Moldovan soprano Valentina Naforniţă wowed the judges at this year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World with a searing performance of arias from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and Dvořák's Rusalka. Not only that, she also carried off the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize. Just over a month on, in her first full-length interview since winning, the 24-year-old tells us how her life has changed and about the first ever singing competition she took part in – at the age of five.
How have things changed for you since winning BBC Cardiff Singer of the World?
Things have changed dramatically – I’ve been offered lots of opportunities around the world and have met lots of people from the classical music world. Next season I’m going to Vienna at the Staatsopera where I have been offered a one-year contract and I’ve also planned a meeting with Decca to discuss recordings. But the Cardiff competition has also helped make my goals much clearer and given me the courage and faith to advance in my career. But I’ve also been relaxing since Cardiff: I’ve been on a vacation and a honeymoon!
What made you want to become a singer?
This idea arose from listening at a very young age to Puccini’s Madam Butterfly sung by a Moldovan soprano, Maria Biesu, and I fell in love with Puccini’s beautiful, dramatic music and, then, with classical music. In fact, my earliest musical memory is actually my first competition. I was five years old and I sang a traditional Moldovan song. I won something – but not the first prize.
What did you most enjoy about taking part in BBC Cardiff Singer?
I tried to enjoy every minute – I was just so happy to be there – but probably the most beautiful moment was when I sang ‘Glück das mir verlieb’ from Die tote Stadt by Korngold, since it was the first time that I had performed this aria accompanied by an orchestra. It was simply breathtaking. Or maybe the sweetest moment was winning! I didn’t expect to win so it was a very emotional, delightful surprise.
During the competition, who did you think would win?
I will be very honest and tell you that I thought it would be Andrei Bondarenko from Ukraine. I think he has a beautiful quality to his voice, he has experience and a good technique.
How have your friends and family reacted to your Cardiff win?
They were all very happy. My parents were crying with joy; my friends were waiting for me at the airport with posters saying ‘We love you, you are the best in the world!’ and my husband welcomed me with a big beautiful bouquet of roses.
So now that you’ve won an international opera competition, what’s next?
I have one more year of my masters and I still have a lot to improve. I have my issues like any artist. The Cardiff judges said that I have to do bel canto repertoire, because they liked the Donizetti that I performed in the final but I would also like to sing Verdi and Puccini – a little later, perhaps. As for the [£17,000] prize money – I’m going to use it wisely.
Interview by Elizabeth Davis