On Friday 19th April 2024, bass baritone Will Frost was announced as the winner of the International Handel Singing Competition following the final presented by broadcaster Petroc Trelawny, which took place at London’s St George’s Church, Hanover SquareSecond Prize was awarded jointly to sopranos Isabelle Haile and Charlotte Bowden. In addition, Isabelle Haile received the Audience Prize at the event which also featured finalists Hannah de Priest and Angharad Rowlands.

Hailing from West Yorkshire, bass baritone Will Frost graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a First and enjoys operatic commitments around the UK and Europe. He looks forward to covering Cithéron and the Satyr in Garsington Opera’s upcoming production of Rameau’s Platée conducted by Paul Agnew. He will also return to Stockholm this summer to join the Confidencen Opera & Music Festival in their production of Handel’s Alcina as Melisso. In August he will join the Graz Opera young artist programme in Austria for their next season.

Gregory Batsleer, Festival Director for the London Handel Festival comments, “The International Handel Singing Competition remains the jewel in the crown of the London Handel Festival and this year’s final was certainly one to remember. I am in no doubt that each of the finalists will go on to achieve wonderful things in their career. The judges certainly had a very difficult decision to make. Huge congratulations to Will Frost for winning the competition and for his wonderful performance.” 

Laurence Cummings, Musical Director for the London Handel Festival adds, “What an amazing finish to my tenure as Musical Director of the London Handel Festival! The atmosphere was electric and all of the finalists sang with immense style and engagement. Will Frost, this year’s winner, committed himself to every note and he used his beautiful voice to paint the rhetorical intentions of the text. I feel sure that Handel would have thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening.”

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 165 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 DaviesLucy CroweGrace DavidsonTim MeadChristopher AinslieRupert 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.