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Opera Idol

Margaret Russo is still pinching herself. In July, she was named “Opera Idol” in Cincinnati, out-singing more than 150 hopefuls in the first-ever amateur competition staged by the Cincinnati Opera, the nation’s second oldest opera company. The title earned the 2006 graduate a $3,500 contract with the Opera.

Russo’s talent was first discovered at age 6 when she was caught mimicking her first grade teacher’s vibrato. The teacher kept her after class. Instead of punishment, though, she taught Russo how to sing a scale and recommended she use her talent toward voice lessons rather than mockery. She did, bringing that talent to Xavier, where she appeared in several musical productions. Yet, she had never sung a full opera.

After graduating with degrees in English and voice performance, she went to work as a copywriter. The Opera Idol competition, though, moved her back into the world of music. Russo was one of the last to sing in front of the judges. “It was like ‘American Idol’ minus Simon Cowell.”

Russo got called back and, after multiple rounds, was selected as one of the six finalists. Videos of the finalists’ performances were posted on the Cincinnati Opera’s web site and the public voted for their favorite. More than 10,000 total votes were cast. Now she’s looking forward to what her new contract may bring.

“I think it’s a pretty big sign that there’s more to come.”

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