Australian-British soprano Samantha Clarke has won the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Gold Medal. The UK school’s premiere prize for soloists, it has been awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years since 1950. Clarke joins an impressive list of Gold Medal recipients, among them cellist Jacqueline du Pré, violinist Tasmin Little and bass-baritone Bryn Terfel.
The Gold Medal Final took place at Barbican Hall before the public and a panel of judges that included Terfel, Irish mezzo-soprano Ann Murray, Director of Coaching and Music Administration for Indiana University Opera Theater Kevin Murphy, and Vice-Principal and Director of Music at Guildhall School Jonathan Vaughan.
Clarke secured her win with a program that included songs and arias by Strauss, Poulenc, Copland, Rachmaninov, Mozart, Puccini and Stravinsky. She was accompanied by the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Farnes.
Clarke with the judges. Photo © Clive Totman
“I was in total disbelief when I heard my name read out, but I am completely buzzing and over the moon to have won the Gold Medal,” said Clarke. “I felt very privileged to be performing on the Barbican stage and the support from the audience was so encouraging. It was lovely to have my tutor Yvonne Kenny watching my performance and I can’t thank her and my wonderful accompanist Michael Pandya enough for their help and guidance.”
Clarke and Yvonne Kenny. Photo © Clive Totman
Born in the UK, Clarke grew up in South Africa and then Australia where she completed a Certificate II in Musical Theatre, a Bachelor of Music in Performance and a Postgraduate Diploma of Music under the tutelage of Patricia Price at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). She is currently studying with Kenny, the beloved Australian soprano, in her second year at the Guildhall’s Opera School as a Baroness de Turckheim Scholar. Her studies there have been generously supported by the Australian Music Foundation through the Nora Goodridge Developing Artist Award. She is also supported by the Tait Memorial Trust, Help Musicians and is a Countess of Munster Trust Scholar. Clarke has previously received the Leverhulme Royal Northern College of Music Award, the Dame Eva Turner Award, and the 2017 RNCM Gold Medal.
Clarke will appear alongside fellow Australian soprano Lauren Fagan in Opera North’s upcoming La Boheme.