The Voice of Black Opera Competition

Twelve international singers are bound for Birmingham to compete for cash prizes and career development opportunities, with five singers advancing to the Grand Final on 5 December

Black British Classical Foundation has announced the 12 singers selected from around the world who will be in Birmingham next month for intensive preparations for The Voice of Black Opera (VOBO) Semi-finals on 24 and 25 November, 2022. Each will be vying for the chance to be one of the five who will progress to the competition Final at Birmingham Town Hall on Monday 5 December, 2022.

As well as competing for coveted prizes, the dozen semifinalists chosen via video auditions open to Black and South Asian singers from Commonwealth countries, will also have opportunities to take part in professional development workshops and a masterclass.

The VOBO semi-finalists, along with voice type and nationality, are:

Natasha Agarwal – soprano (British Indian)
Neil Balfour – bass-baritone (Scottish Indian)
Rachel Duckett-soprano (British)
Chantelle Grant- mezzo-soprano (Canadian)
Christian Joel – tenor (Trinidadian)
Thando Mjandana – tenor (South African)
Yolisa Ngwexana – soprano (South African)
John Onosolease – baritone (Nigerian)
Isabelle Peters – soprano (British)
Samkelisiwe Sitshinga – soprano (South African)
Shanice Skinner – soprano (Canadian)
Suzanne Taffot- soprano (Canadian-Cameroonian).

Judges for the Semifinals are Russell Moreton (Head of Music and Casting, Welsh National Opera), Stephan Meier (Artistic Director, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group), Shirley Thompson (composer) and Patricia Rozario (soprano and Professor at Royal College of Music).

The five singers chosen to compete at the Final at Birmingham Town Hall will be accompanied by the Welsh National Opera (WNO) Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren.  At the Final, each singer’s repertoire must include a performance of at least one contemporary song or aria by a Black or South Asian composer and finalists will also perform a duet with a leading opera singer.

Two prizes will be awarded at the Final:

The Sir Willard White Trophy – the winner will be awarded £10,000, repertoire coaching with music staff of Welsh National Opera, and a concert appearance with the WNO Orchestra

The Samuel Coleridge Taylor Award – the recipient will receive £5,000 and three performances of a specifically commissioned new work from Daniel Kidane for voice and ensemble with The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Both winners will be presented with trophies created by internationally acclaimed potter Dame Magdalene A.N. Odundo, and each finalist will be fitted with a bespoke fashion item, designed by students of Birmingham City University ( BCU) School of Fashion & Textiles, to wear at the Final. Bespoke jewellery will also be made for the singers by students of the BCU Birmingham School of Jewellery.

The Chair of the judging panel for the Final will be internationally renowned tenor and composer Tom Randle.  He will be joined by Aidan Lang – General Director of Welsh National Opera, Stephan Meier – Artistic Director of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Jean Ronald La Fond – tenor and vocal coach, Philip Herbert – composer, Rupert Christiansen – writer and critic, and Odaline de la Martinez – composer and conductor.

The Voice of Black Opera Competition is organised by Black British Classical Foundation in collaboration with Welsh National Opera, to showcase the finest Black and South Asian singers as they launch international operatic careers.  The first Voice of Black Opera competition was held in 2008 and helped launch the careers of winners Elizabeth Llewellyn, Peter Braithwaite and Nadine Benjamin.

From this year the relaunched competition will be held biannually, and should become a much-anticipated highlight of the international cultural calendar. Vincent Osborne, Founder and Artistic Director, says: “There is an embarrassment of riches and talent within our communities of colour, just waiting for opportunities and the right platform to be heard and seen.  Voice Of Black Opera is the vehicle to drive the winners to become household names and in-demand at concert halls and opera houses throughout the world.”

For further information see Voice of Black Opera.