The final of the 8th Leyla Gencer Voice Competition started with Giuseppe Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani Ouverture by Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Antonio Pirolli. Following the performance of the orchestra, 7 finalists, accompanied by Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, performed their arias before the jury and the audience. The great Italian soprano Luciana Serra as the head of the jury, announced the winners at the end of the night. Marigona Qerkezi won the first prize, Jonathan Winell came second and Hubert Zapior and Deirdre Judith Angenent shared the third prize. 23.500 Euro monetary award in total (12.500 Euro for the first, 7.500 Euro for the second and 3.500 Euro for the third prize) was given to the winners of the 8th Leyla Gencer Voice Competition.
Marigona Qerkezi won the Accademia Teatro alla Scala Special Award and rewarded with a three-month scholarship at the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, Ayşe Şenogul won the Polish National Opera Award and will have a chance to perform in a production of the Polish National Opera and Hubert Zapior won the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Programme Special Award and rewarded with a four-month training programme in London. The winner of Leyla Gencer Audience Award, Ayşe Şenogul who is granted by the votes of the audience, will perform in a concert at the 44th Istanbul Music Festival.
This year, Leyla Gencer Voice Competition's jury was headed by Italian soprano Luciana Serra. David Gowland (Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Programme Artistic Director), Yekta Kara (Chief Director of Turkish State Opera and Ballet), Izabela Klosinska (Casting Director of Opera Narodowa), Antonio Pirolli (Conductor), Alain Surrans (Director of Opéra de Rennes) and Gianni Tangucci (the Artistic Director of Opera di Firenze Accademia del Maggio ) were the other members of the jury.
In the preliminary auditions in June, 42 competitors from 14 different countries were chosen for the final series. In Istanbul 7 competitors were selected for the final: Ayşe Şenogul (soprano/Turkey), Jonathan Winell (tenor/USA), Hubert Zapior (baritone/Poland), Deirdre Judith Angenent (soprano/The Netherlands), Dongho Kim (bass-baritone/South Korea), Marigona Qerkezi (soprano/ Albania) and Giovanni Romeo (baritone/Italy).
This year, at the preliminary auditions of the 8th Leyla Gencer Voice Competition held in Paris, London, Berlin, Milan, Warsaw, and Istanbul in June, the preliminary juries selected the competitors out of 100 applicants under 32 from 24 different countries for the final series. 42 competitors from 14 countries were chosen for the final series. In the quarterfinals on 7- 8 September, 18 of them were selected for the semi-final. 7 finalists were selected in the semi-final on 9 September for the final.
About Marigona Qerkezi:
Born in 1993, Albanian soprano and flautist Marigona Qerkezi sang her first concert in Ljubljana when she was six. She made her orchestral debut at the age of 10 with the Kosovo Philharmonic. She has graduated in flute from the Prishtina Academy of Arts, where she continues with her postgraduate studies in flute and solo singing. Her awards include the second-prize in the 2014 Maria Kraja International Opera Festival and the Newcomers Award in the 2015 AsLiCo International Opera Festival. Qerkezi made her operatic debut as the Queen of Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in a production of AsLiCo at the Muscat Royal Opera House in April 2015.