Monday, 10 February 2014


The French-Nigerian soprano Omo Bello was a triple winner in the prestigious Paris Opera Competition held recently in the French capital.

Omo Bello
Bello won the first prize and, in the women’s category, the French Opera of the 19th Century award and the Public Prize at the contest, which was launched to “discover new talents” and “to support and guide” the careers of young singers, according to the organizers.

These are just some of the latest honours for the Lagos-born singer. Bello, 29 years old and based in Paris, first caused opera audiences to take notice when she won the top prize in the 2010 Luciano Pavarotti Giovani competition in Vercelli, Italy.

She followed up that success with first place in the Anselmo Colzani international singing competition in Budrio, Italy, in 2011, and in France received the Cziffra Foundation grand prize for exceptionally talented young musicians.

Earlier this month, she also travelled to Aix-en-Provence for the finals of the French annual “Victoires de la musique classique” competition in which she had been nominated in the  "Révélation lyrique de l'année" (revelation of the year) category. She didn’t win in this event, but ended up giving a striking performance.

“These past weeks have undoubtedly been the most eventful period of my career,” she told SWAN. “I was home for a few days after making a debut in the role of Donna Anna (from Mozart’s Don Giovanni) in mid-November, when I got a call from my agent telling me I was nominated for the 2014 Victoires de la Musique.”

Bello receiving one of her three prizes.
It was in late January, a few days before the "Victoires" awards ceremony, that she took part in the Paris Opera Competition, performing in front of top representatives in the field and an audience of music lovers.

“In general, I’m not a fan of singing competitions, but I was very interested in this one when I realized that the jury was made up of well-known opera directors from Glyndebourne, Geneva, Zurich, Brussels, Lyon, Bordeaux, Berlin etc.,” she said.

“I decided to go for it, as this was a unique occasion to have so many of the opera-hiring professionals all at once. It was extremely gratifying to walk away with not one, but the three top prizes.”

Bello added that the French opera prize was her “pride and joy” because of her Nigerian origins. “This proves that I’m able to master the French lyric repertoire and its subtleties,” she said.

That mastery has been due to years of hard work, as her long-time teacher Jorge Chaminé attests. “She is talented, totally dedicated to her craft and pushes herself to achieve the maximum. I believe she will be one of the great singers of her generation,” said Chaminé, a renowned Spanish-Portuguese baritone who lives in France.

Johan Choi
The Paris Opera Competition, created in 2010 by financier and opera lover Paul Vernes and based on a concept by artistic director Xavier le Maréchal, also highlighted other talents this year. American baritone Jamez McCorkle won the “Young Hope” prize; South Korean singer Johan Choi gained the public’s prize and the 19th-century French Opera prize in the male category; and Russian mezzo soprano Maria Kataeva took home the CFPL prize - from the French centre for the promotion of opera.

For an earlier SWAN profile of Omo Bello, see:

Other winners: Maria Kataeva (top) and Jamez McCorkle.
Photos by E. Mercier, courtesy of the Paris Opera Competition.