To be an opera singer at this level is an extreme sport, says Lars Hallvard Flæten. He has been Executive Director of the Queen Sonja International Music Competition since 1992.
Over the course of the last 23 years, Flæten has met hundreds of talents from all over the world. He continues to be impressed by the incredible effort and sacrifice that each contestant must make in order to reach the high level that is required, both in the competition and on the world’s opera stages.
- They have chosen to dedicate their lives to music and the stage, and many have been completely engrossed even since childhood. It is on a par with extreme sport, he says. - We see that not only is the general standard of participants steadily increasing, but there are also more competitors operating at the very highest level.
- Humility towards the music is the foundation for a successful career. It is also important for a performer to have respect for their own unique musical personality.
- We give them opportunities
- The competition’s role is to be an important stepping stone for young talents. All of the participants who are invited to Oslo will gain valuable professional experience, whether they go on to win a prize or not.
- I work to build networks within the Norwegian music industry, and to develop closer cooperation between the competition and the international music scene. Recently I was in Berlin to meet with the State Opera about a collaboration in 2016 which will be very exciting. I work closely with all our partner institutions, including the Royal Court.
- H.M. The Queen is very engaged in the competition. She is a wonderfully inspirational woman. I am impressed by the way the Queen fronts the competition and the great personal interest she shows the participants, an involvement that goes far beyond her obligations.
- What is the greatest moment you have experienced during the time you have worked for QSIMC?
- Ah, hard to say! But it was a great experience when the competition and the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow joined forces to produce the concert "Young Opera Voices of the World" in March this year. We had selected seven singers, including last year's 1st prizewinner Kristina Mkhitaryan from Russia, and Norwegian Elisabeth Teige. It was a great experience to see the light in their eyes as they stood on the world famous Bolshoi stage. And it was great to get artistic recognition for the competition.
- What are your goals and wishes for the foundation's future?
- I want us to be larger, with a broader financial backing. We recently received an endowment fund of 3 million crowns from Christen Sveaas
. The returns on this fund will be used to increase the value of the first prize in the competition. The figure has now doubled since 2013 to a total of approximately 360,000 crowns. I wish we had 15 more Christen Sveaass! We are also considering whether future competitions should include violin as a discipline in addition to voice, because of a strong growth within the field here in Norway. But we haven’t decided yet. The most important thing is to keep improving for the sake of our participants. They are the reason the competition exists.