Opera singer takes top spot at Langley Has Talent competition
Kari Culjat has never had professional singing lessons before — in fact she rarely ever sings in front of others.
But the mother of two blew away the judges at the 2013 Langley Has Talent finals on Saturday night from the minute she sang the first note of the opera piece O Mia Babbino Caro.
The audience, too, was in a daze, with many giving her a standing ovation at the end of her piece.
Culjat, 29, took home the winning title at the end of the night along with $2,500, a cover shoot with Impress magazine, four hours of recording time at Blue Frog Studios and a $1,000 Keepsake Photo promo package.
"I feel honoured," she said, while her family and coworkers from Milestones restaurant hugged her with congratulations. "I am truly touched, I don't know how to describe it. It brings tears to my eyes."
Besides performing in musicals in high school, the only time Culjat ever sings is when her friends beg her to, she said. Growing up she was often discouraged from singing opera, even though it's been a passion of hers since she first saw the Phantom of the Opera when she was nine-years-old.
"Younger people don't appreciate it," she said, "but now I can be myself."
Culjat is completely self taught with her voice and is influenced greatly by her mother, who also loves opera.
"It comes naturally to me," she said. "It just comes out that way. I don't have to think about it, it just happens."
The judges of the evening — songwriter and producer Mitch Merrett, Miss World Canada Tara Teng and Global News anchor Steve Darling — couldn't believe the quality of her performance.
"That was freaking amazing," Teng exclaimed excitedly as soon as Culjat finished singing.
"You need to be on a stage somewhere singing professionally," Darling said.
"I don't think I ever stopped looking," Merrett said, adding that he was sold throughout the whole performance by her vocals and the emotion portrayed in her eyes.
In second place in the competition came Aldergrove rock band Special Tease, who performed an original song Don't Tell Me. They took home $1,500 and jewelry prizes.
And the winner of third place, $1,000 and jewelry was singer Kaitlyn Santa Juana, who was back for a second try at the competition with her cover of Big White Room by Jessy J.
In addition to the top three prizes, Kwantlen Polytechnic University gave out two $1,500 scholarships to performers Carla Marten, who sang an original Daddy's Only Daughter, and Miranda Guimond, an instructor at Stage Coach Theatre company, who sang Who You Are/ 101 by Jessy J and Alicia Keys.
Jolienne Moore from JL Model Talent Management also gave out an agency representation contract to nine-year-old dancer Dante Arias who "blew away" Moore with his energetic dance to Don't Shoot (I'm a Man) by Devo.
The Langley Has Talent competition was started as an initiative to raise funds and awareness to build a performing arts centre in Langley. For more information visit www.langleyhastalent.ca.