SHE was the wildcard entry whose voice blew away the opposition and saw her crowned Singer of the World.

Now the doors to opera houses across Europe and beyond are being opened to Scottish mezzo soprano Catriona Morison, the biggest rising star in the world of classical music.

The 31-year-old, from Edinburgh, said that she entered the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition hoping to get more exposure, and perhaps recognition in her home country.

Even getting a place as one of the 20 competitors left her speechless. Winning wasn't even a wildest dream - but on Monday night, win she did.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald from Germany where she is working on a new opera, Morison said: "The exposure you get from being in the final twenty is something you won't get anywhere else. But to win is something which changed my life.

"It's crazy. The quality of the other singers was incredible and they are all extremely talented artists. I knew what I was up against, and just tried not to think about it. But I really enjoyed it. There was a special atmosphere on the stage and in the hall and I think that helped me."

The groundwork for Morison's success was laid early thanks to her parents, music teacher Fiona and German teacher Alan.

Her mother helped instil in her the love of music, while her father helped her learn to use her voice and pronunciation, giving her a backdoor pass to the world of German opera.

The family's musical roots go back even further. Her great-grandmother was also an accomplished pianist in Glasgow who used to play melodies in cinemas alongside silent movies.

Growing up in a musical household gave her an early introduction to the skills and discipline needed to become a professional, although at first she thought that would be with an instrument in her hand.

She said: "I knew I was going to be a musician and I was going to play the viola in an orchestra, or something. It's an instrument which suits me - I'm tall and have a long neck, and it fits my figure. And the timbre is similar to that of a mezzo soprano.

"For my standard grade I had to do a solo instrument and a group instrument, and I picked voice for the group one. I had been in choirs and had sung before so I thought I would give it a go.

"I found I loved being on stage. I love creating a character and getting behind the text and the drama of the songs. I love being able to commit to it through my voice. Everybody has a voice, it's just how you use it."

Her musical journey led to the Junior Conservatoire of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as a joint first study singer and violist, and then onto a degree in music and post-graduate study of opera.

Her teacher, Professor Stephen Robertson, the Head of Vocal Performance at the Royal Conservatoire, remembers her fondly and admits to shedding a "happy tear" at her triumph in Cardiff.

He said: "The unfailing integrity and direct honesty of Catriona's performances clearly put communication of character, moment, place, time and mood as highest priority.

"Delivered with intense authority and derived from depth of study and preparation, all her admirable vocal and musical resources were at the service of communication. She took risks. She dared to do things which drew us in and moved us.

"Catriona Morison is now a highly significant singer in her own right, but her approach to her artistry really does compare to that of the twentieth century's greatest singers. I, and all of us here at RCS, are so proud that we played some role in nurturing these attitudes."

He added: "Catriona deserves all the credit though. Such bravery in such stressful conditions. Catriona showed herself as a truly individual and rather magnificent, powerful singing-actress.

"We send her our warmest congratulations. Scotland has a daughter who has brought great credit to the country, and the whole of Scotland is uplifted by her success."

During her third year she travelled to the Universität der Künste in Berlin as an exchange student aged 21 and worked with the renowned tutor Professor Julie Kaufman.

She describes the atmosphere in Germany, where opera has much deeper cultural roots that Britain, as totally different to Scotland and akin to stepping from a pool into the ocean.

Morison said: "I met a wonderful teacher in Germany [Kaufman] who opened my eyes to what opera could be. She showed me how to use my whole body, and not just my voice.

"Opera is more popular there - it is funded by the government and more young people are involved. I even borrowed a viola and played in an orchestra. I just immersed myself in life and music."

In June 2013 she graduated from the Alexander Gibson Opera School of the Conservatoire with a MMus Opera with Distinction, where she studied with Clare Shearer.

Catriona became a Samling Artist in her final year at the Opera School - a programme which seeks out and nurtures the finest young singers in the UK, literally the ‘best of the best’.

In her videos of her winning performances, Catriona seems to step in and inhabit the part she is playing completely, channelling the music through not just her voice but her facial mannerisms and whole body.

Morison said : "It is such an emotional way to sing. The emotion and colour you can put into your voice, and how the music can really get deep into your soul. You find that happening with classical singing.

"You have to find the truth and bring passion to what you are singing. If that is not there, there will be a barrier between you and the audience.

"If you can do that, then the audience will experience something that's difficult to find anywhere else. It can unlock emotions and reach a level we only get to rarely."

She launched her career in Germany, where she now lives. But the victory in Cardiff has paved the way for global stardom.

However, she plans to ease into her hard-won fame gradually. She said: "I'm going to take my time over things. I don't want to be rushing into any big decisions. The very next thing I'm going to be doing is Hansel and Gretel here in Wuppertal, and then there is a tour of Europe.

"I want to make sure that I give myself breathing space. I'm in this for the long run and I'm really trying to look ahead and plan well for my career.

"I have had job offers already, but I will have to see what's right for me. I am taking nothing for granted."