So I’m in Montreal for the Concours musical international de Montréal – Chant. Today was very much about preliminaries. There was a press event where we were introduced to the judging panel and a short performance by the contestants. There was also the chance to catch up with old friends over lunch. The real business starts with the preliminary rounds of the art song competition tomorrow afternoon and evening.
I did get a chance though to sit down with Dame Felicity Lott and get her thoughts on being a judge at competitions like this. So paraphrasing as best I can…
On competitions: They are important because they are a chance for young singers to get exposure in a brutally competitive market place. A competition like CMIM which has an art song component is also one way of showcasing art song which is perhaps going through a difficult period. That said, she apparently hated competitions and wasn’t very good at them in the early stages of her career. She found it easier and less exposed to be a “character” on stage than herself. (This is why the English like charades so much!)
On judging: It’s very hard. The singers who get to a competition like CMIM are all good but only so many get through to the finals and only a handful win. It’s a big responsibility and desperately difficult to decide who those few winners are and there’s the additional pressure of having to support a collective view that one might not have been wholly aligned with. It can be upsetting.
What does she look for?: “to be touched”; “to be moved”; “to hear something of the person”. It has to be more than just a beautiful voice.