26 August 2013

Russian Soprano Aida Garifullina and Chinese Bass-Baritone Ao Li Earn Top Prizes in Plácido Domingo's Operalia Competition

Plácido Domingo's Operalia, The World Opera Competition, held this year at Verona's Teatro Filarmonico, handed out its top prizes on Sunday evening, with eleven singers being awarded more than $180,000 in prizes.

The final-round concert of the contest featured one dozen participants competing in the general division and four contestants competing in the zarzuela division. First, second and third prizes were awarded to singers of each gender participating the general competition, while two awards were bestowed for the zarzuela division. In addition, Domingo himself selected two winners to receive Birgit Nilsson prizes as well as a CulturArte winner, who received a prize endowed by Bertita & Guillermo Martinez from CulturArte de Puerto. Two singers selected by an audience vote were also given Rolex Watches. 

The final-round participants were deemed to be the best of the top forty singers invited to take part in the live competition in Verona after submitting audition recordings to the contest. For the final round, each of the singers performed a single aria, and was accompanied by the Orchestra dell'Arena di Verona conducted by Plácido Domingo. 

The two $30,000 first-place prizes in the competition went to Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, 25, and Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li, 25, who, in the final round, performed "Oh! quante volte ti chiedo" and Aleko's "Ves tabor spit," respectively. The two second prizes — each amounting to $20,000 — went to French soprano Julie Fuchs, 29, and Italian baritone Simone Piazzola, 28. In the final round, Fuchs sang "En proie à la tristesse" from Le Comte Ory, while Piazzola sang Rodrigo's aria, "Io morrò, ma lieto in core," from Don Carlo. Two third prizes, each carrying $10,000, went to two Americans: soprano Kathryn Lewek, 30, and tenor Zach Borichevsky, 29. For the final round, Lewek sang Lucia di Lammermoor's "Regnava nel silenzio" and Borichevsky performed La Juive's "Rachel, quand du Seigneur." 

American tenor Benjamin Bliss, 27, was given the Don Plácido Domingo, Sr., Zarzuela Prize for his final-round performance of "Flor roja" from Jacinto Guerrero's Los Gavilanes, and South Korean soprano Hae Ji Chang, 29, was given the Pepita Embil Domingo Zarzuela Prize for her performance of "Me llaman la primorosa" from Gerónimo Giménez's El Barbero de Sevilla. Each of the zarzuela winners received $10,000. 

Plácido Domingo selected two singers to receive the competition's Birgit Nilsson prize-category — established by Domingo to honor the memory of the Swedish soprano following his 2009 receipt of the inaugural Birgit Nilsson Prize. British contralto Claudia Huckle, 31, and American soprano Tracy Cox, 27, were each given prizes of $15,000 for their respective performances of "Weiche, Wotan, weiche" and Ballo in Maschera's "Morrò, ma prima in grazia." 

In addition, Domingo selected Belorusian tenor Vladimir Dmitruk, 26, to receive the $10,000 CulturArte Prize for his performance of Eugene Onegin's "Kuda, kuda udalilis." The two audience prizes went to soprano Kathryn Lewek and Simon Piazzola, each of which was given a watch offered by Rolex. 

"Operalia is like the Olympic games for the opera," Domingo said in a press release issued by the competition. "Singers from all over the world compete to get to the finals and to win. The enthusiasm and the joy of life of this new lymph and blood showed that opera will live forever and never die." 

Next year's Operalia competition is slated to take place in Los Angeles. spacer 

More information can be found at Operalia

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