory and realizes his singing still needs to be refined. "A lot of people feel like you have a rubber stamp once you've won, but really it just means that you're being encouraged to work. I'm not a finished product yet."

Noble agreed but quickly added that his "son" has the talent to become a major star in the world of opera: "If he stays to task and really wants to do it, he will succeed. The sky's the limit for him."

Notes:

With 20 full-time faculty members, the School of Music's Department of Voice is the largest voice department in any university school of music. It has consistently been ranked as the top voice department in the country. The School of Music Opera Theater program produces eight fully-staged operas a year in the Musical Arts Center, which gives students an opportunity to train for the international world of opera.

The purpose of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is to discover new talent for the Metropolitan Opera and to encourage young singers in preparation for their careers. Several past winners have joined the Metropolitan Opera's roster, including many of the world's foremost singers.