Last weekend I had a short yet musical holiday to Treviso in Italy, where the sun was shining bright so I could recharge my batteries before a busy final term at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The main reason for my visit was that I had been accepted to compete in the 8th International Competition “Giovani Musicisti – Città di Treviso”.
I had to prepare five arias for the preliminary round and a 15 minute program for the final. As always I prepared as well as I could and after visiting the Leeds lieder master-class the previous weekend I had some new ideas to try out to help improve my communication of the arias and the portrayal of the characters.
The other competitors were wonderful and very friendly. During the competition it was lovely to hear voices from Switzerland, Slovenia, China, Lithuania, Italy, Poland and Georgia and to be able perform alongside them.
The stage was in a large converted cinema, that paid homage to Charlie Chaplin in its corridors with screen shots from his movies. The stage had rich velvet curtains draping the performance space, a selection of fresh cut flowers and two grand pianos. The day before the competition we were able to have a short rehearsal on the stage to test the acoustics and to get a feel for the space.
On the day of the competition at lunchtime I performed Rusalka’s “Song to the Moon” by Dvorak and “Prendi Per Me Sei Libero” by Donizetti in the preliminary round. Following which I stayed to watch the other contestants who performed some glorious Arias such as ‘Chi Bel Sogno Di Doretta’ by Puccini and ‘Don José’s Flower Aria’ by Bizet. We all then had to wait until late afternoon for the results of who would go through to the final that evening.
At 16:00 a sheet was posted onto the notice board with the names of the contestants through to the final, mine was the only name on the list for my category which I thought a little strange at the time. Apparently the competition has a very strict rule that unless you get at least 85/100 you cannot proceed to the final. I was shocked as the standard of singing from everyone there was very high. So I began to mentally and physically prepare for the final which I knew would be both exciting and demanding as the standards were so high. This meant dashing back to my hotel room to get my dress ready to perform again at 17:00 alongside the finalists from the older category.
In the early evening I went on stage again to perform my final program and gave it everything I’ve got. I tried to give every musical phrase a reason and a thought which provoked it. But in all honesty I don’t remember much as I went to a place of sheer concentration and the time just disappeared. But I know that I had a lot of fun and the adrenaline gave me such a rush I had to be careful descending from the stage via the stairs as my feet were quivering haha.
I then watched the three older singers who performed in the final of their category. All very lovely and extremely talented singers. The three were Chinese but study in Bologna so I was able to converse in Italian with them. (Which was very exciting!)
Then came the time for deliberation. The performers and audience had to leave and await the verdict. When the three judges had finished we were called forward. The three judges, who were all opera singers gave their verdict in Italian mainly, which I could understand but they broke it down into English at times (possibly because of the look of deep concentration on my face). Sadly they didn’t award any prizes to either category as they said this industry is very tough and often you learn more and will then work harder from receiving a ‘No’.
They explained that if we were all auditioning for work in Italy though we all sang well we still had areas that we needed to improve. They further explained that to be an opera singer you must be able to navigate and be efficient in all five main areas, idiomatic pronunciation, legato, projection, breathing, acting (colouring the voice). Afterwards I was able to speak to the judges individually and discuss in more detail what I needed to address first and their comments have enabled me to create new tasks to work on with my teacher going into my final term and then to continue with during my master’s degree.
Reaching the final in my first non-UK based ‘International Competition’ was such an exciting experience and I can’t wait to try again.
So perhaps they were right telling me ‘No, try harder’. Which is what I have already started to do after returning to Glasgow.
(Even though I don’t know how I have managed to raise the bar – I think I need an extra hour in every day 🙂 )