Alastair Muir

Plácido Domingo’s OPERALIA The World Opera Competition

A glittering night of talents, prizes and surprises.
Competition Final: Sunday 19 July 2015, 6 pm


“My purpose in Operalia is to help identify not only the best voices of today, but also to discover those singers whose personalities, characters and powers of interpretation show that they have the potential to become complete artists. Individuals such as these become tomorrow’s stars.”  Plácido Domingo

Hosted at the Royal Opera House for the first time in 22 years, Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition felt like a large happy family get-together, buzzing with happy anticipation.

Like the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, the Operalia is an extremely significant and prestigious competition for aspiring young opera stars and was founded in 1993 by Plácido Domingo to help singers ‘flourish internationally’. There are serious cash prizes and two Rolex watches on offer as well as a potentially major career boost for the 11 opera finalists; five of them were also Zarzuela finalists.

The repertoire for this year’s finals was 19th century music and each singer was given five minutes to impress a jury panel of 12 men and two women. The strict time-limit rule was not universally applied and for some unclear reason, Hye Sang Park from South Korea was given 15 minutes to demonstrate her vocal range and sang, in full, the “mad scene” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Everyone else had five minutes or less. Park took home second prize and the Zarzuela prize for her extended performance.

First prize was awarded to Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, who used her five minutes to sing “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. As well as first prize, she won the Birgit Nilsson prize and, as the audience choice, a Rolex watch.  Her dramatic soprano voice is strikingly bold and technically flawless: it was a well-deserved win.

American soprano Andrea Carroll should have been among those in the winners’ gallery. Her performance at the Zarzuela part was strong.

Romanian tenor Ioan Hotea scooped up the first prize for men and was also awarded the Zarzuela prize. Darren Pene Pati from New Zealand came a close second (by three votes). Pati enraptured the audience with his performance of Edgardo’s aria “Tombe degli avi miei” from Lucia di Lammermoor and has the makings of a larger than life tenor. As the audience choice, he took home a Rolex watch and is sure to be a popular favorite in opera houses the world over in years to come.

For some reason, the American baritones chose to give almost identical performances of “Largo al factotum” from The Barber of Seville. Both were entertaining, but neither was outstanding.


Thousands of aspiring opera singers apply each year, 11 reach the finals and then, one male and one female are selected as the winners.

  • First prize of US $30,000 – Ioan Hotea, Romania and Lise Davidsen, Norway
  • Second prize of US $20,000 – Darren Pene Pati, New Zealand and Hye Sang Park, South Korea
  • Third prize of US $10,000 – Edward Parks, USA and Noluvuyiso Mpofu, South Africa
  • Birgit Nilsson Prize of US $15,000 – Lise Davidsen, Norway
  • The Pepita Embil Domingo Prize of Zarzuela of US $10,000 to Hye Sang Park, South Korea
  • The Don Plácido Domingo, Sr., Prize of Zarzuela of US $10,000 – Ioan Hotea, Romania
  • Audience Prizes, Rolex wristwatches to Darren Pene Pati, New Zealand and Lise Davidsen, Norway
  • The Culturarte Prize of US $ 10,000 to Kiandra Howarth, Australia


Australia: Kiandra Howarth, soprano, 25 (also Zarzuela finalists)

France:   Julien Behr, tenor, 32

New Zealand:  Darren Pene Pati, tenor, 27 (also Zarzuela finalists)

Norway:   Lise Davidsen, soprano, 28

Romania: Ioan Hotea, tenor, 25 (also Zarzuela finalists)

South Africa:  Bongani Justice Kubheka, bass- baritone, 24

Noluvyuiso Mpofu, soprano, 26

South Korea: Hye Sang Park, soprano, 26*

USA: Andrea Carroll, soprano, 25 (also Zarzuela finalists)

Tobias Greenhalgh, baritone, 26

Edward Parks, baritone, 31