They would perform alongside the great British baritone Sir Thomas Allen and the massively experienced pianist, Roger Vignoles.
It didn't quite go according to plan. One of the two winners, South African baritone Njabulo Madlala, was stricken with a chest infection and withdrew late last week. Whether they considered a replacement I cannot say; but they decided just to tweak the programme a little and run it with last year's winner, the stunning mezzo Kitty Whately, who was in Perth in May, singing in the very funny ETO production of the Barber Of Seville.
It would have been a relatively informal occasion anyway, I suspect; not one of those heads above the parapet, display-type shows. But with the late changes to line-up, what emerged on Saturday was a lovely, intimate concert, with Tom Allen garnishing a version of Come You Not From Newcastle with his wholly authentic Geordie accent (he's a Durham man) while Whately, unaccompanied, opened the proceedings with Ma Bonny Lad.
More traditional numbers followed, including Afton Water, Early One Morning, and a riotous account from the two singers of The Mermaid. In between they poured out gorgeous music, including a rich performance of Gounod's Barcarolle, a sultry, intense account of Debussy's Chansons De Bilitis (Whately) a sonorous Brahms's Sapphic Ode (Allen) and a time-stopping performance of Vaughan Williams's Silent Noon.