- 25 singers named to compete in 2009 competition
- More than 600 singers auditioned worldwide
- Five new judges including Dame Gwyneth Jones
- Andorra makes its competition debut
The names of the 25 singers from across the continents who will travel to Wales to compete in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World are announced today (Thurs, March 5).
The final 25 have been selected from more than 600 singers from 68 countries who took part in auditions held in 44 locations as far afield as Sydney and Stockholm, Bucharest and Beijing, all eager to win a place in the world's greatest singing competition, organised by BBC Cymru Wales.
Launching the competition, Menna Richards, Controller BBC Wales said, "This is both an exciting and a proud time for the 25 contestants as they prepare to travel to Wales for this wonderful competition. They join an impressive list of talent that has sung at St. David's Hall and the New Theatre over the years - many of them now in huge demand at opera houses all over the world. They will discover that coming to Wales is in itself a splendid experience and a marvellous stepping stone in their careers, whether they walk off with one of the grand trophies or just share the experience of performance, television and radio exposure and meeting so many dedicated people who make this event so special.
"I am delighted to be able to tell you that this year the BBC's broadcast coverage on television, on radio and online is the most extensive in the competition's distinguished history and I offer a warm welcome to audiences around the globe to join with us in Wales."
Joining the panel of judges for the first time this year are acclaimed bass Kurt Moll, Irish mezzo Ann Murray, one of opera's legendary divas, Dame Gwyneth Jones, leading tenor Giacomo Aragall and illustrious conductor Richard Bonynge.
The singers will travel to Cardiff this June to compete for the coveted title BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2009. This year's series of concerts will be held between Sunday, June 7 and Thursday, June 11. The final will take place on Sunday 14 June.
They will follow in the footsteps of some of opera's biggest names who have gone on to illustrious careers, such as Bryn Terfel, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Karita Mattila and Lisa Gasteen.
The 2007 Chinese winner Shenyang is about to make his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and in January made his UK recital debut at BBC Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff.
The 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Song Prize winner, Elizabeth Watts, joins Welsh National Opera's spring tour of The Marriage of Figaro singing Susanna. The competition's 2007 Audience Prize winner Jacques Imbrailo sings Count Almaviva in the same production.
Elizabeth Watts joined Menna Richards at the launch of the 2009 competition at St David's Hall, Cardiff, and gave a recital with accompanist Michael Pollock. They performed three Schubert songs: Frühlingsglaube; Nacht und Träume and Die Forelle.
The launch was attended by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Councillor Kate Lloyd. She said, "I am proud and delighted that the City and County of Cardiff supports this fine competition. There are singers who came to our city as youngsters on the first steps of their careers who are now the biggest names in opera and I know they have special memories of Cardiff along with the many tens of thousands of people who have visited our city over those years.
"Of course, thanks to the extensive coverage of the competition many millions of others have visited Cardiff through their televisions, radios and increasingly online. I eagerly await the arrival of the next 25 singers who will get to know Cardiff, our people and our culture and a little of our traditions."
The competition's patron Dame Joan Sutherland sent a message to this year's singers and audience members saying, "Just like so many people across the world, I am looking forward immensely to this year's competition, when singers from various nations gather in Wales for this remarkable event. As Patron, it is also a joy for me to meet these artists at the beginning of their careers, to attend the concerts and to join the wider audience via all the BBC's broadcast services to enjoy the wealth and variety of the singing talent that is to be heard in Cardiff in June."
Ensuring the widest possible audience, the competition will receive extensive BBC television and radio coverage and there will also be full online coverage including audience interactivity on this site.
BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2009
The BBC Cardiff Singer of the World concerts take place at St David's Hall, Cardiff from Sunday, June 7 to Thursday, June 11 with the glittering final on Sunday, June 14.
Welsh National Opera's General Director and Artistic Director John Fisher chairs a distinguished panel of jurors including the legendary singers Dame Gwyneth Jones and Kurt Moll.
Mr Fisher said, "I'm really looking forward to this year's competition. I always find these events very exciting and extremely stimulating as I'm a great advocate for the support and development of young singers and, of course, this provides a perfect platform to showcase these always exceptional talents from around the world."
The Orchestra of Welsh National Opera conducted by Paul Daniel and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Lawrence Foster accompany competitors in the preliminary round concerts. BBC National Orchestra of Wales will provide the accompaniment for the final on June 14, conducted by Paul Daniel and Lawrence Foster.
BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Song Prize
All the singers are eligible to take part in this separate competition with its £5,000 prize and trophy. The winner may also join BBC Radio 3's New Generation Artists Scheme.
This competition opens at the New Theatre on the evening of Saturday, June 6 and is followed by three afternoon recitals on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The final takes place at St David's Hall, Cardiff on Friday June 12.
Judging the Song Prize will be an equally distinguished jury comprising Adam Gatehouse, Editor Live Music BBC Radio 3, John Fisher, Kurt Moll, Ann Murray and accompanist and lieder specialist Helmut Deutsch. The Song Prize jury is also chaired by John Fisher.
The official accompanists will be Phillip Thomas, Simon Lepper and Llŷr Williams.
During the competition, the distinguished jury members give master classes which are open to the public.
These master classes, which have become a highlight of the event, have attracted the attention of a new Scottish charitable trust set up especially to help gifted young singers.
The Ian Smith of Stornoway Trust, whose namesake was a man with a fine voice who was unable to fulfil his youthful potential because of ill health, will support a full day of master classes on Saturday 13 June.
A spokesman for the Trust said: "Ian Smith would have considered Cardiff Singer of the World a great showcase for aspiring artists. This is a perfect opportunity to remember his own contribution to music as well as to open up more opportunities for these wonderful young singers."
The master classes will be held at the New Theatre, Cardiff and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff.