The first concrete example of how the recent Comprehensive Spending Review will affect the arts in Wales has come in the shape of a shrunken BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011. The number of contestants for the biannual competition will be at its lowest since the inaugural competition in 1983. Back then the number was a modest eighteen. Next year it will be a slightly less modest twenty. Generally speaking the average number of contestants has hovered around the twenty-four to twenty-five mark. The zenith was a whopping twenty-nine in 1989 – the Battle of the Baritones competition. Although no word has seeped out yet why the number has fallen it would take a fantasist not to believe the financial boa constricting of the BBC by the Conservative / Lib Dem government is the sole reason for such a considerable reduction in numbers.
So what does this mean for everyone concerned?
Quite obviously five singers will miss out on career boosting opportunities to advertise their wares to the many international agents and houses who view CSW as one of the major talent spotting competitions in the world. For singers far from the operatic hubs of London, Vienna, New York CSW has given them an invaluable opportunity to (pardon the pun) make their voices heard. Taking away this opportunity is not only unfair to the singers themselves, but if continued in the long run will take the gleam off the competition itself as some of the biggest successes have come from entrants who didn’t win the competition; Elina Garanca, Anja Kampe, Michael Volle, Marius Kwiecien and Nina Stemme to name a few. One of the reasons why CSW has been such a success is that it includes singers from all parts of the globe, but if finances begin to decline so too will the budget for travelling to hear singers off the beaten track. But it’s hard to see, given the financial straight jacket the BBC finds itself in, the numbers rising above the twenty mark for the considerable future. Hopefully it goes no lower.
What about the audience?
With the smaller number of singers comes the inevitable loss of a preliminary concert; four instead of five for 2011. Not that this has affected the season ticket prices with them remaining more or less at the same level as 2009 - £190, £120, £80 and £50. It has to be pointed out though that unlike 2009 the ticket includes entrance not only for all four preliminary concerts and the main final, but also the Song Prize Final, which was a separate ticket for 2009. This is okay if you like recitals, but not everyone does - so perhaps a fairer option would to have been two season tickets - one at a lesser price for the orchestral concerts, and another for the same price with the Song Prize added on.
To book your season tickets you can follow this link to a downloadable pdf form. Please note that applications are by post only, with orders being processed in February 2011. You can pay by cheque, credit card or you can spread your order over three payments. Booking for separate concerts will take place from the 1st of March onwards in person, by telephone or online.Best of luck in your ticket ordering, and even bigger best of luck for the fortunate twenty competitors!
In closing this CSW update I would hope that the organisers will see fit to pay tribute, during the 2011 edition, to two figures who did so much to raise the profile of the competition and who have sadly passed away in recent times - founder J Mervyn Williams and late patron Dame Joan Sutherland.