Seungju Bahg wins Queen Sonja International Music Competition

After an intense 10-day contest the winners of this year’s Queen Sonja International Music Competition (QSIMC) have been decided. South Korean tenor Seungju Bahg won First Prize in the grand final, hosted at National Opera & Ballet in Oslo. He took home €40,000, with second place Giovanni Sebastiano Sala (tenor, Italy) picking up €10,000 and third place Alexander Roslavets (bass, Belarus) €5,000.

Bahg was born in 1990 in Busan, South Korea. He is currently attending Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Mannheim. In the final he was a clear favourite with the audience, his voice providing a clear and unwavering tone.

“It was so unbelievable,” said a surprised Bahg. “I think music is another language and today this one language seemed to be able to communicate to everyone. The competition win will support my future, my studies and I can improve my career.”

Her Majesty Queen Sonja presented the prizes – including a diploma with original artwork created by Her Majesty that went to the First Prize winner. Queen Sonja joked with the winners and roused laughter from the audience, adding to QSIMC’s friendly and supportive atmosphere.

Commented Queen Sonja: “Let me thank each and every one of you for your great performances tonight – we have all been thrilled. Success in this competition is measured not only by the prizes won, but also by the confidence in your artistic abilities that I hope you have gained.”

This year’s jury was made up of chair Birgitta Svendén (CEO and artistic director of The Royal Opera, Stockholm), Sophie de Lint (artistic director of Opernhaus Zürich), Annilese Miskimmon (opera director at Norwegian National Opera & Ballet), Lenore Rosenberg (associate artistic administrator at The Metropolitan Opera), Sebastian Schwarz (opera manager and voice specialist), Terje Stensvold (Norwegian baritone) and Ben Heppner (Canadian tenor).

“It’s about artistry, performance and presence on stage,” said Svendén, before adding: “But honestly at the last moment it’s about taste and what you like – what kind of sound you like, what kind of communication you want.”

Norwegian broadcaster NRK – who are one of the competition’s founding partners – screened the final live, hosted by Norwegian television personality Hans Olav Brenner. The broadcast is available to stream from NRK’s website.

Founded in 1988, QSIMC was established to create a platform for Norwegian musicians as well as international competitors. Past winners include Lise Davidsen (2015), Kristina Mkhitaryan (2013), Daniel Behle (2007) and Marita Kvarving Sølberg (2001).

Next in the QSIMC calendar are two gala concerts featuring eight prize-winners past and present. The first is on 3 November at the DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, with the second on 12 November at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.