October's themed month explores the world of international competitions through the eyes of some finalists of top competitions around the world. We continue our Operalia series with Rosa Feola, winner of the 2nd Prize, the Zarzuela Prize and the Audience Prize in 2010.

Rosa Feola © Todd Rosenberg
Rosa Feola
© Todd Rosenberg

Why did you decide to apply to compete in Operalia? How much international experience had you had by this time?

The year I decided to compete at Operalia it was held at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. What a perfect occasion to do it, in Italy! I was very young in the opera world; I had only sung one opera, Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims. But it really was the chance to have a beautiful start! 

Whilst some singers thrive on competitions, others find them terrifying. What was your experience of competing in Operalia? Was it similar to your experience of competing in other competitions?

Operalia is not a normal competition. Operalia is the competition. Perfectly organised to give you everything you need to sing at your highest level. Of course there is the fear in being compared to great singers , but I was very lucky to meet very nice people. 

Which piece did you choose to perform in the final? Why did you choose this repertoire?

Mr Domingo choose for me the aria of Violetta “É strano!.... ah, fors'é lui...”, and it was a very particular occasion because another soprano was singing the same aria (she won the 3rd prize, I won the 2nd). For sure, I was not ready to face the whole opera at that time, but I studied the aria very hard with Mrs Renata Scotto. This was my luck! 

The jury for Operalia famously includes casting agents from top opera houses. Did you receive any casting opportunities as a direct result of competing in Operalia?

Sure! My first contract – Zerlina in Valencia!

And after that, Mrs Eva Maria Wieser accepted me for an audition in Salzburg with Maestro Muti for I due figaro by Mercadante. (And I got it!) 

What memories do you have working with Domingo?

Maestro Domingo is unique. His idea of supporting young artists gives him the honour of giving life to the culture and arts. He is absolutely a genius, his way of creating good energy around him improves the spirits of others. He is very funny and remembers the name of everybody! 

I’ll never forget what he said when I won the Zarzuela prize causing a general playfulness : "you are the best Zarzuela singer I've ever heard... after my mum of course!"