Monday, June 15, 2009

Opera Idol: Singer of the World


All ears turned to Cardiff last week for the 14th biennial BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Russian soprano Ekaterina Shcherbachenko was the triumphant winner on Sunday evening, with Italian tenor Giordano Lucà taking the Audience Prize. Two days earlier Czech bass Jan Martiník had taken the Song Prize.

More than 600 singers from 68 countries were auditioned in 44 locations worldwide before a richly varied short list of 25 was decided upon. They descended on the Welsh capital for the preliminary rounds which took place from Sunday June 7 at St David's Hall, the national concert hall of Wales, with recitals for the Song Prize starting the previous day at the city's New Theatre.

The five highest-scoring singers from the heats (not necessarily each evening's winner, although this year that was the case) were put through to the final. Shcherbachenko, having stunned the audience and jury in Round 2 with an astonishing Letter scene from Eugene Onegin, performed "Ah! Je ris" from Gounod's Faust, a miraculously poised "Signore, ascolta!" from Turandot, and "No word from Tom" from The Rake's Progress. She was presented with the trophy and a cheque for £15,000 by the competition's Patron, Dame Joan Sutherland.

Behind Dame Joan, the jury and winners on the stage were the members of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the evening's two conductors, Paul Daniel and Lawrence Foster, who, along with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, had provided attentive accompaniment throughout the competition.

The Audience Prize, chosen by television viewers in a telephone vote and each evening's audience in the Hall by ballot, is worth £2000 and went to Giordano Lucà, the youngest competitor, who sang an all-Italian programme including "Una furtiva lagrima" and "La donna è mobile". The other finalists were Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura, Ukrainian countertenor Yuriy Mynenko, and Jan Martiník, the Czech Republic's entrant.

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