Seeing the documentary in the theater left me with some thoughts neither in my original 2007 Met Council Finals post nor in last week's movie preview.
First, the sound: I thought only the rehearsal segments (particularly Michael Fabiano's) gave some sense of how the singers really sounded. The actual competition footage was useless -- was that the standard footlight miking they used? Whatever it was, it (among other distortions) made Jamie Barton and Amber Wagner seem about the same volume, and... they're not.
Second, the stories. It was interesting to see that Alek Shrader hadn't actually worked up the Fille aria before (making his success with it more remarkable), that Ryan Smith knew the Cilea cold but -- probably because of his layoff -- was having an issue finding a second good aria (you could tell), and that Disella Larusdottir felt she really underperformed on finals day (Anne Midgette, whose post on the movie is here, indicated as much).
Third, I thought Keira Duffy "won" the movie's consolation prize -- you know, the most charming onscreen despite not winning (and did the same judges who picked Barton really knock Duffy's voice size!?) -- but search engine hits here seem to be a three-way tie between Shrader, Smith, and Amber Wagner, with Fabiano in fourth.
Fourth, Nicholas Pallesen (whom I personally would have picked as a winner that day) is singing the lead in Juilliard's production of Falstaff (conducted by Mrs. Peter Gelb, and with 2009 winner Paul Appleby as Fenton) this week.
On the whole, I thought Susan Froemke did a nice job in both providing compelling backstage footage of the finalists and process and shaping the same into a promotion for both the Met and these singers. There was some sleight of hand in this, but that's to be expected. It also does seem to me that winning on finals day is not all-important (and Morris Robinson, for example, didn't even make it past Regionals), but making that point would have drained out some of the tension. (And perhaps it was that important for Angela Meade, because the win may have been what allowed her to emergency debut at the Met in one of the dramatic coloratura leads she needs to sing to be hired.) Besides, having a national audience watch you triumph onscreen -- that's something for your career. How sad that Smith can't enjoy it.
Having Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, and Thomas Hampson offer thoughts from the Olympian heights of their current success was a nice transition out, but not hugely enlightening. Though it was interesting to hear that Pierrot's song was Hampson's calling-card even during audition days... Make it happen, Met, make it happen.