Shock result at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World

Shock result at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World


norman lebrecht

June 18, 2017

After an unexpectedly tight and high-quality final, the Scottish mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison was declared winner of the competition. Morison, 31, carefully avoided familiar crowd-pleasers in her final selection – with the exception of Dido’s Lament from Purcell’s opera, in which she gave a heartfelt performance. Morison, a Scot, is a member of the ensemble at Wuppertal Opera in Germany. Her next appearance there is as Maddalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Two male singers – the Mongolian Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar and the Australian Kang Wang – seemed likelier winners, but the jury called it for the Scot.


The English soprano Louise Alder won the audience prize.

UPDATE: Agents in scramble to sign surprise winner.

UPDATE: Has the BBC lost interest in Cardiff Singer?



  • Patrick John Gordon Shaw says:

    I would hardly call it a shock result!! A voice with a hint of Marilyn Horne in the Rossini, yet immaculate German and French as well and a moving ‘ When I am laid’. A singer of singular promise!

    Sadly, I could only listen to the Final ‘live’ in Spain – so will need to see in U.K. on IPlayer when I return – what all of their total packages are!

    • Lord Lennon says:

      ‘when I am laid’ ……… can the accompanying movements on the stage be divulged?

      • mr oakmountain says:

        She dies from sheer grief accompanied by some of the most profoundly moving music ever written. And you may have just insulted all lovers of that piece.

        • Bruce says:

          No he hasn’t. He’s just showed himself to be an idiot, that’s all. Not the same thing.

          • AMetFan says:

            That’s a pathetic response to a (perhaps) less-informed enthusiast. And folks scratch their heads as to why the art form is declining…

      • Ghost Protocol says:

        The full quote would appear to be “When I am laid in earth” (from Dido’s lament in the eponymous opera by Henery Purcell), which is hardly open to double entendre, as opposed to the abbreviated quote by Mr P.G.J. Shaw, which is literally asking to be accompanied by a “nudge nudge wink wink”.
        Could we not agree to praise Mr. Shaw for his pure thoughts, and admit of mitigating circumstances for his Lordship.

    • Garth Johnson says:

      I thought this was a brilliant choice. Her powers of communication are phenomenal. Is this the new Janet Baker?

  • Bill Niven says:

    The men? They were not in the same league as either Alder or Morison. I expected Alder to win (and felt sad she came away without a prize, though she won her round). But Morison has a voice of liquidity, beauty and richness, quite apart from the emotion with which she sang. So not a shock result for me, either.

    • Nigel Simeone says:

      No “shock” here either – I thought she was an outstandingly intelligent singer who deserves a serious future. Tonight the two women were the class of a strong field. Personally I had Louise Alder first (on the basis of the whole week, including the sensational Poulenc in the song final) and Katriona Morison second – but I’m delighted she’s won. It’s been a very strong competition.

    • Allan Green says:

      Louise Alder DID win a prize – she won the Audience Prize.

  • Christine Cowan says:

    Wonderful decision by the jury.Catriona was the obvious winner. Personality and a beautiful voice.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    And, of course, the world needs one more mezzo (yawn) like it needs a hole in the head.



    • Mike Gaughan says:

      In total agreement; a worthy winner. To end with Dido’s lament was both confident and brave (generally one to avoid at auditions as you need something special to pull it off.) However, she was a wonderful all round performer with great warmth. Louise was technically excellent but it seemed a little chilly and clinical at times especially in Handel’s ‘tempeste’ though her rendition of Hahn’s ‘A Cloris’ in the song contest was thoroughly touching. Anyway, these two stuck out a mile.
      Well done judges but limited coverage from the BBC who could have given us more of this flag ship competition.

  • Northern freelancer says:

    Don’t see any shock there – she was definitely the right choice, tho’ the others were all superb. If they had still done as they used to with the points system rather than the winner of each evening going through she wouldn’t have needed to be the wild card. Only heard her on the wireless until tonight, but she shone through on there as well. So pleased for her. 🙂

  • Bill Worley says:

    Yes we do need more mezzos of the calibre of Morrison. Mezzos who can sing the Rossini operas such as Tancredi are few and far between. I agree with the previous post that she reminded me of Marilyn Horne.

    I was pleased that Louise won the Audience Prize

  • caroline Zoob says:

    Perhaps she didn’t choose dazzling crowd pleasers, but she is a spectacular musician with a myriad of colours in her velvety, versatile, beautiful mezzo voice. Her Purcell was spellbinding.

  • Sugarplum says:

    Yuck. I did not like Katriona Morison’s voice. It lacked tonal colour and variety, it was always just the same sound. It was a very dissapointing result and there were definitely more well deserved singers tonight!

