Petroc Trelawny looks forward to the coverage of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011. Twenty of the world's finest young opera singers come to Cardiff to compete.
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It's been described as the world's greatest singing competition. 20 of
the world's best young opera singers go head to head. A jury of
opera Legends. At stake, the most coveted prize in opera. It's BBC
Every two years St David's Hall in Cardiff becomes a magnet for the
best young opera talent from around the world. Ever since Finnish
Soprano Karita Mattila was named the first BBC Cardiff Singer of the
World back in 1983 the competition's international status
has been guaranteed. It's since launched some of the biggest names
in opera. This time 600 singers representing 68 countries have been
auditioned. Just 20 remain to battle it out here in Cardiff -
each hoping to convince the Jury that they have what it takes to be
the next BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. All they have to do is show
us what they can do and do it well. All judges and audience members are
longing for the extraordinary. This is such a great opportunity
for any young singer to be seen and heard.
If I go there and sing to the best of my capacity, that's all that I
want. To have a chance to just sing to the world, that's what it is all
about. If you win the The professional
world takes notice. We need to see a performance. We
need to see what they are capable It's got to be ace, it is the
competition. It is so intense, so exciting, but
it is one hell of an experience. Just a flavour of the drama and
excitement we have in store for you over the next week. Extensive
coverage starts on BBC Four on Tuesday night a 7.30pm. I'll be
joined by Josie D'Arby throughout the week for all the backstage news
together with a guest list of stars from the opera world who'll be
offering their expert opinions and insights. Then the Grand Final.
That is here on BBC Two, next Sunday, a week tomorrow, starting
at 5.30pm. Do ut put the date in your diary.
Two years ago the title went to Russian Soprano, Ekaterina
Scherbachenko. Ekaterina was a great winner. She had everything, a
great voice, a great communicating skill and as a by-product,
tremendous beauty, but she was ready to fly. She was really ready
to start to undertake really big engagements. That is an ideal time
to be in the competition and, of course if you win it, that's the
cherry on the cake. I have a lot of good memories about
the time in Cardiff. It was a touring opportunity, it was a
turning point in my career, in my life. I was really happy in that
moment. Of course, after this competition,
now I have a lot of work, a lot of engagements, I will sing in such
beautiful, such great places like La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera in
New York, the 2012 Glyndebourne Festival. I'm excited about it.
This competition, it really is helpful for singers! It is really
working! Less than two years on from her victory in Cardiff,
Ekaterina is performing in Milan at one of the world's great opera
houses. Right now we are in La Scala. Today is my last performance
of turr Turandot here. The role of Liu is not new to
Ekaterina. The slave girl's piece, is one the pieces she performed in
the final. When I am singing it helps me with
this engagement, "Signore Ascolta". It was always exciting. It was
always great to feel that we are on the stage of La Scala, wow!
Ekaterina is a hit in Milan. She is making her debut at the
Metropolitan Opera in New York next year and appearing at the 2012
Glyndebourne Festival. I wonder if you spotted the
unmistakable figure of Dame Joan Sutherland. Presenting the trophy
to Ekaterina two years ago. Sadly, it was the last of her appearances.
Dame Joan Sutherland was hugely loved by the audiences here in
Cardiff. She went on to be a juror in five consective competitions. In
2003, she became Cardiff Singer's first patron. Sadly, she died last
October. Dame Joan Sutherland had a career
spanning nearly 45 years. She is widely regarded at the greatest
coloratura soprano of her, or indeed of any generation.
Dame Joan Sutherland was an extraordinary performer and an
absolutely astonishing singer. She could turn her voice on a pin, you
know, absolutely effortless flow of limb pid, liquid, gorgeous tone. I
mean, it could not be beaten. It never has been beaten, in my view.
She was one of the all-time greats. Instantly recognisable. Exciting.
