Cardiff Singer diary: part three
Laura Sinnerton, a viola player in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, has been keeping a diary during the 2011 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
Saturday 18 June
What a week! A number of my colleagues who have seen more Cardiff Singer competitions than they would care to admit have said this has been the finest contest they remember.
On the nights we haven't been performing, I've been glued to my tv watching the orchestra of the Welsh National Opera performing with the competitors of rounds two and four. I actually watched the song prize final twice (how exquisite was Maire Flavin's La Souris de l'Angleterre?).
We now know who the five finalists are, so today we will be rehearsing with the representatives from England, South Korea, Russia, the Ukraine and Moldova.
These last two days of the competition are really quite stressful for the orchestra. The rehearsal day is long and it feels like there is a lot of waiting around. There is just so much music to get through and so little time.
Of course, it is nothing in comparison to the stress that the competitors are under. Some of them will have performed four times by the end of the competition and a few seem to be suffering from sniffles and slightly croaky throats. This competition means so much to the competitors and the pressure at this stage must be huge.
As I've mentioned before, I'm an avid Twitter fan on which the competition has had a huge profile. It's been amazing to see how fiercely it has been discussed.
Tweets are exchanged at lightening speed, opinions on who could lift the trophy are retweeted and challenged immediately; for anyone who thinks the social networking generation are indifferent to competitions showcasing real talent, think again!
If I was asked to choose a winner right now, I would struggle. I'm actually completely in awe of all of them. It is going to be an amazing final.
Sunday 20 June
Competition final day. It is here, at last! The atmosphere in the hall is incredible. There is a great sense of expectancy; at times you could cut the atmosphere with a knife as the mood swings between excitement, stressed tension and nervous energy.
If ever there was a day that a good meal is needed before a concert, this is it. The concentration the orchestral members must put in is incredible and you are always very aware of the fact that making a mistake could be cataclysmic disaster for the competitor.
Today, I opt for a sushi dinner, but I go easy on the green tea as we will be on stage with no break until the last competitor has performed. That's a long time!
The hall is packed with an obviously excited audience. Meeta Raval takes to the stage first, resplendent in a sea of red satin. This English soprano is so exuberant and genuine in her passion for opera, she was a pleasure to rehearse with and tonight, I am genuinely moved by her performance.
Meeta's final aria 'Beim Schlafengehen' from Strauss' timeless Four Last Songs is one of my desert island discs (we performed the complete work with 1995's winner, the beautiful Katerina Karneus, quite recently).
Ms Raval is followed by Olesya Petrova from Russia who is one of my favourites - I just love her dark voice and the way she uses her face. Her aria from Rimsky-Korsakov's 'The Tsar's Bride is a real highlight for me.
I enjoyed her choice of the Habañera from Carmen as her final piece. It was lovely to see a different side to her in the flirtatious role of Bizet's original diva, Carmen.
Watching Concert 4 on tv, I was completely blown away by Hye Jung Lee's I Am The Wife of Mao Tse Tung from Nixon in China by John Adams. This South Korean's tiny frame completely belies the incredible voice she has.
The pyrotechnics of her coloratura are jaw - dropping and the stratospheric range of her voice is incredible. Her programme must have required so much stamina and I particularly enjoyed her Alcina. I just wish she had sung Madame Mao again!
I thought her outfit was stunning, a very simple white dress reminiscent in shape and style of traditional Korean costume.
Andrei receives a very warm reception from the audience, he has obviously built up quite a following in Cardiff over this week with his characterful performances and that incredible voice.There is just something so believable about the roles he embodies and appears to have such control over his voice.
He does not disappoint in his performance this evening and the audience react with great enthusiasm. I am very jealous of anyone who gets the opportunity to hear and see him perform Malatesta in Don Pasquale this autumn Glyndebourne Touring Opera).
The final competitor is Moldovan soprano, Valentina Naforniţă. She looks every inch the star in a dress that is both demure and exceptionally alluring at the same time.
The highlight of her programme for me is Je veux vivre from Gounod's Romeo and Juliet. You truly can imagine her not just acting, but embodying this role on stage.
There follows a long interval during which there is pretty much only one topic of conversation! I go outside to get some fresh air and am surprised to see how sunny it is - being in the hall is like entering the Twilight Zone, there is no sense of time or of anything much outside of the hall.
We're eventually ushered back on stage and to tumultuous applause, Valentina Naforniţă is announced, not only the winner of the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize, but also as BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011. I can hear my father saying, 'see, I told you so, you'll listen to your old da yet' all the way from County Antrim.
What a week indeed! I feel very honoured to have been part of what I'm sure will go down as a very memorable competition. Congratulations to Valentina, to Andrei (winner of the Song Prize) and to all of the singers. The competitors of 2013 will have a very high standard to live up to.