Audun Iversen is a thirty-year-old Norwegian baritone studying at the Opera academy at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Last night he emerged triumphant in the grand finale of the prestigious Queen Sonja International Music Competition singing two arias from Franz Lehár’s “The merry widow” in front of a 1400 strong house capacity audience in Oslo’s Concert Hall.
No less than three Norwegians were among the six finalists, which is nothing short of a sensation in a competition with a first-round representation from around 40 countries. Not since 2001 has the competition had a Norwegian winner, and there is no question that the competition has reached the pinnacle of international classical music competitions.
The level and prestige of the competition is mirrored in its truly global profile of participants, by the standard of the musical collaborators and not least by the composition of the jury:
- Menno Feenstra, Netherlands, Opera Manager, Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm (chairman)
- Joan Sutherland, Australia, Soprano
- Anne Gjevang, Norway, Contralto
- Ragnar Ulfung, Norway, Tenor
- Kurt Moll, Germany, Bass
- Erkki Korhonen, Finland, Opera Manager, Finnish National Opera, Helsinki
- Bjørn Simensen, Norway, Opera Manager, Norwegian National Opera, Oslo
Second place was claimed by Australian Nina Watson followed by another Norwegian, Nina Margrete Gravrok, in third. The other finalists were Erika Roos from Sweden, Ji-Min Park from South Korea and the Maria Eriksmoen, also Norway.
Each contender sang two opera arias accompanied by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Queen Sonja was present at Thursday’s grand finale and she personally presented the prizes to the winners. The first prize consists of 175 000 (NOK-), and perhaps more important, a range of musical engagements with the finest orchestras in Norway. In addition representatives from the major stages in Scandinavia were present, with intentions of engagements.