The nerves hit immediately after it was over. 

On Sunday, following an intensive week of rehearsals and performances, Jonah Hoskins had made it to the final round of Operalia, a competition founded by the famed Placido Domingo to highlight some of the most promising young opera singers in the world. 

In a nutshell, the biggest competition of his life. 

One of 11 finalists — who came from the United States, Russia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Peru and South Korea — Hoskins had two more numbers to sing before the curtain closed, including the challenging French aria “Ah! Mes Amis,” which was once a signature piece for renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti

Usually, Hoskins likes to listen to his colleagues’ performances, but this time, he did his best not to listen. Comparison can be your worst enemy, and he didn’t want to lose focus.

Onstage, wearing a Brooks Brothers tuxedo, the 24-year-old tenor put all of his energy into connecting with the audience and singing with as much power as he could muster. When he sang his last note and walked off the stage of Moscow’s iconic Bolshoi Theatre, the adrenaline left his body. 

It was all over. The competition was officially out of his hands, and he felt a little sick (his first performance begins at about the 49-minute mark in the video below).

“After I had sung, then I had no control,” he told the Deseret News. “I thought, ‘I performed, and that’s what they have now. I can’t change it.’ It was just wondering if it was enough, hoping that it was going to be enough to place.” 

The jury, featuring distinguished international opera managers and casting directors, deliberated for over an hour. Backstage in his dressing room, Hoskins collapsed on a couch, ate some bread and messaged friends and family. 

But his energy would quickly return when Domingo read his name aloud and declared him the second-place winner. Hoskins, a Saratoga Springs, Utah, native and former BYU student, had tied for second place with Bekhzod Davronov, a tenor from Uzbekistan. 

Hoskins described it as “life-changing news” — a monumental moment that came with a check for $20,000 and potentially major opportunities for his up-and-coming career. And the next afternoon, he would have a whole plane ride from Moscow to his home in New York to start thinking about it.

This former BYU student is a rising opera star — and he really can’t believe it
This BYU opera singer just claimed a major national victory

Returning home 

Hoskins didn’t get much rest after the competition. He got back to his room at the Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel around 3:30 in the morning and called his family an hour later — Moscow is nine hours ahead of Utah. 

His parents aren’t musically trained — in fact, up until he was 16, Hoskins had planned to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a math teacher, he previously told the Deseret News. But they encouraged a love of music in the home, and Hoskins and his siblings grew up singing in the Salt Lake Children’s Choir

Once Hoskins started getting into opera, he said his dad in particular immersed himself in that world. Now, he said, his dad listens to just as much if not more opera than he does. 

“We really need those people,” Hoskins said from his home in New York. “Sometimes they’re the best audience members because they just appreciate the music for the music, and on a base level, we just want people to enjoy what we do. So their feedback can sometimes be more meaningful than someone who’s trained in music.” 

After reliving his victory with his biggest supporters, Hoskins got off the phone and slept from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. before packing and heading out to the airport. 

Now, back in New York, the tenor has recovered a bit from the jet lag and caught up on sleep — he got a full eight hours Monday night. 

He’s still trying to figure out what to do with his check, though — his bank is in Utah, and it’s too large of an amount to deposit online. 

Jonah Hoskins, left, is pictured with renowned tenor Placido Domingo.
Jonah Hoskins, left, is pictured with renowned tenor Placido Domingo at an event after the 2021 Operalia competition, which took place at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. | Provided by Jonah Hoskins

Since Sunday, the rising opera star has already been approached with three potential career opportunities, although he couldn’t divulge this early on what they entailed. In the meantime, though, he’s back to training with the Metropolitan Opera, where he is a part of the prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and preparing for his official debut in an upcoming production of “Cinderella.” 

But since returning home, Hoskins believes the most important thing he’s done is something he avoided doing on Sunday: listening to his colleagues’ performances. Removed from the pressures of the competition, Hoskins finally took it all in, watching the wide range of talent with joy and amazement. 

“Everyone who sang in the finals I thought was just fantastic,” he said. “It was inspiring to watch all of them, and I feel like everyone gave it 110%. I’m so grateful to have been recognized amongst that group and to have shared the stage with such amazing performers.” 

More than a victory

The past week has been a blur for Hoskins — a whirlwind of rehearsals, performances, nerves, excitement, sleep-deprivation and adrenaline. But when he reflects on the magnitude of being in a competition like Operalia, the thing that first enters his mind isn’t claiming a major victory. Instead, it’s something unexpected that happened after.

Hoskins was one of the last people to leave the Bolshoi Theatre Sunday night. After the competition, he spent close to an hour talking to his fellow performers and taking photos and changing out of his tux.

When he finally exited the theater, he was surprised to find six people waiting for him — strangers who had stood outside in Moscow’s humid 35-degree weather in order to talk to him and congratulate him. One person had even brought a gift bag. 

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Hoskins was apologetic as he told them he was in somewhat of a hurry — he had to get to a post-competition banquet. But to his surprise, the group accompanied him back to his hotel, taking advantage of the five-minute walk to chat with him and celebrate his success. 

That above all else was Hoskins’ favorite part of the entire competition, a small but meaningful moment that not only indicated his career is on the rise but reminded him of the power music has to bring people together.

“It was really sweet that they waited. These were people I had never even met before,” he said. “It really meant a lot.”