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Domingo’s Operalia ends in chaos and confusion

The morning after the finals, it’s not entirely certain who won what.

Nothing has been updated on the Operalia website and facebook page, nor have any results been reported in Italian media. In the chaotic final presentations, the founder Placido Domingo announced, ‘they are all winners’, before accepting an award for himself and singing a song. The post-event interviews on were amateurish to the point of embarrassment.

So who won what?

Of the 14 finalists, Kathryn Lewek and Simone Piazzolla took the audience prize and deserved better.

1st prize went to the Russian soprano Aida Garifullina

2nd was the French soprano Julie Fuchs

3rd was the Italian baritone, Simone Piazzola

In the closing shambles, it is possible that there were some joint placings and further awards. Let us know if we need to update.


domingo operalia

UPDATE: Los Angeles Opera, where Domingo is artistic director, has helpfully posted the following:

Our own Ben Bliss and Hae Ji Chang won the Zarzuela prize at today’s Operalia competition, while Tracy Cox, Soprano shared the Wagner prize with Claudia Huckle. Congratulations to them as well as 1st Prize winners Aida Garifullina and Ao Li, 2nd Prize winners Julie Fuchs and Simone Piazzola, and 3rd Prize winners Kathryn Lewek and Zach Borchevsky. Also, our incoming Domingo-Colburn-Stein tenor, Vladimir Dmitruk, took the Culturarte Prize, and the audience awards went to Ms. Lewek and Mr. Piazzola.

Any clearer now?

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  1. Is the confusion the result of sloppy language or inefficiency?

  2. I congratulate Ao, well desserved. But the rest seems fishy. Aida was the worst female singer of the competition! Am I the only one who noticed how bad she was???

    • No, she wasn’t the worst. The Korean who sang “Caro nome” was not that good in my opinion, just like the lady who sang the aria from Forza del Destino, who commited many mistakes. But you are right in the sense she didn’t deserve to win the first prize, at least based on that performance. I believe her looks played a major role and also the beauty of her voice. I don’t think she was that bad either. The singer who presented “Qui la voce” seemed to be suffering from asthma and she was the worst of the night with the Mexican who sang “No puede ser”.
      The Russian tenor and the American tenor who sang the ariia from “La Juive” deserved much better, that’s for sure. As well as the lady who sang “Regnava nel silenzio”. I also particularly liked the French who sang the “Comte d”Ory” aria.
      Anyway, one never knows…There are often obscure interests in these competitions. Nothing is that clean.

      • I agree that Aida was not the best. She had a pleasant enough voice, but musically she was nowhere near Kathryn Lewek and some of the other singers. I agree that looks may have played a part. I am also wondering how judging works – is it a cumulative score from earlier rounds? If so, we may not have heard something the judges did.
        I looked on her website and watched parts of a few videos. She has done some “cross-over” singing into the pop world. A song with Michael Bolton, for example. I wasn’t too impressed by her pop singing, either!
        Enough said…

        • AGREED. Looked at AIda’s work prior and am shocked she won. Looks DEFINITELY had something to do with it. I loved Kathryn Lewek’s performance.

      • Completely agree with the tenor comment.
        Especially Vladimir Dmitruk who has a controlled brilliant voice and his performance was refined and understated without any unnecessary overkill that most people sing Lenski’s aria with.
        All in all it was a very strong final. Very rarely do the right people win. But more importantly they were all heard!
        Those who are true artists will always stand out, it just happens that most listeners need to be entertained rather than lifted. It is no secret that today the music profession is governed mostly by the eye, not the ear.

        Wonderful to hear young talent on such a high level.
        Bravo to all, (even the pretty and glossy, we need you too)

  3. Robert Moffat says:

    This is not the first time there has been chaos at this event – many years back – maybe early 90′s there was the most embarrassing occasion when the winner was announced, came out and PD said “Oh no, it’s not you its someone else!” I had it on a tape at one stage – sadly lost – hilarious if it was not so embarrassing!

  4. There was no confusion to those who were in house or watched the live streaming. There was certainly no chaos whatsoever.

    It was a moving tribute to Placido Domingo at the end with the glass plate with the lines from Otello love duet engraved, “un bacio, un bacio ancora”. Upon receiving it, Domingo started singing the lines. It was very classy and touching (and the best singing of the evening).

