© Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Siegfried 2019


The 8th International Singing Competition for Wagner Voices
The singing competition was held over the first weekend of October in glorious Autumn sunshine in the city of Karlsruhe, coinciding with the celebrations of 25 years of German re-unification.
A large group of Wagner Society members gathered to watch the events over three days, growing in size as the weekend progressed. There was a considerable contingent from France (the Wagner Societies of Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg and Toulouse were represented), the UK (London and Scotland), Singapore (on the lookout for singers for their 2016 production of Der fliegende Holländer) and of course a large number from various German Verbands. Several members of the Praesidium of the RWVI also attended.

17 semi-finalists performed in the evening of October 1st in the Badisches Staatstheater, who had most kindly sponsored the event by donating the use of their premises for the competition. Each singer, accompanied by one of three talented young pianists, performed two pieces, of which one had to be by Wagner. There was a noticeable predominance of female singers, and of these, the majority were sopranos. The singers came from far and wide – Japan, Korea, UK/New Zealand, USA, Australia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Croatia, Poland, France, Austria and of course Germany. Many of these were currently studying or working in Germany. The quality of singing was pretty high, although it was observed by many (the author of this piece included) that several of the singers appeared to be more comfortable in their non-Wagner Fach! We heard, as one so often does at Wagner singing competitions, several renditions of Einsam in trüben Tagen and Dich teure Halle, although the variations in interpretation held the attention of the audience and led to much lively discussion during the interval. There was a great deal of talent on display, even if not always of the Wagnerian type and the audience greatly enjoyed the evening, forming and voicing their own opinions of who should be chosen to proceed to the finals.

The jury of 8, led by Eva Wagner-Pasquier, consisting of various Intendants and music directors from European opera houses, and one opera director from Turkey, adjudicated both the semis and the finals. At the end of the first evening, after a short break for the jury’s deliberations, during which thankfully, the bars in the theatre remained open, six singers were announced for the finals - three sopranos, one mezzo, one tenor and one bass-baritone. The names and nationalities of these finalists were as follows:
  • Marina Harris - soprano - USA
  • Sayaka Shigeshima – mezzo soprano - Japan
  • Daniel Phillip Witte - tenor - Germany
  • Insu Hwang - bass-baritone - Korea
  • Kirstin Sharpin - soprano – UK/New Zealand
  • Kathleen Parker - soprano - Australia

In the event, Ms Shigeshima was unable to perform in the finals due to an unexpected work commitment and her place was taken by Maria Lobanova, a soprano from Lithuania. After the semi-finals, several Wagner Society members, the singers and the jury repaired upstairs to enjoy a light supper and drinks. This was a delightful, informal occasion and was, in line with the rest of the event, very well organised. On the evening between the semis and the finals, guests were treated to an outstanding concert performance of Act 3 of Parsifal with the Badisches Staatskapelle and the soloists from the production currently playing in Karlsruhe. The orchestra, conductor and soloists exceeded expectations, giving a stirring and moving performance and it proved to be unquestionably a delightful evening.

The finals were held on Saturday October 3rd, once again in the packed auditorium of the opera house. All the finalists performed to the accompaniment of a full orchestra and this time each singer had to present two pieces of Wagner.

The repetoire varied from the highly dramatic (Senta's Ballade) to the wistful (Einsam in trüben Tagen) to the passionate (Du bist der Lenz), the ecstatic (Winterstürme) and the contemplative (Mein Vater!), giving the singers ample opportunity to display their various strengths and technical abilities.

In the end the sopranos won the day, with The Dorothea Glatt Prize (for the final time) going to Marina Harris, the Wolfgang Wagner and Audience prizes to Kathleen Parker and the overall winner being Kirstin Sharpin. Needless to say the WS of London was overjoyed, as we had sponsored Kirstin in this competition.

Professor Alessandra Althoff-Pugliese stood in for President of the RWVI Horst Eggers in giving the summing up. She reminded the audience that the loud and dramatic performance was not always the most convincing, and that the aim of the competition was to identify singers with the potential to become Wagnerians after further vocal development and stage experience. These guidelines had led the jury to award the prizes to the singers named above. She thanked the jury, all the sponsors and the audience for their support and reconfirmed the commitment of the RWVI to continuing their support and endorsement of this prestigious competition.

Particular thanks were extended to Professor Hans-Michael Schneider, President of the RWVI Karlsruhe, whose hard work and dedication made the event possible. The organisation was professional and efficient, yet relaxed and congenial. Professor Schneider is to be congratulated as well as profusely thanked.

The finals were followed by an informal farewell buffet supper, once again really well organised with superb food and drink. We were all sad to be leaving and will retain wonderful memories of a wholly delightful occasion.

The next competition will be held (hopefully) once again in Karlsruhe, in 2018. Maybe we will see some more of you there next time.

Andrea Buchanan
Member of the Committee RWVI
The Wagner Society