  • Jennifer Johnston says:

    Yet more hate encouraged by Lebrecht and his band of truly unpleasant supporters. Give it a rest, Norm, we’ve all had enough of your particular brand of nastiness.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      What is your problem, Jennifer Johnston? Is it that you can’t abide opinions that differ from your own, or do you just dislike free speech and wish to suppress it? There is no ‘hate encouraged’ on this site. We encourage open debate and moderate out all hate speech. As for any imputed nastiness on my part, that is personal opinion of yours to which I am happy to give light of day.

  • Rosemary says:

    She was outstanding, and deserved the win. Such personality in her singing. I only knew Ariunbataar Ganbataar before the competition, but all the singers were absolutely brilliant. Bravo.

  • David Woodhead says:

    A fine instrument and the intelligence to use it to best effect: of course Louise or Katriona deserved to win.

  • Michael Bulley says:

    I made Alder the winner and there’s no doubt she has greatly enhanced her career prospects. Maybe there were things that came over in the hall that weren’t clear via the TV (though I piped the music through my hi-fi speakers, to get it as clear as possible), but I was surprised by the jury’s choice of winner. Morison is undoubtedly a fine singer, but I didn’t think she had the fluidity and graceful sound of Alder (nothing of the frightened owl in a railway tunnel here!). I’d be interested to know the jury’s reaction to Morison’s performance of Dido’s lament, as that struck me as the weak part of her programme. The rhythms seemed pulled about and (yes, I know many sopranos are equally guilty) a lot of the consonants went missing – ‘forget’ became something like ‘for-yeh’.

    Still an overwhelming dominance of music from the romantic era, though. I wonder whether the rules could be changed, at least for the preliminary rounds, to provide a greater representation of music from other periods.

  • Mike says:

    She had 3 things: a distinctive total quality, unique interpretation and personality. These are why she won the competition. The other competitors were excellent but their voices were pretty similar to the hundreds of opera singers out there who didn’t take part in the competition. There are not many Catriona’s out there.

  • Steve Richards says:

    What an inspiring result – of musicianship and integrity over hype and commercialism. Thought the other singers were terrific, but could see the dollar signs in their eyes (with the exception of the Mongolian singer and the winner). The mezzo was just in it for the music, and that attitude has carried her away. Great.

  • Janetp says:

    I thought Catriona was wonderful from the beginning and was very disappointed when she did not win her round. I was so delighted when she was given the wild card and she won deservedly without flashy top notes or crowd pleasing arias. She created an atmosphere around her and her voice had a beauty and quality unlike any of the others. Congratulations to her and I hope she has a great career ahead of her.

  • Stephen says:

    Of the five performers last night, three took no risks at all and sang standard repertoire in a standard way. They’re ordinarily good opera singers at a time when the world is full of ordinarily good opera singers. One of them (the US baritone) is a notch above the other two.

    The fourth deservedly won the audience prize and took a risk by singing Previn – beautifully.

    The fifth took a huge risk with repertoire – whatever it is (a great piece of music), Dido’s Lament is not a crowd-pleaser; it’s an incredibly difficult piece to sing, let alone sing well, let alone (as Morison did) sing well and stylistically. As well as singing Richard Strauss and Rossini and Ravel stylistically. Morison’s pianissimo in the Purcell was heart-stopping – I wish people who chose true crowd-pleasers from Boheme, Onegin, the Barber of Seville and Pagliacci were confident enough to give a similar range of dynamics.

    I look forward to seeing the song prize final.

    • Allan Green says:

      You say that Dido’s Lament is not a crowd-pleaser. I seem to recall reading that it topped the poll in a survey of best loved classical music some time ago.

  • David says:

    Louise Alder showed us that she is magnificent vocally and a brilliant actress who grips her audience with every note. Her artistry is phenomenal and voice envelops the world. She was the only singer in the final who gave a rich variety of song and displayed amazing vocal variety. Truly world class. Disappointed that judges did not agree with audience vote.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Alder has been singing regularly in Germany, as of course has Morison. She is a very good singer and the appearance her will have enhanced her profile in the operatic world. even if she didn’t win.

  • BBCfan says:

    Noting what people have said about publicity, I thought I should mention that Cardiff Singer was extremely well advertised in advance on Radio 3 – every day several times a day. I suppose the BBC thought Radio 3 listeners were the likeliest audience.
    Regarding the winner, I am afraid I am with those who were surprised and disappointed at the judges’ choice of Catriona Morrison as the winner.

