Operalia Competition Gives Top Prizes to Russian Soprano, Chinese Bass

Monday, August 26, 2013 - 02:48 PM

The Operalia competition, started by Placido Domingo with the aim of discovering and nurturing the opera stars of the future, named two first-place winners on Sunday in Verona, Italy. They are Aida Garifullina, a soprano from Kazan, Russia, and Ao Li, bass-baritone from Dezhou, China. Each received a $30,000 prize.

Garifullina, 25, is a 2011 graduate of the Vienna Conservatory and has appeared at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and the Festival Arena di Verona. She also has a budding pop/crossover career; her website features numerous Russian TV appearances and stints singing with Michael Bolton. She reports having sung for three Russian presidents and the Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Li, also 25, is in his third year with the San Francisco Opera's Adler Fellowship program. He has sung a number of roles with the company including Lorenzo (Capuleti e i Montecchi) and Sciarrone (Tosca). He studied at Shangdong Normal University in China.

French soprano Julie Fuchs and Italian baritone Simone Piazzola took second place ($20,000) at the Operalia and two Americans tied for third place ($10,000): soprano Kathryn Lewek and tenor Zach Borichevsky.

Now in its 21st year, the Operalia competition moves to a different opera-loving city every year (last year it was in Beijing). It is open to singers 18 to 32 years old and begins with 40 entrants, which are narrowed down to ten finalists. Past winners include Rolando Villazon, Joyce DiDonato, Nina Stemme and Joseph Calleja. Domingo is one of several judges.

Aida Garifullina performs at Arena di Verona in Italy:

Ao Li in recital:


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Comments [3]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

STAGE PRESENCE and body language that reveals an interpretive ONENESS with the work performed besides a handsome or beautiful physique DO positively rate the performer. In the CLASSICAL field especially OPERA the timbre, musicianship, dramaturgy verity, projection, stamina and rarity of the voice quality SHOULD be the primal factor. In my own case, I work out daily at a gym, I run in scheduled races besides on a rubberized outdoor track, eat properly and sleep adequately. All these factors definitively affect one's appearance and stamina. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, opera composer and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where vocal technique for declamation in plays and singing technique plus all the roles of Wagner and Shakespeare are taught. www.WagnerOpera.com

Aug. 27 2013 12:49 PM

Aug. 27 2013 01:02 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

PRIZE WINNING is the most sure-fire method to accelerate one's career success. The earlier one starts winning competitions the surer one's fame and financial rewards. The focus must be on improving and widening one's repertoire of possibilities to mature one's art. There must be a passion, a dedication, to constantly seek to improve. If one truly has the desire and strives with serious workouts to develop skill and stamina then success should surely be obtainable.

Aug. 26 2013 08:07 PM
beachsiggy from NYC

You shouldn't post the winners without including all the categories. Here's the complete list - names and voices to watch for in upcoming seasons.


Two First Prizes* US$30,000 each, went to Aida Garifullina, soprano (Russia), 25, and Ao Li, bass-bariton (China), 25;

Two Second Prizes* US$20,000 each, went to Julie Fuchs, soprano (France), 29 and Simone Piazzola, bariton (Italy), 28;

Two Third Prizes* US$10,000 each, went to the soprano Kathryn Lewek (USA), 30 and to the tenor Zach Borichevsky (USA) 29;

The Pepita Embil Domingo Zarzuela Prize US$10,000, went to Hae Ji Chang, soprano (South Korea), 29;

The Don Plácido Domingo, Sr., Zarzuela Prize US$10,000, went to Benjamin Bliss, tenor (USA), 27;

The two Birgit Nilsson Prizes (Wagner-Strauss repertoire)* US$15,000 each, went to Claudia Huckle, contralto (UK), 31 and Tracy Cox, soprano (USA), 27;

Two Audience Prizes* Watches offered by Rolex went to Kathryn Lewek, soprano (USA), 30 and Simone Piazzola, bariton (Italy), 28.

The Culturarte Prize US$10,000, offered by Guillermo and Bertita Martínez, went to the tenor Vladimir Dmitruk, (Belorus), 26 years old

Aug. 26 2013 04:39 PM

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