I Éva Marton International Singing Competition starts

12 September 2014

Over 60 young artists, including 9 Hungarians, are expected to the I Éva Marton International Singing Competition, the first major international contest self-organized by the Liszt Academy to take place between 15-21 September 2014.

Almost 150 applications from 37 countries have arrived for the I Éva Marton International Singing Competition announced in December 2013. At the press conference of the contest held on 11 September, Dr. Andrea Vigh, President of the Liszt Academy, praised the life and work of Éva Marton emphasizing that it is greatly to her credit that the first major competition self-organized by the Liszt Academy could be arranged to the highest standards attracting huge domestic and international attention. The eponym of the competition considered as one of our most important tasks to protect the traditions and cultural heritage of Hungary, which is perhaps more urgent today than ever. "You always have to change and be on the move, while at the same time stay within the course, like the Danube – this is the guarantee of constant renewal," said the Kossuth Prize winner soprano, professor emerita of the the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music.

During the conference, Imre Szabó Stein, Director of Communications of the Liszt Academy, outlined the competition preparations and the application procedure, and presented the competition catalogue, website and merchandizing tools. "The number of tasks piling up presented serious challenges, and yet the advantages of preparing the competition in parallel with revamping the institutional image and publication portfolio of the renewed Liszt Academy are undeniable (several prestigious Hungarian and international creative awards have come our way) since we could position the competition as a brand integrated into the Liszt Academy's image while maintaining its independence," said Imre Szabó Stein. The competition was promoted with a highly focused, multi-stage international campaign but on a modest budget by global standards. "The discreetly elegant creative materials for the competition were visible in the most prestigious domestic and international specialist publications, including the pages of the New York Opera News, Opera Now, Opernwelt, Classical Music, BBC Music Competitions Guide, Gramophone, Das Opernglas, Opéra Magazine and l'opera; indeed, even the Singapore Music Education Asia publication," he added.

András Csonka, Cultural Director of the Liszt Academy, reckoned that competitors were attracted not by the prize money on offer but rather by the world renown of the Academy and its Art Nouveau palace that regained its original architectural magnificence last year, as well as the international prestige of the panel deciding on the final rankings. "Long established competitions such as the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow or the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels are so valued thanks to the festival management and the jury's network of contacts; winners gain unequalled performance opportunities," said the cultural director. Speaking of the preparations and arrangements for the competition in which he undertook a leading role, András Csonka expanded the oft-cited quote of Éva Marton, Kundry's words from Parsifal: ‘nur dienen, dienen' (let only serve, only serve) saying that he and his fellow organizers were truly pleased to serve a good cause.

The live rounds of the competition begin on Monday 15 September 2014 with drawing lots, wherein the order of performances among the 62 official entrants is decided by draw carried out in front of the assembled competitors. On 16–17 September 2014, singers going into the preliminary round prepare a Liszt song and two arias representing different styles and characters. "The idea of a Liszt song, a rarity in the compulsory repertoire of opera competitions, came from Éva Marton, who by so doing pays homage to the founder of the Liszt Academy, and at the same time draws attention to the international significance of Hungarian music," explained Beáta Schanda, head of the competition secretariat. The artistic manager highlighted the unusually wide repertoire of the contest, which ranges from the Baroque to 20th-century works. "This is a great opportunity for the competitors, among whom we may discover a would-be Wagner or Mozart singer," she noted. In the semi-final on Thursday 18 September, those moving through are asked to test themselves in two other opera roles with piano accompaniment. The best then progress into the final to be held on 20 September at 6 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy, performing three arias accompanied by the MÁV Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Ádám Medveczky. At the end of the finals, the jury announces the results, and the winners receive their prizes at the award ceremony. The competition will be closed by a gala concert hosted by the Hungarian State Opera House on 21 September, where the winners will be partnered again by the MÁV Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ádám Medveczky, professor at the Liszt Academy and conductor at the Opera House. The winners of the competition are awarded prize money, too: €12,000 for first place, €9000 for second, and €6000 for third place. The €15,000 Grand Prix does not have to be awarded. Furthermore, special prizes – in the form of invitations, scholarships and valuable trophies – are offered by the sponsors and partners of the competition. The audience attending the final can vote for the winner of the Audience Prize.

The international jury chaired by Éva Marton includes such greats of the opera world as global star mezzo-soprano Elena Obraztsova; tenor Vittorio Terranova, artistic director of the Tagliavini Competition; Sabino Lenoci, director of the prestigious l'opera magazine, artistic director of the Sarzana Opera Festival; Miguel Lerín, one of the most influential managers in European opera circles; producer Pal C. Moe, casting consultant of the Bayerische Staatsoper and Glyndebourne Festival; Peter Mario Katona, the highly regarded expert who holds the position of director of casting at the London Royal Opera House; Szilveszter Ókovács, general director of the Hungarian State Opera; and conductor Balázs Kocsár. The principal patron of the competition is János Áder, President of the Republic of Hungary, while the patrons include Zoltán Balog, Minister of Human Resources; András Batta, government commissioner for classical music, former president of the Liszt Academy; István Tarlós, Mayor of Budapest; and Szilveszter Vizi E., Széchenyi Grand Prix laureate doctor, pharmacologist and university professor. In the press conference – also attended by Szilveszter Ókovács, general director of the Hungarian State Opera, and György Lendvai, managing director of the MÁV Symphony Orchestra – two newly published books on Éva Marton were presented as well. Both volumes – one in Hungarian and the other in German – are authored by András Batta, and are based on his conversations with the artist and her husband and manager, Dr. Zoltán Marton. In evoking his long friendship with Éva Marton, András Batta said that the artist's path of life "is like a folk tale, from which a genuine novel enfolds." Heavenly Voice, the Hungarian book richly illustrated with photographs was published by Helikon Press, while the German edition was produced by Parthas Verlag Berlin under the title Die Frau mit Schatten (The Woman with a Shadow) as an allusion to Richard Strauss' opera Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow).

A documentary film covering the proceedings of the competition is made by MTVA on the commission of the Communication Directorate of Liszt Academy, while the online broadcast of the final on 20 September 2014 will allow people to follow the competition live from Hungary and anywhere else in the world at the martoncompetition.hu website. The same website provides biographies of the entrants, summaries of the rounds, exclusive background material and full information covering the competition.