Bringing people to the edge of their seats because of the
precision, the beauty of the sound, combined with the technical range
of her voice. She was unique. She will go down in history. Despite
poor health in recent years, Dame Joan Sutherland refused to miss her
favourite event. After a fall, in 2008, in which she broke both legs
she still insisted on taking her place at St David's Hall in the
final of that year. A rising welcome for Dame Joan
Sutherland. She was determined to take her place. A standing ovation
for her. Dame Joan Sutherland, who will be
greatly missed by us all. For the winner it can propel them
onto the international stage. And if you like to keep an eye on the
odds, the voice type most likely to succeed here in Cardiff is the
Soprano. Of the 14 winners, half of them have been Soprano's. So we
asked leading Welsh Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas to give us a guide
to the bookies favourite! Soprano, the word comes from the Italian,
Sopra, meaning above. This is the highest of the female voice types.
Now, I may be biased, but I like to think that we get the best tunes.
Thing of the magnificent Queen of the Night aria, or how about
puecheena's glorious -- puecheen ee's glorious Ba binoCario.
As with the other vocal categories, there are different types of
soprano. There is the light soprano. The lyric soprano, they saing the
heavier Mozart and bigger dramatic roles. The dramatic soprano
dominates the Verdi. Then there is the one that gets the fireworks,
the colour soprano. We sopranos may get the big tunes,
but we still get it tough. There are more of us on the singing
sirbity than any other voice type. Ekaterina Scherbachenko was up
against many and half of the winners of the Cardiff Singer of
the World 2011 have been sopranos. You see, we are too ordinary. There
are ten sopranos taking part. Three from the American continent. Five
from Europe. One from South Korea and one from
New Zealand. We'll hear more from Elin later in
the programme as she guides us through the different voice types
taking part in this year's competition. But now let's meet
three of this year's competitors and find out first hand what it
means to be taking part in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. The
singers representing Germany, Bulgaria and Romania are are based
here in Milan. That great city of Italian opera.
When I was a small girl. When I was young, because my family is in a
singing position, my mother sang with me. As a smile child I started
to sing in a children's choir when I was five, when I'm at home, I'm
still singing with them, it was so beautiful.
I started singing in the high school. I have the luck to meet a
good teacher. He guided me well in this. Now I'm 26 years old and I'm
happy to be here. I started singing when I was very
young in a children's choir of the Bulgarian National Radio. We
traveled all over the world. It was an amazing time for me. That is how
I decided to become an opera singer. Five years ago I met my husband,
who is an Italian conductor. So, I came here, I really love Italy. It
is absolutely my second native land. I feel at home here.
Serban came to Italy to perform, while Suzanne studies at the
Academy of La Scala. All three are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to
perform in Cardiff. There are so many great and
talented singers in the whole world. Now I'm one of the 20 singers. It
is unbelievable. I am so proud to take a part in this competition.
is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I know it will change my life, if
even standing there it will change my life. Cardiff is the competition.
I don't feel stressed or nervous. I just want to go and perform and
enjoy. I'm really happy about it We will meet three more competitors
in this year's competition later nonthe programme. Now, dedicated
followers of Cardiff Singer of the World 2011 will know that the last
time a Mezzo won here was Guang Yang from China. That was 14 years
ago. Elin Manahan Thomas continues her
look at the different voice types with the mezzo-soprano.
In the term mezzo-soprano. Mezzo comes from the Italian for middle.
It is the middle range for a female voice. Not as high as soprano, not
as low as contralto. Mezzo have rich voices. The roles that they
play make the most of this. Think of Bizet's karmen.
Mezzo's often play what are called trouser roles in operas, in other
words they play men. Mozart's Caribino is a favourite,
but in the concert hall's of St David's Hall they still stick to
wearing a dress. In this year's competition, mezzo-sopranos from
Ireland, Russia and Australia will all try to take the title back home
with them. As ever, there is a formidable jury
for Cardiff Singer of the World 2011, the line up this year
includes operatic legends like Marilyn Horne, Hakan Hagegard,
Dennis O'Neil and for the first time, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. They
will announce a winner at the end of prelimb Narey rounds, but then
keep us guessing as to the line-up to the Grand Final. They will not
say who the finalists are until the end of the last four preliminaries.
