Eunju Kwon (24) from South Korea is the winner of the 15,000 EUR Grand Prize in the Bertelsmann Stiftung's international NEUE STIMMEN singing competition. The soprano won over the judges, chaired by Dominique Meyer, with her rendition of the arias "No word from Tom" from Igor Stravinsky's opera "The Rake's Progress" and "Eccomi in lieta vesta" from Bellini's "I Capuleti e i Montecchi." Second Prize (10,000 EUR) went to Kihwan Sim (bass), who celebrated his 26th birthday on Oct 30, the day of the semi-finals. Tenor JunHo You (29) came in third, winning 8,000 EUR. More than 1,100 young singers from 63 nations had applied for this year's competition, and 41 young opera talents qualified during world wide preliminary auditions to compete in the final round in Gütersloh.
Since all seven of the singers delivered prize worthy performances in the final round, the judges awarded seven instead of the originally planned six prizes. Fourth through seventh prizes, each with a purse of 4,000 EUR went to the Russian tenor Pavel Kolgatin (22), the Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman (27), the mezzo-soprano Rachel Frenkel (28) from Israel, and the Russian bass Mikhail Korobeynikov. The viewers had already picked their favorite during the semi-finals: The audience award, a 500-EUR voucher for sheet music from the Bärenreiter imprint, went to the tenor Pavel Kolgatin. Again, this forth prize was sponsored by the Yokosuka Arts Foundation, the long time Japanese partner of the international singing competition.
In her speech, Liz Mohn, president of the competition and Vice CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, declared that she would dedicate this and all future rounds of the competition to her recently deceased husband Reinhard Mohn, "without whom there would be no NEUE STIMMEN." She added that he hadn't missed a single concert in the competition in the past 22 years. "My husband was delighted by these voices and how they found their way directly into the hearts of their listeners."
"NEUE STIMMEN symbolise what my husband stood for," concluded Liz Mohn: "Performance and competition, yes, but always under fair conditions and as partners. In the competition, we take great care of the young talents – that is very important to me and to everyone involved. They are musical diamonds in the rough, who enchant us with their voices. During the course of the competition these rough diamonds sometimes sparkle like finely polished diamonds."
The jury of ten is chaired by Dominique Meyer, currently General and Artistic Director of the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris and designated Director of the Vienna State Opera. The other judges are Kammersänger Francisco Araíza, Professor at the State College of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart; Brian Dickie, General Director of the Chicago Opera Theater and head of the NEUE STIMMEN preliminary auditions; Kammersänger Siegfried Jerusalem, Professor of the Nuremberg College of Music; music critic and author Jürgen Kesting; Gustav Kuhn, conductor and manager of the Tyrolean Festival in Erl; Bernd Loebe, General Director of the Frankfurt Opera; Nicholas Payne, Director of Opera Europa, the European association for opera houses and opera festivals; Kammersängerin Anja Silja; and Evamaria Wieser, Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival.