BBC Cardiff Singer of the World – Song Prize, Recital 1

16/06/2011

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, Song Prize, Recital One : New Theatre, Cardiff, 12.6.2011 (MS)

Welsh tenor John Pierce looked pleased after his recital in the opening round of the Song Prize.   Or was it relief that his first ordeal in this week-long singing marathon that comprises the Song Prize and the main BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition was over?

As the grey clouds emptied over Cardiff, the silver generation Competition devotees took shelter in the stalls of the New Theatre. And perhaps it was the vile weather that took the fizz from this opening recital. The Song Prize has always suffered from being the poor relation to the main title, compounded when Ian Rosenblatt withdrew his big cash sponsorship and also the link to his prestigious Recital Series in London.

However, the weather no doubt kept the numbers down for the first of four recitals leading to a final at St David’s Hall. This year the final of the Song Prize has been lumped in with the season tickets for the whole festival so technically that evening is sold out. Hopefully there won’t be too many no-shows by people who only hold a ticket to get their hands on a decent seat for the Sunday afternoon main competition final. Dodgy thing marketing.

So after our veteran compere Beti George’s tried and tested welcome to the dedicated audience members (yes, two years have gone by, when to clap etc. etc.), the dubious honour of being first on went to Russian mezzo soprano Olesya Petrova.

She made her bid to repeat Ekaterina Scherbachenko’s 2009 victory in the main competition with a rich, darkly sung offering from Mahler and De Falla to Faure, finished off with a powerful dose of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

Bulgarian soprano Maria Radoeva then sang Debussy and Strauss beautifully with luscious accompaniment from Competition regular Simon Lepper and ended with a gorgeous Pipkov lullaby from her homeland.

North Walian Pierce chose a programme including two Quilter and two Tosti songs alongside Puccini and, reflecting his own homeland, the Dilys Elwyn-Edwards setting to the R Williams Parry poem Mae Hiraeth yn y Môr. As the only tenor in this year’s competition the home crowd will be hoping that he at very, very long last might bring one of the titles to Wales.

The most engaging singer of this round proved to be Canadian soprano Sasha Djihanian, accompanied by Gary Matthewman. She started with glorious Dvořác and created a genuine conversation with the audience performing songs from Strauss, Charles T Griffes and Alfred Bachelet.

Mike Smith

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