BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2015

Classical Music Magazine

The 2015 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World was held, as usual, in the brutalist splendours of St David’s Hall, Cardiff, an auditorium as sympathetic to vocal music as it is to its usual orchestral fare. This year 20 singers competed for a number of titles &#8210 the Song Prize (ably won by South Korean bass Jongmin Park), the Audience Prize (carried off by Mongolian baritone Amartushvin Enkhbat) and the Main Prize itself &#8210 of which more later. 

The week began with the first two song rounds, held in the beautifully resonant Dora Stoutzker Hall, a newish and welcome addition to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, with a grand foyer overlooking the Bute Park arboretum. With only 450 seats, the hall was not large enough to hold all the potential audience, so some had to make do with a relay at Cardiff University’s music department. The two official accompanists, Llyr Williams and Simon Lepper, were joined by several other pianists who had come with individual singers. It was universally acknowledged (among the cognoscenti in the hall) that one unexpected high point of the whole competition was Llyr’s transcendently dramatic performance of Schubert’s ‘Erlkonig’, which left the soloist, German bass Sebastian Pilgrim, somewhat outclassed. Other fine moments in the preliminary song rounds were Nadine Koutcher (soprano, Belarus) performing Liszt’s ‘Oh! Quand je dors’, a piece requiring exceptional virtuosity, and Jongmin Park singing ‘Danny Boy’, a daring choice brought off by his legato tone, marvellously wide dynamic range, and attention to the beauty of the words. 

The final of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World is a grand gala occasion, with many of the world’s opera professionals in attendance, and the atmosphere is electric, as a live broadcast must be. The fact of the broadcasts meant that the hall was somewhat cluttered with cables, commentators and the clanking jib camera, but master of ceremonies Tim Rhys-Evans did a good job of reconciling the live audience with the needs of the viewers at home. 

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