Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan among finalists of prestigious BBC song competition

(BBC) – This year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition is being launched, with 20 young classical singers set to compete for the £15,000 prize.

The Welsh representative will be Sioned Gwen Davies, 30, a mezzo soprano from Colwyn Bay, Conwy county.

England, Italy, Mongolia and the United States will each have two finalists.

The competition, from 11 to 18 June, will include concerts broadcast from St David’s Hall.

Ms Davies, a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, has performed with Scottish Opera and recently with Valladolid Opera in Spain.

She is also a former winner at both the National Eisteddfod and International Eisteddfod in 2009.

The competition this year includes two finalists from England – soprano Louise Alder, who is making her Welsh National Opera debut in Cardiff during the competition, and bass Dominic Barberi, while Catriona Morison represents Scotland.

One of the finalists, soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, will premiere an extract from an unfinished opera by Franz Liszt which had lain forgotten in a German archive for nearly two centuries before being revived by Cambridge lecturer David Trippett.

The competition includes only four tenors, including singers from as far afield as Australia and South Korea.

They were selected from an original list of 400 entrants and then auditions of 44 singers were held in six cities including Houston and New York.

The winner of the main prize will receive £15,000 and the Cardiff Trophy.

There will be rounds in the £7,000 Song Prize competition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Belarusian soprano Nadine Koutcher took the title in 2015.


An incomplete Italian opera by Franz Liszt – which has lain largely forgotten in a German archive for nearly two centuries – will be given its world premiere as part of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

‘Rare challenge’

Dr David Trippett, a musicologist and lecturer at the University of Cambridge, first discovered the opera more than ten years ago.

He has spent two years working on the manuscript and a 10-minute preview will now be performed for the first time in public by Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan.

The story was based on Lord Byron’s tragedy Sardanapalus. Liszt abandoned the work half way through after he started composing it in 1849.

“The music that survives is breath-taking – a unique blend of Italianate lyricism and harmonic innovation. There is nothing else quite like it in the operatic world,” said Dr Trippett.

“A lot of it is very hard to read, but the scruffiness is deceptive. It seems Liszt worked out all the music in his head before he put pen to paper, and to retrieve this music, I’ve had to try and put myself into the mind of a 19th Century composer, a rare challenge and a remarkable opportunity.”

Ms Hovhannisyan said she felt “very blessed to have been a part of it.”

The competition was first launched in 1983 as a springboard for the careers of young classical singers.

Director of BBC Cardiff Singer David Jackson said: “I’m very excited about the talent we’ve netted for this year’s Cardiff Singer. It’s going to be a thrilling week of singing.”

Concerts will be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3, along with BBC Two Wales, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, S4C and online.

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