Guildhall School of Music & Drama is delighted to announce soprano Samantha Clarke as the winner of this year’s Gold Medal, the School’s most prestigious prize for outstanding soloists. The prize is awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years and this year was the turn of the singers.
Samantha Clarke’s winning performance included Strauss’s Das Rosenband (The garland of roses), Strauss’s Schlechtes Wetter (Terrible weather), Poulenc’s Fleurs (Flowers) and Violon (Violin) from Fiançailles pour rire (Betrothal for fun), Copland’s The little horses from Old American Songs, and Rachmaninov’s Vesennie vody (Spring waters) accompanied by pianist Michael Pandya. Her programme also featured Mozart’s Temerari. Come scoglio from Così fan tutte, Puccini’s Quando me’n vo’ from La bohème, and Stravinsky’s No word from Tom. I go to him from The Rake’s Progress accompanied by the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Farnes.
The other Gold Medal finalists, Ema Nikolovska (mezzo-soprano), William Thomas (bass) and James Newby (baritone) also performed programmes of songs and arias of their choice before a Barbican Hall audience.
Clarke commented: “I was in total disbelief when I heard my name read out, but I am completely buzzing and over the moon to have won the Gold Medal. What an honour! I felt very privileged to be performing on the Barbican stage and the support from the audience was so encouraging. It was lovely to have my tutor Yvonne Kenny watching my performance and I can’t thank her and my wonderful accompanist Michael Pandya enough for their help and guidance.”
The Final took place before a distinguished panel of judges including bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, Guildhall School alumnus and winner of the 1989 Gold Medal; Kevin Murphy, Director of Coaching and Music Administration for Indiana University Opera Theater; mezzo-soprano Ann Murray DBE; and Jonathan Vaughan, Vice-Principal and Director of Music at Guildhall School.
The Gold Medal award was founded and endowed by Sir H. Dixon Kimber in 1915. Since 1950 it has been open to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years. Previous winners include William Primrose (1922), Jacqueline du Pré (1960), Patricia Rozario (1979), Tasmin Little (1986) and Bryn Terfel (1989).
Samantha Clarke is an Australian/British soprano studying with Yvonne Kenny in her second year on the Opera Course at Guildhall School as a Baroness de Turckheim Scholar, Help Musicians, Tait Memorial and Countess of Munster Trust Scholar.
Clarke completed an Advanced Postgraduate Diploma and Intensive Masters of Music at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), as a Sir John Fisher Foundation and Independent Opera Scholar, under the tutelage of Mary Plazas.
Clarke is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Leverhulme Royal Northern College of Music Award, the Dame Eva Turner Award and the Michael and Joyce Kennedy Award for the singing of Strauss. She was awarded a 2017 RNCM Gold Medal and the Nora Goodridge Developing Artist Award through the Australian Music Foundation for 2017/18 and 2018/19, and is also privileged to be a Samling Institute scholar.
Clarke is very keen to explore more of the recital platform and has performed in venues such as Wigmore Hall and the Foundling Museum. Operatic roles include: Helena A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Guildhall), Fiordiligi Così fan tutte (Guildhall), Anne Trulove The Rake’s Progress (British Youth Opera), Anna Gomez The Consul – Menotti (Guildhall), Theodora Theodora (RNCM), Donna Elvira Don Giovanni (British Youth Opera), Fiordilgi Così fan tutte (RNCM), Pamina Die Zauberflöte (Longborough Festival Opera), First Lady Die Zauberflöte (LFO), Countess Cover Le Nozze di Figaro (LFO), Beth Little Women by Mark Adamo (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts). Upcoming engagements include Georgiana Georgiana (Buxton International Festival) and Musetta La bohème (Opera North).
Recent Gold Medal award winners are forging impressive careers. In 2015, the award’s centenary year, the joint winners were soprano Jennifer Witton, who performs with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera this summer, and mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons, who made her Royal Opera House debut this season as Hel in the world premiere of Gavin Higgins’ The Monstrous Child at the Linbury Theatre. Harpist Oliver Wass, the 2016 winner, continues to perform a busy schedule of solo recitals and concerts with the award-winning Pelléas Ensemble, which was formed at Guildhall School, and 2017 winner Josep-Ramon Olivé was selected as a 2018/19 Rising Star artist by the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO). Last year’s winner, pianist Joon Yoon, is enjoying exciting chamber music collaborations, with recent performances including a cello/piano recital at the Korean Cultural Centre in London. In March 2019, he was one of four finalists competing in the prestigious Prix du Piano Bern and will soon compete at the Sendai International Piano Competition.