Soprano Rachel Duckett and tenor Thando Mjandana have been chosen as winners of the Voice of Black Opera competition, held at Birmingham Town Hall. The winners were selected by a panel of judges chaired by tenor and composer Tom Randle.


British singer Rachel Duckett was announced as the overall winner of the competition. The soprano took home The Sir Willard White Trophy, and was also awarded a £10,000 prize, repertoire coaching with music staff of Welsh National Opera, and a forthcoming concert appearance with the WNO Orchestra.

Elsewhere, South African tenor Thando Mjandana was awarded the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Award. His prize included £5,000 and three forthcoming performances of a specifically commissioned new work by Daniel Kidane for voice and ensemble with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

The Coleridge award was presented to the singer who, in the judges’ opinion, gave the best performance of a contemporary song by a black or South Asian composer.

Voice of Black Opera - Thando Mjandana
Tenor Thando Mjandana won the Samuel Coleridge Taylor Award for the best performance of a contemporary song by a black or South Asian composer

Vincent Osborne, founder and artistic director of Black British Classical Foundation, said: 'The award-winning interpretations we saw from Rachel Duckett and Thando Mjandana were truly riveting. Through their passionate and committed performances at the Voice of Black Opera Final and throughout the whole competition process, all of our finalists and semifinalists have eloquently espoused the cause of greater diversity and inclusion on our stages.

'I have no doubt that each of them will continue to inspire us for many years to come.'

Tom Randle added: 'It was a spectacular evening and a very hard decision, like choosing between oranges and apples. Every one of the singers was a worthy winner. In the end it came down to those special, indefinable qualities: listening out for something new, something different – the voice that astonishes and surprises.'

At the final concert, five finalists were accompanied by the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren.

The Final concert was the culmination of the VOBOs. Competing for coveted prizes, 12 singers were chosen via video auditions open to black and South Asian singers from Commonwealth countries, to come to Birmingham in November to take part in semi-finals and participate in two weeks of intensive professional development workshops, rehearsals and a masterclass, leading to the grand final concert featuring five finalists.

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The Voice of Black Opera Competition is organised by Black British Classical Foundation (BBCF), in collaboration with Welsh National Opera, to showcase the finest black and South Asian singers as they launch international operatic careers. BBCF exists to address classical music’s under-representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.