Winner of the Gold Medal, Alexandra Achillea Pouta. Photo by Clive Totman.
Guildhall School of Music & Drama is thrilled to announce mezzo-soprano Alexandra Achillea Pouta as the winner of this year’s Gold Medal, the School’s most prestigious music prize for outstanding musicians.
The prize is awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years, and this year saw Alexandra and fellow finalists soprano Miku Yasukawa, baritone Michael Lafferty-Smith and soprano Lorna McLean take to the Barbican stage on Wednesday 10 May.
The singers began with a short programme accompanied by pianists Florent Mourier, William Bracken and Aleksandra Myslek, followed by a second half of arias with Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Farnes.
Alexandra’s winning performance of two works from Messiaen’s Harawi, Santoliquido’s L’assiolo canta, Varèse’s Un grand sommeil noir and Ligeti’s A csendes dalokból with pianist William Bracken, and two pieces from Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaires grecques, Bellini’s Se Romeo t’uccise un figlio… La tremenda ultrice spada, and Szymanowski’s Hafiz’ tomb with Guildhall Symphony Orchestra impressed the audience as well as the judges. Alexandra’s choice of repertoire showcased five languages, including Greek, Hungarian and Polish. A total of seven languages were included in last night’s celebration of vocal talent across thirty-two pieces of repertoire, featuring also Japanese, French, Italian, German and English. Finalists Miku, Michael and Lorna gave brilliant performances of works by composers including Mozart, Korngold and Wagner respectively.
Alexandra says: “I am really humbled to be receiving this honour, and to have the opportunity to share the stage with my very dear friends and fellow finalists, Miku, Michael and Lorna. It was a wonderful evening that I’ll never forget. I am thankful to my pianist William Bracken, whose brilliance is truly inspiring, and the musicians in the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra who provided such excellent playing and musicianship.”
This year’s distinguished panel of judges were Guildhall School’s Vice-Principal & Director of Music Armin Zanner, soprano Roberta Alexander, baritone Sir Simon Keenlyside, Head of Casting at English National Opera and London Coliseum Michelle Williams,and Askonas Holt Director, Sue Spence.
Greek mezzo-soprano Alexandra Achillea Pouta is currently studying on the Guildhall School Opera Course, under the tutelage of Samantha Malk. Performance credits include Sister Helen in Dead Man Walking (Guildhall School of Music & Drama), performances of Messiaen’s Harawi with pianist Élisabeth Pion and world premieres of multimedia projects with the Idrîsî Ensemble. She is also a member of this year’s Glyndebourne Chorus. Alexandra’s studies are generously supported by the Guildhall School Trust, Help Musicians Sybil Tutton Opera Award, The Jane Ades Ingenuity Scholarship, the Athena Scholarship, and the Dow Clewer Foundation Scholarship. Her work with the Idrîsî Ensemble is supported by the Arts Council England and PRS Foundation.
The Gold Medal award was founded and endowed by Sir H. Dixon Kimber in 1915, and has continued annually, uninterrupted even throughout two world wars and the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1950 it has been open to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years. Previous winners include William Primrose (1922), Jacqueline du Pré (1960), Patricia Rozario (1979), Tasmin Little (1986) and Sir Bryn Terfel (1989).
Recent Gold Medal winners are forging impressive careers. Baritone Tom Mole, winner of the Gold Medal in 2021, has since performed as a Jerwood Young Artist at Glyndebourne in productions of Kat’a Kabanova, Don Pasquale and Fidelio, and he is currently a member of the opera studio at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Winner of the 2019 Gold Medal, soprano Samantha Clarke is this season performing with Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Opera Queensland and the West Australian Opera. Last year’s winner, pianist Stephanie Tang, is currently undertaking a number of engagements across the UK and enjoying collaborations as a chamber musician with Guildhall School’s award-winning Paddington Trio.
The Gold Medal final is part of Guildhall School’s summer events season, all of which is available to browse on the School’s website.