Anne-Julia Audray adjusts a microphone on the Southold Opera House stage. She ducks behind a red velvet curtain to test the stage lights.
Beams of colored light stream through the building’s stained-glass windows and land on the pews in the performance hall. In under a week, the seats will be full of opera singers, including amateurs and professionals, eager to take the stage to audition.
The 2018 Southold Opera Singing Competition, a multi-day event that embraces all age groups and levels of experience, will be judged by Ms. Audray and Joan Dornemann, a music coach at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan. The third judge, a conductor, has not been selected.
All performers will compete in two rounds. Twenty singers selected by the judges will perform in the final round Saturday, Dec. 8, at one of the oldest concert venues in America: Carnegie Hall. In addition, members of the Southold Opera Choir will perform that evening with the French-American Choir of New York.
“We’re very proud to be performing in that original space,” Ms. Audray said.
Ms. Audray, a longtime opera teacher, founded the Audray School for Singing in 2008. In 2015, she and her husband moved to Southold and purchased the Southold United Methodist Church building. The couple renovated the building but kept most of its original structural elements.
The first singing contest, the Audray Competition, took place at Carnegie Hall in December 2012, long before she opened the local opera house.
Opera competitions are typically geared toward certain age groups, Ms. Audray said.
“Usually, after 35, you’re dead in this business,” she said. “That’s the exact opposite of what I want to do.”
For that reason, Ms. Audray chose to split the competition into four divisions: juniors, for teens ages 13-19; emerging professionals, ages 20-35; amateurs, age 35 and above; and professionals, also age 35 and above.
“There’s no age [limit],” she said. “It’s an art for everyone, and that’s why it’s beautiful.”
Ms. Audray said she believes the competition will offer exposure and advice to junior, emerging and amateur singers.
“I’m just thinking of people who love their voice,” she said. “I want to help them heal their voice, and to learn.”
At the 2012 competition, one of Ms. Audray’s Manhattan students, a 10-year-old, was awarded first place. Shortly afterward, she said, he nailed an audition and scored a lead role in a contemporary opera at the Met.
“That’s what this competition is for,” she said. “To get those people who are scared in their house to come out and sing.”
Pianist Richard Cordova will accompany the performers during both performances. Mr. Cordova has participated in several auditions and concerts with Ms. Audray and they’ve worked together throughout their careers.
“He’s my right-hand man,” she said.
Ms. Audray said she’s most excited to hear new voices at the competition.
“As a passionate teacher and director, I’m always looking for raw talent or new talent,” she said. “People who are hiding in a little corner, and one day they say, ‘Okay, I’ll try it!’ That’s what I encourage them to do.”
The Southold Opera and French-American choirs will also give a Christmas concert Sunday, Dec. 16, in conjunction with Southold Historical Society.
Photo caption: Southold Opera director Anne-Julia Audray prepares for the 2018 Singing Competition to be held Dec. 1. (Kate Nalepinski photo)