Singing Competition "Stella Maris"

This competition on board the cruise ship MS Europa was a terrific idea that I developed in 2009 together with then general manager of Hapag Lloyd Cruises. He is a great fan of classical music, and I think it is wonderful when a company like Hapag Lloyd can offer its guests something like this. Classical music and concerts given by young and also well-known artists have always played an important role on this ship, and it was on one of these occasions that we met. But now there is an added dimension that not only promotes young artists, but also involves the audience through the award of an audience prize – and both parties are delighted to make use of this option.

People book these trips not only because of the renowned exclusive ambience, but also because they want to be part of a singing competition. And in this intimate setting it seems entirely natural to include the audience in the competition. This gives them the opportunity to consider and evaluate artistic accomplishments, which gives them a new perspective on things. The earnestness with which they approach this task is fascinating.

At the Stella Maris competition, there are three rounds in different divisions. It is important to me that a singer should have a mastery not only of operatic arias but also oratorio and song, which is why we have these three rounds. It is always amazing to see how differently the singers score in these genres.

This competition is not just about the question of "How can I win"; we also take up the challenge of networking here. A singer's capital is contacts, and we try to create these, and on various different levels.

Firstly, the important point about this competition is that we approach major opera houses that have an ensemble of young singers who could be our competitors, and we ask them to send them to us, as it were as "ambassadors" for their organization. There are four women and four men at each competition, and they come from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the San Francisco Opera or the Chicago Opera, or the Canadian Opera Company, the Paris Opera, from Covent Garden, La Scala, Frankfurt Opera, Vienna State Opera, etc. etc. - the best opera houses, who all have good young singers.

Secondly, the jury is made up of representatives from opera and concert organizers, agencies, recording companies, as well as journalists, whose task is to network with the young singers and afterwards offer them an engagement, an agency agreement, or a recording. That for example is how Jongmin Park landed at the Vienna State Opera, why Mélissa Petit is doing so well at the Hamburg State Opera, it is one of the reasons why Ida Aldrian made her debut in December 2014 at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and it is why Manuel Walser was given a recording with Deutsche Grammophon.

And thirdly and lastly, as I mentioned to begin with, the singers' names come before a select audience that then awards the audience prize. And the prize is equivalent to a really top fee in normal opera life.

These three features are absolutely key to me, because with them I can say that I have helped a young singer, not just technically, but have really given him or her a leg up.

Further information on the past and upcoming competitions.

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