Cardiff Singer of the World: Marking 30 years of competition

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa presents the Cardiff Singer of the World trophy to 2011 winner Valentina Nafornita Opera great Dame Kiri Te Kanawa - one of the 2011 jury members - presents the Cardiff Singer of the World trophy to 2011 winner Valentina Nafornita

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The BBC's Cardiff Singer of the World competition began life in 1983, bringing performers from around the world to Wales's newest concert venue at the time, St David's Hall, in Cardiff.

It was also designed to showcase the talents of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and alongside the young singers, these basic components of the contest remain.

Other than the costumes and hairstyles, little else has changed since those early years.

The names on the shortlist for this year's event may be unfamiliar, but the competition has form in providing the prologue to a successful singing career.

Karita Mattila Finnish soprano Karita Mattila won the first BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 1983

The winner of the inaugural event, the Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, went on to perform in the world's finest opera houses, including the Royal Opera in Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She has also sung on Grammy Award-winning opera recordings.

Glory isn't simply reserved for the overall winner. The Lieder, or Song Prize, runs alongside the main event, and in 1989 it was won by the young Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel shortly before his operatic debut with Welsh National Opera (WNO).

WNO artistic director David Pountney advises the Cardiff Singer of the World competition and praises its reputation.

"Cardiff Singer, as an international event, highlights the extraordinary production of internationally recognised singers in Wales," he said.

"If all the singers that we know and love who've come from Wales had all come from Birmingham, somebody would think there was something going wrong with the genetics in Birmingham - it would be an absolute phenomenon.

"And yet Birmingham has the same population as Wales, so Wales is, in the musical sense, punching miles above its weight.

"And Cardiff Singer is a terrific beacon for attracting attention to that achievement, and spreading the word about Welsh musicality around the world, and it's one of the top two or three competitions internationally, so it's a tremendous flag-waver," he said.

Ekaterina Shcherbachenko Ekaterina Shcherbachenko, who won the competition in 2009

Those stars whose careers have blossomed after the event speak favourably of their involvement in Cardiff Singer of the World. The BBC's coverage of the event across its TV and radio services ensures each contestant is given a platform that reaches far beyond the spacious confines of St David's Hall.

Such is the reputation of the competition, the selection process for the two yearly event can be a gruelling ordeal for competitors and judges.

The modern event involves a video submission - and if you make the shortlist, the Cardiff Singer panel will come and audition you in person.

The judges travel the world to hear the select few perform their works.

One duff note and the dream to sing in Cardiff is over - but for 20 others, it could be the beginning of a glistening operatic career.

Baritone Gary Griffiths from Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, will represent Wales in the contest which takes place from 16 to 23 June.

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