Norrköping hosted the third edition of the biennial WSIMC earlier this month, welcoming 83 opera singers from 29 countries. Municipal leaders hope the event will not only be a springboard for launching the careers of young talents, but also enhance the city’s musical reputation.
“Music is the language of the soul,” said Sonja Stenhammar, artistic director of the WSIMC, which held its final gala concert on June 17th in Norrköping. A former opera singer, Stenhammar believes the event is necessary because “human beings can understand each other through music.”
The international mix of singers, musicians and jury members reveals the scope of the Stenhammar Foundation, which hopes to turn Norrköping into a European music capital, according to Norrköping Mayor Li Teske.
In addition, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, which won a MIDEM Classical Award earlier this year, will celebrate its centenary in 2012.
Despite the cosmopolitan background of participants, the competition maintains a distinctly Swedish focus. In the second round of competition, candidates sang one piece by Swedish composer Stenhammar and another work by Daniel Börtz or Hans Gefors, both Swedish modern classical composers.
The final round drew an audience of over 800. The orchestra was led by guest conductor and jury member Nader Abbassi, artistic director and principal conductor of the Cairo Opera Orchestra. The jury chair, Kerstin Meyer, was appointed Sweden’s royal court singer in 1963.
South Korean tenor Lee Jaesig won the top prize of 100,000 kronor, along with the 20,000-kronor audience prize. Fellow Korean Choi Hyekyoung received the second prize of 60,000 kronor, as well as the Mozart Prize of 10,000 kronor.
They were followed by Poland’s Izabela Matula, who received 40,000 kronor, and Romania’s Diana Tugui, who was awarded 20,000 kronor. In addition, South Korean Kim Ji Hyun won the 20,000-kronor contemporary Swedish music prize for the best interpretation of a Börtz or Gefors work.
The nine finalists will perform at galas at the Cairo and Alexandria Opera Houses in Egypts. Other engagements for Lee include the Musical Olympus Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia as well as a solo performance with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.
Starting next year, the competition will forgo its biennial schedule, with the Stenhammar Foundation planning to host its first conductor competition.