COMPETITION OF WORLD CLASS ARTISTS
By tradition, the contest – organized by the Liszt Academy for the third occasion - will be in four rounds. As part of the application procedure for the online selection, candidates can upload their video recordings (one Baroque and one freely selected aria from another period) to the competition’s new website. The competition secretariat will publish a notice on the decision of the qualifier jury headed by Éva Marton by 15 April 2018.
Competitors making it through to the live rounds in the autumn – only they have to pay the entry fee – prove themselves with a performance of a Liszt song and a further seven arias. The pieces must be performed from memory, in the original key and original language, and in full version. The venue for the rounds open to the public as well as the final (for the first time in the history of the competition) will be the Liszt Academy. Thanks to live Internet streaming, the competition (10-16 September 2018) can be followed throughout Hungary and anywhere in the world. The Orchestra of the Hungarian State Opera under the baton of Balázs Kocsár provide accompaniment in the final and gala. In addition to total prize money of €42,000, the very best competitors can also collect numerous special accolades including the prize of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, concert invitations and scholarships.
The competition is organized with funding from the government of Hungary amounting to approximately HUF 100 million. The jury, headed by Éva Marton, includes Hungarian and international celebrities from the world of opera such as Peter Mario Katona, director of casting at the Royal Opera, London, Miguel Lerín, one of the most influential managers in European opera, Anatoli Goussev, professor of La Scuola Musicale in Foro Buonaparte di Milano, Teimuraz Gugushvili, professor at the Tbilisi State Conservatory, Vittorio Terranova, artistic director of the F. Tagliavini opera competition, Eva Wagner-Pasquier, former director of the Bayreuth Festival, and on the Hungarian side, Andrea Meláth, head of the Department of Vocal and Opera Studies, Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, and Szilveszter Ókovács, director of the Hungarian State Opera.
On the basis of feedback from the international jury, competitors, the general public and last but not least, critics, the objective of the organizers is nothing less than to ensure that - in the wake of the first two competitions named after Éva Marton and organized to an extremely high standard worthy of this great artist – the position held by the III International Éva Marton Singing Competition is further strengthened among the elite of the world’s best music competitions. Having witnessed the upswing in the careers of the young artists proving themselves among the best at the 2014 and 2016 competitions, we have every right to assume that winners of the 2018 competition will shortly become regular and rightly acclaimed stars in their homelands and on the European opera scene.
COMPETITION DEVELOPMENT AND INTERNATIONAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN
Preparations for the III International Éva Marton Singing Competition began in summer 2017. The Liszt Academy did not want to depart from the tried and tested framework of the competition, although by utilizing the experiences accumulated since 2013, and through the further development and refinement of details, the eponym and those individuals managing the competition are justified in expecting that it will receive even greater international attention. Just as before, the organizers intend to communicate the competition announcement to students of the world’s most prestigious institutions of music and rising stars in the world of opera; the global media campaign promoting the announcement, as well as the competition itself, are designed to play an important image building role. At the same time, the operational framework of the team preparing the competition has changed: communication preparation and implementation function independently of the communications team handling Liszt Academy teaching and concert activities and as a part of the project organization within the institution. This year, Imre Szabó Stein, former director of communications, is overseeing competition development and international communication in a consultative capacity, and the team that have already proved themselves in previous competitions will function as associates.
The key to the redesigned image for the 2018 competition announcement is the spotlight effect shown in a stylized form around the logo and recurring in all the creative platforms, which places the earlier angled visuality – and indirectly, the competition now being organized for the third time – in a perspective. The gold tone and the laurel wreath motif evoking the Liszt Academy’s Grand Hall remain key elements of the image, while at the same time their appearance is more ‘plastic’ than before, including in how they surround the portrait of the eponym of the competition. The new visual concept appears in the brochure promoting the competition, on the redesigned website martoncompetition.hu, the associated new Facebook page, and the advertising platforms of the international media campaign. Updated designs for the prizes, gift objects and competition catalogue are currently being worked on.
