American Mezzo Jamie Barton Awarded Cardiff Singer of the World Prize

Opera News
June 2013

Photo credit: Brian Tarr

Photo credit: Brian Tarr

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, 31, a native of Rome, Georgia, was named on Sunday as the winner of the BBC's Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, a biennial prize carrying a £15,000 purse.

"It's a complete privilege and honor," said Barton, who in addition to winning the main competition, was also awarded on Friday the contest's £5,000 World Song Prize, which is given to the best performer of art song, folk song or lieder. Barton is only the second singer in the competition's thirty-year history to be awarded both the main and song prizes; Romanian tenor Marius Brenciu first won both prizes in the 2001 competition.

"The competition has been an incredible experience and I'll hold very fond memories of my time in Cardiff," Barton is quoted as saying.

Organized by BBC Cymru Wales, the competition was televised in the UK by BBC Four and BBC Wales, in addition to being broadcast by radio over several BBC channels. Twenty competitors — selected through a worldwide audition process — were chosen to represent their respective countries before being narrowed down to five singers for the competition finals. For the main competition, the singers performed their own selection of opera and concert works with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Singers taking part in the main competition were also eligible to vie for the Song Prize, for which singers performed selections of lieder, art song or folk song with piano accompaniment.

In the main competition, Barton sang "Acerba voluttà ... O vagabonda stella" from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the Witch's aria from Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel, "Var det en dröm?" by Sibelius and Didon's "Je vais mourir ... Adieu, fière cité" from Berlioz's Les Troyens. Barton was awarded the trophy for the main prize by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who served as a member of the competition's jury. For the Song Prize finals, Barton sang Britten's arrangement of Purcell's "Music for a while," "Meine Liebe ist grün" and "Unbewegte laue Luft" by Brahms, "Svarta rosor" and "Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte" by Sibelius, and "I wait for you" and "Glory to God" by Rachmaninov.

Born in Rome, Georgia, Barton studied at Shorter College prior to attending Indiana University. She was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio from 2007 through 2009, and was also named a national winner in the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions in 2007. In 2012, she was given a career grant by the Richard Tucker Foundation.

Barton made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2009, as the Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte, and last season she she made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut performing in the company's productions of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Boris Godunov and Ariadne auf Naxos. She went on to sing in Peter Ash's The Golden Ticket with Atlanta Opera and Götterdämmerung at the Bavarian State Opera. Next season, she will sing Adalgisa in two October performances of Norma at the Metropolitan Opera. In 2012, Barton made her UK concert debut singing Elgar's Sea Pictures at the Barbican Centre. She has also been featured in recitals by the Kennedy Center's Vocal Arts Society and as a soloist in the Marilyn Horne Foundation's gala at Carnegie Hall.

The Singer of the World Competition was inaugurated in 1983 by BBC Wales to celebrate the opening of St David's Hall in Cardiff, home of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Past winners of the main prize include Anja Harteros, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Karita Mattila; winners of the song prize include Bryn Terfel, Christopher Maltman, Andrew Kennedy and Elizabeth Watts.