In an international competition, the cards are stacked in favor of the host countryMy student was a semi finalist in both the mélodies and opera categories. In that round as in the elimination round, each singer sings one song. However, as opposed to the four minute limit for the first round, the singer has six minutes for the second round and there was no specifics as to whether one can sing one song or two or three. When I asked one of the official helpers of the competition, he said that the jury hears one song in the semi-final round. However after she sang a stunning C'est l'extase langoureuse (Debussy), I had a feeling it was not enough. We had prepared a second piece, Fleur jetée (Fauré) but they did not ask for it. Two contestants later, a young bass presented the short cycle by Poulenc, Le bestiaire and there was no objection. In effect, if she had announced both songs totalling less than six minutes, she might have made the effect necessary to get into the finals. The singers that made it through all sang longer pieces. They were all French or French Canadian. There is a French-Quebec prize in the competition offered by one of the judges who is the director of a French Canadian Opera organization.
Know the politics of the situationThe French-Quebec prize was given to a young French coloratura. The prize is a series of concerts sponsored by the Quebec organization directed by said judge. The same coloratura was indubitably edged out in the mélodies category by a fanstastically gifted French baritone who received well-deserved bravos for his performance. However the two prizes for that category (1st and 2nd) where changed to two first prizes, and the soprano was announced first. The same soprano was also a finalist in the opera category and was given first place in the female category although a Russian coloratura with a near flawless technique edged her out, in my opinion. It might have appeared strange if she had also won the overall grand prize. That honor went to a French-Chinese soprano. The prize was announced by the mayor of the town who reminded the audience that this soprano had sung the soprano lead in The Pearl Fischers two years before in the town where the competition takes place.
International Competitions are won in the semi-final round