"Mirjam was so unassuming, open and friendly to everyone. We became friends, and when Mirjam began to prepare for the first international singing competition bearing her name in summer 1984, she asked me tobe a member of the jury. I was delighted to accept. I have been judging at all the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competitions and seen the young people who won awards go on to demanding roles on respected international stages," says Nesterenko, who recalls among other things the inspiring contributions of his colleagues Birgit Nilsson and Carlo Cossutta as jury members and Master Class teachers.
Professor Mirjam Helin was still devotedly following all phases of the competition bearing her name and the Master Classes in 2004. "Mirjam always sat in the same seat in the audience. Now it looked to me as if in her place a light was shining. We miss Mirjam a lot," Nesterenko says. "I count each shout of bravo"
Nesterenko has been on the juries of international singing competitions for about forty years. "The Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition is undoubtedly one the three highest standard competitions in the world. For establishing and promoting the careers of singers, it is clearly number one," Nesterenko asserts. "The Finnish broadcasting company YLE records and broadcasts the competition on radio, television and the Internet in an exemplary way. The final of the competition is always a sell-out, even though it is broadcast live on radio and television. The
Finnish audience warmly encourages the competitors, which is very important for the singers. During the competition days, I note down the reactions of the audience, the shouts of ‘bravo' and the volume of the clapping. Usually I agree with the audience."
Only top names are invited to be jury members at the Mirjam Helin International Singing competition. They work independently. Nesterenko thinks a jury with eight members is ideal. He admits that the two weeks work required of a jury member is arduous because there is hardly any leisure time. Members of the jury Teresa Berganza, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Thomas Moser and Yevgeny Nesterenko selected eight of the singers who qualified from the preliminary round and held a Master Class in front of the audience in the days between the competitions at the Sibelius Academy concert hall.
The programme of the competition days gets even better every time. One learns from experience, as Nesterenko explains, giving an example of improvement: "The final of the first competition
was really hard for the singers and for jury members: three songs in the morning and two more in the evening with the orchestra. Now the finalists sing two arias in the evening, that is all."
Top singer never stops learning
Yevgeny Nesterenko has sung over 80 great bass roles in the original language in the world's most respected opera houses. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras, in oratorios and in chamber
music throughout the world. He taught in the Moscow Conservatory from 1975 to 1993, then became a professor at the Higher Music School in Vienna, where he still teaches. He occasionally gives concerts and performs in galas.
The profession of singer requires life-long learning. Nesterenko ceaselessly controls the condition and delivery of his voice.
"My wife has been recording all my main training sessions and performances for over forty years. I always straightaway analyse what went well and what did not, and learn from that. I recommend this type of self-improvement to all singers," Nesterenko says.
"Singing is an unforgiving art form. You must work harder and harder all the time. You must correct your mistakes every day and develop your strengths. I encourage young people to compete. The Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition offers them an excellent opportunity to show what they can do. And even if success eludes them this time, it is worthwhile trying again. But before that a lot of hard work again must be done. There is no shortcut to the top."