Sunday, August 2, 2009

Russians rule Operalia 2009

Although I had some ticket-misery I ended in a row right behind the jury. (Mr. Holender from Wiener Staatsoper was really close... and thank you Mr.G for the ticket!)

Now I think it is better to start with the participants and the program. 15 singers entered to the Final Round - 2 of them were only zarzuela singers - 13 singers performed the following opera arias. (To make all of you happy I don't mess up the program with my remarks you will find it below... :))

Opera arias:
  1. Jordan Bisch, bass, USA / Verdi: I Vespri siciliani - O tu Palermo
  2. Beatriz Diaz, soprano, Spain / Gounod: Faust - Ah! Je ris de me voir si belle
  3. Dimitrios Flemotomos, tenor, Greece / Meyerbeer: L'Africaine - O Paradis
  4. Anita Watson, soprano, Australia / Catalani: La Wally - Ebben? Ne andro lontana
  5. Orhan Yildiz, baritone, Turkey / Bellini: I Puritani - Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei
  6. Elizabeth Bailey, soprano, United Kingdom / Donizetti: Linda di Chamonix - O luce di quest'anima
  7. Alexey Kudrya, tenor, Russia / Tchaikovsky: Evgeny Onegin - Kuda, Kuda, Kuda vy udalilis
  8. Auxiliadora Toledano, soprano, Spain / Bellini: La Sonnambula - Ah, non credea mirarti
  9. Yang Yang, tenor, China / Donizetti: La Fille du Regiment - Ah mes amis... Pour mon ame
  10. Julia Novikova, soprano, Russia / Delibes: Lakme - Ou va la jeune Hindoue
  11. Kostas Smoriginas, bass-baritone, Lithuanua / Borodin: Prince Igor - Ni sna ni otdycha izmuchenoj duse
  12. Angel Blue, sopano, USA / Massenet: Herodiade - Il est doux, il est bon
  13. Wenwei Zhang, China, bass / Verdi: Macbeth - Come dal ciel precipita
Zarzuela arias:
  1. Auxiliadora Toledano, soprano, Spain / Nieto&Gimenez: El barbero de Sevilla - Me llaman la primorosa
  2. Dimitrios Flemotomos, tenor, Greece / Sorozabal: La tabernera del puerto - No puede ser
  3. Brigitta Simon, soprano, Hungary / El barberillo de Lavapies - Cancion de Paloma
  4. Arnold Rutkowski, tenor, Poland / Sorozabal: La tabernera del puerto - No puede ser
  5. Angle Blue, soprano, USA / Chapi: Las hijas del Zebedeo - Las Carceleras

My opinion:

1. I really liked Jordan Bisch, it was a strong start for the competition but after all the singers performed I thought he is good, but so are some others. As I see generally basses/baritons a lot of times put their angry face on during an aria. In an opera evidently it is ok, but in a concert/competition could get a bit ridiculous.

2. Loved Beatriz's dress!!! She had a nice, light voice and performed without any difficulty Marguerite's aria.

3. The Greek tenor, Dimitrios has chosen the O paradis aria which is I think a little bit too short for a competition. He did it wonderfully - receiving a big applause from the audience, but I wanted to hear more from him in order to know his voice better... Maybe his program during the semifinals and other preliminary rounds has already convinced the jury about his qualities...

4. I think Ebben, ne andro lontana was not Anita Watson's aria. I prefer this aria with a more powerful voice, and although Anita has a beautiful voice in some places was not enough for me. She also must have had a good previous performance at the competition - if she ended on the 3rd place... (and did not really like her Italian articulation either... I was hearing only the vowels...)

5. The bariton from Turkey was a little bit boring for me. But he won the "best dress" competiton wearing a shiny black suit.

6. The UK soprano was ok, but not the best. Her coluratura voice was adapted to the Donizetti aria, but for me the aria itself was irritating a bit... But she looked amazing on stage :)

7. (Finally my favorite...) The Russian tenor, Alexey fortunately singed the Lenski aria I've already found on youtube (see previous post) and did an excellent job. Of course a mother tongue aria is a safe choice but with his beautiful slavic voice it was an easy triupmh.

8. I've already heard the Spanish soprano, Auxiliadora Toledano in Barcelona at the competition Francisco Vinas in 2008. She won there a special prize for something, but I had the same impression of her like this time. In that competition she performed an opera aria (maybe Caro nome, I'm not sure...) and a zarzuela aria - the same as here! And evidently she was better in the zarzuela. This time she was singing Ah non credea mirarti from Sonnambula, and it was boring, bad choices of voice-dynamic and sometimes pianissimis not audibles and it was more a zarzuela aria than something from the Sonnambula. So hearing her performing I thought I was becoming a Sonnambula myself.... (haha bad joke) And some crazy fans of her thought that Ah non giunge is not part of the aria, so they started to applaud before she started Ah non giunge... At this point Mr. Holender got sooo pissed of, I'm sure he got really fed up with this audience... But Auxiliadora had a nice dress :) if this counts.

