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Opera Essentials: Operalia at the Royal Opera House

Our quick introduction to Plácido Domingo’s international opera competition which has launched the careers of artists including Nina Stemme, Joyce DiDonato, Rolando Villazón and Erwin Schrott.

By Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager)

17 July 2015 at 2.55pm | Comment on this article

Domingo’s Operalia

Plácido Domingo is one of the greatest singers of his generation. In the 1990s he took opera to a global audience as part of the Three Tenors. In recent years he has added baritone roles to his repertory, in addition to conducting for companies around the world and working as General Director for LA Opera. In 1993 he founded Operalia, an opera competition with a mission ‘to support exceptionally gifted young artists, and help them launch international careers’. Operalia has been held annually ever since, and its alumni include some of the most acclaimed singers of today.

How Does It Work?

Operalia is open to opera singers aged 18–32 of any voice type. The competition headquarters in Paris receive around 1,000 applications every year. A jury of three opera professionals listen to the recordings sent in by applicants and select 40 singers to participate. Over two days of quarter-finals the shortlist of 40 sing before a jury of ten opera experts, who select 20 to go through to the semi-finals. Both quarter- and semi-finals and carried out in audition conditions, with the singers accompanied by piano. Finally, ten singers make it to the final – an opera gala concert held before a full audience, accompanied by a full orchestra and conducted by Domingo.

It Doesn’t End There

It’s crucial to Domingo’s vision for Operalia that it is more than just a competition – it is a genuine launch pad for the next generation of opera singers. The jury comprises artistic and casting directors from leading companies around the world – 2015’s jury includes representatives from The Royal Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, New York, the Glyndebourne and Bayreuth festivals and Paris Opéra among others. Getting the attention of the world's top opera companies makes taking part in Operalia a career-making opportunity, for all 40 participants. Those singers not quite ready for professional bookings often go on to find places on prestigious young artist programmes, including Domingo’s own programmes in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Valencia.

Operalia at the Royal Opera House

Operalia is held at a different city each year, and in 2015 comes to the Royal Opera House in London for the first time. But The Royal Opera’s relationship with Operalia goes back further than that: The Royal Opera’s Director of Casting Peter Katona has been on the jury every year since 1999, and many Operalia alumni are regular performers here – among them Nina Stemme, John Osborn, Erwin Schrott, Joyce DiDonato, Rolando Villazón, Joseph Calleja, Carmen Giannattasio, Ailyn Pérez, Dmytro Popov, Sonya Yonchevaand many many more.

What Is Zarzuela?

Zarzuela is a Spanish genre of operetta, a light opera that mixes song with spoken dialogue and dance. Domingo’s parents were both zarzuela performers, and in honour of them he introduced a zarzuela category into Operalia in 1995. Participants entering themselves for the zarzuela prize perform a zarzuela aria in addition to the operatic arias they sing at each level of the competition. Previous zarzuela winners include Ana María Martínez, Rolando Villazón, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Jennifer Check, Angel Blue, Pretty Yende, Janai Brugger and Rachel Willis-Sørensen.

Plácido Domingo's Operalia will take place at the Royal Opera House on 19 July 2015. A small number of tickets are still available.

The performance will be live streamed on

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