So tension pretty much guaranteeed. Alongside the main competition
there is the Song Prize. It has produced impressive winners itself.
It also produced Wales' first singer, Bryn Terfel.
The Song Prize presents a very different set of challenges.
Song and opera are two distinct ways of performing, but they carry
within them the same core that you have to get across. Both involve
text, to get across the composing tensions, but perhaps with opera it
is a broader brush. There is a whole Orchestra to compete with.
With Recitals you can be finer with the details.
It is quite rare to find a really good opera singer who also sings
song, as it is a totally different medium. The stage is different, the
music is different. The texts are different. You are dealing rather
with a libretto, you are dealing I think it is great that Cardiff
gives a platform for song. I it -- I this it is great for the
audiences to hear this quite neglected platform.
Five singers compete in the final of the Song Prize, you can see that
on BBC Four next Saturday at 7.30pm. Before that, the prelimb Narey
rounds start on Tuesday at 1.00pm. Now, here is Elin Manahan Thomas on
The word tenor comes from the Italian te nera to hold.
They still, "Hold" The best tunes. They often play the hero or the
love interest. Arguably, the most famous aria in the world is for a
There are different types of tenor. The lyric tenor sings the more
romantic music, the Spintow tenor takes on the slightly heavier roles.
For bigger roles, mainly in Wagner, there is a helden tenor. There is
also the distinctive sound of the English tenor.
Andrew Kennedy, winner of the Song Prize in 2005. Despite their
popularity with the audience, only one tenor has won the title in
Cardiff. He was victorious of both the Song Prize and the main
This year there is just one tenor taking part.
Welsh tenor John Pierce is sure to have the Cardiff audience, firmly
behind him. The warmth of the reception given
to singers here at Cardiff Singer of the World 2011 really is one of
the things that makes this competition so special. They are
loved and cherished from the very moment they walk on to the St
David's Hall stage. This year there will be loud cheers for the singers
representing Ireland, England, and of course, Wales.
I've always played the piano. I started playing the piano when I
was 12. I did a lot of choral singing from the age of 14 as well,
but I started to take up singing seriously at the age of 17.
I realised I really wanted to become an opera singer when I was
six. My father was playing an opera's greatest hits in the car. I
realised that was all that I wanted to do from the age of six. I was
actually a pianist first. I had never had a singing lesson before
going off to college in Belfast. I wanted to work with children. So I
studied psychology and music. Things went from there. I started
studying, then I fell in love with it. Couldn't live with -- without
I had to give it a go. My parents would play all of these great
singers. Hearing them as a child they became a part of me, part of
my blood. Now, 20 years on, when I am performing at Cardiff Singer of
the World 2011, I feel like I'm carrying a piece of all of these
amazing singers with me, because I have grown up with them.
I think there is such a wealth of talent in Ireland. We are a very,
very musical country. I certainly hope to represent that great
musical talent if I can. I feel very proud to be
representing Wales in this year's competition. I have always dreamed
of being on that stage. I just can't believe it's actually
happened this year, so! Since the competition started back in 1983
singers have been accompanied by two Orchestras, the Orchestra of
the Welsh National Opera and the BBC national Orchestra of Wales.
Conducted this year by Lawrence Foster and Jac van Steen. For the
orchestral players, they find it difficult not to become attached to
their own singers. The Orchestras are always happy
when one of their singers from one of rounds gets through to the final.
They become propirate oral. We have our favourites and a sweeepstake.
It is like a beauty pageant, we go by the countries.
We pick a different singer, have a small bet on it, and whoever wins
they get the money. We join in the competitive spirit of it.
