Romanian Marius Brenciu becomes the first tenor to win Cardiff Singer of the World – and the first person to scoop both the main trophy and the song prize.
As the 27-year-old artist walked off the stage with his £2,000 song prize following the thrilling final on Saturday night, he listened in disbelief as his name was then read out for a second time, this time as the overall winner of the contest, worth another £10,000.
Not tipped as the likely overall winner Brenciu scooped the prize for the first concert round, then gave an astounding concert of opera arias and songs in his final performance.
Opening with Cielo e mar from La Gioconda, by Ponchielli, he nailed his colours to the mast as a consummate singer of Italian opera. You could then hear a pin drop in the auditorium at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall as he showed his profound skill and musicianship as a lieder singer – something rare in many operatic tenors – in a performance of Die Nacht, from Richard Strauss’s Lieder aus Letzte Blätter.
A change of mood followed in George Enescu’s Changeons propos, from the 7 Chansons de Clement Marot, which Brenciu himself described as ‘some pepper’ to follow the sweetness of the preceding Strauss.
He ended brilliantly with Lensky’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Brenciu’s apparent domination of the contest was by no means a foregone conclusion, however. Very much the ‘dark horse’, up to the last moment the pundits were predicting Latvian mezzo Elina Garanca as the almost certain winner, with German baritone Markus Bruck a close second and either Bruck or possibly Russian mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk up for the song prize.
Soprano Barbara Bonney, a commentator for BBC television, appeared to make the perhaps foolish promise that she would jump into the bay at Cardiff if the Latvian didn’t win…GMN has not heard if Ms Bonney took the plunge or not!
Marius Brenciu studied at the University of Music in Bucharest - taking first a music degree and then a Masters degree in Lied and Oratorio. He made his debut in 1997 as Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Bucharest Opera and has since performed a number of roles there, at the Sofia Opera and in Budapest. This year he sings Fenton in Verdi's Falstaff in Caen and takes part in performances of the Verdi Requiem in Bucharest and Lyublyana.
Brenciu won first prize and two special prizes the 2001 Young Concert Artists Competition in New York and second prize and the opera prize in the 1999 Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels.
This year’s judges’ panel was chaired by Welsh National Opera General Manager Anthony Freud, and included the legendary artists Marilyn Horne, Joan Sutherland, Gundula Janovitz and Tom Krause, as well as San Francisco Opera General Director Pamela Rosenberg and Edinburgh Festival chief executive Brian McMaster.
Winning Cardiff Singer of the World is enormously prestigious. The winner is often catapulted to fame and this marks the start of a highly successful international career. The immediate benefits are a prize of £10,000, a trophy donated by Welsh Royal Crystal and an additional concert with a BBC Orchestra.
Each of the other finalists received a prize of £2,000. The song prize was worth £2,000 and an additional concert with a BBC Orchestra.
Sun Jun 17 2001 (9:33:18 AM)