Review: BBC Cardiff Singer of The World – Grand Final, St David’s Hall, Cardiff

Andy Howells gets to witness the grand final of BBC Cardiff Singer of The World -before it goes out on television!

The first thing that struck me when attending the 40th BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Grand Final was the sheer volume of people in attendance. To say this event (which has seen over 500 young stars participate for the title since its inception 40 years ago) is popular is a bit of an understatement.

And finally, here I am, ready to attend the Grand Final and listening intently to the words of Scottish baritone Donald Maxwell giving an entertaining and informative pre-show programme talk on Level 5 of St David’s Hall. Donald goes through the programme with insightful nuggets of information, my favourite perhaps been that Pembrokeshire Soprano Jessica Robinson will perform a song with a Welsh connection! Ardit’s Il Bacio (the Kiss) was recorded by soprano Adelena Patti at her home in Craig Y Nos Castle in the early 1900s!

Baritone, Donald Maxwell gave a wonderful insight into the Cardiff Singer of the World Grand Final programme. Photo: Andy Howells

Everyone was in their seats just before 5pm and I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed excitement on this scale from classical music fans of all ages, and I was getting excited with them!

As the final has been filmed for broadcast, later in the evening on BBC Four, presenters Petroc Trelawny and Josie d’Arby informed the audience to be patient as there may be some delays. In all honesty, the recording process seemed well scheduled and organised and for me, sitting in the heights of Level 6 it was interesting to watch the TV presenters and cameras at work!

Soon, the grand final was underway!

BBC World Singer of The World Finalists for 2023, Siphokazi Molteno, Nombulelo-Yende, Adolfo Corrado, Jessica Robinson and Beth Taylor Photo: Kirsten McTernan

Scottish Mezzo, Beth Taylor got the proceedings underway with style singing Handel’s Va tacito e nascosto. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales were in fine form conducted by Ryan Bancroft. Beth projected all the passion and personality of a world class performance with two further compositions from Kienzl and Belioz.

Then the first South African finalist of the evening took to the stage. Soprano, Nombulelo Yende projected warmth with her beautiful renditions of Moniuszko’s Oh! Our baby is dying… and Tchaikovsky’s Tatyana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin. With Michael Christie conducting these pieces I really felt transported into the heart of the music..

The third featured finalist was Italy’s Bass, Adolfo Corrado. Adolfo trained as an actor before channelling his energies into opera and this was clearly an asset to his fiery and expressive performance which I thoroughly enjoyed!  Ryan Bancroft returned to conduct Mozart’s Non piu andrai, Rossini’s La Calunnia and Verdi’s Vergini…Sciagaruta! Hai tu creduto… O Speranza.

BBC Wales World Singer of The World 2023, Adolfo Corrado Photo: Photo: Kirsten McTernan

Pembrokeshire Soprano, Jessica Robinson unsurprisingly got the strongest reaction of the evening when she stepped on to the stage in a beautiful red dress. Jessica had previously said that she had been referred to as “Miss Wales” when walking through Splott shopping centre the day before. Certainly, her Welsh fans loved her sassy and fun presentation of Handel’s Tornami a vaggheggiar, Donizetti’s Chacun le sait, Rachmaninov’s Vocalise and Arditi’s Il Baco (conducted by Ryan Bancroft). If there had been a clapometer for audience reaction it would have shot through the roof of the hall when Jessica completed her performance.

Anybody following Jessica would undoubtedly have a challenge, but South African Mezzo, Siphokazi Moltena delivered admirably, maintaining the passion and presence as the orchestra were conducted by Michael Christie, with performances from the works of Massenet, Strauss before finishing on Rossini’s Una voce poco fa.

A brief interval for everyone to catch their breath and then Adolfo Carrodo was declared the 40th recipient of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, with a presentation from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The event closed with an uplifting rendition of The Welsh National Anthem. Certainly, on level 6, I could never have felt I’d get much higher after so many powerhouse performances – I was wrong!

Watch The BBC Cardiff Singer of The World Competition on BBC Iplayer

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