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 under these tabs: 2018 Report, 2019 Report and 2020 Report.



  • Nigel Beale First Prize
    - £2000 

  • John Harding Second Prize
    - £1000

  • Rosalind Armstrong Prize
    - £750

  • 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

Sholto Kynoch, Artistic Director, Oxford Lieder Festival

Mark Milhofer, International Tenor

Dr Claire Rutter, International Soprano

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 any required risk assessments and follow all recommended guidelines. Due to challenges surrounding Covid-19, the arrangements described below may have to change, depending on circumstances prevailing. Any changes and further details will be published on the HCO website and communicated to participants as soon as is practicable.


Preliminary auditions 

Singers should submit a link to a YouTube video file by midnight on Thursday 14 October 2021. 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 microphone should be at least 3 metres away and most of the singer’s body should be visible throughout. Live piano accompaniment is preferable, 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.

Auditions may be submitted by email, supplying a link to a YouTube recording.

  • 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

Subject to the latest Covid guidelines, it is hoped to hold the semi-final and final live before the judges on Sunday 14 November 2021, 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.


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 Thursday 14 October 2021.


  • The competition is open to singers of any nationality who, on or before 14 October 2021, 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 recognised 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 up to 2019 are not eligible to apply again. However, finalists from last year’s competition (2020) are allowed to apply as the final stages were cancelled in 2020 due to Covid.

  • All singers must be between 20 and 29 years of age on 14 October 2021. 

  • The deadline for email receipt of applications is midnight on 14 October 2021 along with payment of a £25 administration fee. Please attach completed application forms together with PDFs of the music and audition recordings, links to your YouTube audition recording and your website or biography. 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 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. The accompanist fee for the semi-final and final rounds is £20, payable before 14 November 2021.

  • 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. NB arias or songs from musical theatre are not eligible.

  • 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 (excluding musical theatre).

  • 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 (not a translation). The composer need not be English.


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 language.

  • You will also be asked to pay a £20 fee for the official accompanist.