475 desperate singers besiege Finnish contest

475 desperate singers besiege Finnish contest


norman lebrecht

January 05, 2019

press release:

Record number of applicants for the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition

The Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition received 475 applications from singers representing 62 nationalities worldwide by the deadline for entries on 31 December 2018. The largest numbers were from South Korea, Russia, China, Finland and the United States.

Says the delighted Executive Director Marja-Leena Pétas-Arjava, “The response has been really tremendous. The Mirjam Helin Competition has received more applications than at any other time in its history.”

The names of the successful applicants will be announced on Friday 25 January 2019, after the pre-selection process.

The next Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition will be held in Helsinki, Finland on 20–29 May 2019. The upper age limit is 30 for women and 32 for men. Prizes worth €173,000 will be awarded, and the prizewinners will also be offered engagements. The members of the Jury chaired by Jorma Silvasti will be Olaf Bär, Ben Heppner, Vesselina Kasarova, François Le Roux, Waltraud Meier, Deborah Polaski and Kiri Te Kanawa.

The Finnish Cultural Foundation has been organising the Mirjam Helin Competition at five-year intervals since 1984. Many former winners, such as Elina Garanča, Andrea Rost and René Pape, have later risen to the top of the world of singing.



  • Zenaida says:

    475 hopeful candidates for 4 prizes = 0,84% chance for each of them to get one of the prizes. That’s about par with the other top competitions. What happens to the other 99,16%? They have to be given some positive perspective, imho!

  • Caravaggio says:

    Desperate is right.
    “Competitions are for horses”

  • Paul says:

    ehem, not all who enter competitions are “desperate”. Sometimes a candidate just has that time free and enjoys traveling to pratice their craft with the potential benefit of getting new experience, exposure, and possibly more opportunities. That certainly does not make them all “desperate”. Case in point, after conductor Alan Gilbert finished studying at Julliard (in 1992), he was conducting in an audition for a teaching position at a small university in a Southern state. I played in the orchestra and later asked him if he had seriously been considering that position, and he said it was just a way for him to practice and get extra experience. If one can afford the travel costs, then these auditions / competitions can be quite fun for many of us, but please don’t label them all as “desperate”.

  • Master Baker says:

    The predetermined results are presumably contained in a sealed envelope in the possession of the jury president.

  • Once I wrote a big article on (vocal)competitions.
    I’m sorry it’s in Dutch


  • wen arto says:

    I just love the slipped disc….so brave and so honest. Yeah they are desperate, too many singers so little works, and most of them….are not down to earth…we need some site like slipped disc to tell these prima donnas and primo divos wanna be the truth.

  • Serious says:

    If they charge an application fee of at least $100, more serious singers would apply, and there would be less numbers.

    • Dave T says:

      I would think that +/- $100 would represent a rather small percent of the total costs involved in attending one of these competitions, probably not enough of a determinant factor.