Dallas Opera Guild's Annual Vocal Competition: An Aria Gateway Drug

Opera is an extravagant and expansive art form and it's thrilling to watch a live performance, but heading to an opera can also be daunting. After all, "extravagant" and "expansive" are sometimes code for "pricey" and "really effing long".

This Saturday, March 10, the Dallas Opera Guild's annual Vocal Competition provides you an opportunity to hear opera in smaller serving sizes, making it more palatable for the common music-lover. The price is right (read: free!) and you can stay for as little or as much of the day as you'd like.

If you've never dropped in on a vocal competition, here's a few reasons why you should.

1.)You don't have to worry about following traditional opera storylines. If opera's tendency towards complex plotlines and large casts of characters has kept you waiting in the wings, this might be a good way to ease in. You don't even need a translation of the lyrics to enjoy this day of music. The best way to love the Vocal Competition is at its core: shut your mind off and focus on listening to beautiful voices filling a peaceful space.

2.) It's a judgement-free zone (for listeners, anyway) Whether you're more of an amateur or a card-carrying aficionado, you'll find something here that suits you without walking face-first into a room of seasoned opera enthusiasts. Competitors perform from a wide range of repertoire dipping from a well of composers spanning historical periods, so you have versatility. Competitors sing virtuosic arias, including some of the biggest "hits" of the repertoire, so while they're designed to show off the performer's artistic abilities, they'll also be more accessible for a casual enthusiast.

3.) Remember that it's a competition and someone's going home with loot: These singers all have Texas roots (some are attending Texas universities and others are Texas residents attending out-of-state schools). Even though the performers are young (22-30), expect skill levels to be high. At the end of the day, the judges will award a substantial monetary prize to the winner (last year's title-holder took home $20,500), so everyone's going to have their game faces on.

4.) Pretend it's an operatic American Idol: You will have some say in the contestants' fates because one singer will go home with "The People's Choice Award," which is selected by you and the rest of the peanut gallery. Sure, there's no JLo here, but I'm sure that a diva or six will try to fill her pumps by the day's end.

The competition is held in the Winspear Opera House this Saturday, March 10, from 11am-4pm (Semi-finalists) and 7:30pm (finalists).

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