Interview with 2009 Cardiff Singer winner Ekaterina Scherbachenko

Russian soprano Ekaterina Scherbachenko was the winner of the 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. As this year's event gets into gear, she looks back at her 2009 win.

What did you gain from winning BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 2009?

The exposure gained from competing in Cardiff Singer was priceless. My career only properly got under way following the competition. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the advice I would give to this year's competitors is to choose the right repertoire. I now have a great agent, with offers from opera houses around Europe, and to be honest the competition was the turning point in my career.

Were you nervous before your performances?

In the first round I wasn't nervous. I was just happy and proud to be there, to sing in the great hall and in front of so many people. When the final night came, my nerves very much kicked in. When John Fisher announced me as winner, it was an unbelievable feeling.

What do you remember most about the competition?

The people who supported me during the competition were incredible, from the conductors, pianists, organisers to the backstage staff. I also received one-to-one advice from members of the jury afterwards.

The main advice was to think about every step in my career and to choose my repertoire very carefully. For me, being in Cardiff was the most valuable experience I've had; all aspects of my visit were memorable.

Ekaterina Scherbachenko backstage at the Semperoper, Dresden after her appearance in the title role of Iolanta in a concert performance with the Bolshoi in June 2010 (photo: Viv Goldberg)

What advice would you give to this year's competitors?

Before performing, it's important to rest your voice and your whole body. I exercise the voice, but not too much.

I always need to be comfortable in what I wear. When I perform in a recital or concert I always wear high heels and concert dress as I want to feel like a performer, but if I'm on stage in the theatre I must always engage with my character.

We understand that you're booked to sing all over the world.

This season, I've already sung Tatyana at the Monte Carlo Opera. I will make my debut as Liù in a new production of Turandot at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich under the direction of Zubin Mehta in April.

I will also début at the Metropolitan Opera (Micaela), the Glyndebourne Festival (Mimì) and the Teatro alla Scala (Liù). I would not have had these opportunities without BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

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