And so we have got to the end of this wonderful competition in Izmir with the finals in the University division on Wednesday and the Young Professionals (up to the age of 33) last night. And that was really night - we got back to the hotel at 1 am!
On Wednesday the three winners were the splendid natural performer soprano Seray Pinar in her third year of undergraduate study who won with impressive performances of Leila in Bizet's Pêcheurs des Perles and an aria from Donizetti's Betly. She was the runaway winner but the baritone Alper Ünlütürk was not so far behind with Mozart's Figaro Act 4 aria and a robust and ear catching Turkish song. And third was a seductive counter tenor who is also a serving soldier in the Turkish army. That by itself is a winning combination! He gave us Scherza infida from Ariodante and Reynaldo Hahn's ravishing Si mes vers avaient des ailes. That was a lovely choice and he did it justice.
I am greatly impressed by the level generally this year, a good step up from 2016 and a most encouraging sign that young Turkish singers are making a strong impression. This could be a fertile hunting ground for opera studios looking for exceptional talent to develop.
However the meat of the day was the gala final yesterday evening in the fine concert hall. You should be able to see it on this recording of the live stream. I hope that the link works - we shall see!
Our outstanding winner by a significant margin was the 24 year old soprano from Izmir, Ceren Gamze Düskün - a singer to watch, and you can do so in that live stream at approximately 36 minutes in Mimi Act 3 aria, and 1 hour 7 minutes in for Lady Macbeth. But if you have time do try to listen to the whole evening, best on a decent sized computer screen or TV.
Second place went to a baritone of great confidence and maturity Mehmet Ali Tutar, and third to a tenor Berk Dalkiliç who greatly impressed both as Cavaradossi and Lensky. That is a voice - a rare young tenor indeed.
It was a strong field and the non winners might easily have won in earlier years. Notable for me was the charming young soprano from Istanbul, just 25, Ekin Su Paker. She is still sorting out her repertoire, but at her best, in a well chosen piece, she can be outstanding. See if you can identify her in the live stream!
All in all this has been an extremely rewarding week, some marvellous singing, remarkable hospitality from the team led by the veritable "queen" of Izmir Aytül Büyüksaraç. She is the moving and ruling spirit of this competition, a superb hostess and a force of nature!! We all love her.
Our juror Rosemary Joshua left this morning but Ed Berkeley and I have a leisurely tourist day before leaving tomorrow, me to London and Ed home to New York. They have been great colleagues and we have had a lot of fun, as well as stimulating and thoughtful debate. I will miss their company.