Queen Elisabeth Competition comes to a close as winner is announced
South Korean baritone Taehan Kim won the Queen Elisabeth Competition for voice on Saturday evening. Kim’s programme for the final with orchestra consisted of music by Wagner, Mahler, Korngold and Verdi.
The 22-year-old told reporters after the competition that he had not felt any pressure, sang with happiness and enjoyed the stage, adding that he was “submerged in the music” while preparing for the competition. The first prize is worth 25,000 euros.
American contralto Jasmin White placed second, winning 20,000 euros, and Julia Muzychenko-Greenhalgh of Russia came in third, earning 17,000 euros.
While Portuguese soprano Silvia Sequeira surprisingly did not place in the top six, she won the audience prize. This is given after the public votes online for the performer they enjoyed the most and is worth 2,500 euros.
The top six in the competition, held at Bozar in Brussels, were Kim, White, Muzychenko-Greenhalgh, Floriane Hasler (France), Ihno Jeong (South Korea) and Juliette Mey (France).
Even for those who do not place, the exposure of the competition is immense, giving all the singers the potential to win work. Many casting directors from opera houses contract singers they see perform in competitions of this level.
On the evenings of 1, 2 and 3 June, four finalists performed each night with the La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra led by Alain Altinoglu. Following the semi-finals last week, the finalists were each given approximately 20 minutes to perform with the orchestra in front of a packed audience. Queen Mathilde attended every evening to watch the singers from the Royal Box and met them after the finals to offer her congratulations.
The jury, comprised of accomplished singers, intendants of opera houses and other notable musicians, voted after each round, and final scores were determined based on the entire competition, not solely the performance with orchestra.
"It's very difficult, comparing a soprano with a tenor or a bass, or even sopranos between themselves," said leader of the jury Bernard Foccroulle. "It's more a reaction to the quality of the voice, the quality of the artist and the commitment. Each jury member gives their own evaluation and appreciation of what the singer has given."
"Classical music unites us all, in its infinite variety, regardless of our age or culture," Queen Mathilde said. "Indeed, the power of music leaves no one unmoved and creates unforgettable memories.”
The Queen, who attends the competition every year, watched from the Royal Box with her daughter Princess Eleonore. “The International Queen Elisabeth Competition brings together exceptional young musical talents from all over the world," she said. "The competition gives them a chance to show their extraordinary passion and dedication, to exceed their own expectations, and to continue to develop as musicians and as people."
On 7 and 8 June, the unranked laureates from the final 12 will give a recital in Studio 4 at Flagey. The following week on 13 June, the top six will perform a final concert at Bozar under the direction of Alejo Pérez and accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra of the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen.
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK