Impressions From Operalia 2017 Final: Levy Sekgapane, Maria Mudryak, Adela Zaharia Among Major Standouts

By David Salazar

The Operalia 2017 competition has come to an end with Adela Zaharia and Levy Sekgapane as the winners of the first prizes.

I sat through the entire transmission, listening to a truly talented class of singers, many of whom already have the musical maturity and performance acumen to be major figures in the opera world in the not-so-distant future.

With this piece, I will highlight some of the singers that really excited me with their performance. This is not a review and my exclusion of any artists does not mean I was not excited by what I heard or saw. These are simply the cream of the crop for me.

For me, Kazakhstan’s soprano Maria Mudryak, who won third prize in the female category and took home one of the audience prizes, may have given the best performance of the entire evening with her double aria from “La Traviata.” Everything about it was riveting, from the technical prowess to the overall sense of emotional abandon in the first aria and the effusive energy in “Sempre Libera.” Despite being only 23, I think she might be an exciting star to keep an eye out for as she is already making her name, in this very role, throughout Europe. 

But one cannot overlook that beauty of Adela Zaharia’s incredible mad scene from “Lucia di Lammermoor.” Her expressive eyes told us everything about the character’s lunacy, and her rich and creamy voice only added to that sense of emotional imbalance. She was spot on musically as well in perhaps the most technically proficient performance of the night with arguably the finest and most secure high notes overall. Her Spanish didn’t make quite the same impression in her zarzuela selection, “Me llaman la primorosa,” from “El Barbero de Sevilla,” but her lush voice, luxurious phrasing, and technical brilliance was on full display here as well. She was fully deserving of the top prize. 

Ditto for the other major winner, tenor Levy Sekgapane, who was a marvel in “Povero Ernesto” from “Don Pasquale” and then solid in his zarzuela selection from “Doña Francisquita,” “Por el humo se sabe donde está el fuego.” He possesses a beautifully delicate and tender sound that certainly brings to mind the vocal richness of Lawrence Brownlee and Javier Camarena.

Italian soprano Damiana Mizzi, 32, was exciting and lively in her Zarzuela selection from Vives’ “La generala.”

Baritone Leon Kim, who won third prize and the Audience Prize in the male categories, is another to look out for as his double aria from “Don Carlo” was one of the emotional highlights of the night, his sound powerful but full of expressivity and warmth. While his Spanish was not perfect in “Amor, vida de mi vida” from “Maravilla,” he found an even greater elegance in his singing. In a world with very few truly mesmerizing baritones, he could certainly be making his mark soone[pr rather than later.