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Provo opera singer triumphs at Met

Back from N.Y., Killian will join Opera in the Park

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Most aspiring young singers, given the opportunity to compete in the Metropolitan Opera auditions, probably have visions of being the next Luciano Pavarotti or Maria Callas and basking in newfound celebrity status.

Not so for Lindsay Killian, one of the vocalists in next Thursday's Opera in the Park concert.

The Brigham Young University graduate student was one of five winners at this year's Metropolitan Opera finals, but she doesn't necessarily seek a fabled life as a celebrated prima donna.

"I don't have to be a Renee Fleming," Killian told the Deseret News from her home in Provo. "I don't want to give up my regular life for that."

And giving up any semblance of a normal life is what opera stars have to do to pursue their careers. Being an opera singer isn't necessarily a glamorous life. It's a difficult job with a lot of hard work. And then there's traveling and being away from home for long periods while performing. You can't just fly out for a weekend concert and then fly back home again.

It isn't everyone's idea of an ideal existence. And talking to Killian, you don't get the impression that it's something she wholeheartedly endorses, either.

"I would preferably like to perform," she says, "but I would also like to teach." And both of these vocations come quite naturally for Killian, whose parents are Clayne and Vivian Robison, longtime professors at Brigham Young University.

"It was easy for me to go into singing," she says, "but my undergraduate degree was in oboe performance. And from that I learned to perform in an ensemble setting."

Even though she played oboe, she also began voice lessons with her parents. "Both my parents have been my teachers," Killian explains. "I started my first voice lessons at 17 with my mom. And before that, I had some lessons, like harmonization, with my dad when I was about 13. And my dad has been my most recent teacher."

All this training paid off for Killian when she entered the Metropolitan Opera auditions and ended up going all the way to the final round last April.

According to Killian, the journey to the finals is long and grueling, beginning with a preliminary round in Salt Lake City. "Pretty much anyone who wants to can participate in the preliminaries," she explained. "All you need are five arias in different languages. And you sing the same arias throughout the competition."

For Killian, the selections she chose were the "Csardas" from Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus," "Sempre Libera" from Verdi's "La Traviata," and arias from Massenet's "Herodiade," Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and Menotti's "The Consul."

After the preliminaries, the next step is the district competition. "From the preliminaries, they take six to nine singers to the district auditions, which is also held in Salt Lake," Killian says. "From there, three go on to Denver, to the regional (auditions). Besides me, Greg Oaks and Todd Miller also went to Denver."

Along with the three singers from Utah, the regional round also included six participants from Colorado and Wyoming. And the winner of that round moved on to New York City. "There were first-, second- and third-place winnners in Denver, but only the first-place winner gets to go to New York," Killian pointed out.

"First, we had the semifinals in New York, on the stage of the Metropolitan (Opera). There were 17 regions represented, and also Australia and Canada. We were 24 singers in all. The main coach from the Met accompanied us at the piano, and there was only a small invited audience.

"They took 10 (participants) from the semis to the finals. I was really surprised that I was chosen to go on to the finals. I was so shocked that I won in Denver, that it was just beyond me after that."

Killian said the competitions have left her with an exhausted feeling. "There are a lot of emotions at work. I was more mentally prepared for Denver, because I had sung on the stage there the year before. It was harder in New York, especially in the semifinals. The semifinals were so intimidating. The lights were on and the coaches were right behind you, scaring you.

"The finals were a lot better. The lights were out, and there was a large audience there. They sold tickets for the finals, and it was a pretty full house. It was a good feeling singing at the finals. It was so neat. The audience loved the arias we sang, and they liked being there because they wanted to see the new prospects."

And who knows, maybe in a few years Killian will have gone on from being a new prospect to being a household name to opera lovers everywhere.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com