"The fourth Concert brought a new singer, Enzo Romano, a bass-baritone from Uruguay. From the Competition's Facebook page I knew already that he had behind him not only the entire Uruguayan nation but also the whole of Argentina. Enzo seems to be a natural stage animal, with a gift for comedy: he began with E una cosa incredibile, from Nino Rota's Italian Straw Hat, conveying with a range of gestures and facial distortions the suspicions of the elderly Beaupertuis about his young wife. But as he went on to perform Non più andrai, Bottom's Dream and La calunnia a certain sameness became apparent, with some of the gestures and tics recurring. Moreover, we heard his vocal athletics but not really his voice - it might have been very fine, but we couldn't tell.
There is no doubt at all about the loveliness of the voice of Ireland's Máire Flavin's. However "how can she call herself a mezzo?" said one of my neighbours, and it is true that her voice lacks that visceral sex appeal that we got from Olesya Petrova. She sang Nobles seigneurs, salut! (from Les Huguenots), Parto parto, Cara speme questo core (Handel's Giulio Cesare), and Sein wir wieder gut - all beautifully delivered, but in the end lacking in drama. She remains a strong contender for the Song Prize, all the same.
Davide Bartolucci brought more assurance to his opera performances than he had to his songs, but was a little outclassed in this company. He sang Handel, Mozart, Donizetti and Rossini.
This left us with two sopranos, Leah Crocetto from USA and Hye Jung Lee from South Korea. As it happens, they both have connections with San Francisco Opera: Leah is a third year Adler Fellow, and Hye is a member of the Merola Opera Program. There the similarity ends.
With an unfussy black dress and neat hair, Leah had a dignified stage presence. Her programme was well-chosen to show off a strong voice with a big range: Che il bel sogno di Doretta, Sombre forêt (Guillaume Tell), Hear ye, Israel (Mendelssohn's Elijah), and Timor de me? ... D'amor sull'ali rosee. I'm no expert, but I thought she didn't quite pull off Leonora's high notes. Nevertheless these were all satisfying performances.
But she met her match in Hye, who sang just two pieces and was dazzling in both - first Zerbinetta's aria from Ariadne auf Naxos, and then an electrifying performance of I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung (Nixon in China). As Zerbinetta her movements had been graceful; as Mme Mao she was rigid with angry triumph, brandishing a copy of the Little Red Book which exactly matched her red dress. (She is singing this role next year in San Francisco.) No surprise that she won the heat.
Then we were given the names of the finalists. They are Olesya Petrova, Meeta Raval, Valentina Naforniţă, Andrei Bondarenko and Hye Jung Lee."