Opera's Got Talent

29 March 2024

Welsh National Opera’s new production of Death in Venice has been wowing audiences with its sultry set, stunning vocals and mesmerising aerial and acrobatic work from Cardiff-based NoFit State and Belgian aerial strap and variety performer Antony César. In 2020, Anthony went straight through to the final of Got Talent France after receiving the Golden Buzzer for his enchanting acrobatic dance. 

This is not the first, and definitely won’t be the last, time the worlds of TV talent shows, opera and classical music have collided. From Britain’s Got Talent first ever winner, Paul Potts to The Voice’s new wave opera-fusion artist Claudillea, opera has had many memorable moments on talent shows… even Sooty’s friend Sweep has dreamt of performing Nessun Dorma on Stars in their Eyes. Let us look at some of our favourite classical TV performances.  

The first series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2007 saw unassuming phone salesman, Paul Potts, take to the stage at our home venue, Wales Millennium Centre, and capture the hearts of the judges and the nation, with his powerful voice. He performed Nessun Dorma at his audition and again in the final, where he won a spot at The Royal Variety Performance. 

Britain’s Got Talent has had plenty of classical performers since Paul Potts, with singers such as Charlotte & Jonathan (2012), Lucy Kay (2014), Gruffydd Wyn (2018), Faith Tucker (2019) and Maxwell Thorpe (2022). Wales’s own Greg Pritchard also made the BGT final despite Simon Cowell likening him to ‘a dog meowing’ after the male soprano’s falsetto performance of Nessun Dorma

Classical violinist Lettice Rowbotham (2014) turned up to her BGT audition up 'too hungover to be nervous’ and David Walliams crowned her ‘the poshest contestant’. She received a standing ovation from the audience and judges for her classical spin on pop hits and went on to reach the final. 

Back in 2004, a new singing talent show, The X Factor, began and launched the career of classical trained boyband G4 after their acapella version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody blew the judges away.  

Their operatic delivery of pop songs, such as Creep, Don’t Look Back in Anger, and …Baby One More Time saw G4 sail through to the final where they came second. They remain one of only two classical-based acts to compete in the live shows, the other being Welsh baritone Rhydian. After auditioning with ‘one of the worst songs (Simon Cowell’s) ever heard’, Rhydian won the judges over with a second song; Abba’s Dancing Queen. His live performances included The Phantom of the Opera, The Pet Shop Boys’ Go West and Pink’s Get this Party Started. Like G4 before him, Rhydian also came second.  

In 2010, another new talent show emerged where well-known popstars turned their hand to opera under the guidance of classical performers, such as Katherine Jenkins and Rolando Villazon. Popstar to Operastar saw Danny from McFly, Jimmy Osmond and eventual winner Darius, among others train as opera singers and perform each week as the public voted for their favourite. The second series was won by Joe McElderry, who beat Cheryl Baker and Claire from Steps. 

If you’ve yet to see WNO combine talent show winners with Britten, then you’re in luck as Death in Venice will be visiting Oxford, Bristol, and Birmingham to close our Spring Season.