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2024 Jury

Sergei Leiferkus


President of the jury

Sergei Leiferkus is considered one of the world’s most renowned and accomplished performing artists. With an international career stretching over 40 years, he made a name for himself in complex opera roles, such as Scarpia (Tosca), Iago (Otello), Rangoni (Boris Godunov), Telramund (Lohengrin) or Alberich (Ring des Nibelungen), to name but a few. He is a frequent guest at the world’s leading opera houses, such as London’s Royal Opera House, Opéra de Paris, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Semperoper (Dresden), New York Met, San Francisco, Chicago (Lyric Opera) and Teatro Colón; and at festivals like Salzburg, Glyndebourne or Bregenz.

His repertoire goes on to include famous baritone roles, like Don Giovanni, Nabucco, Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra, Amonasro, Klingsor, Eugene Onegin, Prince Igor or the High Priest of Dagon, and he continues to add new roles, like Schigolch (Lulu) or the Forester (Cunning Little Vixen).

On the concert repertoire, he has appeared with the world’s most famous orchestras, under eminent conductors like Abbado, Solti, Maazel, Levine, Gergiev, Haitink, Muti, Harnoncourt, Tilson Thomas or Ashkenazy. His discography comprises almost 40 recordings, including in opera the roles he is most noted for, and with a particular attention to Russian concert repertoire and the Russian song tradition, from Glinka to Shostakovich.
A native of St. Petersburg, Mr. Leiferkus started his career there (Maly Theatre, then the Mariinsky), before his international breakthorugh in Berlin, in 1980.

Aleksandar Nikolić

Principal Opera Director


Serbian National Theatre

Aleksandar Nikolić is one of the most active opera and theatre directors in Eastern Europe. He has been collaborating with Belgrade’s National Theater since 2009 and, since the 2018-19 season, also with the National Theater Novi Sad (Serbia’s first National Theatre), having been appointed Principal Opera Director there in 2023.


Mr. Nikolic studied Drama, Audiovisual Arts, Art History and Stage Design in Belgrade and served as assistant director to the 13th revival of Richard Eyre’s original 1994 production of Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’ at London’s Royal Opera House (2016).
From 2019 through 2023, he was general manager at Little Theater Duško Radović, in Belgrade, where he produced a total 22 works.


In Serbia and abroad, he moves with equal ease in opera, theatre and dance, and his work on the opera stage includes Aida, Faust and Rigoletto for the National Theatre Novi Sad, Orfeo ed Euridice, L’incoronazione di Poppea and La serva padrona at the National Theatre Belgrade, Tosca with the Belgrade Philharmonic, Don Giovanni and The Telephone for Sarajevo’s National Theatre, Don Giovanni at Universal Artists Festival (Boston), Pyramus and Thisbe and Die Fledermaus in Jerusalem and Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Vrnjačka Banja Summer Festival. Next June, he will be staging Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the final event in Belgrade Philharmonic’s 100th Jubilee Season.

Anna Samuil



Staatsoper Berlin



Hochshule für Musik Hanns Eisler

Soprano Anna Samuil is among the most sought-after singers of her generation and has been steadily engaged as a soloist at the Staatsoper Berlin since 2004.
After her international debut as Violetta (Traviata) at Berlin State Opera in 2003, her career quickly brought her to important stages, like La Scala Milan, New York Met, Bavarian State Opera, Semperoper, Hamburg SO, Valencia, Lyon and Tokyo; and to renowned festivals, like Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, Verbier, Arena di Verona and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Recordings documenting Anna Samuil’s artistic activities include ‘Eugene Onegin’ from the Salzburg Festival, ‘Don Giovanni’ from Glyndebourne, ‘Das Rheingold’ and ‘Götterdämmerung’ from La Scala, ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ from Berlin SO, Britten’s ‘War Requiem’, Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony’ and her latest CD release, “Il mondo felice”, an homage to Maria Malibran with her violinist sister Tatiana.

Anna has collaborated with conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Antonio Pappano, Plácido Domingo, Myung-whun Chung and Gustavo Dudamel, to name just a few. Directors who have guided her career include Franco Zeffirelli, Peter Stein, Jonathan Miller, Achim Freyer, Claus Guth, and Guy Cassiers. Since 2011 she is a Voice Professor at the Hanns Eisler Music University in Berlin.

Erik Malmquist

Casting Director


Bayerische Staatsoper

A native of Elgin, Illinois (USA), Erik Malmquist began his musical studies on violin at the age of three, earning an undergraduate degree in music from Luther College and a masters in violin performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He then moved to New York City, working as a freelance violinist, mainly associated with Manhattan Concert Productions (2013-14). He began his career as an artist manager at Zemsky Green Artists Management, in New York, where he worked from 2014 to 2019, while concurrently serving as the general manager for New York City’s Bach Vespers at Holy Trinity (Upper West Side). Starting in December 2019, he then served as the executive director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, remaining in the post until June 2021, when he accepted an invitation from the Bavarian State Opera (Munich) to become their head of casting, a post he still holds.

Mr. Malmquist has served as a member of the jury for the Metropolitan Opera Competition Grand Finals, the Paris Opera Competition and the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.