Many of the Orchestras have played in the Cardiff Singer of the World
2011 since it began in 1983. Since the beginning it has proved itself
adepartment at picking the winner. The minute that she walked on the
stage, you felt this was a true diva. She came on with a big smile,
a shocking pink frock and owned the stage before he is had song a note.
I think that she all sang three notes. We looked at each other and
said, "That's the one "What sticks out in my memory are the
competitors from the Far East. Two of the Chinese competitors have
The first one to win was Guang Yang and then this amazing base baritone
who won in his early 20s. The soprano from the United States,
Nicole Cabelle, her performance was technically excellent. Very, very
musical, the fact that she want on to win the competition outright was
a great source of satisfaction to the members of the Orchestra,
having accompanied here in the first round as she has gone on to
do great things It is great that we all come together and are united in
the competition. It is good to celebrate the fact that we have two
great Orchestras in Cardiff. As well as the Orchestra members
spotting their favourites, there is the chance for you to vote if your
favourite sing ner the prelimb Narey rounds. This year, renamed
the Dame Joan Sutherland Prize, in honour of the competition's late
patron. I will give you details on how to vote on Friday night's
programme, and they are on the website at bbc.co.uk/cardiffsinger.
You can follow us via Facebook and Twitter. Now, it is time for the
final of Elin Manahan Thomas's whistle stop tour of the singers.
The base baritone has a long and distinguished career in this
competition. The lowest male voices are bundled
together in one category. That of base baritone, but there is a
difference between them. The term baritone comes from the Greek
meaning deep or heavy-sounding, but it is still the highest voice than
the lower earth-shaingingly voice of the lower deeper base.
Many singers class themselves as a base baritone, meaning that they
sing the roles that sitcom fortably in the middle of the vocal range.
That role could be kas Nova, the economic character or the villain.
It was two different performances that led to perhaps the greatest
Cardiff Singer of the World 2011 final of all time.
-- that led to perhaps the greatest Cardiff Singer of the World of all
time. Two of the world's great baritones,
DmitriVodorskvy, and Bryn Terfel, but will there be such a baritone
this year? Three baritones compete, one from China, and a bass from
Armenia. Apart from the 20 competitors, this BBC Cardiff
Singer of the World 2011 also welcomes another knew, if rather
familiar face, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. I met up to -- with her to ask her
how she felt about the competition. It is sort of a little overwhelming
for me, I adored Dame Joan Sutherland. I feel as though I was
so lucky to be asked, privileged, to take over from her. I hope that
I will do as good a job as she did. What is it about Cardiff Singer of
the world that made you want to sit on the jury and be a patron? I this
it is a wonderful, wonderful competition. First of all I was
asked to sit on the jury. I was thrilled to be doing that. Then
think asked me to be the patron, I thought are they going too far? I
was overwhelmed. I thought it was wonderful.
How important is it as a competition? It is very, very
important to the singer. I wished I had had it when I was coming
through it would have been fantastic, but it is such an
opening. If they get there, they eare already well into a major
career, I believe. It is the start of something, something great.
Let me ask you about your relationship with competitions,
they have been a very important part of your life? From a very
early age I did competitions. While they were difficult to do, I look
back, they were a huge part of my development
What is it going to take to win BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011?
Every amount of guts, intelligence, calm, the voice must be even,
musical. We have to see a performance. We need to see what
they are capable of, right there and then and that they will move on
to the next stage of their life. It is not much to ask, is it?
Listen, in the week ahead, I think that we can safely promise you
drama, eemotion, excitement, passion, and perhaps a little
controversy as well. Of course, the week that is filled -- filled with
Petroc Trelawny looks forward to the coverage of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011. Twenty of the world's finest young opera singers come to Cardiff to compete in this biennial competition, each one hoping to walk away with the prestigious title.
This introduces some of this year's extraordinary vocal talent, finds out what has happened to 2009's winner Ekaterina Scherbachenko and hears from the competition's new patron Dame Kiri te Kanawa.