Culture

Republic of Korea baritone crowned BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021  

20 Jun 2021 5 minutes Read
Gihoon Kim. Pic: BBC Cymru Wales

Baritone Gihoon Kim, from Republic of Korea has become the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021.

The announcement was made during the broadcast of the competition’s Main Prize Final  live on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3 on Friday night.

Gihoon Kim, 29, rose to win the ultimate prize against a record-number of singers from across the globe who entered, with 16 singers from 14 countries selected to take part in the final rounds of the competition, broadcast across BBC TV and Radio this week.

Recognised as one of the most important competitions in classical music, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World has launched the careers of some of the world’s biggest opera stars, including Karita Mattila, Elīna Garanča, Anja Harteros, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Bryn Terfel, Jamie Barton and 2019 winner baritone Andrei Kymach from Ukraine.

Following his win, Gihoon Kim said: “Performing as part of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021, after such a challenging year, has been an absolute thrill. I’ve loved every minute of it, both singing and watching the other competitors. Winning such a prestigious title is an incredible honour, especially considering the exceptional skills and artistry of all the other contestants. It has been an inspiring journey – and one that I will definitely remember for the rest of my career.”

Born in Gokseong, Gihoon Kim studied singing at Yonsei University in Seoul with Professor Kim Kwan-dong. In the 2016/17 season he received a scholarship at the Junge Oper Hannover, where he sang roles including Demetrius (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Marullo (Rigoletto) and Melot (Tristan und Isolde).

He was subsequently successful at several international competitions, and won second prize in both the Tchaikovsky and Operalia competitions, as well as the Audience Prize at the latter. Among recent highlights are gala concerts at the Mariinsky Concert Hall in St Petersburg and Zaryadye Hall in Moscow with Valery Gergiev. His future plans include debuts at Glyndebourne Festival and at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.

Impressed

Gihoon Kim impressed the judging panel, chaired by the General Director of Welsh National Opera Aidan Lang, along with celebrated opera stars US soprano Roberta Alexander and Welsh bass-baritone Neal Davies, with performances of Largo al factotum from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia; Wie Todesahnung… O du mein holder Abendstern  from Wagner’s Tannhäuser; and Nemico della patria  from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier.

The final, presented by Josie d’Arby and Petroc Trelawny with special guests mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and English National Opera’s Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon, took place at St David’s Hall, in the capital, without an audience in attendance and in strict compliance with the latest health and safety Welsh government guidelines regarding COVID-19.

The four other finalists were mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones from England; soprano Christina Gansch from Austria; mezzo-soprano Natalia Kutateladze from Georgia; and soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha from South Africa. They sang arias and concert repertoire ranging from Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen, Ah! Chi mi dice mai  from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Beim Schlafengehen from Strauss’ Four Last Songs, accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with conductors Michael Christie and Andrew Litton.

‘Extraordinary’

The Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize – voted for by the television audiences at home – was presented to mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones from England.

David Jackson, Artistic Director of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, said: “This year’s edition was one of the most extraordinary in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World’s history. It was heart-warming to witness the dedication, resilience, and focus of all the 16 competitors as they prepared for their performances in unprecedented circumstances, and then gave their all on stage. We thank them for sharing their inspiring artistry with audiences all over the world, and we wish Gihoon Kim the best of luck for his future career!”

Head of BBC Music TV Commissioning Jan Younghusband said: “Taking place as the world slowly emerges from one of the most challenging times, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021 has provided uplifting moments of hope for audiences at home, thanks to the beautiful performances of the exceptionally talented competitors. Broadcasting world-class performance and arts straight to people’s screens and radios is the BBC’s mission, and the 2021 edition of the competition was definitely a great  example of this. Best of luck to all these talented singers for their future careers!”

Paul Bullock, Head of Music & Events, BBC Studios Cardiff said: “Everyone involved in this year’s TV production of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World will remember it for the glorious singing first and foremost. Whilst it’s presented a complicated set of challenges, it’s also been a huge privilege for the production team here in Cardiff to produce the coverage of this important international event. At such a difficult time for the performing arts it felt so important to deliver these high quality performances for audiences here and around the world to enjoy. Congratulations to all the singers and to this year’s winner Gihoon Kim.

Performances are still available to view and listen to on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sounds, and BBC Cardiff Singer website.

As previously announced, the Song Prize was won by  soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha from South Africa. 

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World is organised by BBC Cymru Wales in association with Welsh National Opera and is supported by Cardiff Council.

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