The international promotional campaign is being put together along more robust guidelines refreshed in their concept. Advertisements for the Éva Marton Singing Competition appear with an image building character in several opinion-shaping cultural media columns as well as the most prestigious channels of the international opera world and classical music life (Opernglas, Opera Magazine, Opera Now, operanews.com, centralpalc.com, gramophone.co.uk, Classical Music, bachtrack.com, musicalamerica.com, thestrad.com), plus on one Russian and one Chinese platform. The decision to go beyond the strict frames of the musical profession – as was proven during the successful announcement of the Bartók World Competition and Festival that wound up a few weeks ago – not only focuses significant attention on the competition but also indicates the status of the event itself. Competition advertisements will appear over the next few weeks in the online platforms of Le Monde, Der Spiegel and Euronews. A 30-second spot developed from the professional multimedia documentation of the 2016 competition lies at the heart of press advertisements as well as search marketing and the social media campaign supplementing these ads. The spot condenses the most dramatic moments of the documentary made about the competition (in a coproduction between MTVA and the Liszt Academy, directed by Csaba Varga Zs.), to the inimitable melodies of Puccini’s Turandot. The creators of this short film are the same as the crew who worked on the Bartók World Competition and Festival spot that recently won a prize at Cannes.
The International Éva Marton Singing Competition first organized in 2014 was an important milestone both for the Liszt Academy and the person after whom it is named. The academy’s first ever major music competition organized from scratch by the institution immediately won itself a place among the leading global classical music contests, while it also fulfilled a long-held dream of the former Liszt Academy student and Professor Emerita. “When I was a student at the Liszt Academy, I resolved that if I ever had my own students, then I would teach them independence and self-confidence from the very first minute. Generally, a teacher wishes to create a lesser artist of the student than him or herself. This is wrong! You have to lend them wings so that they can stand their ground in life as soon as possible,” Éva Marton once stated, and the organizers wisely chose these words of hers as the motto of the competition.
The essential organizational background and infrastructural conditions for the competition were put in place following the major redevelopment of the Liszt Academy completed in 2013. Details of the competition repertoire, the scheduling and arrangements were worked out by the Liszt Academy programme directorate, naturally in close cooperation with the competition eponym and the competition secretariat. It was the task of the Liszt Academy communications team to shape a unique image, although sympathetic to that already used by the institution, to develop a website playing a critical role in the early stage of the competition when candidates submit their applications, to fashion an integrated media campaign supporting the promotion of the competition, and then later on to oversee the establishment of the entire publication and marketing tool portfolio and the origination of the prizes, along with the documentation and communication of the competition.
Candidates could submit applications to the online selection round of the first competition (announced in December 2013) from January of the following year on the competition website. Interest exceeded all expectations: no fewer than 150 singers submitted entries from a total of 37 countries on five continents. In the end, the selection jury led by Éva Marton considered 77 artists – including 11 young Hungarians – worthy of appearing in person before a jury and showing their skills and talents in the live rounds. At the end of the gruelling competition lasting five days, the jury (at the request of Éva Marton, some of the most influential figures in Hungarian and international opera agreed to take part in the work of the jury chaired by the founder of the competition) were unanimous in declaring Szilvia Vörös winner of the Grand Prix of the I International Éva Marton Singing Competition, while first prize went to Romanian baritone Alexandru Aghenie. In keeping with the general tone of the whole competition, both the jury and audience agreed on ranking the Ukrainian soprano Tetiana Zhuravel as being one of the best, who thus picked up the Audience Prize and second place, while third place went to Marcelina Beucher, a Polish soprano. “We have come across the most beautiful voices and extremely highly qualified, musically talented young artists in the material that has been submitted. The standard is noticeably higher compared to the 2014 competition: it is absolutely clear that starting from the standard of the first competition, weaker entries have not even submitted applications. The applicants have shown themselves to be highly prepared and fully aware that they can reckon on a world-class competition at the Liszt Academy. I am extremely pleased by this because it proves that we did not establish the International Éva Marton Singing Competition in vain,” said Éva Marton after the selection round for the II International Éva Marton Singing Competition staged two years later.
More than 100 artists from 25 countries on five continents submitted entries to the II International Éva Marton Singing Competition announced in early January 2016. In the end, the selection jury led by Éva Marton admitted 77 competitors through to the live rounds, of whom 48 young singers representing 18 nations had to make the long trip to Budapest, where they revealed their skills in September 2016. The Belarusian bass Alexander Roslavets won the Grand Prix and the Audience Prize. Winner of the first prize was the Mongolian Ankhbayar Enkhbold (baritone), the second place went to the only Hungarian making it into the final, soprano Lilla Horti, while 3rd prize was taken by Polish soprano Lucyna Jarzabek. Competitors making it into the finale agreed that the Éva Marton Singing Competition was an unmissable opportunity and door onto the international opera scene, emphasizing that they had never seen such professional organization and a venue as that of the Liszt Academy.
