DEBUT is an international Classical Singing Competition, which supports young opera singers embarking on their career. The contest is open to the following voice types: soprano, mezzo-soprano & alto, tenor, countertenor and baritone & bass. It gives young soloists an opportunity to appear in a competition with a strong international profile in the presence of a distinguished judging panel. The event is held every second year in Weikersheim, which following a three-month entry phase serve as the venue for the preliminary rounds and the competition.

The next DEBUT Classical Singing Competition will take place from 18 to 25 September 2022. 

Lieder prize

Lieder prize

DEBUT 2022 gave even greater prominence to lieder as a separate art form.

Lieder are considered to be an integral element of sustainable training in classical singing. To honour this art form in the competition, the famous composer Lucia Ronchetti has composed two lieder for high and low voices, which has to be performed by every singer as of the semifinal. Two lieder prizes will be awarded as part of the public DEBUT lieder recital: best presentation contemporary lied as well as best presentation German and Italien lied/romances.

Lucia Ronchetti

Born in Rome in 1963, Lucia Ronchetti studied Composition and Computer Music at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia and Philosophy at the University of Rome.
In Paris, she took composition seminars with Gérard Grisey, participated in the annual computer music courses at IRCAM (1997) and obtained her PhD in musicology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études en Sorbonne, under the direction of François Lesure (1999).
In 2005 she was Visiting Scholar (Fulbright fellow) at the Columbia University Music Department in New York, at the invitation of Tristan Murail.

Other important working experiences include those with Sylvano Bussotti (Scuola di musica di Fiesole, 1981-1984), Salvatore Sciarrino (Corsi internazionali di Città di Castello, 1989-1991), Hans Werner Henze (Marino, 1993-1996).

Lucia Ronchetti has frequently been composer in residence: Villa Concordia, Bamberg; Studio für elektroakustische Musik, Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Schlossmediale Werdenberg, Zürich; Yaddo, New York; Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD, Berlin; Fulbright scholar program, New York; Staatsoper of Stuttgart; Experimentalstudio des SWR, Freiburg; MacDowell Colony, Boston; Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart; Cité internationale des arts, Paris; Fondation Nadia Boulanger, Paris; Fondation des Treilles, Paris.

In 2022 the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin will present the world premiere of the chamber opera Pinocchios Abenteuer directed by Swaantje Lena Kleff. The new opera Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer will make its debut at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in late 2022 as part of the 2022-2023 season. The German premiere of Florilegium will be performed in 2022 at the Gewandhaus Leipzig conducted by Dennis Russell Davies and the Nouvelle Philharmonie in Paris will present the new choral opera Les paroles gelées, conducted by Leo Warynski.

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Paul McNamara (Tenor) and Artistic Director Clarry Bartha will work together to select the 40 participants who will then have the opportunity to present themselves to an international jury during the week of the competition, 18-25 September 2022.

From Ireland, Paul McNamara is the Artistic Leader of the Dutch National Opera Academy – the collaborative masters programme in opera performance of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the Royal Conservatoire The Hague.

The tenor has appeared in opera houses throughout Germany and Austria performing roles such as Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Erik, Tristan und Parsifal, Herodes in Salome and Vasco da Gama in Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine; his broad repertoire also includes work by Monteverdi, Mozart, Weber, Tschaikowsky, Janáček, Leoncavallo, Zemlinsky, Berg, Britten, Adams and many others. He has been heard at major venues including Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, Teatr Wielki – the Polish National Opera in Warsaw, the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw.

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The competition is sponsored by companies and institutions in the local region.

For the 10th time in a row the DEBUT Classical Singing Competition was also in its anniversary year managed without any form of public funding. This is first and foremost the achievement of its initiator and founder, Dr. Manfred Wittenstein, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of WITTENSTEIN SE. His longstanding commitment – to providing opportunities to young soloists starting out on a musical career, networking them together and introducing them to a broad public – is meanwhile emulated by numerous other sponsors in the lovely Tauber Valley.

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Weikersheim Castle and the TauberPhilharmonie at Weikersheim are the perfect setting.

Both the qualifying rounds and the semifinal will take place against the historic backdrop of Weikersheim Castle while the location for the lieder recital will be the “Roter Saal” of the Deutschordensschlosses Bad Mergentheim . The week will end with the traditional gala concert and in the new TauberPhilharmonie in Weikersheim.

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The young singers will be accompanied by the Würzburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Würzburg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Enrico Calesso, will abandon the orchestra pit to demonstrate its excellent qualities as a concert orchestra.


The next DEBUT Classical Singing Competition will take place from September 18 to 25, 2022. 

  • Female singers aged 34 or under 
  • Male singers aged 34 or under 
  • Technical skill
  • Musical interpretation (rhythm, phrasing, expression)
  • Voice quality
  • Artistic personality / presence
  • Registration fee: 40 EUR
  • Participation fee for the competition week: 200 EUR
  • Qualifying rounds
  • Semifinal
  • Lieder recital
  • Final / gala concert


1st prize: Golden Victoria and  € 10,000                 
2nd prize: Silver Victoria and € 7,500    
3rd prize: Bronze Victoria and € 5,000    

Various Lieder- and special prizes




Artistic Director

Artistic Director

Clarry Bartha

Clarry Bartha

Clarry Bartha was born in Västeras (Sweden) to Hungarian-Swedish parents in 1956. At the age of 16, she moved to Rome to study at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia under Maria Teresia Pediconi. She obtained her masterclass diploma under Giorgio Favaretto at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and subsequently pursued further studies in London under Vera Rosza. She won first prizes at the Beniamino Gigli and Vincenzo Bellini international singing competitions in Italy.

Pia-Marie Nilsson

The opera singer Pia-Marie Nilsson teached all DEBUT participants 2022 in a two-day workshop. The main focus of the common work was on tips for voice training and stage presence.

Accompanists 2022

Michael Schütze

Michael Schütze

Michael Schütze studied at the Hochschule für Musik Dresden and graduated with distinction. He teaches repetition and song design at the Hochschule für Musik Dresden. He is also a sought-after accompanist for various choirs (Dresdner Kammerchor, Singakademie Dresden, etc.) both as a pianist and organist.
Eberhard Leuser

Eberhard Leuser

Since 1993, Eberhard Leuser has been a répétiteur in the vocal department at the Stuttgart State University of Music and Performing Arts. He is a fellow of the Richard-Wagner-Foundation and distinguished himself as a piano accompanist at various international competitions.
Doriana Tchakarova

Doriana Tchakarova

The pianist Doriana Tchakarova completed her bachelor and master studies at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart with Prof. Fernande Kaeser and Prof. Friedemann Rieger and studied in the lieder class of Prof. Konrad Richter. Since 2003 she has held a teaching position at the Stuttgart University of Music and Performing Arts.

Ralf Tiedemann

For the first time ever, DEBUT offers a workshop focusing on the topic „Mental strength for opera singers“. Designed and held by Ralf Tiedemann, holistic coach & longtime editor-in-chief of „Das Opernglas“.

Review 2020

The first prize, the Golden Victoria and €10,000 in cash, was won by Karolina Bengtsson, a soprano from Sweden.

Second prize and €7,000 went to south-african tenor Katleho Mokhoabane. The Bronze Victoria and €5,000 were bestowed on bariton Modestas Sedlevicius from Lithuania.

Review 2018