Monday, June 24, 2013


The winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition is Jamie Barton, an American mezzo-soprano whose artistry, as far as I'm concerned, blew the others clean out of the water.

She sang four different characters in four languages - Cilea, Sibelius, Berlioz and, dear friends, the Witch from Hansel und Gretel - mesmerising from note number one and sparking laughter, tears and everything between. She draws you in to the exclusion of all else; she can lift you sky-high with that tone and its massive range; her diction and characterisation can help to twist your heart even in a language you don't know. No wonder she scooped both the overall prize and the Song Prize, which hadn't happened since 2001.

The Audience Prize went to English tenor Ben Johnson, who is of course a fine artist - I enjoyed his performance as a bookish, introverted Alfredo at ENO a few months ago - but might a strange image somehow go through one's mind of Barton bundling him into her magic oven at breakfast time? Argentinian mezzo Daniela Mack drew much acclaim and some of us were especially happy that she chose to sing some Pauline Viardot songs in the Song Prize - this was a brilliant competition in making us appreciate the richness and variety of the mezzo-soprano repertoire. In the week before the final, I was very taken with the Hungarian soprano Maria Celeng, whose lyricism and heart-shredding conviction reminded me a little of the great Angela...

Well, we'll be hearing much more of them all. This was one of those heart-warming moments when the future of great singing looks deliciously secure. Explore all these wonderful young artists on the website, here.

And how fantastic it was, when the Song Prize final arrived, to have a whole evening of Lieder on the TV. This contest is the only time this ever happens, I fear... Special plaudits to the pianists, because singer after singer plumped for Rachmaninov.

Watch the final on the BBC iPlayer here for a week.

Follow Jamie on Twitter at @jbartonmezzo, look out for her singing Fricka at Houston Grand Opera next year... and sometime, when our all-Mahlered-out orchestras have recovered from 2010-11 and want to do some again, perhaps someone could please grab her for Das Lied von der Erde?