an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Cardiff Singer – the right result?

Jamie Barton, the American winner, is the finished product. She is represented by a major agency, CAMI, and has a foot well placed on the middle rungs of the career ladder.

Some other candidates were more appealing – notably the Argentine Daniela Mack and the English tenor Ben Johnson – but the American was better groomed and better geared to go for victory. She’s a fine talent and she’ll have a great career. The head says she deserved it. Enough said.

jamie barton

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Congratulations Jamie!

  2. Thank you, Norman, but I believe one point should be discussed.

    Ms. Mack is also represented by CAMI and has completed the prestigious Merola program in San Francisco. She, in actuality, seems farther along in her career than Ms. Barton, thanks to principle work at ENO.

    Here is Ms. Mack’s biography from CAMI:

    I thought Ms. Mack was wonderful and “appealing” personally, but Ms. Barton’s bubbly, fun personality was a joy. This was remarked upon by the presenters, who seemed to love her. I do not see why she would be seen as less appealing, unless it is a suggestion that Ms. Mack is “prettier” in the way singers are expected to be today? Perhaps I am unclear?

    I am caused to think now about the long standing discussion – what do we want from our opera singers today?

    • We want them to be like Jamie Barton. Major voice, major artistry, major presence, and a beautiful woman at that.

      Doesn’t get more appealing than Jamie Barton as far as I’m concerned

    • Daniela Mack’s career may be farther along in Europe, but Jamie Barton is well on her way in the States.

      I’m really very impressed by this clip. Her diction is marvelous; her pitch is very accurate (more so than that of all too many opera singers far more famous than she is). And – very rare in my experience with standard-rep opera singers – she wasn’t oversinging Purcell. I could easily imagine Ms. Barton singing with a period band, and I can’t remember the last time I thought that about a Cardiff Singer of the World.


  3. And Ben Jonson is already with Intermusica. Really not sure what your gripe is Norman?

    If it’s that the finalists are all older than in previous years, maybe that’s an interesting trend about the competition. Is it supported by the stats?

    If you don’t like Jamie Barton for some reason though, don’t be shy. I’m sure she can take it.

  4. So glad she won- such a gorgeous voice, and such an honest performer. Loved her Brahms in the song prize final- perfect stillness. Really enjoyed the final- Daniela Mack wonderful, and for a 25 year old bass baritone to sing the Attila like that is incredible.
    Jamie was my choice to win. She is a beautiful girl with a stunning voice that she uses with class and heart. I wish her every success.

  5. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Good for Jamie Barton. Daniela will join that long list of artists remembered for not winning major competitions – Ivo Pogorelich in the Chopin competition and Elena Garanca in Cardiff spring to mind – and will have a stellar career, anyway. She’s a great artist and lovely person.

  6. csrster says:

    Great that the videos are not UK/IP-addess restricted.

  7. We were given a lecture during the programme to the effect that singers now have to ‘Look the part’ Can somebody please tell me what operatic heroine this lady can realistically play. Do Botswana have an opera house?

    • Rebecca Brite says:

      Geez, Colin, sizeist much? I’d pay good money to hear this lady sing any operatic heroine she bloody well chooses.

    • E basta says:

      Ew. How polite.

      Thank God I was blessed with something called an open mind and don’t see anything difficult about imagining Jamie Barton – who is a radiant woman, mind you- as a romantic heroine (or Anti-Heroine..Amneris one day?). I don’t go to the opera for beauty pageant winners; I go to see and hear the most talented people in the world, of which Jamie is certainly.

    • anonymous says:


    • That statement should be unbelievable, and yet, sadly, it is not.

      What a horrid assumption – that a woman who is not size 10 is unlovable or not heroic. With the exception of the few roles with specific guidelines for size, based on illness or whatever else, there is no reason why all sizes could not be considered for just about any role – assuming she can sing it, act it and do the blocking. I am sure Ms. Barton could meet those requirements.

      I have long been proud of opera for being largely based on merit, not the shallow prescriptions of Hollywood. We may have moved more toward Hollywood, but I am happy to see opera is still an art form that embraces and represents all people. How ironic that opera is less “elitist” about size than the film community.

