Voting systems

21st June 2011 | Concerts, Inspirations, Musings, Reviews | 0 comments

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during the jury’s deliberations on the Cardiff Singer of the World final on Sunday night. I’d watched most of the other rounds and had realised it was going to be a difficult choice. It was an exceptionally good line-up, and each one of the five finalists might plausibly have won the competition. After they’d sung, I agreed with the BBC’s guest experts, Joyce DiDonato and Nicole Cabell, that based on that night’s performance, Andrei Bondarenko of Ukraine should be the overall winner – him or Russian mezzo Olesya Petrova. However, it was Valentina Nafornita who won the title.

Having a bit of jury experience myself, I know that voting systems can often produce strange results. Funnily enough, I can usually live with ‘strange’ results better than with compromise results. Last time I was on a jury, we used to compare notes after each voting round, and we generally found that only about half of us were happy with the outcome. I don’t know what system they used in Cardiff, but I found myself thinking that they must have thrown away their score cards and gone on their gut instinct. For the winner, Valentina Nafornita, wasn’t the most accomplished on the night. It was, however, easy to hear (and see) that she had star quality and the potential to be very special. How to mark ‘the potential to be very special’? I’ve never met the voting system that supplies the answer. Yet in music you so often find yourself needing to vote that way – a vote which requires imagination, a vote for the future.

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