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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Pallesen

Open Letter to the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finalists

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

Dear Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finalists,

Congratulations on making it to the Grand Finals! As a former Grand Finalist in 2007, I remember how thrilling (and to be honest, surprising) it was to hear my name called after the semi-finals. I’m aware of all the hard work, sweat, and tears that have gone into being where you are today. Even though I may not know you, I have immense respect for you and I’m so thrilled for you!

Having been in the finals and worked on many productions since at the Met, I imagine you’ve had no shortage of opinions shared with you over the last 10 days 😉 I'm guessing your aria choices, interpretation, presentation, acting, and even your wardrobe choices have been picked over multiple times with a fine-toothed comb by the army of amazing coaches and other Met staff. And you might even feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought of trying to incorporate every bit of feedback you’ve gotten. I sure was.

Because of that, I hesitate to add anything else to your list. But as someone who has stood where you will stand this afternoon and who has helped many artists (including several Grand Finalists over the years) perform with more freedom and confidence and thrive in life, I’d love to share some insights with you. But my advice might be a little different from what you’ve heard this week; I don’t want to add anything to your plate or give you one more thing to “do” or think about. On the contrary, I’d love to share some things I’ve seen that will hopefully take things off your plate and bring you some peace of mind as you sing:

1. Be You. 

That’s what got you there, and that’s your greatest gift as an artist.

2. The Met is just another place we sing. 

I know I know, that might sound crazy. It’s easy (believe me, I know!) to get caught up in the idea that the Met is a “big”, “important” place and that this competition “means” more. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful opera house with incredibly talented, world-class artists!

But when you strip everything else away, you’re simply doing the same thing you do all the time – singing. We’ve just given singing fancy names like “performance”, “audition”, or “Met Finals”. But the objective remains the same no matter what you call it: share your story the best you can in that moment. And you're still you, whether you're in a practice room or the Met or whether you sing in flip flops or heels. The more you realize you’re doing the same thing you do every other day, the more you’ll sing the way you do every other day.

3. You can rock the Finals even if you’re freaking out. Really.

Some of you might feel really excited. Others might feel nervous. Or both. Or maybe you’re just feeling all the feels! Well, I’ve got great news: that’s all okay. That’s normal. That’s human. And here’s some even more awesome news: there’s nothing you need to do about it. No need to fix, manage, or control your thoughts and feelings. No need to try and get in the right “mindset” or “zone”.

Why? Because we are capable of performing whether we feel amazingly confident or wildly insecure. This might sound crazy, but you actually don't need to feel great to sing great. I know I've given many performances I'm proud of despite feeling nervous! And I bet you have, too. It seems to me then that our mindset only affects our ability to perform if we think it does.

So if you feel some nerves? That’s okay. Rather than get stuck in your head trying to fix or control them, know that fear is a passing thought that you don’t need to listen to or do anything about. Left alone, it will pass on its own. And your capacity to create beautiful art is unwavering. With trying to manage your thoughts and feelings off your plate, you’re free to just show up, be in the present, and sing. And to my mind, the present is where all the magic happens.

4. No matter what happens today, you’re going to be okay. Promise.

Isn’t that cool to know? And I’m not simply talking “okay” in terms of career. You’ve already won big time by being in the finals and I’m pretty sure the career part will work out just fine 👍 Hell, I didn’t win my year and I ended up singing at the Met, Chicago Lyric, and performed leading roles at the English National Opera and in Germany!

What I’m saying is that YOU are going to be okay. Your wellbeing is a given. It’s innate. It never comes from a competition, a review, how well you sing, where you perform, what other people think about you, or anything else. Your “okayness” or value as a human being isn’t enhanced or diminished by any outcome. Winning the Grand Finals won’t make you, and not winning won’t break you, either.

So, rest assured: regardless of the outcome, you’re good to go. You’re going to walk out the stage door of the Met after the Finals exactly as okay as you were when you showed up to get dressed and warmed up. And that okayness will still be there the day after, and the next day, and the rest of your life - no matter what happens on that stage.

Anything that comes from today is just icing on the cake. It’s not a required ingredient for the cake to be okay.

I hope this was helpful. Congratulations again! I’ll be cheering you all on and wishing you all the best! I’ll leave you with one last maxim I share with all my clients:

You have NOTHING to prove, and EVERYTHING to share!

You are ALL enough,

Nicholas Pallesen

MONCA Grand Finalist, 2007

(yup, that’s me in the middle of the photo 😁 )


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