Reader Carole spent last night watching the final of the Song Prize, aka the consolation prize. Carry on reading to find out who won (the picture above is a fairly big clue......). She also comments on the difference between the live and broadcast sound - an issue that will no doubt crop up again when the Proms begin.
"Several readers on this blog have commented on how different the singers sound when broadcast, and this is perfectly true. Listening to a clip of Leah Crocetto on the radio today, singing D'amor sull'ali rosee, I wondered why I'd been no sniffy about her top notes, and yet when I heard her live I did think she sounded a little tight. And there is no doubt that the broadcasters alter the balance between singers and orchestra. In St David's Hall it's been quite obvious to us that the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, under Laurence Foster, has accompanied the singers more skilfully than the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Jac van Steen, but I can imagine that those of you who hear the broadcasts aren't aware of that.
But other factors affect sound. Voices (and personalities) that dominated in the New Theatre can sound diminished in St David's Hall. But then some singers expand up in the larger auditorium - Leah Crocetto and Hye Jung Lee are instances of this. And of course, there is a difference in what listeners hear: a skilled listener will notice things that pass a non-expert like me by.
In last night's final of the Song Prize the standard was high. (In the view of most of us - two people sitting near me dismissed the eventual winner as the best of a bad bunch.)
Leah Crocetto sang Liszt's Pace non trovo, Bizet's Chanson d'avril, and Strauss's Die Nacht and Cäcilie. All showed off her beautiful and expressive voice. I was dreading her final song, which was The man I love - opera singers performing Gershwin can be embarrassing. But it was a lovely performance, delivered with wistful charm. She is a generous performer as well, turning to listen to Llŷr Williams as he played his short solo.
Máire Flavin sang almost the same pieces as in her heat, dropping Copland and adding Duparc's L'invitation au voyage. The humourous La souris d'Angleterre lost some of its impact in the larger auditorium, but her unaccompanied Lake Isle of Innisfree was as impressive as when we had heard it before.
Valentina Naforniţă's voice and style were perfectly suited to her first song, which was Rakhmaninov's Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne. I liked her less in Chausson, Schumann and Delibes, but this is a purely personal reaction, and I have heard Ian Burnside on Radio 3 say he would gladly listen to her singing the Phone Book. There is no doubting the beauty of her voice. She is also exceptionally pretty - shouldn't be relevant, but of course it is.
Olga Kindler, the late entrant from Switzerland, has a fuller and richer voice than most of the other sopranos in the competition. She also began with Rakhmaninov, and then sang one of the Wesendonck Lieder, and songs by Poulenc and Fauré, and a very impressive performance of Im Abendrot. Not much light relief, and I suspect she will never be a very endearing performer, but she obviously understands what her voice can and can't do and plays to its strengths.
Endearingness is a quality which Andrei Bondarenko has in spades: fair floppy hair and an open gentle face. But he is a formidable and charismatic performer. He sang the first four of Schumann's Opus 39 Liederkreis cycle, and four songs from Sviridov's Russia cast adrift (not a well-known piece, but followers of Dmitri Hvorostovsky will know it). This selection showed how well he colours his voice, which can be fierce and powerful when he wants. He was the jury's choice, and I think the audience might have rioted if they'd picked someone else."