Having been nowhere near the Conservatorium for over a year, tonight I was back at Verbrugghen Hall for the second time this week, this time for the semi-finals of the Mathy Singing Award. Not quite as congenial a venue as the Independent Theatre was last year, but certainly easier (for me) to get to of a Sunday than North Sydney was. And I must be getting old, because I was also inordinately happy about the convenience of a 4pm start.
Not too many chestnuts, except of course the obligatory "Hai gia vinta la causa". I remember thinking last year that judges of these sort of events should be offered some kind of "Hai gia vinta la causa" compensation — Deborah Riedel has been travelling the country hearing every single entrant, so I can only imagine how many times she's had to hear it. Only one aria choice which seemed to me really misguided, but in the interests of fairness I won't say which, or why.
Anyway, finalists are:
Sky Ingram (soprano)
Michael Lampard (baritone)
Nicole Car (soprano)
Sitiveni Talei (baritone)
Sky Ingram was my favourite; to my ears the only definite standout. The fact that she has red hair may or may not have been a factor in my decision, but her command of Straussian line and the surprising richness of her lower register didn't hurt either. By my count this is Michael Lampard's third time in the semis and second time making it to the finals, and yet he's still the youngest of the lot — twenty-two. Judging decisions in this competition are based on private sessions as well as the public concert, which accounts for any mild surprises. For all but Sky, who was great in both her art song and her aria, it seemed to me that it was the second item which clinched their placement — Michael's lovely "Silent Noon" (I have a sentimental attachment to that song, which helped), Nicole's "Befreit" and a charming "Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Sitiveni. No shocking omissions. I think sopranos do well to remember that impressive high notes mean a lot more when the rest of their singing is equally impressive. I'm glad the various prizes offered include several opportunities for language coaching, this was an issue for a number of singers.
Sky Ingram also wins best-dressed, with Nicole Car's pretty green-and-black number a close second. Best shoes were Angela Edwards' black heels.