9. Yang Yang must have a nice voice in a small room but in a big opera house if the orchestra plays a bit lauder his voice disappears. Although he managed through all the high C-s of the Ah mes amis aria, at the end I was thinking to go home and listen to the Florez-version.

10. Then we had Julia Novikova performing the Bell song from Lakme. In the beginning I thought that this aria will be a wrong choice for her as well but very soon I've changed my mind as she was amazing and brilliant in this aria. Check it out in youtube in a last year performance. And she was dressed like an Ice Princess.

11. The Lithuanian bass-baritone was also excellent (I think now my vocabulary is getting smaller and smaller, sorry...).

12. Angel Blue was also one of my favorites. She performed an aria from the not so known (for me) Massenet's Herodiade and delivered a powerful performance with passion and naturalness. (What a beautiful dress!!!! Want to have it...)

13. Wenwei Zhang also put the angry face on. But performed well.

1. As I said before Auxiliadora is a good zarzuela performer. And she changed her dress - classy!!
2. The Greek tenor kicked ass with this zarzuela aria - No puede ser...
3. Poor Hungarian soprano, Brigitta Simon was evidently pushed into the Final. She must have been the best (?) of the 3 Hungarian contestants, and evidently the Jury had to push somebody from the locals into the final. She was below average, had a terrible dress, more terrible hair and an ugly Spanish fan to look Spanish. Sorry girl... But she is 21 years old so she has a lot of time to find herself...
4. Then we had the Polish tenor who was performing only a zarzuela aria, the same as Dimitrios - No puede ser! literally :) ... but as his fellow singer did a great job before it was hard to outshine him.
5. The American soprano, Angel Blue was a lovely zarzuela performer - but too bad she did not change dress like the Spanish girl... Hehe just kidding. She won the zarzuela prize so she did not have to change any dress.

The audience could vote for the Rolex Audience prize. I voted for Angel Blue and Alexey Kudrya. I was quite sure that Julia Novikova would win, so in case Angel Blue does not win anything she could have a Rolex watch at least... And Alexey was my favorite so I had to vote for him.

By the way - about my previsions (don't get confused!!! MY prevision): 1st place - Julia, Alexey / 2nd place - Angel, Kostas / 3rd place - Dimitrios, Beatriz / Zarzuela: Auxiliadora, Dimitrios - so I was not so wrong about the final results but I do not agree with Auxiliadora's 3rd place, and Jordan Bisch 2nd place. But as I did not see any preliminary round, I could be wrong. It happens :)

My special prizes - Best dress& suit: to Angel Blue wearing a nice dark green gown with some feathers! (Hope I can get some pics...) - to Orhan Yildiz for the shiny black suit.

Ok this was too long maybe... But in the meantime Operalia published on their website the official results so I have to update my result page as well because I missed a tiny thing...

Other remarks (sometimes not positive :) be careful) about the competition and surroundings:

  • horrible ticket prizes: (22/29/66/92/296 Euro) - I don't know what was the reason for it but like this they have exluded the normal audience interested in the competition, including young singers or professionals. For 22-29 euro you don't see too much, these were the last floors/rows ticket - for 296 and 96 euro you could sit in the Parterre/1st Floor. Who can afford these prizes???
  • this was the reason the public was mixed and terrible: we had 80% VIPs and invited guests... VIPs of Rolex, Local policticians with wife, dressed up (so at the end I was really underdressed...), more politicians, sponsors, cultural business moguls and not so moguls of the culture, some lost celebrities, misplaced press - they were seated in really bad places, friends&family of the competitors, and maybe 15-20% people who bought the ticket. So you could hear really funny conversations between these persons...
  • The stage decoration and background was also terrible. The orchestra was placed in the pit - I prefer them on stage, even if this is an opera house, I think it is better to have the orchestra on stage during a competition. Because if they are alone on stage you want to put something behind them. And this time they ended up with a big screen which is ok for some short films but it is terrible to display silly pictures and design photos during the performance. It is totally disctracting. Why am I watching 2 eyes during a zarzuela aria??? Why??? Better to chose a plain dark/black background.
  • Opening ceremony: local politician (deputy mayor of Budapest) thinks he can speak English and translate himself. He can not do any of these things. And his pronunciation was sooo bad. So please leave this to somebody else. But not to the presenter lady either !!! She was speaking really good English but sometimes she did not translate some important things. The reason? Nobody knows. And she tought that it is ok to translate during an applause. Everybody hears better during an applause, right???
  • Better not to speak about the Awards Ceremony. Mr. Domingo is not the best Award Presenter but he does not have to be it... So there was a small confusion who is getting what including some quick ideas of smart people in offering prizes in the last moment... (I'm sure the Budapest Spring Festival was not aware about the decision that the Spanish-ZarzuelaGirl should perform at next year's festival..... And the Opera House's prize was also a last minute prize...)
  • and what happened to the mezzo-sopranos????? impossible that there was nobody enough good to enter into the finals... If they let Brigitta enter, why not a mezzo-soprano????
Ok, so far that's all.
There is no big conclusion: it is hard to organize a competition that's for sure. But it is good to hear young, talented singers if you can afford the ticket - or you can just get one for free :)

(I will post some pics as well... But later...)

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