Operalia Competition: Sonya Yoncheva, Pretty Yende & the Superstars of the Past Decade

By David Salazar

The Operalia Competition is just days away and in anticipation of the famed event, we will take a look back down memory lane at the opera singers who became stars after big performances at the competition.

For today’s installment, we will look at the major stars from this decade. Here are the winners of that decade who have since risen to great operatic stardom.

Sonya Yoncheva – 2010 

If you had to count the top five soprano superstars in the world right now, the Bulgarian soprano would have to be on the list. Yoncheva seemingly came out of nowhere over the last two years, the soprano showing a vocal versatility that few others have. She has recorded a number of albums for Sony in the last few years and has jumped from singing pure lyric soprano repertoire to heavier roles, including her upcoming debuts as “Tosca” and “Luisa Miller” among others. Yoncheva won two prizes in the 2010 competition – the first prize and the CulturArte Prize.

Pretty Yende – 2011

Another soprano who has rocketed to the peaks of pop culture, the South African soprano’s story is now legend. As is her high-flying coloratura soprano. She has conquered the Met in “Le Comte Ory” and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” all while making appearances on the Stephen Colbert show, among many others. She not only won first prize that year at Operalia, but was an audience choice winner and the Zarzuela Prize winner as well.

Anthony Roth Costanzo -2012

One of the best classes of the competition in recent memory, 2012 yielded such talents as tenor Brian Jadge, soprano Janai Brugger and soprano Guanqun Yu. But it is the countertenor that has made his mark in this short span of time. Not only has he become a go-to in the Handel repertoire, but he has also experimented with lesser-known repertoire and many modern classics.

Aida Garifullina – 2013

Another strong class that also featured Kathryn Lewek and Benjamin Bliss, Garifullina came away as the international superstar after winning the top prize. Not yet 30 years of age, she has already made her way across many of the great European theaters and even recorded her very first album.

Rachel Willis-Sørenson – 2014

The soprano has already had a tremendous career after scoring the top prize, Zarzuela prize and Birgit Nillson award at the competition. She has debuted at the Royal Opera House, and Metropolitan Opera, among many others, her career is in ascension.




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