Queen Elisabeth Singing Competition May 2008
You can still listen to the completed rounds on demand from the RTBF website at http://www.rtbf.be/podcast/montre/index.htm?th=24 Videos of the semi-finals are also available, from http://www.cmireb.be/en/p/2/8/74/77/semi-finalists.html Click on "Watch and Listen" on the right side of the homepage.
Twenty-four singers survived the First Round into the semi-finals. Out of these 24, 12 are now in the final round: Elizabeth Bailey, sop. (UK), Szabolcs Bricker, ten. (Hungary), Layla Claire sop. (Canada), Isabelle Druet mez. (France), Bernadetta Gravias, mez. (Poland), Yuri Haradzetski ten. (Belarus), Anna Kasyan, sop. (Georgia), Changhan Lim, bar. (Korea), Michele Losier mez. (Canada), Gabrielle Philiponet, sop. (France), Tatiana Trenogina sop. (Russia), and Jung Nan Yoon, sop. (Korea). From listening to the live streaming, it is clear that the standards are extremely high. All the voices are good, with a number that are truly wonderful and destined for fine careers. There will be four days of finals, starting May 21. Each candidate will sing four to six selections, accompanied by the Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie with Kazushi Ono conducting. You can listen and watch the live webcast by going to http://www.cmireb.be/en/p/2/8/13/22/final.html and click on Watch and Listen to the right.
I generally agree with the choices of the twelve finalists. Interestingly, two of the six tenors entered made it to the finals, a success rate of 33% - the world always want more tenors! By contrast, 6 sopranos out of 46 made it - a success rate of only 15%. Similarly, only 1 out of 13 baritones made it. I must say there were a few singers whom I felt were good enough to be in the finals but sadly didn't make it. I was particularly fond of Sri Lankan soprano Kishani Jayashinghe, who has a gleaming, powerful voice, great long breath line, and excellent musicality. The only thing missing perhaps is a sense of humour - her Adina's aria from L'Elisir d'amore lacked sparkle. She was a finalist at the 2006 Kathleen Ferrier competition and is in the Covent Garden Young Artists program. I think she will go far. It is important to remember that not making the finals doesn't mean a singer is not good. So much is dependent on the individual taste of the jury panel, and there is always the possibility of politics, although this is difficult to prove. At this level of competition, jury members tend to look for the finished product. Often, a great voice that is unfinished coupled with ordinary stage presence or preparation may be bypassed in favour of someone with a good voice but in possession of excellent stage presence and attractive physical appearance. Without naming names, I can say there is a baritone in this competition who has a wonderfully strong amd rich if still somewhat rough baritone, and his stage appearance needs work - a better suit would help! He was passed over by the jury in favour of another singer who has a beautiful, well controlled, technically accomplished, smooth lyric baritone, combined with a handsome face, slim physique, and altogether a more polished "package". Modern audiences demand believability, and unless one has a voice the likes of Pavarotti or Sutherland, an attractive, slim singer will always have an advantage, such is the reality of the opera world these days.
Finally, a few words about the jury panel. QE is known for star-studded jurors, but this edition is simply amazing - imagine on the same panel Martina Arroyo, Lella Cuberli, Raina Kabaivanska, Tom Krause, Ann Murray, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Jose Van Dam, Brigitte Fassbaender, and Helmut Deutsch! I would love to be a fly on the wall during the deliberations!