The annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions are open to all U.S. and Canadian citizens or students between the ages 20 and 30. Singers enter the competition by submitting, in advance, a list of five operatic arias they are prepared to sing, in the original language and key. Admissions for this year’s competition are now closed.

At the audition, a singer will typically sing one or two of his or her chosen arias, complete, accompanied by a pianist. Winners are chosen by three-member panels of Met-recommended opera experts who serve as judges.

The Buffalo-area auditions take place Saturday and Sunday at the Flickinger Performing Arts Center at Nichols School, 1250 Amherst St.

The Four City District Auditions begin at 10 a.m. Saturday. Our “four cities” are actually five: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto and Montreal. Almost 50 singers are expected to participate.

A small number – two or three, perhaps – of Saturday’s singers will advance to the Great Lakes Region Auditions begin at 1 p.m. Sunday, which include winners of the Michigan District and Pittsburgh District auditions. One or two of Sunday’s auditioners will be selected as Great Lakes Region winners and will go to New York City in March for the semifinals.

Eight to 10 semifinalists advance to the national finals, which take place on the Met stage with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Four or five finalists are chosen to compete in the Grand Finals, a ticketed event open to the public. It will be broadcast in the Buffalo area at a later date.

Grand finalists win $15,000, and may be granted scholarships and additional prizes as well. The remaining national finalists receive $5,000 each; semifinalists who do not advance to the national finals will be awarded $1,500.

Admission to this weekend’s auditions in Buffalo is free, and tickets are not needed. A $5 donation is suggested.

Though silence is imperative while the singers are singing, observers may feel free to come and go, unobtrusively, as they please.

For information, call Mary Berlow, 885-2727, or Dianne Rubin, 875-5301.

– Mary Kunz Goldman