New Zealand baritone Julien van Mellaerts wins top prize at 2017 Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition

Julien Van Mellaerts, a 29-year old New Zealand baritone was tonight [7 September 2017] awarded £10,000 after a week of public heats, coaching, talks and masterclasses at Wigmore Hall. In a competitive Final he took First Prize in the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition against three American finalists, baritones John Brancy, Josh Quinn and mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski.

The competition also saw the £5,000 Pianist’s Prize given to 27-year old British pianist Ian Tindale, who had partnered soprano Harriet Burns in earlier rounds; the Jean Meikle Prize for a Duo to British pair Gemma Summerfield (soprano) and Sebastian Wybrew (piano); and the Richard Tauber Prize for best interpretation of Schubert Lieder to American finalist Clara Osowski. The prizes were all awarded by a jury including Hugh Canning, Bernarda Fink, Christian Gerhaher, Soile Isokoski, David Jackson, Graham Johnson OBE, François Le Roux and Dame Felicity Lott, chaired by Director of Wigmore Hall John Gilhooly OBE.

The exceptional level of the twenty-three singers and accompanists aged 33 and under who entered this year’s Competition, as well as the variety of nationalities taking part, are testament to the International Song Competition’s reputation as a hugely prestigious platform within the global singing community for recognising and developing the next generation of great performers.

Julien Van Mellaerts has just graduated from the Royal College of Music International Opera School where he was Fishmongers’ Company Scholar studying with Russell Smythe. He has recently won first place in the 2017 Kathleen Ferrier Awards at Wigmore Hall. This summer he has performed in Salome with Charles Dutoit, and worked with Thomas Quasthoff and Thomas Hampson on the Lieder course at Verbier Festival. He is currently touring with Diva Opera, playing the role of Dandini in Rossini’s La Cenerentola. He is generously supported by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, and the Countess of Munster, Hunn, and Peace and Prosperity Trust. His duo partner was Gamal Khamis, also a graduate of the Royal College of Music.

John Gilhooly said: ‘Some say that the song recital has had its day but tonight’s final is proof that it is flourishing in Wigmore Street and in music conservatoires around the world. Every single contestant has something new to offer to the genre and the jury were deeply impressed by all the remarkable duos throughout the Competition. In its twentieth anniversary year, the late Sir Ralph Kohn would have been thrilled to have witnessed the calibre of these young artists. We were delighted to share this exceptional music-making widely for the first time with a live stream of the Semi-Finals and Final and many congratulations to a worthy winner.’

This year’s Competition celebrated the outstanding contribution of the late Sir Ralph Kohn FRS as one of its co-original founders and was a fitting tribute to this great man and his huge contribution to medical science, philanthropy and music.


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