O'Neill will be the founding director of the Cardiff International Academy of Voice, where students will receive tuition and masterclasses from a starry roster including Zubin Mehta, Antonio Pappano, Carlo Rizzi, Richard Bonynge, Larissa Gergieva, Ren_e Fleming, Jane Eaglen, Regina Resnik, Marilyn Horne, Bryn Terfel and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
Between 12 and 17 students are being recruited for the first term, which will begin in January 2007. The course will last eight months and students will perform in at least one fully-staged opera and receive daily one-on-one tuition.
Regular masterclasses will be an important focus. O'Neill says that "Students will be constantly assessed on a regular basis by different artists, with different points of view, one day a singer, the next a conductor and so on."
Regular performance opportunities will also be offered. During the first term each singer will prepare a solo recital and learn new roles identified as central to their early career. Students will also study operas in scenes and whole acts, for public concerts with piano. During the second term, students will study for two weeks in the summer in a Baroque theatre in Barga, Italy. In the final term, they will join the Wexford Festival's artists development program in Ireland for a week's study and preparation for performances in a mini-festival.
The students' workload will be heavier than in most programs, says O'Neill, with "more in common with the routine of a repertoire opera house than a college."
"Where better to locate a center of vocal excellence than Cardiff, the vibrant capital of Wales, itself famous as 'the land of song'?" he added.
The Academy has already established links with Welsh National Opera, Australian Opera Centre, the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, BBC Radio 3, BBC Wales and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
Born In Wales, O'Neill is a Verdi specialist and committed to music education. He gives masterclasses throughout the world, specializing in Italian repertoire and technique.