    Here is the final award list:

    The CulturArte de Puerto Rico Prize: Vladimir Dmitruk, tenor

    Birgit Nilsson Prizes:
    Claudia Huckle, contralto
    Tracy Cox, soprano

    1st Prize Aida Garifullina, soprano
    2nd Prize Julie Fuchs, soprano
    3rd Prize Kathryn Lewek, soprano

    1st Prize Ao Li, bass-baritone
    2nd Prize Simone Piazzolla, baritone
    3rd Prize Zach Borichevsky, tenor

    Zarzuela Prizes:
    Hae Ji Chang, soprano
    Benjamin Bliss, tenor

    Audience’s Prizes:
    Kathryn Lewek, soprano
    Simone Piazzolla, baritone

  5. Announcement of final round awards and winners was posted on Operalia’s facebook page at around 6pm CET, Monday, August 26:

    Press release of the results:

    News report on L’Arena:

  6. Gian Carlo Capucci says:

    Why there were no singers in the Jury? I think that explains the choices. Anyway, the public in the theater is always the ultimate judge. That being said…

  7. Samantha Annunziata says:

    I thought the judging was – subjective. Since Placido runs the whole shebang~ a lot of winners- come straight from his tutelage. Last year – the winner won – most all of the prizes- and this year several winners -also came from LA opera. hmmmm.

  8. I was present at the ‘Operalia’ Final in Verona on Sunday last (August 25th). There was absolutely no chaos. The results were very clearly announced from the stage by Placido Domingo and there was no misunderstanding whatsoever.. I wonder if the writer of the destructive article were present on the occasion? Perhaps they have a limited, or no command at all, of Italian. The competition announcements were made, not surprisingly, in the language of the country that hosted the Final rounds. The Competition began a little late.Otherwise the entire evening ran very smoothly.
    It is difficult to please everyone. I also would have chosen a different female winner. However I accept that the winning soprano is a fine artist, and that the overall standard was very high indeed.
    There were a few vocal mishaps from some of the competitors, probably due to nerves. This possibly counted against them. Can a leading Opera House risk a cracked high note at the conclusion of a principal ‘scena’?

    • Actually, competitions are COMPLETELY different of Opera Productions, and, in many ways and many times, to sing a role on stage CAN be much easier as to sing a single aria in a competition, where you are completely exposed.

      Actually, there is always risk in Opera. And, to make new people, also the Opera Houses (at least smaller ones) have to risk. There is no other way. This “safe” opera thinking is very “modern”. I remember of many old singers telling me that they didn`t feel ready to sing a specific role, but the atmosphere of the theater and the support of good CONDUCTORS, REPETITORS, REGISSEURS and people whose passion for opera is always present could make them grow artistically enough before debut. The rest is experience.

      Cracks and Boos are also part of the show. Second Chances also. If somebody wants to see something perfect, buy a Studio recording. It is like buying a sex tape: Can be very exciting and somehow instructive, but has nothing to do with real life.

  9. Among the five biggest Voice Competitions in the World are probably: Operalia, Francisco Vinas, Belvedere and Cardiff. It is amazing that the number of singers in Jury is getting lower and lower. Belvedere has a quite big Jury, like 12 people, and, guess what: no singer! Operalia is the same. Vinas and BBC normally have some, but Cardiff is on TV, and is a very specific competition.

    The fact is: MUSICIANS are NOT important anymore, at all. Conductors are also not so often there.

    Basically, the power of decision is with Managers and Agents. Some of them had a real artistic life before, some not.

    • I agree with E.S.- musicians are not important any more. Everything is decided by agents. A while back the great EWA Podles said as much, stating that many of these Managers and Agents understand little of the voice and of suitable roles for suitable stages in careers. I believe that we can all call to mind singers with lovely young voices pushed prematurely into international careers, as a result of winning an International Competition. They are a fast money spinners, cleverly marketed, particularly if they have the looks-a minor consideration in the past. Within five years many of the voices are unsteady, with tone spreading and ‘acuti aperti’. In a bfast moving world we just move on to the next series of winners and ‘would be’ sensations.

      How did the stars manage years ago?The ‘big voice in the small body’ puts tremendous demands on the singer. Lack of breath/muscle support is obvious, even among the famous. The result is inevitably amplification. Is this progress?

      There is also an issue I would like to address and would like to hear some opinions: What is the purpose of these competitions? The obvious answer is : to discover new talent. However in recent years the winners of the biggest competitions are ALREADY singing at the Met, La Scala or Covent Garden at the time of winning. Does this not defeat the purpose? Does it create bad feeling among colleagues?
      Congratulations to all Operalia winners in Verona, and to Placido Domingo on his return to health.

      • First, a clarification (doublechecking if this blog is based in the UK or US — thought it was the UK), because of the comment «our own Ben Bliss». According to the Operalia site, Ben Bliss (as well as Kathryn Lewek, Zach Borichevsky, and Tracy Cox) is from the US; Claudia Huckle is from the UK.

        Secondly, regarding Ms. O’Grady’s observation about «big voice in the small body» and amplification, I must note that music that is too big for a singer’s present capacity remains too big even when they are not concerned with audibility in a large public venue. Issues of tessitura, phrase construction (and its demand upon breath control), musical intensity, and sheer length of a role all add up, and make singing something like «In questa reggia» or the Salome finale challenging even if one is singing them in a small living room with an electric keyboard.

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