Jan Meulendijks and Bart Schuil
From the very beginning of his artistic career, Hans Gabor, the founder and long-term manager of the Wiener Kammeroper, was engaged in discovering and promoting young talented singers. Quite some singers who later became international opera stars, made their first steps in opera life under his artistic leadership.
These efforts were channeled into the successful concept of a very special singing competition: instead of academic vocal instructors, those who are in practice responsible for the engagement of singers, were to assess the talents and maturity of singers: opera and festival managers, music promoters and representatives of the media industry. Artists’ agencies were given observer status.
That was the background against which the 1st Belvedere Competition took place in Vienna in 1982. The idea of a trustworthy “singers’ stock exchange” without a strictly academic orientation quickly gained popularity. Applications started to come in from around the world. Very soon the number of participants had to be restricted in order not to overtax the jury. In 1992 the decision was made to organize preliminary rounds all over the world. The first qualifying rounds were held in 13 cities, and by now that number has risen more and more.
As early as in 1988, the competition – up until then reserved to the operatic repertory – was extended, also to encompass operetta. In 2000 the accompanists’ competition was added. Both will still continue, even if not every year.
Since 1995 the name of Hans Gabor was added to the original name “Belvedere Competition” – after all, his work is inseparably linked with the contest.
An ever increasing number of institutions have donated special prizes, be it in cash or in kind, or in the form of engagements. Apart from the main prizes, the much vied-for prize of the audience can be won; it is awarded by the audience of the public final concert until today.
Since 2013 the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition is spreading its wings. The final rounds, held for the last 31 years in Vienna, will take place in the future in the most renowned opera houses around the world on an alternating basis. In 2013 the city of Amsterdam hosted the first event to take place outside of Austria since its founding. Düsseldorf will follow in 2014. Plans for 2015 and subsequent years will take the competition’s final rounds to European cities and overseas.
Isabella Gabor and Holger Bleck, General Managers since 1999, are thrilled about the upcoming perspectives: “With Düsseldorf and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, we have found again a great partner for the Belvedere Singing Competition after Amsterdam. General Director Christopher Meyer is a longstanding member of the opera jury. We look forward to being guests in Germany for the first time with the 33rd edition of the Final Rounds in 2014.”
The 2014 qualifying rounds are held in 56 cities world-wide. The finals take place in cooperation with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf on 6 July 2014. The singers continue to be judged by a jury consisting of artistic and casting directors from the world's most prestigious opera houses including the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Osterfestspiele Salzburg, Metropolitan Opera New York, to name a few.
The International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition is the “springboard” for a career in opera: Past participants and prize winners include Angelika Kirchschlager, Angela Gheorghiu, Ildikó Raimondi, Elisabete Matos, Elina Garanča, Lado Ataneli and Peter Edelmann. Recent winners include Italian tenor Antonio Poli, who made his debut in 2011 at the Salzburg Festival alongside Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala. Soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen, the 1st prize winner of the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in 2011, made her highly-acclaimed Royal Opera House Covent Garden debut in 2012. And Pretty Yende, winner of all main prizes in 2009, had her Met debut alongside Juan Diego Flórez in 2013.
The competition administration and headquarters are based in Vienna.