Moldovan soprano Valentina Naforniţă last night triumphed at the 15th BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. She took not only the jury’s prize – the Cardiff Trophy and a cheque for £15,000 – but also the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize, consisting of a further trophy and £2000, voted for by the competition’s radio and television audiences throughout Britain.
Two evenings earlier, the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Song Prize was won by baritone Andrei Bondarenko, who was also one of the five finalists in the main competition. He takes back to his native Ukraine a trophy and £5000.
Competition heats took place throughout last week at St David’s Hall in the heart of the city, with the Song Prize heats taking place a short walk away at the New Theatre. Competitors are hand-picked from worldwide auditions to perform their own choice of opera and concert works with orchestra and have the option of taking part in the Song Prize, singing Lieder, art song and folksong, for a place in the Song Prize final at St David’s Hall.
Naforniţă thrilled the jury and the audience in the main final with a programme consisting of arias from Lucia di Lammermoor, Rusalka and Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. She faced strong competition from English, Russian, Ukrainian and South Korean finalists. Two nights earlier, those competing alongside Bondarenko in the Song Prize included Naforniţă, as well as singers from the USA, Ireland and Switzerland.
Jury chairman John Fisher was aided this year by vocal veterans including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Marilyn Horne, Håkan Hagegård and Denis O’Neill. Accompanying the competitors were the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (who played in the final) with conductors Lawrence Foster and Jac van Steen, while the supporting pianists for the Song Prize were Llŷr Williams, Gary Matthewman and Simon Lepper.
The BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition has taken place biennially since 1983 and has launched the careers of numerous singers including Karita Mattila, Katerina Karnéus and, in the famous “battle of the baritones” in 1989, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Bryn Terfel.