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Brian Dickie
Life after 50 years in opera and still counting......
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Gerard Schneider with Anne Sophie Duprels in Risurrezione by Alfano - WFO 2017 - photo by Clive Barda_preview© Clive Barda

 Gerard Schneider and Anne Sophie Duprels in Alfano's Risurrezione

The impact of Alfano's 1904 opera Risurrezione at Wexford last night brought the audience to their feet, and the prolonged applause and cheering said it all - the audience had been captured by a mixture of an extremely effective piece and stunning performances all round, especially from the two people pictured above.

Lovingly, meticulously, and energetically conducted by Francesco Ciluffo, in a production ingeniously and beautifully designed by Tiziano Santi and Claudia Pernigotti, Rosetta Cucchi's impeccable direction gave us a clear emotional narrative of great power.  This production is said to be going to Monte Carlo so if you can't get to Wexford in the next two weeks the Côte d'Azur is not such a bad alternative in due course!  But they had better get Duprels and Schneider - they really made it work.  

Giuliana Gianfaldoni & chorus in 'Margherita' by Foroni - WFO 2017 - photo by Clive Barda_preview© Clive Barda

On Thursday evening there was an even greater rarity - Jacopo Foroni's Margherita.  This was an enjoyable novelty with a charming cast including Giuliana Gianfaldoni, seen above with Errol Girdlestone's superb Wexford Festival Chorus.  It was also a pleasure to catch up with Andrew Stenson and Yuriy Yurchuk.  I am not convinced however that this piece will rejoin the repertoire of opera houses around the world unlike the Alfano which seems to me to have real possibilities.  But I was delighted to add it to my "collection" anyway - and the production by Michael Sturm from the Oldenburg State Theatre gave the work the finest possible chance, as did the conductor Timothy Myers, whose distinguished conducting of Vanessa at last year's festival is a fine memory.  

The last opera for me this year is  Cherubini's Medea this afternoon - not a novelty at all though not so often performed these days.  The amazing Lise Davidsen sings the title role.  She will certainly be noticed!

These few days here have been somewhat emotional, the first performance of my first season as Artistic Director having taken place exactly 50 years ago, on October 21 1967.  I was much touched by the current Artistic Director David Agler making some remarks from the stage before yesterday evening's performance.  Thank you David, it is always such a treat to be here, in a place which provided such a great additional foundation for the rest of my now 55 years in opera!!

There seems to be some blue sky outside.  Maybe a walk is called for!

5 months ago |
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Ferr Fior

Photo:Tristram Kenton

Ferrando (Bogdan Volkov) and Fiordiligi (Kirsten MacKinnon) in Glyndebourne Tour Così fan tutte

It is always such a pleasure to encounter such new Mozart talent and so it was a joy to see and hear Bogdan Volkov and Kirsten McKinnon at Glyndebourne's tour Così in Sussex on Tuesday evening.  I have known each of them for a little bit.  Bogdan auditioned for Neue Stimmen in Kiev in 2011 at the tender age of 21 I think.  I put him on the list for the finals but the Bolshoi young artists programme snapped him up so he went to Moscow to be in the tender care of the wonderful Dima Dvodin.  And my goodness has he blossomed! And Kirsten auditioned for the Garsington Countess a couple of years ago and delivered splendidly this last Garsington season.  She now goes from strength to strength and is still very young......

Getting these two young people together as Fiordiligi and Ferrando was a great coup for Glyndebourne.  And they provided us with world class singing.  Oh - and the rest of the performance was most enjoyable as well!

Life goes on after Neue Stimmen.  I had a full day of auditions for Garsington on Monday, and today I will be hearing the Harewood artists at ENO.  And tomorrow there is an early start for Wexford where I will be through the weekend and returning to London on Monday evening.  It will be an event filled weekend.  Watch this space!

6 months ago |
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Jury

The Jury: Helmut Deutsch, Jurgen Kesting, Christoph Meyer, Elisabeth Sobotka, Gustav Kuhn, Sophie de Lint, Dominique Meyer, BD, Evamaria Wieser, Bernd Loebe

So here we all were at 6:55 pm last night grimly facing up to the fact that we had reached the end of the road and had to decide the fate of the ten wonderful finalists.  Some us look more cheerful than others!  However in fact it is really one of the happiest and most collegial teams I have ever been fortunate enough to part of.  It was a joy all week to spend time with these people.

Last night was something of a challenge nevertheless, in particular with regard to the female candidates.  Although the eventual winner was a clear favourite by a wide margin the rest was a cliff hanger.  The consistently high quality of those three mezzos was unusual and very pleasing, and the sopranos had impressed all week as well.....but there it is.

And the men were something of a battle as well, a tighter race at the top.  But the collective wisdom of all these people, seven out the ten being in the day to day business of hiring the best young singers they can find, brought about a generally applauded result.  What was clear was that each was exceptional, and that was reflected in the end with most generous additional monetary prizes for those who did not make the top three in their class.

Furthermore I think that we will find that a good few of these young people will go away not just with money but also the prospect of a contract with a pretty classy company, be it Vienna, Frankfurt, Salzburg, Düsseldorf, Zurich, Amsterdam, or Bregenz.  I have no inside information but it would be true to Neue Stimmen's form.....

This is the time to say a huge thank you to the staff of Neue Stimmen who have been working at high speed over the last months to make this wonderful competition the very best of breed. Below you see our Project Director, Ines Koring, who been in place since the 2001 competition, doing the counting with Dominique Meyer and our star intern Katharina Heuring. 

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I am feeling more than usually sad that it is over for this year.  I hope that I can celebrate doing it for 20 years next time in 2019 - my first was in 1999. This is one of those organisations where one feels that there is a real family spirit, and thus we do it for love as much as anything!

