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Opera competition with ‘blind audition process’ launched to remove unconscious bias

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A new classical singing competition featuring The Voice-style blind auditions is being launched to tackle unconscious bias in opera casting.

By Voice Alone will see singers perform anonymously for representatives from companies including English National Opera, the Royal Opera House and Welsh National Opera with no names, CVs or headshots included.

The format of the first-round auditions will be similar to the BBC TV talent competition The Voice – in which the judges do not see the appearance of the contestants.

For the opera competition, performers will sing behind a screen, in a move organisers hope will remove traditional markers of success and allow them to be judged purely on their vocal ability.

Contestants moving through to the next round will then be asked to perform in front of a panel of opera companies, conductors, agents and directors, before between eight and 10 finalists will be selected.

They will take part in a final concert in front of another panel and invited audience, with the winner taking home a top prize of £2,000, with several other financial prizes for runners up.

The London-based competition is being run by classical casting site Audition Oracle, and its creator, Melanie Lodge, said she hoped it would open up the classical singing profession to those who have found themselves overlooked in the past.

“We hope that By Voice Alone will be the first step towards making a significant and measurable change to the levels of diversity represented on the UK’s concert, oratorio and opera stages. We want to see more BAME artists on stage, more disabled artists, and more artists with a range of backgrounds and training,” she said.

Among the judges already confirmed for the competition are David Gowland, who runs the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists scheme, the heads of casting for ENO, Welsh National Opera and Scottish Opera, and Scott Cooper, the director of artistic administration at the Grange Festival.

Applications will open at the end of January, with the first auditions taking place in March and the final in May.

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