By Grant Madsen
Standing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in March, with nine other singers alongside her, BYU graduate student Lindsay Robison Killian awaited the judges’ announcement.
“I had no idea if I’d won,” says Killian, 25, a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council’s auditions. “I just felt so honored to be up there, and I’d loved the experience so much that I already felt like a winner in many ways.”
When her name was called as one of five Grand National Finals winners in what is considered the Olympics of the opera world, Killian was overcome with happiness. So was her husband, Lorin, who couldn’t keep from shouting “Brava!” from his seat in the capacity audience.
Killian, a soprano, may want to do some shouting for joy herself—as long as she doesn’t strain her vocal cords. After all, it’s probably a good idea to protect the voice that just earned her $15,000. Add that to previous cash awards from other levels of the contest, and the Provo native left the stage with $22,000.
The first BYU student to win at the Metropolitan Opera’s regional Rocky Mountain auditions, Killian sang lead roles in campus productions of Verdi’s La Traviata (2000), Mozart’s Così fan tutte (1998), and Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (1998). She has also performed with Utah Lyric Opera, and during 1999 she was an apprentice artist at Utah Festival Opera. She finished her master’s degree in vocal performance in April.
At the national semifinals in New York City, vocal coaches from the Met prepared her for competition. “It was intimidating. These coaches have trained the best performers in the world,” she says. But even with all the preparation, Killian admits that when it was time to compete she felt some pressure.
And who wouldn’t? For the semifinal round, Killian had to stand solo next to a piano and perform her selected piece as flawlessly as possible—with the house lights up and every eye glued to her.
“For the semis we didn’t even have the benefit of having a blinding spotlight in our faces,” she laughs. “I was nervous thinking about my technique and the coaching I’d received all week instead of thinking about communicating. My brain was a little spread out.”
That, however, didn’t prevent her from making the finals. “I was surprised,” admits Killian, who is a perfectionist when it comes to singing. “I thought I hadn’t done as well as I could have.”
A week later at the final recital, she sang arias by Massenet and Verdi, and was accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under the direction of Paul Nadler. The experience was one that she’ll never forget. “What a privilege to be in such a historic place and sing with such beautiful singers,” she says.
Though it means she will probably be offered more and better audition opportunities in the future, Killian is keeping the win in perspective. “I can’t say I’m a major professional,” she says. “But it means a whole lot to have had the experience and to be considered a part of the Met family.”