The winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the George London Foundation Awards represent the best of the best. Nearly 2,000 vocalists participated in these prestigious competitions, and only a few were recognized with honors. Among these elite voices was one belonging to University of Houston Moores School of Music alumnus Nathaniel Peake.
Peake, an artist with the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) Studio, was among the five winners of the Met auditions and received the George London Award in memory of Lloyd Rigler. Both competitions were conducted in New York.
He graduated from UH in 2005 with a bachelor of arts degree in vocal performance. As a student, he performed leading roles in several productions for the university's Edythe Bates Old Moores Opera Center.
"His talent was very clear from the beginning," said Buck Ross, director of the Moores Opera Center. "As an undergraduate, he performed leading roles in ‘The Love for Three Oranges,' ‘Katya Kabanova,' ‘La finta giardiniera,' ‘The Tales of Hoffmann,' ‘ Impresario, Impresario' and ‘La Boheme.' That may be a record for an undergraduate."
Peake valued his time at UH and credits both Ross and former UH music professor Patryk Wroblewski with his development as a vocalist and performer.
"My voice teacher, Patryk Wroblewski, was so important in my foundation and continues to be a mentor to me," he said. "He knows my voice so well, and every time I see him, it's like the first day I walked into his studio on the third floor of Moores School of Music.
"And, Buck Ross is a genius. He gave me not only time on stage, but a foundation in an acting technique that I still hold today."
During the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Peake and four other singers (including fellow HGO artist Rachel Willis-Sorenson) were selected from nine finalists that performed alongside the Met Orchestra during the Grand Finals Concert.
Nearly 1,500 singers participated in the 2010 auditions. Each year, this competition is conducted in 45 districts and 15 regions across North America.
"There were nine finalists and five winners from those finalists," Peake said. "My initial reaction was, ‘Are you sure?' This was a dream of mine that I thought would forever remain just that, a dream."
The George London Foundation Competition is one of the oldest vocal competitions in North America. Competitors are selected from a pool of close to 300 applicants and are chosen by a panel of advisers.
"It is exciting to have one of our graduates in voice emerge as a winner in two of the most prestigious voice competitions in the world," said David Ashley White, director of the Moores School of Music. "Nathan has a gorgeous and exciting instrument and has always shown wonderful musical instincts. I'm very proud of all he's accomplished --- to come from the fine HGO Studio and then become a winner at the Met and George London competitions speak to his great talent!"
A native of Humble, Texas, Peake received his master's degree from Michigan State University. As an artist with HGO, he has performed in "L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love)." Previously, Peake participated in San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program and performed with Syracuse Opera. In April, he will participate in the Operalia International Vocal Competition. This summer, he will join Wolftrap Opera as a Filene Young Artist, and in July, he will perform in a concert with the National Symphony Orchestra.