The 31st edition of Operalia, one of the world’s leading international competitions for opera singers, will be held in September this year at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai.
In previous years, the competition has been hosted by celebrated venues like the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, among others. This is the first time the competition—founded by the renowned Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo—is being hosted in India.
Since its inception, Operalia has provided aspiring opera singers with a global platform that opens doors to the world’s most prestigious venues. The list of winners of the competition who have gone on to become bright stars in the opera world is long and illustrious—Nina Stemme, regarded as the greatest living Wagnerian soprano; Pretty Yende, who performed at the coronation of King Charles III; multiple Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato; and Lise Davidsen, who has been described as having a ‘one-in-a-million voice’ are just some of the many names that have the stages of Operalia in common among them.
At the official announcement of Operalia 2024, Mr. Khushroo N. Suntook, Chairman, NCPA and Co-Founder of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), said, “We are happy to associate with the great Plácido Domingo—whom I have listened to and admired for the last 30 years—and host Operalia 2024 in India. It is undoubtedly one of the most respected musical events globally, and we are certain that this will be a remarkable experience for the music-loving audience in the country.”
Domingo is widely recognized for his role as one of the Three Tenors, a group of opera singers that also included José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. Their iconic performance, conducted by Zubin Mehta at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium in 1994, was televised in over 100 countries and reached an audience of one billion people globally. Over his extensive six-decade career, Domingo has consistently been a prominent figure in the opera scene.
In 1993, he founded Operalia to provide a stepping stone for talented singers from around the world. Discovering the most talented voices aside, the competition has a laser-sharp focus on establishing careers, a fact evident when one considers that the jury is almost always comprised of decision-makers from major opera houses from around the world. Alvaro Domingo, son of the tenor and vice president of Operalia, confirmed that members of this year’s jury will be coming from the Royal Opera House in London, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna, and the Salzburg Festival, among others. “We have very prominent and influential people on this panel that can really help take forward the singers’ careers,” said Alvaro. One of the things, he said, that has changed over the years is how quickly Operalia’s finalists and winners manage to get prestigious first contracts, often within a few months of the competition, from major opera houses.
The seven-day competition, sponsored by Rolex, is open to all operatic voice types and will assess contestants from around the world. The chosen finalists will perform with the country’s only professional orchestra—the SOI—under the baton of Domingo. “It is very special for me to return to Mumbai after many years away, a city where I made my debut singing at a concert in 2008 conducted by my dear friend Maestro Zubin Mehta, in honor of his father Mehli Mehta’s centennial,” Domingo said in a statement. “I look forward to reuniting with the Indian public in the fall.”
India is certainly not the place that pops up in one’s mind when one thinks of opera. But Mr. Suntook feels that Indian audiences do have a sense of the operatic impulse because of their long-standing love for movies brimming with song and dance, a feature that is indispensable in opera. Whether Operalia will discover an Indian baritone or mezzo-soprano remains to be seen, but the competition certainly promises an extremely talented gathering of voices from around the world, eager to showcase some of the greatest works from the repertoire. How thrilling for us that we get to watch the next great superstar of the opera world find the spotlight right here at the NCPA.