Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Commentary

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

Hibla Gerzmava to Debut at Carnegie Hall

The name of Hibla Gerzmava has been famous in the opera world since 1994, when at age 24 the Abkhazian-Russian soprano won the Grand Prix at Tchaikovsky International Competition, entering its history as the first and only vocalist to have been awarded the highest prize.

A Chat with Tenor René Barbera

American tenor René Barbera is fast making a name for himself as one of the top bel canto singers in opera houses around the world.

Odyssey Opera Presents the Boston Premiere of Le Cid in One-­Night-­Only Concert Event

(Boston, MA) — Odyssey Opera, a Boston-based opera company dedicated to exploring the full spectrum of adventurous repertoire, presents the Boston premiere of one of France’s great operas, Le Cid (1885), composed by Jules Massenet (1842–1912).

Stefano Mastrangelo — An Italian in Japan

I’m interviewing Stefano Mastrangelo in the immediate aftermath of his conducting La Traviata for the Chofu City Opera in Tokyo on 22 November 2014; he conveys an air at once of tiredness and exhilaration.

Apotheosis Opera to Stage Tannhäuser

Apotheosis Opera is proud to announce their inaugural production will be a fully-staged English translation of Richard Wagner’s early masterpiece TANNHÄUSER on Friday, July 31, 2015, at 7pm and Sunday, August 2, 2015, at 3pm at the theatre of El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Avenue) .

Operalia 2015

‘Competitions are for horses, not artists.’ The words of Béla Bartók seemed apposite on Sunday night at the Royal Opera House, as 11 soloists walked swiftly onto the Covent Garden stage, performed their chosen aria, briefly acknowledged the applause and then returned summarily to the wings.

The ‘Other’ Così

Twin sisters – one pensive, the other gregarious – are soon to wed their beau, whose contrasting characters – one earnestly introverted, the other a boisterous hedonist – perfectly match their respective betrotheds’.

Scalia/Ginsburg Premiere at Castleton Festival

Derrick Wang is a composer who graduated from law school and has an interest in this country’s highest court.

Sara Gartland Takes on Jenůfa

Sara Gartland is an emerging singer who brings an enormous talent and a delightful personality to the opera stage. Having sung lighter soprano roles such as Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, Gartland is now taking on the title role in Leoš Janáček’s dramatic opera Jenůfa.

Press Release: Welsh National Opera explores Madness for autumn season

Madness descends upon Welsh National Opera for its autumn 2015 season, with three new productions that will explore human turmoil through some of the finest musical expressions of madness and the human condition.

A Chat with Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Jennifer Higdon

American composer Jennifer Higdon has won many awards for her imaginative music. Her percussion concerto received the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Falling in love with Wolf-Ferrari — An interview with Friedrich Haider

Bratislava in Slovakia might seem an unlikely place to come across the opera I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna) a 1911 rarity written by the Italian/German Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, a composer best known for his one-act opera Il segreto di Susanna ( Susanna’s Secret) and his comedies based on Goldoni.

Jac van Steen in Conversation

Last year’s Strauss anniversary year — 150 years since his birth — offered, at least in the United Kingdom, a typical number of opportunities and frustrations.

Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Opera Holland Park

On 6 June, Jonathan Dove’s Flight touches down in Kensington, west London. Opera Holland Park is to stage the first London production of Dove’s operatic presentation of the real-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian exile who, lacking residency rights or refugee status, was forced to live in the departure lounge of Terminal One at Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards, Wigmore Hall

Kathleen Ferrier may have been one of the world’s finest contraltos but this year’s Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final, held at the Wigmore Hall, was all about lyric sopranos.

World Premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s opera Cold Mountain at Santa Fe Opera this August

East Coast Premiere at Opera Philadelphia next season. Performances from Cold Mountain at the Guggenheim in New York this Monday, March 30.

Winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Announced

Five Young Singers Named Winners of the 2015 Met National Council Auditions, America’s Most Prestigious Vocal Competition



Wigmore Hall
04 Sep 2009

Wigmore Hall / Kohn Foundation launches the Sixth International Singing Competition

The distinguished jury (including sopranos Dames Margaret Price and Anne Evans, and baritones Thomas Allen and Wolfgang Holzmair) has now whittled down the original 148 entrants (from 41 different countries) to 34 (including 6 from the US) and according to the Chairman and Wigmore Hall Director John Gilhooly, ‘There’s a terrific buzz about this year - it always takes about ten years for a competition to build, so we are now really at our peak, and I think I can promise you some exciting singing.’

Wigmore Hall / Kohn Foundation launches the Sixth International Singing Competition

Above: Wigmore Hall


I talked to John Gilhooly and to Dr Ralph Kohn, whose Foundation underpins the Competition both philosophically and financially, about the challenges and special qualities of this much-anticipated event. Both were very clear about what they are looking for - Dr Kohn selects ‘intimacy of communication with a chamber music audience’ as vital, and he recalls the genesis of the competition in his collaboration with Graham Johnson: ‘Since I’ve always been very keen to support young singers, I was very receptive when Graham suggested that the Wigmore might be the ideal venue for a competition, perhaps one where we seek special qualities not looked for in other events.’

John Gilhooly, as Chairman, leaves no room for doubt - ‘ First of all, I tell the jury from the outset, and I repeat this every day, that we are not looking for the singer with the highest decibel level: what we seek is a singer who can sustain a song recital in any of the great halls of the world, because if we give someone a recital here, then Vienna, New York, Amsterdam, will take notice, so the jury needs to feel - can s/he keep my interest for a whole recital, and not just a small group?’

Both point out that in opera, you have the staging, costume, prompt, colleagues and so on, but in recital you are ‘alone up there, hopefully without the music stand’ - and this is where the Wigmore audience comes in. Dr Kohn identifies this as one of the competition’s unique features - ‘You are performing before people who have the most profound understanding of the music, who have been coming here for years and who feel a great sense of loyalty to the Hall and the competition itself; they also want you to do well - it’s a very sympathetic and enabling audience.’

Gilhooly dismisses the notion of the Wigmore audience as ‘elderly’ as ‘a myth’ - ‘our regular audience has gone from a core of 5000 to a core of 25,000; for many concerts we have found that 50% of the audience has been under 40, and even so, I believe that the holy grail of the ‘young’ audience is all very well, but you have to account for time and what people can fit in: I’m 36 and many of my friends have long days in the city or are doctors and so on, and so to fit in a 7.30 recital is not easy. When people get into their 50s and their children have gone off to University and so on, we find that it’s then they have time to attend more concerts.’

Although the competition looks for future greatness, Dr Kohn points out that ‘winning is not everything in this context - it’s also being given feedback from some of the greatest singers and accompanists, about meeting with colleagues’ and Gilhooly concurs ‘If we don’t find the next great recitalist, it’s not a failure - young singers have been given a chance to perform before their peers, and it also enshrines the notion of the Wigmore as the world centre for song.’ He points out that there have been previous years in which those who did not win have also gone on to great things - Joyce di Donato being a prime example - and that such seemingly minor aspects as the preparation of programmes can be hugely influential.

Wigmore_competition_2007.gifMartha Guth with Ralph Kohn and Spencer Myer at the 2007 competition final [Photo by Ben Ealovega]

The competition does not ignore those whose prowess may tend more towards opera, since after the judging for the main competition is over, the jury is able to award a special bursary given by Independent Opera, which specifically rewards a singer who shows operatic potential - the most recent winner of this was Matthew Rose, a baritone surely now familiar from appearances on many stages.

The Wigmore Hall begins the 2009-10 season with the confidence that last year’s attendance was up 30% on the previous, with many concerts already sold out well in advance. They are already gearing up for the 110th anniversary in 2011, about which John Gilhooly is saying nothing yet except that it will be ‘very special’ and we should ‘expect many surprises.’ Those of us fortunate enough to be regulars at this unique venue know that it always holds the most wonderful surprises, some of which will no doubt be unveiled during the Singing Competition: if you’d like to attend the preliminary rounds, they are on September 6th and 7th at 11.00 am and 15.00 pm, the Semi-Final is on Tuesday 8th at 15.00, and the Final and Prize Giving on Thursday 10th at 18.00.

Melanie Eskenazi

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):