“The results speak for themselves: the mature artists ready for the world’s greatest opera stages considered it important to submit applications to the II International Éva Marton Singing Competition. And there can be no better proof of the fact that the competition, created and carried out with the greatest attention to every single detail – from the composition of the international jury right up to the tiniest laurel motif on the awards – is truly global, and that it did in truth garner attention the world over, than the fact that live online streaming (via 10 cameras) of both the semi-finals and the finals was followed from Japan to the United States, from Norway to Brazil, in more than 30 countries around the world,” said Imre Szabó Stein, project manager of the II International Éva Marton Singing Competition, speaking after the 2016 final.
CAREERS THAT HAVE TAKEN WING
Lilla Horti, the only Hungarian finalist and winner of second prize at the 2016 II International Éva Marton Singing Competition, has had an extremely busy year. The young soprano started her masters course at the Liszt Academy this autumn and just a few weeks ago she appeared on the stage of the Grand Hall as partner of the Kelemen Quartet in Schönberg’s String Quartet No. 2. In summer 2017, she played the role of Freia in Das Rheingold at the Wagner Festival, Müpa Budapest, at the Hungarian State Opera she sang in, for instance, Levente Gyöngyösi’s opera The Stork Caliph and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades (opera fans can catch up with Lilla in performances of La Bohème, The Magic Flute and Götterdämmerung in the 2017/18 season), besides which she has also been involved in several contemporary opera performances and song recitals at top theatres in Budapest and other cities.
Tetiana Zhuravel took second place, the Audience Prize and the special prize of the Liszt Academy at the I International Éva Marton Singing Competition in 2014. Immediately after the competition she received four parts from the Operetta Theatre of Kiev, she appeared at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, gave a solo song recital at the Liszt Academy and collected several invitations from the Hungarian State Opera. In early 2017, she burnished her reputation still further in the lead role Of Love and Other Demons, not to mention as The Queen of the Night, and in a few weeks she swaps with Erika Miklós as Violetta Valéry in La Traviata at the Erkel Theatre. She debuted at the Lvov Opera House this year, and in November 2017 she will be a soloist for Ligeti’s Requiem in a Müpa Budapest production.
Szilvia Vörös, winner of the Grand Prix at the 2014 I International Éva Marton Singing Competition, picked up roles in no fewer than eight productions staged by the Hungarian State Opera in the 2015/16 season, she was able to take a soloist part in Oratorio Christus (Liszt) at Müpa Budapest, while at the request of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra she participated in Mahler’s Children’s Death Songs cycle. At the Liszt Academy, she worked with Károly Mocsári on an evening of Rachmaninov songs, and in summer 2016 she had the opportunity to take to the stage alongside Anna Netrebko and Plácido Domingo in the framework of the project for young singers of the Salzburg Festival. In the last season, she has been on stage in the roles of Suzuki, Bersi, Siébel, Waltraute, Romeo, the High Priestess and Fenena at Opera House productions, and her next appearance will be as Isabella in The Italian Woman in Algiers. Notwithstanding these achievements, there have also been further competition victories: a prize in Linz in 2015 and success at the prestigious Concorso Lirico Internazionale di Portofino in summer 2017. Partly as a result of these wins, Wiener Staatsoper offered her a two-year solo singing contract starting from autumn 2018.
Alexander Roslavets, winner of the Grand Prix and the Audience Prize at the II International Éva Marton Singing Competition, is now a member of the Hamburg Staatsoper company, in addition to which he regularly appears in the Belarusian State Opera House. He has received invitations from all over Europe; he debuts at the Glyndebourne opera festival in 2019. This year he won a special prize at the 36th International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, and he came second at the Concorso Lirico Internazionale di Portofino competition in northern Italy. He was admitted to the talent-nurturing scholarship programme of the president of the Republic of Belarus. The Budapest audience can see him again on the stage of Erkel Theatre where he is a soloist in Verdi’s Requiem in early November.