Adela Zaharia (soprano, Romania) and Levy Sekgapane (tenor, South Africa) were announced as the First Prize winners, respectively, of Operalia, the World Opera Competition, each earning the top monetary prize of US$30,000. Second Prize honours were awarded to Kristina Mkhitaryan (soprano, Russia) and Davide Giusti (tenor, Italy), each earning US$20,000. The Third Prizes for US$10,000 went to Maria Mudryak (soprano, Kazakhstan) and Leon Kim (baritone, Republic of Korea).
Hosted by the Astana Opera within the framework of the EXPO-2017 Future Energy programme and under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the 25th edition of the World Opera Competition, including its final, was one of the highlights of Astana’s cultural calendar this summer, held from 24-29 July.
The competition – which is hosted by a different city every year – receives hundreds of applications from which 40 are chosen to compete in front of the international jury. This year the pool of contestants hailed from 17 different countries around the world. Plácido Domingo does not participate in the voting process, but he is actively present throughout the competition, offering artistic and career guidance to each of the participants. Singers in the earlier stages of their careers may also be chosen to join one of the Young Artist programmes established by Plácido Domingo in Los Angeles, United States and Valencia, Spain.
Rolex is proud to have presented Operalia for the 16th consecutive year, perpetuating its commitment to the arts through a privileged partnership with Plácido Domingo, who has been a Rolex Testimonee since 1982, and extending the brand’s support to the exceptionally gifted young performers that share its quest for excellence and perfection.
According to tradition, after the official opening of the competition’s final round, Plácido Domingo took his place on the conductor’s podium of the Astana Opera Symphony Orchestra. While, in previous rounds, the participants had the opportunity to perform two arias for the judges, in the final round each of the 14 contestants presented only one operatic aria, with 5 contestants for the Zarzuela section of the competition also performing one zarzuela aria, a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre similar to operetta. The two Zarzuela prizes, consisting of US$10,000 each, were awarded to Adela Zaharia (soprano, Romania), who received the Pepita Embil Prize in honor of Plácido Domingo’s mother, and Marco Ciaponi (tenor, Italy), the Plácido Domingo Ferrer after Maestro Domingo’s father.
Additional prizes bearing the name of celebrated Swedish dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson for best performance in the repertoire of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss went to Oksana Sekerina (soprano, Russia) and Boris Prýgl (bass-baritone, Czech Republic). The Birgit Nilsson Prize includes a monetary reward of US$15,000.00.
Following the individual operatic and zarzuela arias, all the participants performed the official Operalia hymn, accompanied by the Astana Opera Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Plácido Domingo. The Operalia hymn was composed by Maestro Domingo’s son, Plácido Domingo Jr.
At the end of the final round, and while the members of the jury were making their decision, the audience had the opportunity to cast their vote for their favourite finalists by placing the red and blue ballots that had been distributed at the beginning of the evening, into ballot boxes with the contestants’ portraits on them. The Audience Prize was rewarded with a Rolex timepiece, presented by Rolex to the audience’s favourite female and male finalist. This year’s Audience Prize winners were Maria Mudryak (soprano, Kazakhstan) and Leon Kim (baritone, Republic of Korea).
The Culturarte Prize chosen and offered by Bertita & Guillermo Martinez from CulturArte de Puerto Rico and US$10,000.00 went to Sooyeon Lee (soprano, Republic of Korea).
As every passing year the level of the singers who come to Operalia is increasingly high and the level of the competition ever so strong, Maestro Plácido Domingo has decided to inaugurate this year in Astana, a Encouragement Award in the amount of US$5,000 for every singer that reaches the final round of the competition, but who does not claim one of the top monetary prizes. Encouragement Awards were presented to finalists Damiana Mizzi (soprano, Italy), So Young Park (soprano, Republic of Korea), Vlada Borovko (soprano, Russia), Rupert Enticknap (countertenor, UK), Ruslana Koval (soprano, Ukraine), Emmett O’Hanlon (baritone, USA).
“Many singers can work hard and be well-prepared, but who knows when their names would become known to the world if it were not for Operalia. This is Operalia’s main mission – to show the world the new artists, to make them famous,” Maestro Domingo emphasized.
People’s Artist of the USSR Bibigul Akhmetovna Tulegenova was Operalia’s guest of honor. She noted that the singer, musician and conductor Plácido Domingo is a phenomenal man of the global scale.
“It is a great honor and a great sense of pride for us that Operalia competition took place in Kazakhstan, in the city of Astana,” she said.