Despite this week’s rehearsals for the Florestan Festival I’ve managed to watch several rounds of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition on television (the Final is on Sunday). I’ve been following this bi-annual competition for many years and always find it fascinating. So many different artistic styles from different countries, so many approaches to self-presentation and image.
Each night there are experts whose professional opinion is sought, and members of the public whose reactions are canvassed. The experts always say that they’re looking for someone whose heart and soul shows in their singing, someone who can ‘communicate’. Members of the public say the same thing. But, actually, there are plenty of competitors whose heart shows in their singing, or who communicate well with the audience, but who can’t quite match their ardour with sheer vocal technique. In such cases, the experts are quick to point out the shortcomings. There are also singers who, asmemorably said the other night, adopt the Highwayman approach to singing an aria – “stand and deliver!” In those cases, where technique is at the forefront, the experts lament the lack of expressive involvement.
What we’re all hoping for, I suppose, is someone who combines superlative vocal technique with deep musicality, acting ability, expressive power, integrity, a pleasing face and an acceptable approach to fashion. Despite today’s skilful and methodical approach to preparing for competitions, the combination remains rare. Yet I feel I’ve seen several examples during the first three rounds of the competition, making it a true pleasure.