The Dunedin Vocal Competitions start on Thursday. It's terribly exciting. $3 a session, for three days of singing. Plus the all the tension and thrills of that competitive atmosphere. Though it's not really all that competitive. I described it once as 'lieder as blood sport' but it's really not ferocious at all. But such good fun nevertheless. I have the programme already, and it makes fascinating reading. There are three names (shan't say whose) I've gone through and highlighted to be sure I don't miss any of their items - though I'll have a hard time missing anything, I have nowhere else as interesting to be. And whereas in past years, there have been almost as many gaps as there were choices listed, this time the programme is almost complete - barring any changes that have been made since it was printed, the programme in front of me gives me a pretty fair idea of what I'll hear and from whom.
There some tantalising choices on there. Two renditions, in different classes, of 'O del mio dolce ardor', both of which I'm dying to hear - though heartbreakingly, I'm doing something rather foolish on Saturday and will miss one of them - along with the ODT Aria Competition preliminaries. Even the Music Theatre Award, which I've avoided the last two years, looks rather promising. There are also a few, shall we say, interesting aria and song choices. I'm genuinely curious (if a little wary) to see what a singer aged under 21 can make of 'Porgi amor', which I would think requires rather more maturity - but then you never know. "Lascia ch'io pianga" is popular this year - three entrants in the 18 & under 21 17th or 18th century aria class have chosen it. Provided they're not drawing inspiration from such singers as the Brightman, or this creature 'Keedie' who seems to have sprung up recently, all should be well.
I try to put all my critical tendencies aside as much as possible for the competitions and just be ready to enjoy anything and everything. Of course, those unfortunates to happen to have decided to sing something which I've heard Yvonne doing have very little hope - unreasonable as it might be, I firmly believe hers is the definitive, well, everything. More or less. But in any event, I love these competitions so much that I tend to like almost everything which isn't manifestly terrible. (And even when I do get snakey and critical, you'll find no venom on here. I'm not that mean.) Last year I got so excited after the first day, I came home and posted a list of stand-out singers, only to find by the end of the competitions that almost none of the real stars appeared on that first list. So I'm not naming names this year until the end of the competitions - unless I simply can't resist. I have my predictions too, naturally, but won't reveal them unless they're correct - fair enough, no?
The only drawback to this year's competitions is the judge. Not that I have any issues with him personally - I've never heard of the man. (He's Peter Hind, in case you have.) No, it's just that last year's judge was rather special. (That's an understatement.) She was fabulous and engaging, such a fascinating judge that I though, I have to hear this woman sing. And so I found and bought her CD Serenata and fell hopelessly in love. And bought more CDs. And flew to Wellington and Auckland to see her Donna Anna three times. Yes, her. Had it not been for the competitions, Patricia Wright might still be no more to me than that lovely soprano whom I mentioned, but not by name, after I heard her on the radio in Falstaff -and I'd be considerably the poorer for it. Last year's competitions also marked the point at which this blog started to be read - or commented on, at any rate- by a number of Dunedin vocal students, lifting me out somewhat of my previous near-obscurity. Has it really been almost a year? Incroyable. But here we are again and it will all be over too soon. To all who are singing: in bocca al lupo! Can't wait to hear you.
Stop Press: The incomparable Rosel, Anna Leese's No #1 fan, reports the existence of an official website for the lovely Anna, to be found at www.annaleese.com. It's a bit bare-bones-ish right now but gorgeous all the same - and best of all, has audio clips. Anna naturally won everything she could when she did the Dunedin vocal competitions..