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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Opera star's North Korean date
Suzannah Clarke trained with Pavarotti's teacher in Italy
Opera star Suzannah Clarke is to become the first Briton to perform in North Korea.

The Teesside-born 32-year-old, will stage five concerts in the country's capital Pyongyang as part of The Friendship Festival.

The concert is taking place as tensions mount over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

On Tuesday the United States said it was stationing stealth bombers in neighbouring South Korea as a deterrent against the North.

North Korea has also voiced strong opposition towards the UK's involvement in the war in Iraq.

But Ms Clarke, from Middlesbrough, says she hopes to build bridges through entertainment.

Television documentary

She said: "I'm just hoping the festival will set up some all-important cultural exchanges between Britain and North Korea.

"On a personal level, I'm thrilled to have been invited, especially as I'll be the first British singer to perform there."

Ms Clarke will be accompanied by a BBC documentary crew, and the visit will be screened on BBC One.

Fluent in Italian, Ms Clarke trained in Italy with Arrigo Pola, Pavarotti's singing teacher.

She has sung leading roles in many operas including the Marriage of Figaro, the Magic Flute, Carmen, Lucia di Lammermoor and L'Elisir D'Amore, as well as making many recital and oratorio appearances.

Northumberland songs

She has also appeared as principal soprano with the English National Opera at the Coliseum in London and had a successful season at La Scala, Milan.

The Foreign Office has endorsed her trip to North Korea.

She will perform both operatic pieces and songs from successful stage shows by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

She has also promised to perform some traditional Northumbrian folk songs.

Ms Clarke said: "The national dish is stewed cabbage, and they eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I'm hoping that won't stop me hitting the high notes."

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