Wheeling Area Singer Competing At Met Opera

Alan Cline

Area singer Alan Cline has won the right to compete in the semi-final round of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Cline, a baritone, earned this tremendous opportunity by being chosen as the 2017-18 regional winner from the Great Lakes Region. In April, he will compete with other regional winners on the stage of the world-famous opera house in New York City.

The story of his success is filled with irony. Cline is a relative “late bloomer” in the operatic world as he has been pursuing a singing career for only six or seven years. His first visit to the Met actually will be when he walks onto the main stage to sing in the auditions.

“I’ve never been to a show at the Met,” he said, noting that his introduction will be “to walk straight onto the stage, which scares me a little bit.”

After winning the regional round, Cline thought the next phase of competition would occur on a secondary stage of the Manhattan opera house. However, he learned he will appear on the Met’s main stage. This information, he admitted, “scared the heck out of me. That was a surprise that kind of opened my eyes wider.”

Cline, who grew up in Wellsburg, now lives in Mount Olivet. He works at C.A. House Music in St. Clairsville, plus teaches “lots and lots of voice lessons.”

Now, the West Liberty University alumnus will devote much of his time to prepare for the next Met auditions. He hasn’t chosen his vocal selections yet, but anticipates singing a repertoire similar to what he presented at the district and regional levels of the competition.

In preparation for the finals, Cline said he has had an “open lesson” with Dr. Linda Cowan, his former voice teacher at WLU. He also plans to meet with his former teachers at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and then go to New York City to work with his vocal coach’s former teacher.

Cline plans to choose “the four best possible things that I can sing in a cohesive unit that I can present to the judges.” He added, “It’s going to be a whole team effort. I’ll have as many of my friends and colleagues hear me. I want to have just as many ears as possible in the decision making.”

The semi-final round of the auditions usually involves about 20 people, who are given piano accompaniment. Approximately 10 singers will go on to the finals, where they will be accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra when they compete on the last weekend in April, Cline said. The judges will select three to six grand champions.

In addition to winning a $15,000 grand prize, for competitors “one of the biggest things is exposure to agents,” he explained.

“Some will receive contracts through agencies.”

Signing a contract with an artist management agency and getting sent around the world to perform “would be my best goal,” he said.

Unlike the days when Wheeling native Eleanor Steber won first prize at the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air and earned a Met contract in 1940, not many opera houses sign singers to exclusive contracts now, Cline said.

Cline never thought he would get this far in the auditions. “I anticipated I’d go to the district level, get some comments and try again next year,” he said.

He competed initially in the Pittsburgh District, along with a few dozen people. He and one other singer from the Pittsburgh District were picked to compete at the regional level.

He and six other singers participated in the Great Lakes Region auditions in Grand Rapids, Mich., in late January. He was the only entrant chosen to advance to the semi-final round.

Describing his mentors’ reaction to the exciting news, he said, “They lost it. I called Dr. Linda Cowan the moment I knew when I left the concert hall in Michigan.”

Benton Hess, senior vocal coach at the Eastman School, also is thrilled by his former student’s success. “It’s been quite a few years since he’s had someone in the finals,” Cline said.

Cowan, chair of WLU’s Department of Music and Theater, said the music department is proud of Cline. She commented, “Personally, I’m thrilled for him — this will bring big things his way. I know he will make a great showing in New York at the competition and he knows there are many fans rooting for him on the Hilltop!”

Cline studied instrumental music at West Liberty for a couple of years before pursuing operatic studies. Cowan noted, “Alan came in as the winner of the Wheeling Symphony Rachael Worby scholarship as a tuba major before switching to voice performance.”

Cowan said Cline had roles in WLU’s productions of “The Magic Flute” and “Hansel and Gretel.” In opera scenes, he played Scarpia in “Tosca” and Marcello in “La Boheme,” she said.

Cline, son of Ruth Ann and Wayne Cline of Wellsburg, graduated from Brooke High School in 2009 and received a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from West Liberty in 2014. He earned a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music in 2016. He served as an adjunct music instructor in New York State for a year before returning home to the Ohio Valley.

His wife, Lara Cline, is the new band director at Bellaire High School. She is a graduate of McGuffey High School in Washington County, Pa., and a graduate of West Liberty. “We met in marching band — of all the horrifying things,” he quipped.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net