Inaugurated in 2018, the Hurn Court Opera Singer of the Year Competition provides an important platform for young vocal talent. It also provides a key to future performance opportunities with HCO, and offers the chance to develop over a period of time under the supporting wing of the professionals associated with the company. Details of previous competitions, including lists of prizewinners, can be found  here: 2018 Report and 2019 Report.



  • Nigel Beale First Prize
    - £2000 

  • John Harding Second Prize
    - £1000

  • Rosalind Armstrong Prize
    - £500

  • Roger Higgins Prize
    - £500

  • Anthony Lowrey Audience Prize
    - £500

  • Wendy Blamire Prize*
    - £300

* This discretionary award may be made to a semi-finalist or finalist who, in the opinion of the panel, shows outstanding linguistic and artistic commitment to text in at least two European languages other than English.

The winner of the First Prize is invited to perform with Hurn Court Opera and all competitors may be considered by the Artistic Director for future performance opportunities. 


Semi-finals and finals

Wasfi Kani OBE, CEO and Founder of Grange Park Opera

Sir Simon Keenlyside CBE, International Baritone

Nicholas Chalmers, Artistic Director of Nevill Holt Opera

Preliminary auditions

Philip Curran, composer

Joy Robinson, mezzo-soprano and HCO producer

Information for candidates


Hurn Court Opera regards the welfare of all those involved in its activities as a top priority and will carry out the required risk assessments and follow all recommended guidelines. Due to the challenges surrounding Covid-19, the arrangements described below may have to change, depending on circumstances and government guidelines. Any changes and further details will be published on the HCO website and communicated to participants as soon as is practicable. For 2020 only, the usual administration and accompanists’ fees will be waived.


Preliminary auditions 

For the 2020 competition we are requesting that singers submit a video file by Tuesday 6 October 2020. These files will be assessed by the auditioning panel. See details about audition repertoire in the notes below.

New recordings should be made of two items in one take, with no edits or breaks between items*. The singer’s head and torso at least should be visible throughout. Live piano accompaniment is acceptable, allowing for social distancing rules, or a recorded piano accompaniment may be used.

The spirit underpinning this requirement is that all recorded auditions are submitted on a level playing field, i.e. that they are not professionally or previously recorded, and the two pieces are sung in one take. The intention is that singers who need to record in a home setting, using mobile phones, iPads etc can compete equally.

Recordings may be submitted in the following formats:

  • Link to a site such as wetransfer, dropbox, googledrive, youtube, or

  • MP4 file attached to an email

  • Please label the recording clearly with your name, voice type, and 
audition repertoire

  • PDF copies of the music must be attached to the application email for the 
adjudicating panel to refer to

  • Please send a link to your website, or attach a full biography

Semi-final and finals

It is hoped to hold the semi-final and final live before the judges on Sunday 15 November 2020, with singers accompanied by the competition’s official pianist. If this is not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions, other arrangements will be made. Entrants will be informed as soon as matters are finalised.


In order to ensure an appropriate mix of voices, the application process may be closed early to individual voice categories. The current application status is displayed below:

  • Soprano   -  OPEN

  • Mezzo / Countertenor   -  OPEN

  • Tenor   -   OPEN

  • Baritone / Bass    -   OPEN


Important: Please submit your application form ONLY when your voice category above is marked 'OPEN'.

Having read the Rules and Repertoire sections below, download your application form as a pdf or as a Word document. Please follow the instructions on the form.

The deadline for entries, subject to the above, is midnight on Tuesday 6 October 2020.


  • The competition is open to singers of any nationality who, on or before 6 October 2020, have completed at least one year of a continuous higher education course in music at a recognised conservatoire or music school in the UK or Eire, or who are currently on a postgraduate course, or who have completed an equivalent period of continuous study in the UK or Eire with a reputable vocal coach. Candidates must also be currently resident in the UK or Eire.

  • Singers who were finalists (i.e. one of the final four singers) in a previous HCO competition are not eligible to apply again. 

  • All singers must be between 20 and 28 years of age on 6 October 2020. 

  • The deadline for email receipt of applications is midnight on 6 October 2020. Please attach completed application forms together with PDFs of the music and audition recordings. The application form must detail the audition repertoire as well as the repertoire to be sung in semi-final and final stages of the competition. The usual administration fee will be waived for 2020 only.​

  • The decision of Hurn Court Opera on any question of eligibility shall be final. Hurn Court Opera reserves the right to accept or refuse any application. 

  • Candidates are solely responsible for their travelling and subsistence costs. 

  • If the semi-final and final rounds are held live, the official accompanist must be used by all candidates. For 2020 only the fee for the accompanist will be waived. 

  • Candidates are reminded that it is illegal to perform from photocopies of published music in copyright. Original copies must be supplied for the official pianist. 

  • The decisions of the adjudicating panels are final and not open to discussion or correspondence. The adjudicators reserve the right to withhold any prize should the required standard not be attained. Hurn Court Opera reserves the right to allow any stage of the competition to be recorded, broadcast or televised and be used on the Hurn Court Opera website.

  • The competition reserves the right, if required by law, to deduct withholding tax from any payment made to competitors not resident (for tax purposes) in the UK.




  • The judges will take into consideration the choice and variety of the programme submitted. If it does not meet the criteria listed below a revised programme will be requested.

  • Arias from opera must be sung in the original key.

  • Song repertoire may be sung in a transposed or original key.

  • All repertoire must be sung in the original language.

  • A candidate’s performance through all the rounds of the competition will be taken into consideration.

  • Only one item from the preliminary audition may be repeated, either in the semi-final or in the final (but not both). Otherwise no repertoire may be repeated.

  • First round – recorded audition 

        The programme must not exceed 10 minutes and must comprise two items: 

             a) an aria from opera and

             b) a song written in the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries.

  • Semi-final 

        The programme must not exceed 15 minutes and must include at least:

             a) one aria from opera and

             b) two songs, each in a different language.

  • Final

        The programme must not exceed 20 minutes. It may consist of contrasting repertoire chosen by the finalist                  provided the programme is balanced and contains at least one operatic aria and one English song. 


If you are selected to sing in the semi-final or final rounds you will be asked to submit for inclusion in the concert programme:

  • a high-resolution head-shot, and

  • English translations for all arias and songs sung in a foreign 

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