12 international singers are bound for Birmingham to compete
for cash prizes and career development opportunities, with five
singers advancing to the Grand Final on 5 December
Black British Classical Foundation has announced the 12 singers selected from around the
world who will be in Birmingham next month for intensive preparations for The Voice of Black
Opera (VOBO) Semifinals on 24 and 25 November, 2022. Each will be vying for the chance to
be one of the five who will progress to the competition Final at Birmingham Town Hall on
Monday 5 December, 2022.
As well as competing for coveted prizes, the dozen semifinalists chosen via video auditions
open to Black and South Asian singers from Commonwealth countries, will also have
opportunities to take part in professional development workshops and a masterclass.
The VOBO semifinalists, along with voice type and nationality, are: Natasha Agarwal –
soprano (British Indian), Neil Balfour – bass-baritone (Scottish Indian), Rachel Duckett –
soprano (British), Chantelle Grant – mezzo-soprano (Canadian), Christian Joel – tenor
(Trinidadian), Thando Mjandana – tenor (South African), Yolisa Ngwexana – soprano (South
African), John Onosolease – baritone (Nigerian), Isabelle Peters – soprano (British),
Samkelisiwe Sitshinga – soprano (South African), Shanice Skinner – soprano (Canadian) and
Suzanne Taffot – soprano (Canadian-Cameroonian).
Judges for the Semifinals are Russell Moreton (Head of Music and Casting, Welsh National
Opera), Stephan Meier (Artistic Director, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group), Shirley
Thompson (composer) and Patricia Rozario (soprano and Professor at Royal College of
The five singers chosen to compete at the Final at Birmingham Town Hall will be accompanied
by the Welsh National Opera (WNO) Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren.
At the Final, each singer’s repertoire must include a performance of at least one contemporary
song or aria by a Black or South Asian composer and finalists will also perform a duet with a
leading opera singer.
Two prizes will be awarded at the Final
o The Sir Willard White Trophy
The winner will be awarded £10,000, repertoire coaching with music staff of
Welsh National Opera, and a concert appearance with the WNO Orchestra
o The Samuel Coleridge Taylor Award
The recipient will receive £5,000 and three performances of a specifically
commissioned new work from Daniel Kidane for voice and ensemble with The
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Both winners will be presented with trophies created by internationally acclaimed potter
Dame Magdalene A.N. Odundo.
Each finalist will be fitted with a bespoke fashion item, designed by students of Birmingham
City University (BCU) School of Fashion & Textiles, to wear at the Final. Bespoke jewellery
will also be made for the singers by students of the BCU Birmingham School of Jewellery.
The Chair of the judging panel for the Final will be internationally renowned tenor and
composer Tom Randle. He will be joined by Aidan Lang – General Director of Welsh National
Opera, Stephan Meier – Artistic Director of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Jean
Ronald La Fond – tenor and vocal coach, Philip Herbert – composer, Rupert Christiansen –
writer and critic, and Odaline de la Martinez – composer and conductor.
The Voice of Black Opera Competition is organised by Black British Classical Foundation in
collaboration with Welsh National Opera, to showcase the finest Black and South Asian
singers as they launch international operatic careers.
The first Voice of Black Opera competition was held in 2008 and helped launch the careers of
winners Elizabeth Llewellyn, Peter Braithwaite and Nadine Benjamin. From this year the
relaunched competition will be held biannually, and should become a much-anticipated
highlight of the international cultural calendar.
Vincent Osborne, Founder and Artistic Director, says: “There is an embarrassment of
riches and talent within our communities of colour, just waiting for opportunities
and the right platform to be heard and seen. Voice Of Black Opera is the vehicle to
drive the winners to become household names and in-demand at concert halls and
opera houses throughout the world.”
Tuesday 22 November – Tuesday 6 December 2022 – Singers in Birmingham taking part in
rehearsals, workshops, Semifinals and Final
Thursday 24 & Friday 25 November 2022 – The Voice of Black Opera Competition Semifinals
St Paul’s Church, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham
Tickets: £10 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/vobo-heats-tickets-439866070257
Monday 28 November 2022 – Masterclass led by Jean Ronald La Fond
St Paul’s Church, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham
Tickets: £5 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/vobo-masterclass-tickets-439884094167
Monday 5 December 2022 at 7:00pm – The Voice of Black Opera Competition Final
Birmingham Town Hall, Victoria Square, Birmingham
Tickets: £5 – £38.50 https://bmusic.co.uk/events/voice-of-black-opera