Tenor James Valenti, a former student of West Virginia University Music Professor and Artist-in-Residence Augusto Paglialunga, has won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National grand finals concert in New York City.

Valenti, a Clinton, N.J. native, earned his bachelors degree in music from WVU in 2000. He was one of nine vocalists chosen from a pool of 2,000 nationally to compete in the finals, held Sunday, April 21. The award includes a substantial monetary prize and performing and studying opportunities as a participant in the Mets apprenticeship program.

For the competition, Valenti performed two Arias: Verdis La Mia Letizia in Fondere and Gounods Sault! Demeure from Faust.

“This award allows James Valenti the opportunity to enhance his possibilities of performing leading roles nationwide and in Europe,”Paglialunga said.

“I definitely expect that he will become a regular performer at the Metropolitan Opera in the not-to-distant future,”he added.”Hes incredibly talented and a very hard worker.”

Considered to be the Olympics of the opera world, the competition was held at Lincoln Centers Metropolitan Opera House and broadcast nationally on Metropolitan Opera Radio Network, as well as National Public Radio in some areas of the country.

He is also scheduled to appear at 8 a.m. Sunday, April 28, on Arts and Entertainments popular Breakfast with the Arts series.

Bernard Schultz, dean of the WVU College of Creative Arts, said Valentis achievements speak highly of both his talent and hard work and of the WVU education and training he received under Paglialungas tutelage.

“I’m thrilled for James, his teacher, Augusto Paglialunga, and our Division of Music,”Dr. Schultz said.”James is a talented and hard-working singer; we are so very proud of his wonderful achievement.”

Paglialunga added,”James is the first student ever to achieve such a high honor since Ive been teaching at WVU . We are thrilled for him and our program.”

He also extensively praised WVU Music Professors Robert Thieme, the WVU Opera Program and Kathy Shannon, WVU Choral Program director, for being positive influences in preparing Valenti for an outstanding career in opera and on the concert and recital stage.

After graduating from WVU , Valenti entered the Minnesota Opera apprenticeship program where he performed major roles and polished his knowledge of languages, including Italian, French and German. He also returned to Morgantown every few months to continue his study with Paglialunga.

Valenti began singing as a high school freshman. During his first year at WVU , he began studying with Paglialunga, an international opera performer for years before coming to WVU to teach.

Paglialunga, who attended Valentis performance, said he was never prouder than when reading the program in which his young understudy attributed WVU for much of his success.”This was an incredible moment for WVU , the College of Creative Arts and the state of West Virginia,”he said.

The Metropolitan Opera National Council helps young singers prepare for opera careers and discovers new talent for the Metropolitan Opera where some of the most renowned opera singers in the world get their start.