Soprano Gemma Summerfield has been awarded the £10,000 Chilcott Award for young British opera singers.
The Award is the final one to be offered by the Susan Chilcott Scholarship, an independent charity set up in 2005 in memory of Susan Chilcott, one of the outstanding singers of her generation, who died from cancer in 2003 aged 40.
The biennial Chilcott Award is made to an opera singer who, like Susan Chilcott herself, has the potential to make an international impact within the world of opera. The Award is specifically designed to enable advanced training or career development, from ongoing vocal tuition and accompanists, to practical help with some of the ‘hidden’ costs of the craft, including travel to auditions, purchasing scores and creating recordings and promotional material.
Gemma was selected following audition from over 40 applicants, and follows in the footsteps of previous winners Duncan Rock (2012), Clare Presland (2014) and Soraya Mafi (2016). In addition to these major awards, the Susan Chilcott Scholarship has also offered financial support to over 50 young singers totaling over £160,000, enabling them to progress their professional development. Those supported by the Susan Chilcott Scholarship have included many singers who are now making names for themselves on the opera and concert stage including: Clare Booth; Thomas Hobbs; Jennifer Johnston; Ashley Riches and Kathryn Rudge.
Gemma Summerfield was winner of the First Prize and the Song Prize at the 2015 Kathleen Ferrier Awards as well as the Jean Meikle Prize for a Duo at the 2017 Wigmore Hall International Song Competition. A graduate of the Royal College of Music International Opera School, the Georg Solti Accademia and the Verbier Festival Academy, she is also a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians (and a recipient of their Silver Medal) and was the only British finalist in the inaugural Glyndebourne Cup. She recently covered the title role of Rodelinda at English National Opera and will this summer cover Michal in Saul for Glyndebourne Opera. This autumn, she will make her house debut at Wexford Festival Opera as Paula Johnson in the European première of William Bolcom’s opera, Dinner at Eight (20 October – 4 November) and her debut with Scottish Opera as Pamina in The Magic Flute in Spring 2019. rayfieldallied.com/artists/gemma-summerfield
The award was made by a distinguished jury, chaired by pianist and close friend of Susan Chilcott, Iain Burnside and featuring Chilcott Scholarship Trustees, bass baritone Neal Davies and John Gilhooly, Director of Wigmore Hall and Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society. They were joined by internationally acclaimed dramatic soprano Susan Bickley and mezzo-soprano Susan Bullock CBE, both former winners of the RPS Music Award for Singer, Emma Bloxham, Live Music Editor at BBC Radio 3, Pal Moe, Casting Consultant for Glyndebourne and Bayerische Staatsoper Munich and Sebastian Schwarz, former General Director of Glyndebourne.
Iain Burnside comments: “For this final Chilcott Award the panel enjoyed an extraordinary day listening to the cream of young British singers. The standard was so high that the Award could have gone to virtually any of these gifted young artists. Gemma Summerfield was chosen for her poise, her artistry and her commitment to text, as well as for the beauty of her voice. We are confident that she will prove a wonderful ambassador for the Chilcott Award, being given for the last time.”
Jonathan Dimbleby, Susan Chilcott Scholarship President comments: “Our original hope in launching the Chilcott Awards was to honour Sue’s memory by helping young singers of exceptional talent to achieve their full potential in this most perilous profession. I believe we have succeeded. Of course, it is a bitter-sweet moment that this has to be our final Award but it has been an inspiration and a delight to have been involved. My admiration for those who competed and my gratitude to all those who have made it possible is unbounded.”