    • John Rivest says:

      Mrcolinmorrell – Two-thirds of your comments were certainly unnecessary and they don’t put you in the best of light. By the way, “looks” is not one of the criteria the judges in this competition have to consider.

  8. Having listened to the finals on Radio 3, and thoroughly enjoyed the outstanding singing I heard, I would beg leave to request that everybody please desist from making references to physical appearence. A singer should be judged on the quality, musicality, and projection of their singing, and to some extent their physical gestures on stage, but not on how they look. I am particularly dismayed by the anonymous comment (posted at 1:51 am) above, which, in its syntax and utilisation of the preposition “with”, implies that musical criteria are ancilliary. I am not sure whether he/she conciously intended it to be read that way, but the underlying rhetoric and infantile vocabulary perturb me.

  9. Alexander Hall says:

    Jamie Barton was a most impressive and deserved winner of both categories, with an amazing vocal range and tremendous presence. The only sour taste was left by the “audience” – not just those in the hall – who thought that Ben Johnson deserved the audience prize. An obvious case of national favouritism not borne out by Johnson’s limited vocal appeal.

    • As the Chairman of the Jury commented, a Welsh audience is hardly likely to vote in favour of an English singer, so your comment about ‘national favouritism’ can be discounted.

      There was a fair deal of surprise that Jamie Barton’s more operatic approach was favoured over Ben Johnson’s more subtle artistry in the Song Prize final. I suspect the Audience Prize reflected that feeling that he had lost out in the Song Prize, rather than a belief that he was a realistic contender for the main competition.

      • Alexander Hall says:

        The comment about national favouritism did not apply to the Welsh audience in St. David’s Hall but to the many more listeners and viewers entitled to vote online and by phone. It was their misplaced championing of a singer who has singularly failed to grow artistically since winning the Kathleen Ferrier Prize five years ago that I was questioning. Johnson has about as much charisma as a paper-clip.

        • Just because you don’t find his singing appealing doesn’t mean an audience didn’t. Audiences often find a different result from a jury; and frankly that’s a good thing. Since there are no wide canvassing-for-votes or weeks of TV-sob stories a la ‘reality talent’ shows, it strikes me that an audience result in Ben Johnson’s favour is about as fair as it gets; I fail to see what your complaint is.

        • Ben Johnson says:

          Paper clip? Such versatile things – I rather rate them.

        • Neil Primrose says:

          Alexander Hall clearly knows very little about music and even less about paper clips. What a broken spirit he must have to be so unnecessarily vicious about something as gentle and peaceful as singing?

          • Alexander Hall says:

            Well, if the cap fits wear it!
            I stand by my comments; excellence must be the sole determining factor in choosing winners.

    • I totally agree that Ben Johnson was a surprise winner of the audience prize, which usually goes to a warmer, more charming singer (look back at all the previous winners!). I found his singing lacked ‘joy’, for want of a better word. When singing about feeling elated or excited- for instance in the Berlioz and the Bridge song- his face and eyes seemed rather dead. Maybe as he matures he will relax and a personality will shine through on stage? I don’t know him, so can’t tell what he is like in private, but at the moment I thought he came across and very serious and nervous, and a rather ‘detached’ performer. Not ‘simpatico’ at all.
      I presume his family’s quarterly phone bill will be a lot higher than usual…

  10. Christophe says:

    Not to be obvious here, but lookism is a fact of life, and if you put two equally talented and gifted singers side by side when casting an opera or show, which one do you choose? Do you choose the one that doesn’t look the part? This has been the way of the business, especially in musical theatre since…well, the beginning of its existence. Opera and classical music has begun this trend as well….It’s a hard truth, but it is true.

    • IlTuscoInIndiana says:

      Christophe, what exactly do you (and so many other people who repeat this phrase without challenging the assumptions behind it) mean when you say “look the part”? For the occasional role based on a historical figure whose physical appearance is known, or for a fictional character like Carmen whose broad-based appeal is part of the storytelling, then yes, for the sake of believability physical similitude is necessary. Beyond that, to the extent that the storytelling of theatre/musical theatre/opera deals with universal themes that are applicable to humanity in general, lookist/sizeist casting has little to do with credibility and everything to do with enticing a superficial cross-section of the public who might not otherwise do so to buy tickets. Necessary or not, any exception to this trend in favor of talent and artistry should be welcomed and applauded.

