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BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011: Competitors to be  limited by financial restraints (MS)

One of Wales' most prestigious international cultural events has become a victim of BBC cost savings with major cuts to Cardiff Singer of the World. The axe has been taken to the number of contestants taking part in the Competition which is held every other year. Rather than 25 singers from around the world invited to come to Cardiff now only 20 are to compete. That means only 19 will be joining the Welsh contestant who is given automatic entry.

While the number of contestants taking part has varied since the Competition was established back in 1983 it had settled at 25 with auditions carried out in cities across the continents to search out the finest aspiring singers.  The reduction to 20 competitors will mean having only four rather than five concert rounds to select those who will take part in the final but there has been no cut to the season ticket prices that range from £190o £50 price. Instead BBC Wales, which organises the event, is lumping in a ticket for the final of the Song Prize which runs alongside the main competition and attracts smaller audiences then the main prize.

A BBC Wales spokesperson said, “Due to challenging financial circumstances, the number of singers taking part in the 2011 competition has been reduced to twenty. There will be five competitors in each of the four preliminary rounds. Ticket prices for BBC Cardiff Singer of the World have been frozen for the past eight years, and next year's season ticket includes the Song Prize Final for the first time.”

This has been a particularly bad year for the Competition with the death of the patron Dame Joan Sutherland and also the announcement that Menna Richards is standing down from the top job at BBC Wales. Menna has been a solid supporter of the Competition even when  others inside the BBC privately questioned the resources and money dedicated to a TV programme which has been sidelined to less watched BBC channels and generally falling live audience and viewer numbers. In 2009 the Competition also lost its only significant financial backer, city lawyer Ian Rosenblatt who had pumped tens of thousands over the years to support the Song Prize.

While fewer singers will get to compete it remains an important competition particularly for opera houses, agents and the singers. Past participant Bryn Terfel, said, “For an emerging opera singer, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World is a priceless opportunity. It is three steps up the ladder of that professional career you are striving for. It opens doors. I know for myself: two of the opera houses I later sang in - the Vienna Staatsoper and the Munich Opera House - saw the competition I was in and invited me to audition for them. It’s such an important platform - and then, of course, there is the fact you are representing your country. Without doubt, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World is one of the most important competitions in the world.”

As host nation Wales automatically has one of the 20 spaces, although this too has been questioned, particularly with Wales’ poor showing having never won the competition and its contestant rarely reaching the final five.  This year's Welsh contestant is North Wales tenor, John Pierce who gained entry by winning the separate Welsh Singers Competition second time around. Bryn was a member of the jury which selected the Welsh representative in June 2010. In 2008 John also entered the Welsh Singers Competition but was beaten for the place by Swansea's Natalya Romaniw who went on to reach the final of the Song Prize. Bryn was a member of the jury which selected the Welsh representative in June 2010. All of the singers have the option of entering the Song Prize competition in recitals of Lieder and Art Song.

Brochures with postal booking forms are available from St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.

Mike Smith

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