The 2023 Merola Opera Program’s Grand Finale was a diverse program brilliantly sung by 22 young singers picked from hundreds of applicants for prestigious summer session in San Francisco. 

The nearly full-house audience on Saturday at the War Memorial Opera House didn’t simply come for Wagner, Verdi and Puccini. The two mezzo-soprano solos that topped the applause meter were Simona Genga’s lustrous offering from a late 19th century Spanish work by Ruperto Chapi and Natalie Lewis’ aria in bluesy colors from Richard Danielpour’s “Margaret Garner.”

Mezzo-soprano Simona Genga’s solo earned big applause at the Merola Opera Program Grand Finale. (Courtesy Kristen Loken/Merola Opera Program)

There were some especially beautiful pairings: tenor Demetrious Sampson, Jr. and baritone Samuel Kidd sang lustily from “La Bohème” —two rousing voices to watch out for, and Kidd‘s partnering with tenor Sahel Salam in the famous “The Pearl Fishers” duet was stunning. Tenor Thomas William Kinch and soprano Juliette Chauvet offered a fresh, seductive rendering of the love aria from “Otello.”

The overall showstopper for this listener was the duet from Verdi’s “Simone Boccanegra,” in which Caroline Corrales’ gleaming soprano and baritone Eleomar Cuello’s robust baritone were a powerful match in this breathtaking father-daughter scene.

Caroline Corrales and Eleomar Cuello performed a thrilling duet from Verdi’s “Simone Boccanegra” in the Merola Opera Program’s Merola Grand Finale at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. (Courtesy Kristen Loken/Merola Opera Program)

Not least were standout portrayals that are polished and ready to go, among them soprano Georgiana Adams’ Wagner heroines and baritone Kevin Godínez’s capricious and irresistible Don Giovanni.

Conductor Kelly Kuo maintained good balances in the pit for the most part, and Tania Arazi Coambs’ direction (she is a Merolini) was exceptional, particularly in the cheeky “Cenerentola” ensemble and the “tutti Merolini” finale from Sigmund Romberg’s “Student Prince.”

Members of the 2023 class of San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program, who appeared in concert on Aug. 19 at the War Memorial Opera House, are on their way to major stages across the world. (Courtesy Kristen Loken/Merola Opera Program)

Some of the Merolini will go on to European opera houses, some to other training stints at The Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera and elsewhere, and several will be chosen to be Adler Fellows and given principal roles with San Francisco Opera. Watch out for them—they will soon be on major stages across the opera world.