The first winner of the Glyndebourne Opera Cup was decided on Saturday as the new international singing competition reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne.
Mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey, 25, from the USA, was crowned the overall winner, receiving £15,000 and the guarantee of a role within five years at one of the top opera houses represented on the competition jury.
A native of Massachusetts, Hankey attended the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco and recently graduated from The Juilliard School. In 2017/18 she makes her debuts as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Den Norske Opera, Siébel in Faust at Grand Théâtre de Genève, and her Carnegie Hall debut in Handel’s Messiah with Musica Sacra. She was Grand Finals winner of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and first prize winner of the Dallas Opera Guild Competition.
Hankey was presented with her prize by Dame Janet Baker, the competition’s honorary president who helped to adjudicate the final.
‘I am honoured and humbled to be awarded the Glyndebourne Cup,’ she says. ‘The announcement left me speechless. This entire week has been incredible working with the staff at Glyndebourne and all who were involved in the competition, and it means so much to me to have been acknowledged as having something to say in interpreting Mozart’s music. I cannot say “thank you” enough for this honour”
Hankey impressed the judges with her two chosen Mozart arias – ‘Va pure ad altri in braccio’ from La finta giardiniera and ‘Parto, ma tu ben mio’ from La clemenza di Tito.
Sebastian F Schwarz, Chair of the Glyndebourne Opera Cup jury, said: ‘Throughout the competition, from the heats, through the semis to the final, Samantha Hankey was a winner. She had amazing stage presence, wonderful musicality, a beautiful voice – a voice that can be used in various sizes of theatres. She understood what she was singing about, and she conveyed it with absolute clarity and wonderful musical intelligence.’
Winning the Audience Prize, with a third of all votes cast by those in the auditorium who watched the final, was Kosovan soprano Elbenita Kajtazi, 27. Kajtazi as a young girl was forced to flee her home in war-torn Kosovo with her family, and live as a refugee in Albania. ‘Every time there would be a dangerous situation – the soldiers would come into our house or something like that – I would find a corner and sing to myself. Singing was my way to be able to feel safe,’ she recalls.
On her win she commented: ‘The audience prize means that the audience loved me and what more could I ask for? I’m for the first time here in England and I get this kind of treat and I’m able to get in people’s hearts, this means the world to me.’
Kajtazi also took Third place.
Second place went to American soprano Jacquelyn Stucker, 28, currently a Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, where she recently performed the role of Frasquita in Barrie Kosky’s production of Carmen.
The Ginette Theano prize for most promising talent was awarded to American soprano Emily Pogorelc, 21. Pogorelc was the youngest competitor to reach the final and is currently entering her final year at the Curtis Institute of Music.
The full list of prize winners are:
Overall winner (15,000) – Samantha Hankey
Second place (£10,000) – Jacquelyn Stucker
Third place (£7,500) – Elbenita Kajtazi
Ginette Theano prize for most promising talent (£5,000) – Emily Pogorelc
Media prize (£5,000) (adjudicated by a media panel) – Samantha Hankey
Audience prize (£5,000) – Elbenita Kajtazi
The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists, conducted by James Gaffigan.
The final of the Glyndebourne Opera Cup was broadcast live on Sky Arts, hosted by Chris Addison and Danielle de Niese.