Sunday in Cardiff, Wales, young American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton joined an elite cadre of classical artists as the newest winner of the highly prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Barton also took home the 2013 Song Prize. (A third award, the Audience Prize, went to British tenor Ben Johnson.)
While the 31-year-old Barton won £15,000, Cardiff is more notable for its prestige and the exposure it offers. This competition has famously helped launch the international careers of several superstar artists, including Wales' own bass-baritone Bryn Terfel (the 1989 Song Prize winner), Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky (who won the overall prize in 1989), Finnish soprano Karita Mattila (the 1983 winner) and Latvian mezzo Elīna Garanča (a 2001 finalist).
For the final round, Barton sang the aria "Acerba voluttà" from Cilea's opera Adriana Lecouvreur:
Of Barton's performances in Cardiff, Guardian critic Tim Ashley wrote: "She is a great artist, no question, with an imperturbable steadiness of tone, and a nobility of utterance that invites comparison not so much with her contemporaries as with mid 20th-century greats such as Kirsten Flagstad or Karin Branzell."
Held every two years, the Cardiff competition whittles down a field of thousands of hopefuls down to 20 finalists — one singer per country — who vie for the top prize as well as the Song Prize and Audience Prize. This year's jurors included soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, mezzo Felicity Palmer, tenors Christoph Prégardien and Neil Shicoff, and baritone Håkan Hagegård.
A native of Rome, Georgia, Jamie Barton studied at Indiana University and the Tanglewood Music Center before joining the Houston Grand Opera Studio. And if Barton looks familiar, it may be because you saw her in Susan Froemke's involving documentary The Audition, chronicling the backstage story of the final rounds of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Next up for Barton: a turn as soloist in Verdi's Requiem in Melbourne in September, followed by a stint at the Met singing the role of Adalgisa in Bellini's Norma — where she's teaming up with a former Met Council audition rival and now colleague, Angela Meade.