Australian soprano and rising international star Lauren Fagan is one of 20 finalists in this year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Now in its 36th year, the biennial competition to identify star singers offers a £20,000 cash prize ($AU37,000) and a concert recital at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Previous winners include the Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, the late Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky (who is the dedicatee of this year’s competition), Australian soprano Lisa Gasteen and German soprano Anja Harteros. Many past participants have also established highly successful careers, most significantly Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel – who won the Lieder Prize in 1989 – Latvian mezzo Elīna Garanča, and Swedish soprano Nina Stemme.

Lauren Fagan. Photo © Victoria Cadisch

“I am feeling extremely honoured, excited and of course nervous to represent Australia in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition,” Fagan told Limelight. “When I first arrived in London to study I remember watching the different rounds with my fellow Guildhall classmates and thinking one day I would love to sing in this… I’m in shock that this day dream has come true.”

“I want to go out there and enjoy singing some of my favourite arias and songs for such an incredible panel of judges. It is wonderful to know I’ll have the Australian public behind me too.”

A recent recipient of the prestigious Dame Heather Begg Memorial Award, Fagan’s  operatic engagements abroad have seen her critically acclaimed in the last few years. The soprano was nominated best ‘Young Singer’ of the year in 2018’s International Opera Awards, and her role debut as Violetta for the UK’s Opera Holland Park last year saw her described by The Guardian as “one of today’s finest young sopranos” and “exceptional throughout.” Fagan is a previous member of the Royal Opera House’s renowned Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, and a graduate of London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Fifteen countries are represented in this year’s competition, with Fagan the only Australian in the mix. As well as competing for the title of Singer of the World, the finalists may enter the Song Prize, which comes with a £10,000 cash prize ($AU18,500) and a concert recital at London’s Wigmore Hall. All finalists are eligible for the Audience Prize, which sees the public vote for their favourite singer in the concert hall, by phone or online. The winner receives £2,500 ($AU4,500)and a crystal trophy.

The distinguished judging panel for the main award is comprised of opera director David Pountney, Grange Park Opera founder Wasfi Kani, tenor José Cura, soprano Felicity Lott and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.

The 2017 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World was Scottish mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison.