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Classical News, Jazz, Opera, World Music, Theater, Ballet ...

Cardiff hopes revived for Russian and Australian
Two of the five concert winners have been dumped from the final of the Cardiff Singer of the World contest. But the judges pick three of the finalists, including heat losers Ekaterina Semenchuk and Natalie Christie, from just one round.

Supporters of soprano Andion Fernandez from the Philippines and Georgian mezzo Anna Kiknadze, from the Mariinsky Academy, must be feeling for them today after a demonstration of just how flexible the rules are designed to be at the prestigious Cardiff contest.

Despite winning concert rounds three and five respectively - an almost certain ticket through to the final in most circumstances - neither singer has been chosen to go through to SaturdayÕs final.

Instead, the judges have used their discretion to select the winners from rounds one, two and four - Romanian tenor Marius Brenciu, Latvian mezzo Elina Garanca and German baritone Markus Bruck - but also two further performers from round four, Russian mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk and Australian soprano Natalie Christie.

Places in the final are allocated on a points basis, which means that runners-up can be chosen above lower-scoring winners from other rounds.

25-year-old Semenchuk, who was featured by GMN earlier this year, is poised to become one of the brightest stars of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. Great things were expected of her in this contest, fuelled by those musicians and members of the public who have seen her in action (see previous GMN news story).

Natalie Christie was also a strong contender – and highly popular with the audience – and she radiated personality and musicianship in arias by Weber and Donizetti, and songs by Debussy, Williamson and Samuel Barber.

Their hopes of a chance at the top prize looked to be well and truly dashed when the concert round was won by Markus Bruck, another highly musical and commanding performer. But all is now up for grabs again as the contest heads for its exciting denouement.

Music chosen for the final includes a huge range of arias and songs by Bellini, Gounod, Wagner, Berlioz, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Wolf, Berg, Saint-Saens, Struass, Manuel de Falla and many more. For a full list of the programmes to be presented by each singer, and their biographies, please scroll down.

Cardiff Singer of the World 2001

Finalists

Natalie Christie, soprano, Australia - age 26
Programme
Bellini - Eccomi in lieta vesta - Oh! quante volte - I Capuleti e i Montecchi Act 1
Hugo Wolf - Er ist's - Mörike-Lieder
Hugo Wolf - Der Knabe und das Immlein - Mörike-Lieder
Hugo Wolf - Elfenlied - Mörike-Lieder
Gounod - Je veux vivre - Roméo et Juliette

There has been an Australian contestant at every Competition since 1985. In 1991 Lisa Gasteen won. Hopes for a victory ten years later rest with the first recipient of the Welsh National Opera John Moores Award - soprano Natalie Christie, currently a Company Principal with Welsh National Opera.

Natalie began her vocal studies at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1993. In 1996 she moved to London and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She has been singing professionally for 18 months - making her debut in 1999 as Sister Constance in the WNO production of The Carmelites. Since then, she has sung for the Australian Opera and also for English National Opera. Her roles for WNO this season include Euridice in Gluck's Orfeo, Barbarina, le Nozze di Figaro and Pamina Die Zauberflote.

Natalie has won several important prizes including the Marianne Mathy Scholarship in the Australian Singing Competition 1995 and was a finalist in the Kathleen Ferrier Awards in 1998.

Marius Brenciu - tenor - Romania - age 27

Programme
Ponchielli - Cielo e mar - La Gioconda
Richard Strauss - Die Nacht - Lieder aus Letzte Blätter
George Enescu - Changeons propos - 7 Chansons de Clement Marot
Tchaikovsky - Lensky’s Aria - Eugene Onegin

Marius studied at the University of Music in Bucharest - taking first a music degree and then a Masters degree in Lied and Oratorio. Marius 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.

Marius 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.

Ekaterina Semenchuk - soprano - Russia - age 25

Programme
Saint-Saëns - Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix - Samson et Dalila
Gavrilin - Ah, my dear, let me in
César Cui - I touched the flower
Kalinnikov - The Bells
Berlioz - Mais qu’ai-je donc? - Benvenuto Cellini

Ekaterina Semenchuk is the fifth Russian contestant in the Competition - two out of the four previous Contestants - Vassili Guerelo in 1993 and Larisa Rudakova in 1995 both made the Final. Ekaterina is a member of the Young Singers Academy of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, home of the Kirov Opera.

Ekaterina studied at the Minsk Music School, the Byelorussian Music Academy and then the St. Petersburg Conservatory. She performs regularly with the Kirov Opera where her roles include Lel in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden, Sonia in Prokofiev's War and Peace and Pauline in Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame.

Ekaterina won the Hope Award in the 1999 International Obraztsova Competition and was a finalist in the 2000 Placido Domingo Competition in Los Angeles.

Markus Bruck - baritone - Germany - age 29

Programme
Wagner - Blick’ ich umher in diesem edlen Kreise - Tannhäuser
Tchaikovsky - Yeletsky’s Aria - The Queen of Spades
Richard Strauss - Allerseelen
Alban Berg - Fraue, du Süße – Jugendlieder
Verdi - Alzati! - Eri tu - Un ballo in maschera

Currently a soloist with the Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Markus has the difficult task of following last year's winner Anja Harteross as the German contestant.

Markus studied at the Musikhochschule in Mannheim and then at the Musikhochschule in Cologne before beginning his professional career as a soloist at the Teatre Hagen in 1995. In 1997 he moved to the Pflaztheater Kaiserslautern and in 1999 to his present company where his roles include Renato in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni, Wolfram in Wagner's Tannhäuser and the baritone soloist in Orff's Carmina Burana. Markus will join the Deutsche Oper Berlin for the 2001/2 season.

Elina Garanca - mezzo-soprano - Latvia - age 24

Programme
Massenet - Werther! Qui m’aurait dit la place – Werther
Manuel de Falla - Jota- 7 Canciones Populares Españolas
Manuel de Falla - Nana -7 Canciones Populares Españolas
Manuel de Falla - Canción - 7 Canciones Populares Españolas
Manuel de Falla - Polo - 7 Canciones Populares Españolas
Rossini - Nacqui all’affanno… Non più mesta - La Cenerentola

There has only been one other contestant from Latvia - Sonora Vaice in 1997 who, although not making the Final, made a big impression. Elina Garanca is currently a soloist with the Frankfurt Opera.

Elina was educated at the Latvian Academy of Music and after graduation joined the Theatre Meiningen in Germany before moving to Frankfurt in 2000. At Frankfurt her roles include the Second Lady in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Hansel in Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel. This season Elina will also sing the role of Maddalena in Verdi's Rigoletto at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland.

Elina won First prize in the 1999 Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in Finland and the Latvian Great Music Award in 2000.

Fri Jun 15 2001 (2:58:53 PM)

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