Cardiff Singer: A winner?

Cardiff Singer: A winner?


norman lebrecht

June 22, 2015

Unless a Karita Mattila stride on stage and dispels all doubts, there will always be morning-after questions at any major competition as to whether the judges had picked the right winner.

Right, in two senses: that the trophy holder was the strongest of all talents available, and that he or she has the ambition and resilience to step out and conquer the world.

Those doubts are being heard this morning about Nadine Koutcher, 32, from Belarus, who overcame a wobbly start to convince the judges that she had greater staying power than the Mongolian, Amartuvshin Enkhbat (the audience favourite), or the Korean, Jongmin Park (the Song Prize winner), both of whom were very much the finished object – big singers, big personalities.

What did they do to lose? They took no risks. Koutcher, after seeming to be over-groomed, went for Delibes’s Bell Song totally exposed on the roof of Notre Dame, nailing every last note. Her daring won it.

She has nothing to lose but her obscurity.

nadine koutcher wins

You can watch the final here.


  • Alexander Hall says:

    We’ve been here before, of course. Those who win competitions are often compromise candidates. I sensed Amartuvshin Enkhebat would have a hard time when I saw one of the judges scowling at him and offering no more than a few movements of the hand as expression of applause. No matter: his career will take off and Ms Koutcher’s may well remain stationary.

  • Jonathan Morgan says:

    If she had nailed every last note in the Lakmé, there would be many fewer reservations than I’ve read in many places, both live last night, and more considered today.

  • Michael Volpe says:

    she was lovely in the RK.min the Mozart, poor. In the bell song; well “nails” on blackboards sprung to mind now and again – not sure about notes.
    1 out of three is a low ratio to win I thought.

  • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    I would have said that the baritone was the standout singer, the bass second. You never know quite what’s going on in the Hall itself; but those two would have been my picks.

  • Martin Furber says:

    One of the joys of the Cardiff Singer Competition, which I have attended since its inception in 1983, is the debate it engenders. The buzz during concert intervals is like no other and no two opinions are the same. There will always be winners and losers, and many of these ‘losers’ go on to glittering careers. But it cannot be right when one of the U.K. most senior Arts Correspondents reviews this event without having even been present. This surely represents a deriliection of his basic duties – and perhaps that of his employer too.

    Mr. Christiansen actually has the temerity to pass judgement on the singers having merely “browsed the heats on TV”. So too the Final itself. How can anyone judge the true quality of a voice without being present in the same acoustic space? We all know that television sound (and to some degree, radio), however good it may be nowadays, tends to make all voices sound the same size. Colour, bloom and ‘spin’ is lost. Also, to judge an artist’s charisma and abilty to project personality from a TV transmission alone is equally wrong headed. Some singers come across better in the hall, and vice-versa. A big venue needs a big personality and sometimes grand gesture looks overdone in television close-up.

    Perhaps in future Mr. Christiansen should be given cinema tickets for opera
    screenings from The Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne and the like, rather that £250 stalls seats.

    • Guus Mostart says:

      It is neither here no there whether you are watching live or on television – singing out of tune is singing out of tune – and that’s a fact that can’t be disguised. Sorry!

  • Martin Furber says:

    Fair comment about tuning Guus – this is indeed evident in broadcast while size and colour of voice is not. I also appreciate not eveyone is lucky enough to experience this live and each of us has a right to be an armchair critic – with the exception of one of our senior arts reviewers who should not be paid by his paper (The Telegraph) to sit at home and pass judgement. It is a deriliction of his and his employer’s prime duty surely, and this was the main point of my letter. I should also have included the link to said review of course..

    • Mark Pullinger says:

      The reason Rupert Christiansen wasn’t in Cardiff to review the grand final ‘live’ was that he was at Garsington for the opening night of Death in Venice.

      I was in St David’s Hall to review for Bachtrack. We also had a reviewer at Garsington.