Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
As you would expect, there is always strong support for the Welsh contestant in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.
But the cheers tend to be saved for the main competition rather than the more sedate Song Prize, which runs alongside it.
Wales’ entrant baritone Gary Griffiths is happily already well on his way in his operatic career, like a large number of this year’s participants. Some of them are already singing in some of the world’s great opera houses.
The pre-competition talent spotters seem to have largely opted for the safety of young professional singers for this year’s singing marathon.
Pembrey-born Griffiths oozed confidence in a recital that ranged in languages, styles and dramatic interpretation. The programme started with the bright Richard Strauss song Nichts, contrasting with a reflective piece, Weihnachtsgefühl, from the great Austrian lieder composer. In turn that stalwart of the Song Prize, Wolf, was ably mastered with the excitement and menace of Der Feuerreiter before a gloriously haunting rendition of Butterworth’s Is my team ploughing?
The well-balanced selection concluded with three from Poulenc, closing his splendid stab for the final of this competition with a jolly and frothy La belle jeunesse. The 30-year-old proved expressive in both voice and mannerism, displaying clear diction and interpretation with a rich baritone timbre.
The Song Prize competition has switched from the larger stage at the nearby New Theatre so it was odd to see singers in penguin suits and smart frocks rubbing shoulders with informal college students during this afternoon performance.
All those who have been selected for the main competition are eligible for the Song Prize, but this year only 17 of the contestants have decided to go for it.
Among those in this first Song Prize round with Griffiths were charming young Ukrainian soprano Olena Tokar, Lithuanian contestant, mezzo-soprano Egle Šidauskaite, and a very elegant and expressive tenor from Belarus, Yuri Gorodetski, to whom the audience took a particular shining.
They will also all sing with the Welsh hopeful in the main competition on Wednesday at St David’s Hall, along with Portugal’s Susana Gaspar.
Follow all of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition right here at WalesOnline