I've been eagerly anticipating the start of this year's 30th anniversary BBC Cardiff Singer of the World contest, which has been firmly in my diary for the last 18 months. I've been following the months of preparation leading up to next week, to the extraordinary, challenging competition, which viewers and listeners around the world have the chance to see - and it represents the culmination of many, many months of musical preparation by each of the candidates. It's a world-wide event, a fantastic platform!
For aspiring young singers, the contest is an essential stage for emerging singers at a crucial point of career development. And for me, it is such a thrill and honour to be Patron and jury member of this competition, a full week of listening to young singers who are so eager to grow and progress into the professional world of opera.
From my own early experiences of studying at the London Opera Centre, in what is now the National Opera studio, I understand how essential it is to be given such a unique opportunity as this at the outset of one's career. There can be no doubt that the 20 singers will be assessed by the best professionals from the world of music, and they will each need to present a very high standard of singing. It's a competition at the end of the day. The singing world has changed immensely, the expectations of professionals is huge, and these competitors will need to rise to this and deliver their best under enormous pressure.
I expect very, very good technique from the singers selected, to sing the songs and arias that match their voice, so their voice to fit beautifully in the world of opera singing, and to be themselves, to interpret and communicate, most importantly to communicate. I feel it's essential to be connected with the conductor and the orchestra, but to be as one in delivering the message of the aria to the audience. The hall will be full to the brim of people who have made a special journey to hear these young performers, and they will need to be entertained and inspired.
It's extremely important in this busy world to have as much exposure as possible, and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition is quite distinctive as the television and radio coverage is so extensive, they will be heard on BBC television, radio and online, it really puts people on the map. It provides an extraordinary showcase, to perform in front of producers and agents, and to work with world-renowned conductors and orchestras.
I've been lucky enough to experience the incredible rewards that opera can bring, and it's now time to be able to share my own experience with the next generation of singers. There will be challenges for these young singers along the road, but the satisfaction and rewards will be far greater. It is an occasion which will reveal the finest quality of singers and I am very pleased to be a part of this extraordinary competition. It's a big title, and to have that name attached to yours, I wouldn't mind it!
Starts Monday 17 June on BBC Television, Radio and Online - bbc.co.uk/cardiffsinger