The third competition took place in Pärnu on May 26 – 30, 2003.
The competition gained further publicity in Europe. The patrons of the competition were Estonian President Arnold Rüütel and his spouse. The jury was led by one of the most outstanding singers in Lithuania, Virgilijus Noreika. It marked the first time an opera production was staged in connection with the competition.
24 singers from 14 countries were chosen out of 54 candidates based on audio recordings. Holland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Slovenia, Finland, Ukraine, Russian and Estonia were represented.
That "Rigoletto" was artistically so convincing was primarily due to the trio of leading characters: Jassi Zahharov as Rigoletto, Anna Samuil as Gilda and Nurlan Bek as the Duke. All three were resplendent in their arias and also in the ensembles - to be sure, each in his own individual way. Anna Samuil's Gilda was girlishly charming in her emotionality, her shaping of the melodies was very flexible, her phrasing sensitive. The same held true in the ensembles. One of the most memorable pieces was Gilda's and Giovanna's (Juuli Lill) soulful duet in the first act.
Igor Garshnek, Sirp, May 30, 2003
After the encouraging success of the second competition in 2001, the third one was planned on an even larger scale. "Rigoletto" was staged during the competition, with the previous year's winners performing the leading roles. With the opera production a new format for the competition was created: in addition to monetary prizes the winners would now get the opportunity to perform in the production staged during the next competition. The title and cast would be chosen in accordance with the results of the competition. Such an arrangement is, to our knowledge, unique in the entire world.
"Foolishness is blindness" – was the leading principle of the staging. Director Linnar Priimägi:
"Rigoletto" was played in Endla three times – on May 22, 24 and 25 of 2003.