Welcome to change.story – the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s digital magazine. Our first issue is dedicated to the “Neue Stimmen” International Singing Competition. Join mezzo-soprano Nadezhda Karyazina, who took fifth place at “Neue Stimmen” 2011, to learn more about the fascinating world of opera, including what the competition means for the Russian singer today. The magazine’s articles offer an informative, behind-the-scenes look at various “Neue Stimmen” events. So keep reading – and let yourself be inspired by one of the world’s most important singing competitions.


Photo: Jan Voth


“I only ever wanted to be an opera singer”

Even as a small child, Nadezhda Karyazina was enchanted by the power of music – a power that continues to shape her life today. She still enjoys singing more than ever – and not just lullabies to her newborn son, as seen in the video here. The 28-year-old Russian mezzo-soprano continues to grow professionally and is now an internationally acclaimed performer whose star is very much on the rise. She has just become a member of the ensemble at the Hamburg State Opera. Now she faces three challenges: advancing her career, caring for her child and seeing her husband, who lives and works in Salzburg. It’s not a problem for the talented singer, however, thanks to her passion for music.

She was only six years old when she saw her first opera. It was Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa, and it enchanted her so much that she immediately knew what she wanted to be when she grew up: an opera singer.


The young Moscow native began taking singing and piano lessons at a local music school and joined a children’s choir. Later she studied at the Russian Academy of Theater Arts in Moscow, graduating in 2008. Afterwards she gained experience performing at the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Center, singing the role of Laura in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, the countess in Verdi’s Rigoletto and Siébel in Goudnod’s Faust. In 2010, she became a member of the Bolshoi Theater’s opera studio. She also attended master classes given by Laura Claycomb, Elena Obraztsova and Yevgeny Nesterenko, and debuted as Petrovna in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride.


“Opera is my life. I can’t imagine a life without music. It cheers me up when I’m down. It gives me energy and inspires me,” she says. “When you perform in the opera, you put your heart and soul into your voice. It allows you to communicate something that can’t be expressed with words. It’s simply wonderful.”


Video: Enno Kapitza      Photo: Sascha Kreklau

Music is not only enjoyable, it’s relaxing and entertaining. It can motivate, focus the mind, provide solace and bring people together. The Bertelsmann Stiftung and Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the foundation’s Executive Board and president of “Neue Stimmen”, use this special power in various ways – not only to discover and support up-and-coming opera singers, but also to help young people benefit from all the advantages music offers.


When Everyone Speaks the Same Language
How Liz Mohn uses music to make a difference in today’s world.


A Harvest of Song
Even outside “Neue Stimmen” Liz Mohn finds ways to promote young opera singers.


A Musical Life
A look at Germany’s music scene.


The World Is Full of Sound
If you listen when you’re out and about, you’ll hear all kind of music – everywhere!


Springboard to a Career

Nadezhda Karyazina on stage at “Neue Stimmen” 2011. Competing in an international event can help singers become better known and make the definitive leap into the world of opera. That was one of the reasons why the Russian mezzo-soprano participated in the competition, where she advanced all the way to the finals.

Ever since she first wanted to become a professional opera singer, Nadezhda Karyazina considered applying to compete in “Neue Stimmen”. “I’d had my eye on the competition for a long time,” she says, even if she never dreamed she would one day be part of it. Yet, as chance would have it, she saw a notice announcing auditions for “Neue Stimmen” while she was enrolled in the Bolshoi Theater’s Young Artists Program in Moscow. “I wasn’t sure if I was up to the challenge,” she recalls, “but my voice teacher encouraged me to take the chance.”


She still remembers how she felt as she sang in the competition’s initial round. “I never thought I would make it all the way to Gütersloh,” she says. “I simply wanted to do my best and find out what recognized professionals had to say about my voice, my technique, my musical style and my acting abilities.” Her performance was well received in all respects: Together with three other Russians, she was asked to travel to Gütersloh and compete there.


Photo: Jan Voth

More than 1,400 singers from around the globe apply every two years to compete in “Neue Stimmen”, hoping to make it to the finals in Gütersloh. But what does participating in “Neue Stimmen” actually involve?


Auditions: Finding the World’s Best
On his search for new opera talents Brian Dickie travels all around the world.


A Test of Courage, Then a Career
Performing in front of the renowned jury takes quite a bit of courage. But it’s worth it


“The Whole World Watches This Competition”
Interview with the chairman of the “Neue Stimmen” jury, Dominique Meyer.


The Jury: Experts from around the World
Once again this year’s “Neue Stimmen” jury is perfectly cast.


Final Round: Being Heard in Gütersloh
A young German baritone’s experiences during “Neue Stimmen”.


Like One Big Family

Made it! Anyone who is invited to Gütersloh can rest assured they are among the best. In 2011, Nadezhda Karyazina was one of the lucky ones – and caught the attention of the jury once she arrived.

When she arrived in Gütersloh in September 2011, the mezzo-soprano found herself in uncharted territory: participating in her first international singing competition. Yet she was a winner right from the start, giving a bravura performance in the semifinals and placing fifth in the finals. That meant she had outdone 1,416 fellow competitors. Only 41 singers from 20 countries made it to Gütersloh, a group not at all subject to rivalry.


