It was founded by the legendary Spanish tenor, who conducted the orchestra, and put heart and soul into finding the finest young performers of today, and maybe the Major stars of tomorrow. He told euronews: "Talent cannot remain hidden, you know I mean it comes out. But we can with the competition bring it to the eyes of the public and make the way easier to the career which is tough and difficult. This is one of my great satisfactions, to be able to continue a chain of singers from generation to generation. So it makes me very happy."
It is the first time the competition has been hosted in Milan. And of the 600 young hopefuls who applied, only 13 made it through to the final. Sonya Yoncheva had always wanted always to compete but had never dared. But plucking up the courage paid off for the 28-year old soprano from Bulgaria. She said: "Well I said: Oh God, is that my name? I was suprised. First I was suprised for this one, for the special prize. I couldn´t imagine even that they would give such a special prize as this and then first prize, it was like the cherry on the torte, as we say." For the 23 year old Romanian tenor Stefan Pop, winning first prize was only part of the joy. He told us: "I'm happy, I won the first prize, so I can't say much more else. My emotion is huge. It's hard for me to say anything. Maestro Plácido Domingo conducting at the Scala and I was singing. It means everything to me."
This edition of Operalia is particularly special for Plácido Domingo. It is less than two months since he left hospital after cancer surgery. And it is 40 years since he first appeared at La Scala. "When I made my debut, I was 28 years old," he said, "and to come here and face this public with this phenomenal chorus and orchestra, it´s very special. It's a great emotion, it´s great emotion, great responsibility and of course it was the beginning of my career so I cannot believe now that I have been singing for 40 years."
In this item you can hear excerpts of "Je marche sur tous les chemins" from Jules Massenet's Manon, and "Che gelida manina" from La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini.
Berliner Philharmoniker, Waldbühne 2001