The five winners of the 2021 Kathleen Ferrier Awards were announced on 14 November, following a competition which saw the semi-finalists and finalists perform at the Grade II listed Henry Wood Hall in south London.
The annual competition is held in memory of contralto Kathleen Ferrier, a Blackburn telephone operator who went from taking voice lessons in the mid-1930s to being an internationally renowned singer.
This year, British countertenor Hugh Cutting won the first prize of £12,500. Cutting is a member of the Royal College of Music International Opera Studio and a Vocal Masters graduate of the Royal College of Music. He has recorded with The King’s Consort and Robert King, and with countertenor Iestyn Davies and viol consort Fretwork for Signum Classics.
The second prize of £6,000 was awarded to Latvian soprano Laura Peresivana. Currently studying at the Guildhall Opera School, Peresivana began her operatic career at the Latvian National Opera. She was previously a recipient of the 54th Tenor Vinas International Singing Contest Extraordinary prize.
The Ferrier Loveday Song Prize of £5,000 went to British mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston. She previously won first prize in the 2018 Handel Singing Competition and was a finalist in both the Hurn Court Opera Competition and the Grange Festival International Singing Competition.
Finally, the Accompanist’s Prize – funded by Help Musicians, a UK charity supporting musicians of all genres – went to Israeli pianist Ilan Kurtser, who will receive £5,000. Kurtser is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music, and is a Leeds Lieder Young Artist and a member of the prestigious Academy Song Circle.
Ferrier Chairman Valerie Beale commented: “All the singers who entered the 2021 Kathleen Ferrier Awards have persevered through an extraordinarily difficult 18 months and after a strong competition we are delighted that Hugh Cutting is joining the distinguished and exclusive club of Kathleen Ferrier winners. We look forward to seeing where this journey takes him.”
The jury for this year’s awards was chaired by Sir Thomas Allen. The British baritone has been a trustee of the awards since 1994 and is considered one of the best lyric baritones of the late 20th century. He was joined by mezzo Alice Coote, soprano Valerie Masterson, tenor Ian Partridge and James Baillieu, a leading song and chamber music accompanist.
The awards seek to recognise a beautiful voice, a mastery of technique and the ability to speak directly to the audience – all qualities said to be held by their namesake.
The competition was hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenter Martin Handley at Henry Wood Hall, an orchestral rehearsal and recording studio in Trinity Church Square, Southwark, London. It will be streamed online for free on the Kathleen Ferrier Awards website.
The semi-final will be broadcast in four parts, available successively on 29 November, 30 November, 1 December and 2 December, all at 7.30pm. The final will be available to watch in two parts, respectively on 4 and 5 December, again at 7.30pm. The streams will remain on the website for one month after the broadcast to enable repeated viewing. Donations are gratefully received for the free-to-view recordings.
Applications for the 2022 competition are now open. Singers of any nationality are eligible who, on or before 1 February 2022, have completed at least one year of a continuous higher education course in music at a recognised conservatoire or music school in the UK or Republic of Ireland or who have completed the equivalent year of continuous study in the UK or RoI with a recognised vocal coach; they must also have their main residence in the UK or RoI as at 1 February 2022. All singers must be 28 or under on 22 April 2022.
An accompanist whose singer reaches the semi-final or final rounds of the competition will be eligible to compete for the Help Musicians Accompanist’s Prize if, as of 1 February 2022, they have their main residence in the UK and are 28 or under on 22 April 2022.
Preliminary auditions will be held in March at Henry Wood Hall, with the semi-final and final in April at London’s Wigmore Hall. The deadline for applications for the 2022 competition is 11.59pm on 1 February 2022. Further details can be found here.
Soprano Laura Peresivana, mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston and countertenor Hugh Cutting have been announced as the winners of this year’s Kathleen Ferrier Awards.