On Thursday 16th March 2023, baritone Florian Störtz was announced as the winner of the International Handel Singing Competition following the final presented by internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese, which took place at London’s St George’s Church, Hanover Square. Soprano Laura Perešivana was awarded both Second Prize and the Audience Prize at the event which also featured finalists Timothy Edlin and Harriet Burns.
Florian Störtz is a baritone based in London. Having sung in the music scene around Trier Cathedral (Germany) from a young age, he has nourished his passion for vocal music in studies at Cambridge singing in the choir of Trinity College, as well as at the Royal Academy of Music where he has won first prizes for both opera and song recitals. He is part of this year’s Wigmore Hall French Song Exchange cohort and holds an Associate Artist position with Tenebrae Choir. Florian is an experienced interpreter of the music of JS Bach and was awarded the 2019-21 Oxford Bach Soloists scholarship. Recent concert appearances include Mass in B minor with London Baroque Orchestra (Jack Gonzalez-Harding), Stravinsky Les Noces with Akademischer Gesangverein Munich and Brahms Requiem alongside Holst Singers (Stephen Layton).
Gregory Batsleer, Festival Director for the London Handel Festival comments, “the 2023 competition was another vintage year, with over 150 applicants from over 20 differing countries, demonstrating just how much winning this competition can mean to a young singer. Huge congratulations to all of the four finalists who I am sure will go on to great things in their career, but in particular congratulations to the winner Florian Störtz who showed great musicianship and expression in his performance. I am sure we will see all of the finalists in the festival again.”
Laurence Cummings, Musical Director for the London Handel Festival adds, “What a night! It was such a pleasure to work so intensely with our finalists and I congratulate them all on stellar singing. Particular praise for the passion and expressivity of our prize winners, Florian and Laura.”
The composer George Frideric Handel was known to encourage and train young, unestablished singers, many of whom rose to fame as his star soloists. The London Handel Festival aims to continue Handel’s great tradition of nurturing talent through the international Handel Singing Competition. The competition was inaugurated in 2002 with Ian Partridge and James Bowman as the first adjudicators and has grown to become a major international singing event, attracting over 150 applicants from over 20 countries worldwide this year.
The calibre of the competition is demonstrated by past winners and finalists who have gone on to become internationally recognised soloists, not just in the baroque music field, and give regular appearances in the world’s leading opera houses. They include Iestyn Davies, Lucy Crowe, Grace Davidson, Tim Mead, Christopher Ainslie, Rupert Charlesworth and Ruby Hughes.
The Competition comprises a preliminary round of reviewing files sent digitally, and then the first live round at Craxton Studios in north London. Then follows the Semi-Final with around 10 singers accompanied by harpsichord, and then the Final with four or five singers who are accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra, conducted by Laurence Cummings. Both the Semi-Final and Final are held at St George’s, Hanover Square in Mayfair, central London (Handel’s own church) and are open to the general public as part of the annual London Handel Festival. These events are well attended, including by many agents and promoters. All competitors are required to submit all-Handel programmes at each stage.
As well as cash prizes (starting with £5,000 for the winner) and the chance to work with a professional baroque orchestra, one of the key benefits of getting through to the semi-finals and finals is the increased profile, through significant press and promoter interest, which leads to numerous engagements; this has been the vehicle through which they have been able to build their professional careers.