    • E basta says:

      That question is impossible to answer. You will never, ever, in existence, find “two equally talented and gifted singers.” Everyone has different qualities and strengths. One singer may have better coloratura, one may have a meatier lower voice, one may have a better upper extension. But even if that were a plausible scenario, that was not the case in this competition, because there weren’t any other competitors who were on the same level artistically as Jamie Barton

  11. Dennis Hanthorn says:

    Congratulations, Jamie on winning this year’s Cardiff Singer Prize. It has been my pleasure to watch your career develop, and to know you as an individual and artists.

  12. If I may inject a comment into the argument over body size that has broken out here …

    I understand why some of us object to the observation; I also understand why the observation was made. The point isn’t to slur Jamie Barton’s artistry; it’s more a comment on the propensities of today’s casting directors and the difficulties Ms. Barton might face as a result.

    I think this might be a big worry for Ms.Barton if she were a soprano; I doubt that it’s quite as much an issue for mezzos. (Except for Carmen and the Cherubino/Octavian teenage-boy rep, which I’m not sure I’d envision her singing anyway.)

    I do note that the Cardiff jury gave the prize to the largest singer among the finalists; I can’t help wondering if they had in mind that – given the current proclivities of opera casting directors – Barton could use the extra boost more than the others.

    In any case, Ms. Barton has the example of Stephanie Blythe to follow. May she have a similarly successful career.

    • Christophe says:

      Dalila, as well. I never questioned the instrument, artistry, or beauty of her sound. If one has the choice between a fit (not skinny) mezzo and one of larger “presence,” it doesn’t matter how well a singer sings. The age of Pavarotti is over; clearly, it is the nature of the opera business right now. Does it make it right? Probably not, but get your heads out of the sand, folks. This is going to be very hard for her….there are only so many competitions one can win.

      • The “time of pavarotti” never existed. People complained about his weight left and right, just as people complained about Caballe’s weight, and Rita Hunter’s weight, and many many other singers, going back even for centuries. I don’t have my head in the sand.

        And you’re wrong. She isn’t just doing competitions. She will be starring as Fricka in the first ever Ring Cycle at the Houston Grand Opera next fall. In october she will be Adalgisa at the Met. She was having a major career before Cardiff, and it will only get better.

        Why don’t you let her decide how “hard” it is going to be for her. You aren’t her mother

      • Well, while plenty of people will take first-rate look and second-rate artistry over the opposite, many (myself included) would not. As Barton will sing Adalgisa at the Met this fall and Fricka at HGO in 2014, others agree. It is not “very hard for her” yet, it would seem.

        As for other comments along the lines of “all things being equal, you’ll prefer the better looking singer”:
        A) Not necessarily.
        B) All things are NEVER equal. The art is complex enough that there are trade-offs and preferences, but never two singers who simply equally excel in every way, except oh, one is skinny!

        Why point out size at all? Everyone knows what all these singers look like.

        • “It is not “very hard for her” yet, it would seem.”

          Indeed. I doubt CAMI is in the habit of taking on hard to employ singers. Thankfully for us, Ms Barton’s schedule seems to have been quite full over the last several years, and no doubt, will continue to be.

  13. Paul Chambers says:

    I don’t think there’s any need to leap with high seriousness on colinmorrell’s somewhat mischievous contribution, but Jamie Barton’s size is bound to be an issue unless you’re listening on radio. She does have what might be called a big presence. My wife contented herself with observing, “Jeez, there’s some material in that dress!”, but as a doctor went on to suggest that Ms Barton was approaching the dangerous end of obese. As an orchestral player rather than a singer myself, and thus a layman, I would have been happy for any of the finalists to win, except perhaps the Italian singer — I thought the the Portuguese Susana Gaspar was far superior — but my point, if I can be said to have one, is that two years ago many people were up in arms when the fabulous Russian mezzo Olesya Petrova didn’t win, with loud mutterings that what colinmorrell would probably call her Botswanan Traditional Build had gone against her. This time the mutterings are because a large woman actually won. I wouldn’t want to be on a jury.

  14. You could tell it was th send of the contest, because Jamie Barton sang.

an ArtsJournal blog