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02 Sep 2014

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Operalia 2014 in Los Angeles

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Left to right: Andrey Nemzer, Rachel Willis-Sorensen, Mario Chang, Mariangela Sicilia, Placido Domingo, Anais Constans, Joshua Guerrero, Amanda Woodbury, John Holiday. [Photo by Craig Mathew / LA Opera]


On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London. From those forty, thirteen finalists were selected to perform at the final concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Thirty-year-old dramatic soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen opened the program with “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Her interpretation was well shaped with appropriate dynamics. Her well-focused voice has a good timbre for Wagner and it pierced the orchestral sound with its dulcet tones. After intermission we learned that she had won first prize and the Birgit Nilsson Prize. Her second offering, Federico Moreno Torroba’s “Tres horas antes del dia,” won her a Zarzuela Prize as well.

The second singer on the program was Russian countertenor, Andrey Nemzer, 31, who sang an aria from Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila with resonant, clear high notes. He shared the men’s third prize with American countertenor John Holiday, 29. Holiday sang “Crude furie” from Handel’s Serse with intense, accurate coloratura. Two sopranos also shared the women’s Third Prize: Anais Constans, 26, from France and Mariangela Sicilia, 28, from Italy. Constans sang “O quante volte ti chiedo” from Bellini’s I Capuletti e i Montecchi, and “De España vengo” from Luna’s El niño judio, while Sicilia sang the Poison Aria from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. I enjoyed Sicilia’s vocal overtones, and dramatic interpretation, but was disappointed by Constans’s lack of movement in the Luna aria.

Chinese tenor, Yi Li, 30, sang “Pourquoi me reveiller” from Massenet’s Werther with less than perfect security and Russian mezzo-soprano Alisa Kolosova, 27, sang “Cruda Sorte” from Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri with less than perfect coloratura.

Then it was time for a blockbuster tenor. Mario Chang, 28, from Guatemala. His well-thought out interpretation of “Ella mi fu rapita” from Rigoletto, combined with his intensity and charisma won him first prize and an Audience Prize. He also won a Zarzuela Prize for his rendition of Sorozábal’s “No puede ser.”

Greek Soprano Christina Poulitsi, 31, sang “Ah, non credea mirarti” from Bellini’s La Sonnambula with problematic coloratura and Spanish mezzo Carol Garcia, 30, sang Angelina’s final aria from Rossini’s La Cenerentola with better coloratura but a lack of resonance on her low notes. Moroccan tenor Abdellah Lasri, 32, sounded as if he had a cold when he sang “Ah fuyez douce image” from Manon.

Then came the second amazing tenor, Mexican-American Joshua Guerrero, 31, who was in the LA Opera Young Artist Program all last year. Singing with well-controlled dramatic tones and a solid technique, he won second prize, the Culturarte Prize, and an Audience Prize for arias from Puccini’s Le Villi and Moreno Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda. American soprano, Amanda Woodbury sang “A vos jeux, mes amis” from Thomas’ Hamlet with clearly separated notes in her coloratura phrases. Easy on the eyes and amazingly talented, she should make a good career. On this evening she won second prize and an Audience Prize.

Not only can the winners be expected to be heard in opera houses around the world, all the finalists will be performing in both big city and regional opera. I hope readers will greet them warmly when they appear with their local opera companies.

Maria Nockin

Operalia 2014 Jury:

James Conlon, Music Director Los Angeles Opera, Ravinia Festival, and the Cincinnati May Festival; Marta Domingo, Stage Director; F. Paul Driscoll, Editor-in-Chief: Opera News; Thierry Fouquet, General Director: Opéra National de Bordeaux; Anthony Freud, General Director: Lyric Opera of Chicago; Jonathan Friend, Artistic Administrator: Metropolitan Opera; Jean-Louis Grinda, General Director, Opéra de Monte Carlo; Ioan Holender, Artistic Advisor, Metropolitan Opera and Tokyo Spring Festival; Artistic Director, George Enescu Festival; Peter Katona, Director of Casting: Royal Opera House, London; Christopher Koelsch, President and CEO: Los Angeles Opera; Grégoire Legendre, General Director, Opéra de Québec; Joan Matabosch, Artistic Director, Teatro Real, Madrid; Pål Moe, Casting Consultant: Bavarian State Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Opéra de Lille, and Norwegian Opera House; Andrés Rodriguez, General Director, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Chile; Helga Schmidt, Intendente: Palau de les Arts, Valencia. Prize Winners: First prizes of $30,000: Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Mario Chang; Second Prizes of $20,000: Amanda Woodbury and Joshua Guerrero; Third Prizes of $10,000: Anaïs Constans, Mariangela Sicilia, John Holiday, Andrey Nemzer; The Birgit Nilsson Prize for Wagner/Strauss repertoire: Rachel Willis-Sørensen; The Pepita Embil Domingo Zarzuela Prize of $10,000: Rachel Willis-Sørensen; The Don Placido Domingo, Sr., Zarzuela Prize of $10,000: Mario Chang; Audience Prizes, watches offered by Rolex: Amanda Woodbury and Mario Chang; The CulturArte Prize of $10,000: Joshua Guerrero.

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