The Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award for 2014 has been won by 27-year-old Marlena Devoe, a Samoan soprano from New Zealand singing Depuis le jour from Louise by Charpentier and Ah!non credea mirarti….Ah non giunge from Bellini’s La Sonnambula. Devoe has won $30,000 along with a place in the 2015 Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Canto in Tuscany, Italy and concert performance at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.
Held on the same occasion, the inaugural Elizabeth Connell Prize for Dramatic Sopranos was awarded to Anna Patrys (33) from Poland who sang L’altra note al fondo il mare from Mefistofele by Boito winning $20,000 and the opportunity to audition at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London.
Accompanying all the singers was pianist Davd Harper. Other prize winners in this year’s Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award were James Ioelu (29) winning the Richard Bonynge Award & Tait Memorial Trust Prize, Rachel Bate (29) the Deborah Riedel Award, Morgan Balfour (22) the DECCA Award and Hawaii Performing Arts Festival Prize, Kathryn Radcliffe (27) the Finalist Prize and Universal Music Prize and Matthew Reardon (29) the Finalist Prize and Dante Alighieri Prize.
Justine Viani (32) won the Wagner Society of NSW Prize and Tracy Cox (28 ), Lucinda-Mirikata Deacon (29) and Diane Kalinowski (32) were awarded finalists Prizes in the Elizabeth Connell competition.
The adjudicators, Richard Bonynge AC CBE, Marilyn Richardson, Bernadette Cullen and Moffatt Oxenbould AM, commented: “This year’s Bel Canto Award and inaugural Elizabeth Connell Prize showcased an extremely strong field of young singers. The judges were impressed with all the singers however two stood out, that of Marlena Devoe, the Samoan soprano from New Zealand and Anna Patrys from Poland. Both possessing beautiful but extremely different voices, these promising young sopranos displayed innate musicianship, stunning voices, exceptional artistry and a true understanding of the music they were interpreting. Rarely does one come across singers who have something very special but these two singers do which is why the decision on the day was unanimous. The judges will be following their progress with great interest and sincerely hope Marlena and Anna go on to enjoy a long career on the operatic stage.”