20 Years BBC Singer of the World in Cardiff

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: The winning performances, plus documentary
PERFORMER: Various artists


Celebrating a milestone anniversary of this prestigious biennual competition, DVD 1 (170 mins) features performances – a minimum of two, a maximum of five – by all ten winners; DVD 2 (90 mins) has the six winners of the Lieder Prize (or Song Prize, as it has now been so helpfully retitled). The singing and/or performances range from the thrilling and stellar to the awkward and merely adequate – 57 separate arias and Lieder (sorry, songs) in all.

Twenty years from now these will be of even greater interest, despite their presentation here, a textbook example of how not to present music on film: fade up from black, music, fade to black, fade up from black, music… 75 times in all, including each award presentation. Lazy. Boring. There’s no linking commentary, scene-setting or putting each singer in context, just the excitable, disembodied (and uncredited) voice of Humphrey Burton or Natalie Wheen (‘Wonderful – it just proves you can come from behind!’) to greet the announcement of the winner.


DVD 2 does have a lively 30-minute feature on the background and behind-the-scenes of the competition, but is spoilt by the clunking narration of newsreader Huw Edwards. There is also a truly pathetic three-minute staged encounter between Bryn Terfel and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, optimistically entitled ‘Battle of the Baritones’, to commemorate the 1989 annus mirabilis when not only they but Monica Groop and Hillevi Martinpelto competed for the same prize. It’s never been as noteworthy since. Jeremy Nicholas