What a fantastic evening’s entertainment we experienced with ten post-graduate singers hotly contesting this year’s Ashleyan Opera Prize. Phillippa Lay has a very promising powerful soprano voice but needs to work on opening up her high notes. Zulkifi bin Zainul, countertenor, showed some improvement since last year. Victoria Adams and Elizabeth Adams, both sopranos and we think unrelated, had also performed in last year’s competition. Both gave a good account of themselves, Victoria with Handel and Verdi and Elizabeth with Mozart and an interesting aria by Morrison, from ‘The Chinese Bridge’.

Eleanor Moore, soprano, followed Elizabeth and needed a more varied programme as she sang two Mozart arias. Wesley Biggs’s light pleasant baritone ideally suited ‘O Ruddier than the Cherry’ from Acis and Galatea by Handel. He followed this with ‘Come Paride vezzoso’ from L’Elisir d’Amore by Donizetti. Bass baritone Tom Considine showed a great deal of promise but the aria from Verdi’s Macbeth was a little too big for his voice at the moment. Claudia Wood impressed with her full tone, singing arias by Handel and Offenbach; we felt she was a contender for the prize. Coloratura soprano Ying Min Lin also greatly impressed and dazzled us with her vocal dexterity and high notes in Handel and Massenet; she may like to work on her diction a little, however.

The final offering of the evening came from Deirdre McCabe, soprano (Pictured). She was worth waiting for and gave us a superbly acted and sung ‘Jewel Song’ from Gounod’s ‘Faust’, followed by Donizetti’s ‘Quel guardo il cavaliere’ from Don Pasquale. After giving well-considered and encouraging feed-back to all the competitors, adjudicator Yvonne Lea awarded the Ashleyan Opera Prize to Deirdre McCabe and highly commended Ying Min Lin. Deirdre will be performing at Touch of Basil on September 26th

Sue and Martin Bates