The Guildhall School is delighted to announce mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons as joint winner of this year’s Gold Medal alongside soprano Jennifer Witton. It is the School’s most prestigious prize for outstanding soloists, which this year celebrates its centenary. The prize is awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years. Fittingly, the inaugural Gold Medal, in 1915, was also awarded to two competitors.
Marta Fontanals-Simmons’ winning performance included Britten’s A Charm from A Charm of Lullabies with piano accompaniment from Timothy End and Rossini’s La Cenerentola – Nacqui all’affanno…Non più mesta with the orchestra.
Marta Fontanals-Simmons commented, “I am over the moon to have won such a prestigious award amongst family, friends and colleagues, especially in this the centenary year.”
The final took place before a distinguished panel of judges including Sally Matthews, soprano and Guildhall School alumna, Sara Mohr-Pietsch, BBC Radio 3 Presenter, Alan Opie OBE, baritone and Guildhall School alumnus, David Syrus, Head of Music, Royal Opera House, Jonathan Vaughan, Director of Music, Guildhall School, and Dominic Wheeler, Head of Opera, Guildhall School.
Marta Fontanals-Simmons is from Castle Cary, Somerset and attended St Antony’s Leweston School in Sherborne, Dorset. She is on the Guildhall School Artist Diploma programme studying with Marilyn Rees, having completed the postgraduate Vocal Studies programme and the Opera Course. A finalist in the 2014 Kathleen Ferrier Awards, Marta is winner of the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards 2011, the Odette Sansom Award for English Song at the Guildhall School, Runner-Up in the Thelma King Award, and finalist in the Hampshire Singing Competition. She was awarded the Principal’s Prize in 2014 and is a Jerwood Young Artist for 2015. Marta made her Wigmore Hall recital debut in June 2014 as a Tillett Trust Artist and will be joining the Glyndebourne Festival chorus this year. Marta is generously supported by the Leverhulme Arts Scholarship; The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers; the Gwen Catley Scholarship; the Countess of Munster Musical Trust; Help Musicians UK Sybil Tutton Award; Susan Chilcott Scholarship; Simon Fletcher Charitable Trust; Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust; Sidney Perry Foundation and the Guildhall School Trust.
The Gold Medal award was founded and endowed by Sir H Dixon Kimber in 1915. Since 1950 it has been open to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years. Previous winners include William Primrose (1922), Jacqueline du Pré (1960), Patricia Rozario (1979), Tasmin Little (1986) and Bryn Terfel (1989).
Recent winners include Natalya Romaniw (2011), who went on to join the Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Program. Natalya will sing Fiora L’amore dei tre Re for Opera Holland Park, Suzel L’Amico Fritz for Den Jyske Opera, and Tatyana Eugene Onegin for Garsington Opera in 2016. The 2013 prize was won by soprano Magdalena Molendowska, who spent the 2012/13 season with Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa performing the title role in Halka by Stanislaw Moniuszko. She has also sung with the Wroclaw Opera House, Glyndebourne Festival and Clonter Opera. Cellist Michael Petrov (Gold Medal 2014) and pianist Ashley Fripp (Gold Medal 2012), have both been nominated by the Barbican Centre as European Concert Halls Organisation (ECHO) Rising Stars, and this season they will perform recitals together in eighteen major concert halls throughout Europe.