BBC Cardiff Singer of the World – Main Prize Concert 3
St David’s Hall
Tuesday 18th June 2019
Another glorious night at Cardiff Singer. One wonders just how many careers this completion will truly define. You forget the fantastic reception each concert has from this audience, who really seem to know their opera and welcome these young singers in the opportunity of a lifetime. The almost majestic Orchestra of Welsh National Opera and joyful conductor Ariane Matiakh supported these artists on a night to remember for some time.
This third round of the main prize was very much for the mezzos. With no less than three here, Guadalupe Barrientos from Argentina began the evening. From the moment she sang, we were transfixed by this larger then life presence, commencing with ‘Re dell’abisso – É lui! é lui! ne’ palpiti’ from Verdi’s Un ball in maschera. You can really feel Barrientos as Ulrica, the fortune teller, a role that appears to have been written for her such is her conviction. The same aria heard the night prior from Saint-Saëns, taken from his Samson et Dalila, ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ was here made all the more exceptional thanks to this amazing singer. This feels like a role in which she could really dig her teeth into, sung with mighty presence. Fricka’s aria from the second act of Wagner’s Die Walküre, perhaps might have jarred slightly with the rest of the material chosen, but ended with a heady power.
South Africa’s Owen Metsileng did not quite do it for me. Perhaps it was due to his shift in singing range from baritone to tenor, a daring decision for any male singer. His higher register felt at times strained with arias from Donizetti and Verdi. Hard to compare his Fidelio aria after hearing it sung so exceptionally well by Gwyn Hughes Jones only the week prior at the WMC. He did not spark my attention in much way, though some moments had a great sincerity to them. Katie Bray from England, (Devon, so quite local) gave a posted and intimate recital that left all delighted and enthralled. Her marvellous Mozart and Britten wetted the appetite for Handel’s ‘Where shall I fly?’ A larger aria performed at break neck speed, with no time for any nonsense. Her end with Kurt Weill’s Barbarasong from The Threepenny Opera was a venture into cabaret, something which Bray makes her own. The German also sounded very good and this song is highly stylised with a conversational approach, brilliant in its effectiveness.
Andrii Kymach representing Ukraine gave a hefty wallop of an entry. This robust baritone chose Massenet, Tchaikovsky and Verdi, one after the other proving his dramatic grasp of each aria. This feels like a perfect performance, something viewers at home must check out for themselves. Ending with Russia’s Yulia Mennibaeva, we got a flavour of a restrained yet compelling vocal presentation here. Another aria from Samson et Dalila made for a great start, as we get to hear more and more of this fascinating biblical opera. In his pre show talk, Donald Maxwell spoke of her next selection not being so interesting, yet the choice from Borodin’s Prince Igor had a perfumed, Russian intrigue about it. Something that was hard to resit. We went full circle for this concert with Mennibaeva’s own rendition of Ursula’s aria from Un ball in maschera, here a much more controlled guise then the flames of Barrientos. Yet was this focus enough for the Russian mezzo to take home tonight’s prize?
It was a toss up between Guadalupe Barrientos and Andrii Kymach to win this round. Either would have been a very wise choice. Though, Kymach took home the fancy glass bowl home this time.
Rating: 4 stars
Cardiff Singer of the World continues at St David’s Hall till 22nd June 2019.
Watch and listen on BBC iPlayer and BBC Radio 3.
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