6 months ago |
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SvetlinaPhoto: Besim Mazhiqi

It was a late night and there is an early start this morning to return to London.  But in case any of you missed the result the winners are:

Women

1. Svetlina Stoyanova - Bulgaria - seen above!

2. Emily D'Angelo - Canada

3. Zlata Khershberg - Russia/Israel

Men

1. Chanhee Cho - South Korea - seen below!

2. Johannes Kammler - Germany

3. Mingjie Lei - China

All the results and pictures are on the Neue Stimmen website

ChoPhoto: Besim Mazhiqi

6 months ago |
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What a treat we had last night - a great party at Liz Mohn's place to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the birth of Neue Stimmen in 1987. It was a joyful evening the climax of high was all the contestants (bar the 10 finalists who sing tonight) celebrating the event in song. This included a trio of our South Africans.....

SA

We are now all set for this evening.  You can watch the show live on You Tube.

 

6 months ago |
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Walk in parkJurors Jurgen Kesting, Sophie de Lint and Dominique Meyer

So we had a day off today and four of us went for a walk in the delightful Gütersloh town park and botanical garden, followed by a lunch of delicious street food in the city sunshine on this unseasonably warm day.  This was a great reward for our four days of hard labour!

This evening there will be a dinner to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Neue Stimmen. 

Meanwhile a few reflections on the outcome of the semi-finals yesterday evening. It looks like being another year of the mezzos - a voice category that figured strongly last time but which has not seen a first prize winner in the 18 years that I have been involved with this competition.  However it did provide second and third prize winners in 2015.  Will it be their turn this year?  Only 29 hours more to wait!

I am delighted that no less than three of the finalists were educated in the UK - Božidar Smiljanic at the Royal Academy of Music, Svetlana Stoyanova at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Johannes Kammler at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  So a special well done to them and their Alma maters - I will not attempt the Latin plural!

I think that we are ready for a slug fest tomorrow night.  I will put the You Tube link to the live feed up here tomorrow.  I now have to change for the grand dinner!

6 months ago |
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So we got down to the last ten last night - five women and five men.  It was a late night so sorry for the delay. I expect you all know the news from elsewhere by now!  I will write more later.......but here they are:

Christina Nilsson - Sweden

Olga Rudyk - Ukraine

Emily D'Angelo - Canada

Zlata Khershberg - Russia/Israel

Svetlina Stoyanova - Bulgaria

Mingjie Lei - China

Johannes Kammler - Germany

Petr Sokolov - Russia

Božidar Smiljanic - United Kingdom

Chanhee Cho - South Korea

6 months ago |
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So the next stage of the cliff hanger is this evening.  And wherever you are in the world you can watch it live on the Neue Stimmen You Tube channel!

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There will be sixteen singers singing 16 arias with the Duisburg Philharmoniker conducted by Graeme Jenkins. They had two rehearsals yesterday and the "dress rehearsal" is this morning.  We the jury are staying away!  However I grabbed a quick shot yesterday - above you see Martin Mkhise going through his paces with Bizet's Toreador.

We are at some degree of leisure today until the evening.  But we will be off to the offices of the Bertelsmann Foundation for lunch and a tour of the splendid company premises - the world headquarters of this mega media company. Otherwise it is another gloomy day, the early morning promise of sunshine seeming to have dissipated.  Oh well, October is October......

6 months ago |
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Semifinalists line up

So after our two days of auditions we came up with the last 16, eight young men and 8 young women taken from the 39 who actually made it to the finals - we had a couple of late cancellations.  But this means that there were 23 disappointed candidates, all young people of exceptional talent who will, in many cases if previous experience is anything to go by, have no less stellar careers, and maybe even more prominent ones than some of the last 16!  

The judging process brought a really painless and uncontroversial result.  The collective wisdom of the 10 jury members was arrived at without as far as I could detect any unhappiness on the part of any of us - and we have our remarkable chairman, Dominique Meyer, to thank for that. He had devised a new much simpler system - and it worked magnificently.  We needed only 20 of the allocated 90 minutes to arrive at the result!

That said I am sure that each of us had a personal favourite who did not quite make the cut - but the exceptional collegial character of the jury has made the whole process, with such mutual respect, a huge pleasure, and I am sure that we are looking forward to similar harmony in the semi-finals tomorrow and finals on Saturday.

Today we have a press conference at 11 am and this afternoon we will be available for the 23 non semi-finalists to give feedback and advice. So this will be another busy, but unstressful, day.

6 months ago |
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Semifinalists

Gütersloh 17:27 Tuesday 10 October

So we did the deed and we have 16 semi-finalists, seen above with our fearless leaders Liz Mohn and jury chairman Dominique Meyer.

And they are:

Sopranos:

    Christina Nilsson - Sweden

    Ling Qi - China

    Sophie-Magdalena Reuter - Germany

    Olga Rudyk - Ukraine

Mezzo sopranos:

    Emily D'Angelo - Canada

    Zlata Khershberg - Russia/Israel

    Natalia Skrycka - Poland

    Svetlina Stoyanova - Bulgaria

Male soprano:

    Samuel Mariño - Venezuela

Tenor:

    Mingjie Lei - China

Baritones:

    Johannes Kammler - Germany

    Martin Mkhize - South Africa

    Petr Sokolov - Russia

Bass-Baritones:

    Zhiyuan Chen - China

    Božidar Smiljanic - United Kingdom

Bass:

    Chanhee Cho - South Korea

So what a mix - 16 singers of 13 different nationalities.  The REAL United Nations!

 

6 months ago |
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