Patrick Guetti in the running for BBC Cardiff Singer of the World

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BBC Cardiff Singer of the World – Main Prize Concert 2
St David’s Hall
Monday 17th June 2019

Cardiff city centre is once agin buzzing with the joy of song and people’s love of opera. Here at Cardiff Singer of the World, every two years we are truly blessed with spectacular singers who all compete to win this prestigious prize. It’s great to see so many dedicated fans who come every time to see the next potential opera star. Having missed the first main prize concert the night prior, a trip to the second night was an exciting prospect. With the always pristine BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by the determined Ewa Strusińska, five singers from across the globe had a go in a interesting and stimulating choice of music for our ears and the judging panel lingering at the back of the stalls.

Starting off with Camila Titinger from Brazil, we got an aria from Handel’s Julius Cesare and The Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. This is great material for a soprano to show off, yet there was no real kick here. The arias are here presented well and the Handel has a certain charm, though I just feel mixing up the choice of music could have been more beneficial. From South Korea, Leonardo Lee proved a fine variety in Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Verdi. Alberich’s brief aria in the fourth scene of Das Rheingold is filled with moody bitterness, his curse on the ring one of the most chilling moments in all of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Lee could make great Alberich, proven here by his menacing little laugh and firm grip on the acidic words. Mazepa by the Russian composer is more of a rarity and worked well here from his dramatic offerings. Lee’s control of vocal demands is proven by ‘Cortigiani, vil razz dannata’ from Verdi’s Rigoletto, a soaring piece ending his set with bravado. You can almost see the hump Lee would need to play the title character, he’s that good.

Some local representation came with Angharad Lyddon from Wales. I’ll confess her choices were very safe and did not really shine compared with any other singer on stage. Carmen, Mozart and Richard Strauss were standard fare which did not grab as much as they should have. A selection from Massenet’s Werther was a surprise and a delight, a highpoint in these choices. From the U.S.A. Patrick Guetti sparkled with a fantastic pick of music and proved his New York charm with funny acting and at times rampant gesticulation. He first charmed us with an offering from Barber of Seville, followed on by a dense moment as the dying Fafner the dragon in Wagner’s Siegfried, then Bottom’s dream from Britten’s Midsummer Wight’s Dream and a lesser known Verdi. This random, yet brilliant assortment of arias, amazed us for every single moment. The Wagner being a serious tone shift in an otherwise mostly jolly encounter, Guetti got away with this by proving his talents in these different guises. A fine performance, one to cherish.

Last but not least, Lena Belkina repressing Ukraine ended the night in fine fashion. These mouth dropping choices of Tchaikovsky (very popular with tonight’s singers), Saint-Saëns and Chapi are what made Belkina a front runner to win this round of the competition. There was a mesmeric voice to heard here from this Ukrainian entry, who stunned us with her regal persona and choice of gown. This wrapping up of this round had a wonderful ending thanks to her and her trio of divine choices. The Spanish song from Chapi was an evocative choice, cheekily straying form the usual path.

Patrick Guetti was a worthy winner for this round and I cant wait to see him again for the finale.

Rating: 4 stars

Listen and watch the final on BBC iPlayer and BBC Radio 3.

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