Now in its 12th year, the Glenarm Festival of Voice is set to return to its home of Glenarm in August, having been hosted at Belfast for the last two years due to COVID-19 restrictions, Northern Ireland Opera (NIO) has announced.
This year’s festival takes place from 26-28 August. The theme will be ‘celebration’.
Organised by NIO and BBC Radio 3, the event brings together a series of BBC Radio 3 recitals, outreach events and performances by NIO Artist Development Programme. It culminates in a competition finale, in which five young singers from across the island of Ireland compete in front of a live jury panel to win the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize and become the NI Opera Voice of 2022.
The BBC Radio 3 Recitals will be performed by tenor Alessandro Fisher, baritone Seán Boylan and soprano Soraya Mafi, accompanied by pianist Simon Lepper. The concerts take place at St Patrick’s Church in Glenarm. Fisher will perform on 26th with music including Schumann, Wolf and Ina Boyle, Boylan on 27th performing Strauss, Vaughan Williams, Bernadette Marmion and others, and Mafi on 28th with music including Mozart, Britten and Hamilton Harty.
Awarded a 2022 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, Fisher was a member of the BBC New Generation Artists Scheme between 2018 and 2021. An Associate Artist of The Mozartists, he won first prize at the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards and was selected by Gramophone as ‘One to Watch’. He made his Salzburg Festival debut as Lucano in L’Incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppaea, Monteverdi, 1643) and he has performed with Garsington Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, The Grange Festival and the Royal Opera
Boylan returns to Glenarm having won the fourth Glenarm Festival of Voice vocal competition back in 2014. He studied on the Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He was an Alvarez Young Artist at Garsington Opera in 2019 and covered the title role of Don Giovanni (Mozart, 1787), for which he received the Helen Clark Award. He has performed with English National Opera, Wexford Festival Opera, Nevill Holt Opera, Kammerakademie Potsdam, Garsington Opera, Irish National Opera and Scottish Opera.
Mafi is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal College of Music. She is the winner of the 2016 Susan Chilcott Award. Her engagements in the 2021-22 season included Morgana in a new production of Alcina (Handel, 1735) for Glyndebourne Festival, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart, 1786) for the Seattle Opera, Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky, 1951) for Glyndebourne on Tour and Despina in Così fan tutte (Women Are Like That, Mozart, 1790) for the English National Opera.
This is the first time that live audiences will be able to attend the Glenarm Festival of Voice since 2019. The recitals are free, but it is advised to book tickets in advance as space is limited in the church. Each performance will also be recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in September.
Last year’s winner of the Festival of Voice, soprano Ellen Mawhinney, will be performing an afternoon recital at The Londonderry Arms in Carnlough. This will take place on 27 August; tickets cost £10.
The highlight of the festival will be the competition finale, taking place at 6.30pm on 28 August at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Applications to the competition from singers aged 18-28 who were born on the island of Ireland took place in spring.
The five finalists will have the opportunity to work with prestigious vocal coaches including Dr Ingrid Surgenor and Kathryn Harries in the build-up to the competition finale. At the event they will sing arias, duets and Irish songs in front of a panel of opera experts, hosted by NIO’s patron, Sean Rafferty. They will be accompanied by a piano intern.
Details of this year’s finalists and the piano intern were still to be revealed at time of going to press.
Tickets for the competition finale cost £15. Booking is open for all events.
The 2022 Glenarm Festival of Voice, which is back at Glenarm for the first time since 2019, features soloists (clockwise from top) Soraya Mafi, Seán Boylan and Alessandro Fisher.