  • James Farrell says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the competition last night and I thought the winner deserved the accolade.
    However, I long for the day that the selecting committee will choose a counter tenor for entry into the competition.. 18th century opera offers a huge range of choices for these singers.
    I know that it is a lesser known voice but the opera world has some magnificent exponents of this class of voice.

  • Brad Mitchell says:

    Don’t forget that Catriona was the also the (joint) winner of the Song Prize so has carried off the rare feat of winning both prizes. So I am puzzled (like many others) with the “shock” headline.

    In interviews during the programmes the judges consistently spoke about looking for the all round artist and not just a voice. I also wonder about how she came across in the hall compared to the TV or radio – probably a lot better.

    I do hope we get to see a lot more of the five finalists, all of whom impressed.

  • Kenny says:

    Superb Catriona, and she’s Scottish. I don’t really listen to that kind of music as much as I should. She has a stunning voice and must be beaming with pride. Great achievement

  • David Ubaka says:

    I thought Catriona was excellent as were every one of a very high standard final five. I wasn’t surprised at her shock when announced as having replayed the final she made a very slight error (rare on the night) but covered it masterfully with stage craft. Given the standard of the final perhaps she thought that ruled her out. I certainly picked another contestant based on that. But CSoW is about the whole package: voice, performance, communication, interpretation. Catriona ticked all the boxes through a brave repertoire while the others only some. Brava Catriona well deserved

  • BBCfan says:

    The word “rare” tends to be used on these occasions, but there is a danger of mistaking odd for rare, and you could say Catriona’s “frightened owl” look mentioned by someone above, plus the rather grotesque pantomime grimaces and overdone hand on heart were not really talented or rare acting.
    If it is agreed that all the final 5 voices were special, meaning it was after that entirely down to star quality and connnecting with the audience, then having narrowed it down to the best voices, the judges could have let the audience decide who connected best with the audience!

  • BarrieIsland says:

    I agree that there needs to be a return to a proper points scoring system. “One member one vote” on the jury meant that there were no clear winners in either prize (no decision and a shared song prize, and the first round of voting in the final for the main prize was also split – according to David Pountney interviewed after the final…) the danger is you therefore end up with a compromise winner rather than one who wins across a range of scores, and the winner’s achievement is thus potentially compromised. Only time will tell if Morison will be a truly great Cardiff alumna – or end up alongside Marius Brenciu, Guang Yang, David Malis… but she’s made a good start!

    • Doug says:

      Hey now.. I went to college with David Malis! Don’t go cutting him down. He had a decent career. He’s also a really, really nice guy.

  • Dulcamara says:

    Morison took the risk of exposing her soul into the singing. Her technique is superb, as was the technique of most of the finalists. She,however, went beyond technique and dug deep into her being.This is the difference between a fine singer and an artist. It was moving and exciting to hear this woman sing. The prize is well deserved.

  • Adrian Thorpe says:

    Is there anything Catriona Morison cannot do? When she sang Handel I thought, “Another Janet Baker in the making”. In the Massenet I have rarely heard a non-Francophone singer manage that tricky French style so well. Then with a sudden and complete change of personality as the Komponist she showed that she is a singer who really “gets” Richard Strauss – and she did it again as Octavian in the Final. This is a serious singer-actor who really sinks herself into every part she plays. That’s of course not to disparage others – especially not Louise Alder whose lovely, lively and believable Sophie I greatly enjoyed at the Millennium Centre ten days ago – but someone has to win and the right one did.

  • BBCfan says:

    I did actually like Catriona (although I liked the other finalists more) and was glad she jointly won the song prize, but I would have said that rather than exposing her soul and revealing herself, as suggested earlier, she got under the skin of the characters and LOST herself in the song (or sunk herself as Adrian Thorpe says). I have a feeling Catriona might not like it if she thought we believed she had dug deep into her own being to get the sneering sarcasm she acted in one of the songs!! Having said that, I do think the other finalists lost themselves in their characters too, which I believe is what acting is about.

  • BBCfan says:

    I did actually like Catriona (it was just that I liked the other finalists more) and was glad she jointly won the song prize, but it could be said that rather than exposing her soul and revealing her own self as suggested earlier, she got under the skin of her characters and LOST herself in the songs, or sunk herself, as Adrian Thorpe says. I cannot help feeling that Catriona might not like it if she thought we believed she had dug deep into her own being to find the sneering sarcasm she acted in one of the songs!! Having said that, I think the other finalists lost themselves in their characters too.

  • Judith Sawyer says:

    Just listened to her ‘Sea Pictures’ on Radio 3 and remember her performances in Cardiff. Catriona is a wonderfully sincere and technically worthy winner of the Lieder prize. Love her voice.