An interview with Cai Jingwen, winner at the Ningbo intl. Vocal Competition

WFIMC: Congratulations on winning First Prize in Ningbo! Please tell us a little about yourself.

Cai Jingwen: I am from Guangzhou in the South. I started to play the piano first, at age four, then began to sing and joined a choir when I was five years old. But I took singing classes only at age 12, during junior high school.

You won quite a few awards and competitions. Can you remember your first competition?

I was about 21 years old and at third grade of my University. I remember it quite well as it was my very first competition, and I was very nervous. But I remember it also because I won First Prize. It made me so much more confident about myself- I really started to think that it was the right thing for me to go on with singing, that I might get a chance to have a career as a singer.

Did it become easier at the second competition?

No, I don’t think so. The second one was more difficult, I had a lot more stress. I felt that I had to be better than at the first one. And I felt a lot more nervous.

Did your teacher ask you to apply for competitions? Or did you decide to go by yourself?

Actually, I think a competition is always a good way to check on your level, to see if you are good at something. It’s not only about yourself- you meet and communicate with many people, you learn from others.

Your English is quite outstanding. But you must speak other languages as well?

I learned Italian for maybe one and a half years, because during third grade I had plans to go to Italy. And I studied French and German, not so much to speak but to understand, improve and correctly pronounce what I am singing.


Cai Jingwen was awarded the Golden Bell Prize for the 12th China Music Golden Bell Award Vocal Competition; Silver Prize for the First International Vocal Competition of Chinese Art Songs; Soprano Prize for the Fifth "Paolo Coni" Opera Vocal Competition;First Prize of Bologna International Vocal Competition (China Region); Second Prize of "Renato Bruscone" International Vocal Competition and several others. She is now an associate professor at the School of Arts of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, has performed with several famous conductors and symphony orchestras and has been invited to perform in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Among all the competitions you did, which was the most memorable?

Four years ago, right before Covid, I tried the Golden Bell award in China, one of the most important awards in our country. Then came the pandemic, and four years later I tried Ningbo. Four years made a big difference, or at least it felt very different. Before, I was still a student, just graduating from my university. This year, I cooperated with a number of orchestras, and so I became more confident on stage. Also, I lost a lot of weight. Like, a lot! I really wanted to be more beautiful, to feel more confident about myself, and of course improve my singing skills.

What did you think about the competition in Ningbo?

For me, it was really memorable. I met a lot of new friends, also foreign friends, and after four years of Covid, it was just great to communicate with people in person, to experience everyone’s performance, to listen the whole day…

It was well prepared and organised?

People in Ningbo take good care of you. There are lots of volunteers who are happy to help at any time and with any problem. And there was a great jury. Many people who I have seen on video and now met in person, and hopefully will stay in touch.

You won First Prize- what about upcoming concerts?

They just called me two days ago and asked me for a performance in March. But I have other concerts soon, as well: Beethoven Ninth Symphony and Strauss´Four Last Songs.

Do you have plans to go abroad in the future?

Actually, it’s a bit too early to give you details, but I am planning to move to London later this year. I have been to Australia, Canada, the USA, but it will be my first time in Europe.

Looking back, what do you think was most important for you to get to this point in your career? What would you tell other young singers, people like you, to do?

I think it’s important to remember that everyone is individual, everyone is special and has their own shining points. Everyone is different, and especially for singers, every voice, every sound is really unique. Everyone should find out what makes them unique, what is specific for him or her. When I am on stage, I focus on what makes me different from others. I don’t want to be the same.
Also, time is really important. Time on stage is not really that long for everyone, so I want to try my best while I am still young, while I have the opportunity.

©WFIMC 2024