“There was no competitive pressure at all,” she says, looking back. “The atmosphere was incredibly friendly. We were like one big family, including the pianists who accompanied us – and the members of the jury, who were so well known but who spoke to us in the breaks like friends, giving us advice. All of the participants were staying in the same hotel that week. We had breakfast together and spent time talking. We even organized a karaoke party one evening. I never felt any of the jealousy you often find in this profession. We were all one team.”


She clearly recalls her performance in the finals. “It was streamed live on the internet worldwide,” she says. “It was unbelievably exciting.”


Photo: Thomas Kunsch

The “Neue Stimmen” participants come to Germany from countries all around the world. Yet despite the competitive pressure, the atmosphere during the week in Gütersloh is very friendly. Have a look.


Five Nations, One Passion: Music
How do the lives of young singers differ around the world? Conversations with five “Neue Stimmen” participants.


The “Neue Stimmen” 2015 Finalists
Using this interactive map, you can group singers by their country and vocal range and make contact with them on facebook.


> Participants 2015: Talents from around the World
Take a look at the 2015 participant’s curriculum vitae.


> “Neue Stimmen” 2015: Eleven Finalists – Eleven Winners
The best of the best new voices of 2015 have been chosen.


“No one has helped me as much as they have”

Learning from experts is something Nadezhda Karyazina has done again and again. The “Neue Stimmen” is yet another example – albeit one with far-reaching consequences.

The music business takes its toll. “You need someone who is on your side, who is there to help you and whose shoulder you can occasionally cry on,” she explains. These days that person is usually her husband, the German opera singer Simon Schnorr. Beyond that there are few people the 28-year-old really trusts. Yet her circle of friends and advisors still includes members of the 2011 “Neue Stimmen” jury, who are now supporters and mentors.


After four years, she also remains in contact with the “Neue Stimmen” team. “No one has helped me as much as they have,” she says, fondly recalling the coaching sessions she was given before she went onstage at the competition. “They made me feel safe and did an outstanding job helping me prepare for my performances.”


Professional development and continuing education have always been important to her. There were the master classes at the Bolshoi when she was just starting out, as well as the “Neue Stimmen” Master Class in 2012 and the two-year Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in London in 2013, which she joined instead of accepting a number of offers to perform elsewhere. “Other people saw my participation in the program in London as a step backward,” she explains. “But it was exactly the opposite. I had fantastic teachers and was able to work with conductors like Antonio Pappano. That allowed me to improve my basic skills and expand my network. Before that I would have turned down roles like the one I sang in Carmen in London for various reasons, including that you need a certain amount of life experience to make a part really come alive on stage. I’m now ready to do that.”


Photo: Bettina Engel-Albustin / Foto Ag

Auditions, breathing exercises, orchestra rehearsals, coaching, professional development, marketing, master classes – “Neue Stimmen” is not just a competition, it provides all-around assistance to young artists. Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at what this international event is all about.


Master Class: Between Calling and Career
How young opera talents discover what the“opera business” is all about.


The Gentle Approach
How the “Neue Stimmen” Master Class supports young talents.


A Question of Technique
Interview with “Neue Stimmen” jury member Francisco Araíza.


When Talents Become Artists
How the Bertelsmann Stiftung helps arrange performances at concerts and music festivals.


It Works!

Nadezhda Karyazina is on the verge of a major breakthrough. She has just been asked to join the ensemble of the Hamburg State Opera. Competing in “Neue Stimmen” was all it took.

Shortly after the finals in Gütersloh, things started taking off for the young singer – she was offered four different roles, for example. She decided to perform in The Magic Flute in Rome. She was invited to audition there by Evamaria Wieser, who had been a member of the “Neue Stimmen” jury and afterwards became a mentor and friend. During one of the performances, Fabiana Dalpiaz of the London-based agency Askonas Holt was sitting in the audience. “Since then I’ve been under contract with them,” the mezzo-soprano says. “That was a major step toward becoming a true professional.”
Being a professional and having a private life is not always easy. Husband Simon lives and works in Salzburg, while she has been based in Hamburg since the end of September 2015, where she appears 40 times a year at the Hamburg State Opera. That means the young couple lives 677 kilometers apart. “But we’ll make it work. When I was in London we also traveled back and forth and saw each other almost every weekend,” she explains. “My career is not planable. It’s entirely possible that my agent will call me tomorrow with yet another performance date.” And that is exactly what she wants: to be successful and sing in many different places.


“Twenty years from now I would like to help up-and-coming performers, the same way ‘Neue Stimmen’ does,” she adds. “Participating in competitions is so important! That’s the only way to be seen by opera-house managers, so they can give you a part.”


Photo: Christina Canaval

Anyone who makes it to the “Neue Stimmen” finals is already a winner. The event’s participants receive many exciting offers, and not just the singers who place first.


“‘Neue Stimmen’ Launched My Career”
For Vesselina Kasarova, “Neue Stimmen” had a profound effect on her life.


“Neue Stimmen“ – Springboard to a Successful Career
Christiane Karg has matured from a talented young singer to a well-known star.


Entering a New World
René Pape is now one of the world’s most acclaimed bass singers.


From Gütersloh to the World of Opera
Winning “Neue Stimmen” in 2007 catapulted Marina Rebeka to a global career.