Reader Carole is through to round 2! Here's her second report on the Cardiff Singer of the World contest.
"The second round of the competition was more open. I thought the most beautiful voice belonged to the Chilean soprano Marcela Gonzalez, who had withdrawn from the song prize because of ill health and here omitted one of her arias. She was our second Semiramide, and also sang a dramatic aria from Handel's Alcina. She finished with Je veux vivre - always a crowd pleaser, and very well received. But ... she sang it not like a teenager at her first grown-up ball but like an accomplished young woman with a good stage presence.
Olga Kindler, the last-minute entrant, was more successful at living her parts, in particular with Ritorna vincitor, which she sang powerfully and expressivly. Perhaps I am being too demanding if I say that her pleas of "Numi - pietà" weren't quite heart-breaking enough. She also sang Dich, teure Halle and Il est doux, il est bon. (And, by the way, in the accompanying "big hair" competition, Olga has now taken a decisive lead.)
The Canadian soprano Sasha Djihanian had a very different voice, lighter and more agile, and chose arias that showed it off - by Mozart, Handel and Bizet (Me voilà seule ... Comme autrefois). Lovely to listen to, but not very involving.
And what of my favourite baritone, Wang Lifu? Alas, he seemed outclassed. There was no lack of commitment to his performances, but his voice seemed small and a little strained. Only in Rodrigo's death scene did we hear the sheer beauty which had so impressed us in the song prize.
The English singer is Meeta Raval, whose appearance in the heat of the song prize had shown her to be a persuasive performer - especially in a heart-felt Gretchen am Spinnrade - but not perhaps born to sing lieder. Here, in affecting performances of Signore, ascolta! and La mamma morta, her voice was powerful, very lovely and had no obvious weaknesses (obvious to me, at any rate). She also sang How can I sleep ... At the haunted end of the day (Walton's Troilus and Cressida) an interesting choice impressively performed, though perhaps her diction could have been clearer. She finished with Mercè, dilette amiche. She was probably not everyone's first choice, but her announcement as the winner of the heat was warmly received, not least by members of her family, who seemed to be occupying an entire row and rose unanimously to their feet as she received her award. A heart-warming conclusion to the evening."
(See a clip from Meeta's performance here).