The winners line up for Operalia 2018 - left to right Josy Santos, Migran Agadzhanyan, Pavel Petrov, Benoît Falletti (Rolex), Luís Gomes, Plácido Domingo, Emily D'Angelo, Samantha Hankey, Rihab Chaieb and Arseny Yakovlev
I just came back on Tuesday after five splendid days in Lisbon where the 2018 Operalia competition was hosted at the Teatro Nacional São Carlos, one of the prettiest theatres in Europe. And Lisbon is of course one of the most welcoming and delightful of European capitals, and a revelation to all the visitors who had not been there before. It was a clearly a happy week for all concerned.
It was remarkable that there was not a single soprano chosen for the finals of the Opera category, and just one for the Zarzuela section. This is surely the first time that there has been no soprano winner at any level in Operalia - the march of the Mezzos continues around the world. Neue Stimmen last year displayed the same tendency with mezzos taking the three top prizes.
One of the three in Neue Stimmen was Canadian Emily D'Angelo who took second prize there, as she did earlier this year in Montreal. But she beat the field in Lisbon and ended up winning no less than four of the prizes on offer - surely a record! She is a remarkable young artist who has just turned 24. She is now a member of the Lindemann programme at the Metropolitan Opera, and is clearly destined for a major career.
But it was not all about Emily - dominant though she was. The excellent Samantha Hankey, winner of the Glyndebourne Cup earlier this year, won second prize and a Birgit Nilsson Prize. This was thanks to a splendid Oktavian in the semi finals and impressive Maid of Orleans aria in the final. And Rihab Chaieb, another Canadian mezzo, took the third prize with a rich and sensuous Dalilah in the final concert on Sunday.
Notable amongst the men was former member of the Royal Opera's Jette Parker programme, the Portuguese tenor Luis Gomes, who to his obvious delight and surprise won the audience prize for men as well as the male Zarzuela prize. He really showed off the benefits of training in the UK. Bravo Luis! The main men's prizes went to a Belarusian and two Russians. The emergence of Eastern European and Russian artists over the last 25 years is remarkable. What ever has happened to Italy?
The immensely authoritative and well qualified jury did an impeccable job and it was so good to see old friends and colleagues such as Peter Katona, Jonathan Friend, and Anthony Freud.
Presiding over this whole enjoyable event was the benign warm and generous presence of Plácido Domingo, as founder and mentor extraordinary as well as the guiding hand in the pit for the final round with orchestra. That they manage to put together this competition every year is remarkable. Neue Stimmen is biennial and the massive amount of work involved in these competitions is a challenge. So applause for the excellent Operalia organisation - they are heroic!
I am now back in London for the rest of September before trips to Wexford, Amsterdam and Gütersloh during the second half of October. But the opera seasons in London are beginning - some good stuff in prospect.