Britten and Handel do the trick as the 25-year-old countertenor from NSW carries off The Mathy for 2016.

Nicholas Tolputt has won the prestigious 2016 IFAC Australian Singing Competition. The 25-year-old countertenor from New South Wales defeated four rival singers to carry off a number of substantial prizes in the annual event held at The Concourse in Chatswood. The finalists were accompanied by the Australian Opera & Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Northey, and the evening was compered by ABC Classic FM’s Damien Beaumont.

“The overall standard was certainly very high,” Northey told Limelight. “All five singers brought something unique and engaging to their performances. Nicholas demonstrated wonderful technical control but also a great sense of dramatic connection with the text. His Britten in particular was outstanding. He has a big future ahead as do all the finalists.”

The Australian Singing Competition is one of Australia’s most important and valuable competitions for classical and opera singers, and this year there were nearl 100 entrants. Among a substantial $200,000 in prizes and opportunities, the Marianne Mathy Scholarship (known as ‘The Mathy’) is valued at $30,000. The starry panel of adjudicators was made up of Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, OA veteran bass Conal Coad, Associate Professor of Vocal and Opera Studies at the University of NSW Michael Halliwell, soprano Emma Matthews and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Head of Programming Benjamin Schwartz.

The four other singers competing comprised two Aussies (Morgan Balfour (23) and Sarah Wang (25), both sopranos from NSW) and a pair of Kiwis (Eliza Boom, a 22-year-old soprano and 25-year-old baritone Jarvis Dams). In a fiercely contested event, Tolputt carried off not only the Mathy, but a number of other prizes as well, singing the ravishing Stille amare from Handel’s rarely performed opera Tolomeo and I know a bank, Oberon’s lyrical aria from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, originally written for the pioneering countertenor Alfred Deller.

Stille amare is one of Handel’s most underappreciated largos,” Tolputt told Limelight, explaining his choices for the finals. “It’s a really cool dramatic piece. And I fell in love with the Britten as soon as I heard it. It’s a role I’d love to sing one day.”

In addition to the Marianne Mathy Scholarship, Tolputt also received the Merenda Legacy Prize, The Sydney Symphony Orchestra Award, The Betteru Prize and the Opera Australia Prize. “I was completely bowled over when I learned I’d won,” Tolputt confessed. “We really had no idea who would win, and we’d all agreed backstage that none of us was going to write an acceptance speech. I didn’t expect it at all. It felt surreal, very surreal.”

This is the second year in a row that The Mathy has been won by a countertenor (last year’s winner was Maximilian Riebl from Victoria). The scholarship has long been seen as a means towards opening significant doors in the profession with past winners including Anna Dowsley, Duncan Rock, Jessica Pratt, Rachelle Durkin and Stuart Skelton. For full biographies of the finalists and their prizes, click here.