New prospects for opera talents during the corona pandemic

The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s 19th NEUE STIMMEN International Singing Competition will take place again this year as planned, but with an approach and schedule that have been adapted to the coronavirus pandemic. Young opera singers have until May 31 to submit their applications, which for the first time will include a video component.

Gütersloh – February 10, 2021. With its 19th NEUE STIMMEN International Singing Competition, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is once again offering up-and-coming singers the opportunity to demonstrate their skills to the opera world’s decision-makers and renowned experts. NEUE STIMMEN gives well-trained opera talents from around the globe the chance to continue pursuing their careers even – and especially – in these challenging times. However, due to the restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the competition will be held using an adapted approach and schedule. Young singers have until May 31, 2021 to submit their applications on the website The live auditions will now take place in autumn 2021 and the final round with the final concerts is planned for spring 2022 in Gütersloh.

“The primary goal of NEUE STIMMEN has always been promoting and supporting young artists. That is especially true at the current time. By organizing the competition again now, we are giving up-and-coming singers the opportunity to demonstrate their skills to decision-makers from the world of opera and to network. Recent months have clearly shown how important music and culture are for communal life and how much they are missed. With NEUE STIMMEN, we want to help vocal talents continue pursuing their careers and, as soon as it is again possible, enrich the world’s stages,” says Liz Mohn, president of NEUE STIMMEN and vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board.

Videos in application phase expand selection process 

The pandemic-related changes to this year’s NEUE STIMMEN competition begin with the selection process. The most important change is that applications will now include videos. All singers are being asked to record and submit videos of two arias in addition to the usual application requirements. The videos will be viewed by Brian Dickie, former general director of the Chicago Opera Theatre, Sophie Joyce, casting director of Opéra National de Paris, and Evamaria Wieser, casting director of the Salzburg Festival. A uniform scoring system will be used to ensure evaluations are consistent and transparent. The extended application phase until May 31 is meant to give applicants more time to record their arias live and with a piano accompaniment, and in keeping with the relevant health and safety guidelines. In view of the longer selection process, the new age limit for applicants – a uniform 30 years for both women and men – will also be increased on a one-time basis to 31 to allow more singers to participate.

Based on the videos, the members of the jury will decide which singers receive an invitation to the second round, the live auditions.  The auditions take place at different locations worldwide and are one of NEUE STIMMEN’s distinguishing features. To the extent the situation allows, the auditions will be held between September and December of this year in 12 cities: Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Zurich, Los Angeles, New York and Cape Town. During the planning process, the health and safety of the singers, jury members, team members and project partners are being given the highest priority. If in-person performances are not possible, the auditions will take place virtually. The exact dates and venues will be announced at a later point in time.

Final round expected to take place in spring 2022 in Gütersloh 

The approximately 40 talents who give the most convincing performances during the live auditions will be invited to participate in the final round, which will take place, to the extent the situation permits, in spring 2022 in Gütersloh. That is where the young singers will perform in the semifinals and finals with an orchestral accompaniment, demonstrating their skills and repertoire to the jury, representatives of the international opera community, and the media. As in previous years, Dominique Meyer, director of Milan’s La Scala opera house, will serve as chairman of the jury, which will once more include a roster of renowned experts. In organizing this year’s selection process, the NEUE STIMMEN team feels it is important to send a signal of continuity to up-and-coming singers. After all, NEUE STIMMEN is one of the opera world’s leading talent showcases and has already helped many successful singers launch international careers.

Final-round participants will have the chance to compete for a total of more than €60,000 in prizes made available by the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Just as important is the opportunity to make contact with opera-house directors, festival managers, and agents, and to benefit from the ongoing career advice and support provided by international opera experts and the NEUE STIMMEN team. Some 1,500 singers from 80 countries applied to participate in the 2019 competition. The two first-place winners were soprano Anna El-Khashem from Russia and tenor Long Long from China.

Additional information
The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s NEUE STIMMEN International Singing Competition was launched in 1987 by Liz Mohn, president of NEUE STIMMEN and vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board. Through NEUE STIMMEN, the Bertelsmann Stiftung seeks out and promotes the best young opera singers worldwide. All project modules – the competition, master classes, concerts, seminars and coaching sessions – are part of the NEUE STMIMEN “Creating Careers” initiative. The goal of existing and new measures is not only to discover talented performers, but also to offer them advice and assistance over the long term. With that, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is providing young vocal talents with opportunities to participate in the globalized and rapidly changing world of opera. NEUE STIMMEN has already helped numerous young artists launch international careers, including internationally acclaimed singers Christiane Karg, Nathalie Stutzmann, Marina Rebeka, Michael Volle, René Pape, Franco Fagioli, Nadine Sierra and Elsa Dreisig.

Our expert:        Ines Koring, Telephone: +49 52 41 81 81 372

About the Bertelsmann Stiftung: Inspiring people. Shaping the future. 

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is committed to enabling social participation for everyone – politically, economically and culturally. The issues we address are education, democracy, Europe, health, values and the economy. In doing so, we focus on people, since only they can change the world and make it better. We share knowledge, promote expertise and develop solutions. A nonprofit foundation, the Bertelsmann Stiftung was established in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn.

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