Ivan van Kalmthout

Artistic Director


Teatro Nacional de São Carlos

Ivan van Kalmthout is the Artistic Director of the Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos since 1 July 2023. It is Ivan van Kalmthout’s ambition to present seasons that attract audiences that may not immediately be drawn to all the beauty that musical theatre has to offer, by creating overarching story lines and helping them experience the broad range of emotions that all good operas have in them.

For the last 6 years Mr van Kalmthout has led the International Vocal Competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands) which has existed since 1954 and whose prizewinners include artists of the stature of Thomas Hampson, Dame Sarah Connolly, Pretty Yende, Josh Lovell and Lenneke Ruiten. He was twice a member himself of the jury of that illustrious competition and has also served as a jury member of the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2002, the 2nd China International Singing Competition in the same year and in the Bulbul Opera competition in Baku (Azerbeijan) in 2010 and in the Marie Kraja International Singing Competition in Tirana (Albania) 2022. He has a broad range of experience in leading opera houses all over Europe. He was interim artistic director of the Liceu opera house in Barcelona (and before that for 10 years the adjunct artistic director). He worked as Operndirektor in the Staatsoper Unter den Linden im Schillertheater in Berlin. In both latter houses he was closely involved with the two opera studios for younger artists that formed part of the ensemble. He started his career with the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerpen / Ghent where his last position was casting officer.

Maria Stefyuk



Ukraine National Opera



National Academy of Music

Ukrainian lyric coloratura soprano Maria Stefiuk made her professional debut at the Kyiv Opera House in 1972, and rose up to become one of her country’s most distinguished lyric artists.

Her repertoire included Lysenko’s ‘Taras Bulba’, Glinka’s ‘A life for the tsar’, Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘The Tsar’s Bride’, Mussorgsky’s ‘The Fair at Sorotchinsky’ and Shostakovich’s ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’. In Italian, she sang the roles of Zerlina, Rosina, Lucia, Violetta, Gilda and Musetta, and in French, Manon, Marguerite de Valois, Leila, and Eros.
She made her La Scala debut in 1981 and also performed at Dresden’s Semperoper (1987) and Berlin’s State Opera (1988). Her international appearances included the USA, Canada, UK, France, Switzerland, Austria, Turkey, Argentina and Japan.
In chamber song, she performed Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Händel, Bach, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Gounod and Massenet.

From 2000 to 2019, Mrs. Stefyuk taught singing at the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music, in Kyiv. For over 20 years, Maria Stefyuk has been a member of the jury at a number of international vocal competitions.

For the relevance of her career and her significant contribution to culture and the arts in Ukraine, she was awarded such prizes as the Shevchenko State Prize (1988), the Order of Princess Olga – 1st Class (2003), and was made a Hero of Ukraine in 2008.

Robert Körner

Casting Director


Wiener Staatsoper

Robert Körner has been Casting Director of Vienna State Opera since May 2020. His responsibilities there include overseeing/managing the ensemble, the Young Artist Program and guest artists.

Prior Mr. Körner served for 13 years (September 2007-April 2020) as Director of Artistic Production at Opéra National de Lyon (France), where he worked in close collaboration with General Director Serge Dorny. His responsibilities there encompassed the creation and development of the artistic program, head of casting, head of production and planning, responsibility for the opera house’s artistic budget and for contractual negotiations with artistic staff and guest artists.

Before his international breakthrough, Mr. Körner worked at Theater Dortmund (Germany) as Director of Artistic Production from 2001 through 2007. His duties there extended to being their Director of Casting and Head of Production and Planning, while he also held responsibility for elaborating and managing the artistic budget of the opera house.
Robert Körner’s first professional experience in arts management was acquired in Osnabrück, (Germany) for two years he was Head of Planning and Production at the local Städtische Bühnen (Municipal Theatres).

Before Mr. Körner was a professional dancer, for eight years he was a solo dancer with the Saarländisches Staatstheater Saarbrücken ( Germany) from 1991 to 1999, and also a Ballet Administrator, there, from 1997.

Mr. Körner has been already a jury member of several international singing competitions.

Cascais opera

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Over the past three decades, primarily in London, Portugal and Amsterdam, Dr Jorge Balça
has developed a strong portfolio of work and a unique combination of skillsets – as a stage
director (of theatre, opera, and hybrid forms), a teacher and workshop leader, a presentation
skills, acting and creativity coach, and practice-based researcher. His work in all these
domains is distinguished by his commitment to and skill in making fantasy and invention
emerge from precise knowledge and training – and by his ability to inspire a similar alchemy
in his collaborators.

Classically trained as an actor and countertenor, he studied theatre directing in London and
Moscow, specialising in Shakespeare, techniques of adaptation, Meyerhold and commedia
dell’arte. Jorge also holds a PhD exploring the dramatic training of opera performers.
With a love for site-specific projects and collaborative forms, and an equal flair for comedy
and drama, his work is dramaturgically inventive, visually striking, and physically engaged.
He was the artistic director of Bloomsbury Opera and associate director of The Opera
Makers, both in London. In Portugal, he has recently directed L’Heure Espagnole and The
Turn of the Screw at Centro Cultural de Belém, and Don Giovanni and La Voix Humaine at
Festival de Ópera de Óbidos.

Jorge is committed to his work as a teacher, having taught at the Dutch National Opera
Academy, Morley College London, Universidade de Évora and other institutions. He
maintains an international coaching private practice and is the acting coach at the Neil
Semer Vocal Institute in Italy.

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