Saturday, August 30, 2014

Low voices bounce back in Paris after Operalia's "Baritone Blackout"

Sam Roberts-Smith and Pietro di Bianco
Just days after Placido Domingo's Operalia Competition completely eliminated any low male voices from their finals scheduled in Los Angeles today, the Paris Opera Competition announced that three baritones/bass-baritones have advanced to their finals. Xiaohan Zhai of China, Sam Roberts-Smith of Australia and Pietro Di Bianco of Italy will compete in the Competition's final gala concert on November 19th. 

After the gala performance, three male and three female singers will be selected as winners, with a prize of €5000 (US $6750) for 1st place, €3000 (US $4050) for 2nd place and €1000 (US $1350) for 3rd place.  Special prizes for Best Artistic Performance and Audience Favorite will earn the winners €1000. 

Joining the three in the final concert will be Carol Garcia of Spain, Marina Nachkebiya of Georgia, Daria Terekhova of Russia, Yujoong Kim of South Korea, Miriam Zubieta of Spain, Cristian Mogosan of Romania and Sarah Strauss-Zhai of Germany. 

Xiaohan Zhai sings Leporello's aria from Don Giovanni:

Xiaohan Zhai was born in in Kaifeng, China in 1986. He went to France to study at the l'École Normale de Musique de Paris. In 2011, he took second place at the Concours de Clés d'Or and a year later finished third at the FLAME Competition. Last season, he performed Leoporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Festival Saint-Cere.   

Born in 1983, Pietro Di Bianco studied piano at the Conservatoire Giuseppe Martucci of Salerno, where he graduated in 2004. He studied chamber music at the Accademia nazionale de Santa Cecilia and won several national competitions. He was hired as a piano accompanist at the music conservatories in Salerno and Potenza.
Pietro di Bianco sings Tamerlano's aria:
He then took up singing at the conservatory in Aquila and graduated in 2009. He worked with the great soprano Renata Scotto at the opera in Santa Cecilia and with the legendary baritone Renato Bruson in Sienna. He was a finalist at the 62nd Concours européen Associazione lirica concertistica Italiana at the Teatro de Como. He is currently honing his skills with the Bulgarian soprano Raina Kabaiwanska. 
He recently received critical acclaim for his performance as Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra National de Paris in a cast that featured fellow barihunk Damian Pass as Masetto (who was eliminated at Operalia!). 
Sam Roberts-Smith sings "Sois immobile" from Rossini's William Tell:
Sam Roberts-Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Music and Graduate Diploma in Opera from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2008. After completing his studies he relocated to Sydney and joined Australia’s national company, Opera Australia.
He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including the Joan Sutherland Society of Sydney Scholarship, the Rosina Raisbeck Award and winner of the prestigious 2009 Australian Singing Competition. As winner of the ASC, Sam was asked to perform at both Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge’s 80th Birthday Galas. 
In 2010, after performing the role of Morales in Francesca Zambello’s production of Bizet's Carmen and Yamadori in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, he was invited to join Opera Australia’s Young Artist Program.

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