Last night before the sold-out opening performance of Cincinnati Opera's performance of Carmen, soprano Margaret Russo was named the winner of the first "Opera Idol" contest. Russo — a 25-year-old copywriter from Zionsville, Ind. — will receive a $3,500 contract with Cincinnati Opera. Russo competed against an initial 160 amateur vocalists and made it through several rounds of judging (luckily, Paula Abdul was nowhere to be seen); videos of the six finalists were posted on the Opera's Web site for public voting (over 10,000 people voted) and Russo came out on top.
Russo — who now resides in Columbia-Tusculum — had an auspicious start in opera at the age of 6, when she imitated her first grade teacher's vibrato and received a detention.
Unlike American Idol, Russo will not be subjected to Resee's Peanut Butter Cups commercials, bad movies or a cheesey revue-style tour with her co-finalists. Look for her in a future Cincinnati Opera production.
Artistic Director Evans Mirageas, in a press release, says, “I said it from the stage of the Aronoff Center at our Opera Idol concert, and I meant it: Cincinnati's got talent. I am delighted Margaret Russo has won our first ever Opera Idol competition. She is a poised young woman with a lovely voice and lots of potential.”
Here's Russo's finalist video, singing the aria “Quando me’n vo”from Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohme (after her win was announced, Russo gave an encore performance of the aria last night, accompanied by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Henri Venanzi):