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Between five members of the Shadow Jury we created a “shadow semi-finalists’ list” prior the actual first round results were published: it turned out surprisingly similar to the actual list. There were three names on our list that all shadow jurors expected to see on the Semifinals, but who will sadly not appear there: American baritone John Brancy, German baritone Björn Bürger and Israeli coloratura soprano Hila Fahima. On the actual semi-finalists’ list there were only two singers that none of us shadow jurors expected to see there – and we do not want to name them here. About all other semi-finalists all or some shadow jurors agreed with the actual jury.

Despite my own, slightly different opinion on who should have been selected to the Semifinals, and despite the various discussions in corridors and in social media about how this or that singer has been treated “wrong” in the selection of the semi-finalists, I would like to point out that a jury on a singing competition cannot really make a “wrong” decision: the jurors have been invited from amongst experienced, international experts of vocal music, and tasked specifically with making an independent and individual selection of semi-finalists, and ultimately winners. Although some generally accepted vocal ideals and widely recognized performance traditions of different styles of music exist, on this high level of singing the selection between two singers ultimately boils down to matters of taste and small differences in preferences. I’m certain the jurors’ decision has been a difficult one, and I’m not exactly envious of their task. Anyhow, with this cast of singers, the Semifinals will certainly be exciting, entertaining and of impeccable artistic standard!

Jenni Lättilä, chairman of the Shadow Jury

I’m slightly surprised about some of the semi-finalists, and some who do not appear there. Two most surprising omissions for me were baritone John Brancy and coloratura soprano Hila Fahima. It is difficult to say what has prevented these two fabulous singers from entering the Semifinals: both were very skilled vocally, and their performances were most enjoyable considering interpretation. Even though every singer succeeded in the first round, certain semi-finalists exhibited such technical challenges that could be heard in their interpretations, and somewhat diminished the listener’s enjoyment. Well, it is a competition, after all, and judging art is always about personal tastes – arguments about matters of taste are not only allowed, they are inevitable! I’m left interested and curious how the competitors will interpret their Semifinal programme: will my personal favorites still present as strong renditions as during the first round, or will some singer I now consider less interesting race as the proverbial dark horse!

Joonas Asikainen
(translated by Jenni Lättilä)

I’m waiting with growing interest to see how the lied duo of a singing voice and a piano will sound in the acoustic environment of the Helsinki Music Centre main venue: who will acclimatize there the easiest… It will be grand to be allowed to hear Dmytro Kalmuchyn’s and Sunyoung Seo’s performances of Strauss. On the side, one can also follow how Kristian Attila will conjure up from his piano the Vier Letzte Lieder, which as orchestral songs sit a bit uncomfortably on the piano… Many semi-finalists have built concise and interesting programmes; as examples I will mention Anna-Maria Gieron’s water-themed lied entity, and Kateryna Kasper’s programme built around a young maiden’s amorous concerns. Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder by Elena Guseva will also be interesting: let’s see if this singer will find added clarity for her German pronunciation during these few intermittent days. Florie Valiquette will certainly present very stylish Fauré, and of course Katariina Heikkilä’s and Waltteri Torikka’s performances during the first round raised the bar quite high for their Semifinals. And what about Schubert’s Erlkönig by Hagar Sharvit? Me thinkee it will be quite good.

Juho Alakärppä
(translated by Jenni Lättilä)