Hong Kong music students will compete for the first time this year in Poland's most prestigious singing contest. Several of the top vocal students at the Academy for Performing Arts (APA) are expected to fly to Warsaw in October to take part in the third International Stanislav Moniuszko Vocal Competition, founded in honour of Poland's leading opera composer. Moniuszko was a contemporary of Glinka and Smetana and he gave Poland what the other two composers gave to Russia and Czechoslovakia respectively - a sense of national musical identity. His most famous opera, Halka, was inspired by Polish folk tunes and premiered exactly 150 years ago. Moniuszko stirred the spirit of a people whose lands were at the time divided entirely between Russia and the Habsburg empire of Austria. 'He was very important for Poland's sense of its own culture,' Consul General Agnieszka Lobacz said. One coloratura soprano from Hong Kong is already booked for this competition, with another likely to go. 'Contests like this can be important for a singer's resume,' Derek Anthony, senior voice lecturer at the APA, said. 'It is a good chance to be heard and get your foot inside the door.' Concentrating entirely on competitions, however, was not necessarily a good idea, he said. 'It can't be your priority and you can't say that everyone who wins is headed for a top career. But it is certainly an opportunity to start getting a reputation for performing professionally.' Mr Anthony recommends singers to look at both the timing of the event and the panel of judges when deciding to take part in any competition. 'This is a young competition. It just started in 1992, so it seems a wise choice for our students who want to start trying to work internationally.' Belinda Liew, the student who is scheduled to participate, has already been a finalist in a Luxembourg contest. She also recently came fifth in a competition for Chinese singers in Rome. Other cultural exchange plans with Poland include the Poznan boys' choir, which is scheduled to perform at the opening of the new Kwai Ching theatre early next year. The consulate general is also working with Baptist University, which has a European studies programme, to promote cultural exchanges of students.