Cardiff Singer of the World

18th June 2019 | Inspirations | 0 comments

I’ve been a keen follower of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition for many years. This year it seems even more appealing  as a distraction from what’s going on with the Tory leadership contest and all the rest of it.

It’s remarkable to see how the twenty singers who make it through to the televised rounds are drawn from all across the world – each time from further afield, it seems. Equally remarkable is how ‘global’ the style of singing is. It’s not possible to listen with eyes shut and identify someone as coming from China, Brazil, America, South Korea, or indeed the UK. There seems to be a sort of agreed international style which all must conform to. This is practical for singers whose careers see them jetting from opera house to opera house in different countries, but is it a good thing? Sometimes I long for a distinctive sound which instantly gives me the flavour of another culture.

Because opera arias have a text, and are sung by a character with a particular role to play, it’s easy to know what the music is ‘about’ – much easier, I daresay, than with abstract instrumental music. So one can straightaway begin to assess whether the singer is successfully bonding with the words and conveying the drama.

As usual, there are examples on both sides of the perfect line. Some singers over-emote and put too much pressure on the words. Others seem preoccupied with vocal technique and make the words sound mechanical. Now and then one comes across someone who can walk that line beautifully, naturally alive to the meaning of the words yet also in full control of a glorious melodic line.

For those of us who have to put across the meaning of music without words or opera characters, there’s a lot one can learn from watching these excellent singers.


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