LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 28, 2020) — University of Kentucky alumnus Blake Denson is one of nine vocalists who have advanced to the finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He will vie to win the competition performing with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by Bertrand de Billy, this weekend in the grand finals concert 3 p.m. Sunday, March 1.
Winners of the prestigious National Council Auditions will receive cash prizes of $20,000. Remaining finalists will receive cash prizes of $10,000.
Denson, a baritone, advanced to the semifinals out of the Midwest Region held in St. Louis, Missouri. A 2018 vocal performance graduate of UK, Denson studied under Dennis Bender, associate professor of voice. Bluegrass audiences may remember Denson, a native of Paducah, Kentucky, as Joe in UK Opera Theatre's 2018 production of "Show Boat"; as Dottore Grenvil in the program's 2017 production of "La Traviata"; or as Future in its 2017 world premiere of "BOUNCE: The Basketball Opera."
Since graduating from UK, Denson participated in the Houston Grand Opera Young Artist Vocal Academy. He is set to finish his master's degree at Rice University in 2020. This summer will mark his second with the Wolf Trap Opera Studio Artist Program.
Among Denson's 22 competitors in the semifinals held earlier this week at the Metropolitan Opera was countertenor and UK arts administration alumnus Key'mon Murrah, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, who won the Southeast Region held in Atlanta, Georgia. At UK, Murrah studied under Angelique Clay, associate professor and chair of the Voice Area at the School of Music. Prior to that he studied with Cynthia Lawrence, professor and William T. Bryan Endowed Chair of Voice.
The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions program provides a venue for young opera singers from all over the U.S. to be heard by a representative of the Met. Applicants prepare a minimum of four operatic arias in their original language with selections demonstrating contrasting style as well as languages. Semifinalists were chosen from a pool of more than 1,000 singers who participated in auditions held in 40 districts throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico, and who then competed in the 12 regional finals.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.