No German or Italian voices coming through

No German or Italian voices coming through


norman lebrecht

October 25, 2019

The Bertelemann-backed Neue Stimmen Competition, which aims to discover the next generation of opera stars, succeeds mainly in demonstrating that the traditional wellsprings of opera voices have run dry.

Tomorrow’s televised finals will be fought out among the following:

Carpentier Hélène Soprano France 1995
El-Khashem Anna Soprano Russia 1996
Kamani Enkeleda Soprano Albania 1991
Križaj Domen Baritone Slovenia 1989
Kubheka Bongani Baritone South Africa 1991
Long Long Tenor China 1991
McCorkle Jamez Tenor USA 1989
Tanasii Natalia Soprano Moldova 1991
Yende Nombulelo Soprano South Africa 1991
Zámečníková Slávka Soprano Slovakia 1991


The jury is chaired by outgoing Vienna Opera boss Dominique Meyer. Past winners include Christiane Karg, Nathalie Stutzmann, Marina Rebeka, Michael Volle, René Pape, Franco Fagioli and Elsa Dreisig.


  • pageturner says:

    Oh lord, we have L2v.2. Long Long, to follow Lang Lang. They should do a recording or tour together so we can see how many critics and editors get them confused.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    It has been that way for a long time. The opera houses of Europe are dominated by Eastern Europeans & others . The time of great Italians are long past.

  • Herman the German says:

    No British voice either, Norman.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      We’re too busy shouting ourselves hoarse over Brexit, mate

      • Allen says:

        There are many possible reasons for this, Norman, and education is probably the most serious, as well as fewer opportunities for people to actually sing. Instead you choose yet another silly and not very witty dig at Brexit.

  • Jeong Park says:

    And all of the finalists completely by chance were working or studying with the jury members. What a fair and absolutely “not corrupt” competition.

  • John Rook says:

    Hmm, not exactly true. Purely vocally, the traditional wellsprings are more often than not Eastern European countries which are still turning out technically-accomplished performers thirty years after the fall of communism and the accent it placed on the showcasing of artists and sportsmen and women.

    There has been a chronic lack of decent singers in Italy and Germany for a long time, now and those who have broken through and stayed the course would have done so regardless of their teacher. The same is true of France, where, for every Ludovic Tézier, Annick Massis or Natalie Dessay, many young singers see their careers remaining in the foothills. Part of this is also, I feel, down to a lack of preparation for the reality of a singing career: stagecraft, being a good colleague, exercising professional intelligence in the face of unusual and/or unexpected situations both on stage and off, the list goes on. Far too many seem to think that making a decent sound is all that’s needed and demonstrate a sense of entitlement ludicrously disproportionate to their actual ability or achievements.

    North America understands these last few points. They produce consummate professionals who will always get the job done. The result may not always be to everyone’s taste but, for theatre directors, impresarios and the like who have myriad problems to solve and criteria to fulfill, the presence of stage performers who ‘just get on with it’ and do a good job is irresistible.

    Having a voice is one thing. Forging a career is another entirely.

    • justsaying says:

      This comment is to the point. It will be interesting to see how long the post-Soviet republics can maintain the high value set on “classical” music. For the moment, its institutions are still being guided by people whose formation came within the old system. They are definitely producing more theatrically viable singing voices. The Americans are famously prepared and flexible, but relatively few have the most important ingredient of all, a voice that can *in its sound* embody the dramatic and emotional content of opera. Somehow over here we’ve bought the idea that getting through the music decently, plus acting, is enough. And it looks as though that idea might have become prevalent in much of Europe as well.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Suggestion of cover photo for a Long Long/Lang Lang album: Ling Ling the panda.