The finest opera singers in the world were applauded June 27 during the Seventh Opera Ball, one of the most significant and pompous cultural events in Kazakhstan. The event was held in Almaty’s Royal Tulip Hotel.
The Best Male Vocal award was presented to Metropolitan Opera soloist Ryan Speedo Green (USA), while Astana Opera soloist Alfiya Karimova (Kazakhstan) was named Best Female Opera Vocalist. Each winner, who received $10,000 in prize money, was chosen among other six finalists, all of whom performed during the evening.
Speaking to the press after the ceremony, Karimova, who has won in 31 different international competitions during her career, said this award meant more to her than receiving an Oscar. She also announced she will not be participating in any other music competitions in the future. Green, a bass-baritone, noted it was an honour for him to be recognised.
The Opera Ball introduced an additional nomination for young local vocalists in 2014, naming Maria Mudryak as the most promising opera singer in the country. Beginning this year, the award is also open to foreign performers. The prominent jury members were Paris Opera House music director Jean-Philippe Thiellay, Vienna State Opera music director Thomas Lausmann, Arena di Verona Theatre art director Paolo Gavazzeni and Abai State Theatre of Opera and Ballet general director Askar Buribayev.
The evening started with a greeting ceremony of famous musicians, Opera Ball finalists and prominent businessmen gracing the red carpet. Guests were entertained by actors from the Almaty-based ArtiShok Theatre who staged several scenes from Alexandr Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin,” creating the atmosphere of the classic ball, and a performance by the Imperial Russian Ballet dancers. The ceremony was led by Miss Universe 2014, Paulina Vega, and Imperial Russian Ballet head Gediminas Taranda.
One of the annual highlights is the dance performances by debutantes. Among 60 pairs this year were Miss Kazakhstan 2014, Regina Vandisheva, Kazakh singer Diaz Ablayev and Miss Almaty 2010, Saltanat Bekzhigitova.
“The ball debutantes are young, ambitious and talented young ladies and gentlemen who are ready to conquer the world and this event is an opportunity for them to take a step in this direction and become the best representatives of their generation,” said one of the ball’s organisers Marat Omarov.
Unfortunately, the headliner of the event, La Scala Theatre and tenor soloist Roberto Alagna, Mudryak and Almaty Akim (Mayor) Akhmetzhan Yessimov were unable to attend the ceremony. The evening ended with a live performance by Kazakh singer Polina Griffis.
The tradition of organising balls in Almaty began in 2007. Two years later, the Viennese Ball was renamed the Charity Ball and became one of the first large-scale projects promoted by the Eventica group of companies, represented by Marat Omarov and Anastasiya Lototskoya. Starting in 2014, the event has been called the Opera Ball and is aimed at marking talented opera singers throughout the world. The next ball will be held May 28, 2016, and according to the organisers they are planning to invite Jose Carreras, a leading tenor in the world of classic opera.