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It's not like the X Factor.

Byline: By Gavin Allen South Wales Echo

International tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones has warned contestants that Cardiff Singers Competition is not the X Factor for opera.

As the deadline approaches for the next generation of aspiring singers to enter the 2008 event Hughes Jones, who won the competition in 1994, says experience has taught him that too much can be expected too soon from competition winners.

So the Cardiff-based stage star advises young singers to regard success in competitions as the start of their career rather than the step to instant stardom enjoyed by Leona Lewis or Rhydian Roberts.

"Cardiff Singers is a high-profile competition so you are seen and that is important," said Hughes Jones, who is about to begin rehearsals for the revival of Madam Butterfly at English National Opera.

"But the drawback of competitions for young singers can be that it is very difficult for them to understand competitions are the start of their career, not the arrival point.

"Competitions should be more of a means to be noticed rather than a device for finding the next big thing.

"Young singers need to be given the opportunity to develop, to improve their technique, stage personality and style and competition winners are often thrown too early into too much work and pressure."

With Welsh Singers that pressure comes from the fact that, as well as a pounds 2,000 cash prize, the winner of the contest automatically wins a place representing their country at the world's greatest singing competition, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

"There is a huge media build-up to BBC Cardiff Singer of the World and being the home representative is even worse because in that interim period everyone knows and is judging your work," he recalled of his time in the finals at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

"While it is helpful to have input you also need to be able to focus and you need to be out of the spotlight to prepare properly.

"But different people deal with it in different ways and on the plus side it also adds to your character as a performer."

Hughes Jones started his singing career as a baritone and in 1992 won the coveted Kathleen Ferrier Competition before his triumph at the Welsh Singers Competition two years later.

"I always think I was too young for BBC Cardiff Singer of the World because I had only been singing two years as a tenor at that point and it had sped along quickly since winning the Ferrier Competition. That raises your profile. People wanted to know where I was going and how my changing voice was developing, so there was a lot of people who were enthusiastic and others who were sceptical.

"I saw the competitions as more of a gradual development, rather than having your eyes on the professional scene.

"I felt I still had a lot to learn.

"If I could have had a couple more years before the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World I would have been more settled and would have sung with a bit more confidence."

Originally from Anglesey, Gwyn has been living in Cardiff for the past five years and three and a half years ago married American coloratura soprano Stacey Wheeler who he met while working at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

But the couple are happily settled in Cardiff and with Stacey now developing her own singing career, Hughes Jones says there is no better city in which to make your name as a singer.

"I think it's fantastic having Welsh National Opera in Wales. It is of such a phenomenally high standard and to have a good relationship with them, try roles out and develop roles as well is priceless. We also now have Wales Millennium Centre so great theatre as well."

The Welsh Singers Competition is open to singers born or raised in Wales, or who have received a significant proportion of their education in Wales, or who have worked permanently in Wales for five years before the closing date for applications, January 25, 2008.

Welsh Singers Competition takes place at St David's Hall Cardiff on Monday, June 16. Visit www.welshsingers.com for more information.

Tickets for the Welsh Singers Competition 2008 go on sale in March. To be sent booking information email: anna.williams@ukonline.co.uk with your name, address and telephone number.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Opera review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 7, 2008
Words:732
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