Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha has been named the winner of the Song Prize in this year's BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. The 27-year-old South African soprano dazzled the judging panel – chaired by Wigmore Hall artistic and executive director John Gilhooly, with soprano Roberta Alexander and bass-baritone Neal Davies – with performances of Schubert's famous Lied Gretchen am Spinnrade; Tyamzashe's Isithandwa Sam, a South African song performed in in the Xhosa language; Liszt's Die Lorelei and Betty Jackson King's spiritual Ride up in the chariot.


Of her diverse programme, Rangwanasha says, 'I wanted to show the audience that they can enjoy both worlds: spirituals, the more standard Lieder repertoire and also my traditional South African Lieder.'

The final was presented by Petroc Trelawny, who was joined by mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, who complimented the 'sweetness and creaminess' of Rangwanasha's singing. 'There was nothing harsh or worrisome about her voice.'

The jury agreed. 'Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha performed with such assured technique and emotional power that the jury was unanimous in naming her the winner,' says judging panel chair John Gilhooly.

Rangwanasha will win £10,000 and many performances opportunities across the UK and beyond. Each of the Song Prize finalists will be receiving a Wigmore Hall performance in the coming years.

Rangwanasha was up against four other singers in the Song Prize final of this year's competition, who hailed from three different continents: Madagascan baritone Michael Arivony, Austrian soprano Christina Gansch, Welsh soprano Sarah Gilford and South Korean baritone Gihoon Kim. The five finalists progressed through from four heats earlier this week, with a total of 14 contestants. Find out more about all the contestants in this year's BBC Cardiff Singer of the World here.

The Song Prize pits singers against one another in performances of Lieder and art songs – more intimate repertoire than the works for larger forces featured in the Main Prize. They were all joined by pianists Llŷr Williams and Simon Lepper.

She started singing at school and church at an early age, going on to study at the University of Cape Town. She was a member of the Royal Opera House's Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in the 2019/20 season. In the coming season (2021/22), she will join the ensemble of Bern Staatsoper for a two-year period.

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The final took place last night at St David's Hall in Cardiff. There was no audience present in the hall, with all musicians and broadcasters complying with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.

Andrew McGregor was joined by soprano Rebecca Evans on the BBC Radio 3 coverage of the event.

You can watch the Song Prize final back on BBC iPlayer.

Watch Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha in a masterclass with Antonio Pappano below.


Top image credit: BBC/Kristen McTernan


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.