BBC Cardiff Singer of the World has crowned Gihoon Kim as its 2021 winner.
The 29-year-old baritone from the Republic of Korea won this year’s competition, which has previously helped launch the careers of opera stars including Jamie Barton, Bryn Terfel, Karita Mattila and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
Kim competed against 16 singers from 14 countries to win the £20,000 prize and Cardiff Trophy, which is awarded every two years. He was a double finalist in this year’s competition, reaching the Song Prize last week, just pipped to the post by fellow Main Prize finalist soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha.
Kim studied singing at Yonsei University in Seoul, before receiving a scholarship at the Junge Oper Hannover in 2016, where he sang roles including Demetrius in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Marullo in Verdi’s Rigoletto and Melot in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. He has upcoming debut performances at Glyndebourne Festival and at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
Kim won over this year’s judging panel with arias from performances from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, all accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with conductor Andrew Litton. He competed against an otherwise all-female line-up: English mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones, Austrian soprano Christina Gansch, Georgian mezzo Natalia Kutateladze and South African soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, who won the competition’s Song Prize earlier in the week.
‘Gihoon has a Rolls Royce of a voice,’ said baritone and judge Neal Davis of Kim’s performance in the earlier rounds of the competition. ‘He has breath control that goes on forever.’
Presenter Petroc Trelawny was joined by special guests mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and English National Opera’s artistic director Annilese Miskimmon for the TV broadcast of the final of this year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, both of whom were in awe of Kim’s performance. ‘He’s going to have to turn down a lot of work to protect himself,’ said Miskimmon. ‘Many people have great voices but they don’t have that ability to make the sophisticated choices in how to mould it,’ added Coote.
After he left the stage, Kim spoke to presenter Josie d’Arby, saying he was ‘50% happy, 50% disappointed’ with his performance.
31-year-old mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones from Somerset won this year’s Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize, voted for by TV audiences at home. She stepped in at a moment’s notice after another singer was notified by the NHS Track and Trace app that she had to self-isolate. Barnett-Jones as the official reserve was called up the evening of the final rounds to take part.
The final took place at St David’s Hall in Cardiff without an in-person audience. It was broadcast live on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.
BBC Cardiff Singer of the World will return in 2023 for the 40th anniversary of the competition.