Polish dramatic soprano receives $20,000 in award bequeathed by cherished singer.

The Polish dramatic soprano Anna Patrys has won the inaugural Elizabeth Connell Prize.

Patrys was one of 50 sopranos from 17 countries to compete in the international competition, which was whittled down to five singers competing for the award at the finals last Saturday. The Elizabeth Connell Prize was held in conjunction with the Bel Canto Award, worth $30,000. The Elizabeth Connell Prize joins the Bel Canto as the highest honours granted by the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Foundation. This year’s Bel Canto was won by Samoan soprano Marlena Devoe of New Zealand, who was one of six competing for the prize. 

The judges were impressed by all of the talent shown on the evening, but it was Patrys and Devoe who had their attention from the start. “Both possess beautiful but extremely different voices. These promising young sopranos displayed innate musicianship, stunning voices, exceptional artistry and a true understanding of the music they were interpreting. Rarely does one come across singers who have something very special, but these two singers did, which is why the decision on the day was unanimous.”

The Elizabeth Connell Prize is funded by the late singer, who died after a short battle with lung cancer in 2012. The honour comes with a reward of $20,000 and offers the recipient an audition at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Connell was famous for her portrayals of the great Strauss, Verdi and Wagner heroines. As a dramatic soprano herself, she knew how difficult the discipline can be to break into, and was determined to leave a legacy that would give a leg-up to hopefuls. For that reason she bequeathed a fund for the award in her will.

The impression that Connell herself left on the opera landscape was notable, with her debut at Wexford Opera Festival in 1972. She sang at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in a performance of Prokofiev’s War and Peace in 1973, maintaining a special relationship with Opera Australia from that moment on.

Second place for the Elizabeth Connell Prize was Justine Viani (Britain/Australia), who won the Wagner Society of NSW Prize, while Tracy Cox (USA), Lucinda-Mirikata Deacon (Australia) and Diane Kalinowski (USA), were each a winner of the Finalists Prize.

In the running for the Bel Canto award were New Zealand’s bass–baritone, James Ioelu, who came second with the “Richard Bonynge Award”, Wollongong soprano Rachel Bate, who come third with the “Deborah Riedel Award” and Queensland born soprano Morgan Balfour, who took the fourth place “DECCA Award”. Remaining finalists were Victoria’s Kathryn Radcliffe and Western Australia’s Matthew Reardon.

For more on the Elizabeth Connell Prize, visit the JSRB Foundation website.