The twelve singers chosen to take part in the inaugural Wexford Factory have been announced. This new professional development initiative, established for the first time this year by WFO Artistic Director, Rosetta Cucchi, is a two-week academy for young Irish / Irish-based singers, which will take place in early September, prior to the beginning of rehearsals for this year’s Festival and will feature top international guest tutors including world-renowned tenor Juan Diego-Flórez.
Speaking of her reasons for developing the Wexford Factory, Rosetta said, “The best memories of my life are associated with the academies I attended in my youth. That is where I learned the true meaning of professionalism and how I could continue to challenge myself as an artist. This is the reason I decided to establish the Wexford Factory. It is the duty of every highly regarded international festival such as Wexford to give a new generation of singers the opportunity to grow; giving them wings to fly in their careers.”
The Wexford Factory is designed to mentor young singers through masterclasses led by internationally recognised artists and professionals. Guest tutors will include world-renowned tenor Juan Diego-Flórez, Irish soprano Celine Byrne, as well as Ernesto Palacio of the Rossini Opera Festival and Dmitry Vdovin, head of the Bolshoi’s Young Artist programme. Veteran Wexford Festival Opera director Roberto Recchia, Classical Music journalist Michael Dervan, movement specialist Sara Catellani and Rosetta Cucchi will also provide instruction.
Graduating students will perform in one of the Pocket Operas / Opera Beag Shakespeare for Fun, a reduced production of Verdi’s Falstaff which will be performed this October in the National Opera House.
The Wexford Factory is in collaboration with TUD (Technological University Dublin), RIAM (Royal Irish Academy of Music) and CSM (Cork School of Music) and in keeping with the International profile and reach of Wexford Festival Opera, a partnership with the Bolshoi Academy, Moscow, the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, and Opera for Peace has also been established. In addition to the twelve Irish and Irish-based singers, two young singers, one from the Bolshoi Academy, Moscow and one from the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro will also join this new initiative.
The twelve Irish or Irish-based singers have been announced as:
Anna Brady, Ava Dodd, Rory Dunne, Andrew Gavin, Francesca Federico, David Howes, Kathleen Norchi, Conall William O’Neill, Jade Phoenix, Sarah Richmond, Sarah Shine, Vladimir-Mihai Sima.
Find out a little more about them below.
Pocket Opera / Opera Beag
Shakespeare for Fun - Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi
Performance Dates: 22, 25, 28, 31 October, 11 a.m.
O'Reilly Theatre, National Opera House.
Anna Brady received her BA in Performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music in 2011 before studying for her Masters in Vocal Studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which she recently completed. She is a 2012/13 alumni of the Young Associate Artist Programme with Opera Theatre Company, now amalgamated with Irish National Opera. Her performing experience includes Annina in La traviata with Fife Opera, Margot-Froufrou in The Merry Widow with Opera Bohemia and Daisy in The Next Station is Green Park with Opera Eos among others. Anna is currently preparing to sing the role of Arnalta in L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS).
Soprano Ava Dodd originally from Wicklow, is currently in her final year of Bachelor of Music Performance (vocal studies) in RIAM and will continue on to study her masters in London. She has been greatly inspired by her own teacher Professor Mary Brennan, as well as artists including Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko. Ava was named the ‘Young Opera voice of 2019’ at the Festival of Voice competition with Northern Ireland Opera. Ava has performed in venues including the National Concert Hall Dublin, Project Arts Centre, RDS Concert Hall, the Peacock Theatre and Kilmainham Gaol.
Kildare born Bass-Baritone Rory Dunne studied as an actor before he realised that he wanted to pursue a career in opera when he first stood on a stage, in full costume, in character and with an orchestra playing in the pit and felt that it is the one place that he felt truly empowered. Rory studied at TU Dublin Conservatoire and has gone on to perform with WFO, Lyric Opera Productions, Irish National Opera, Cork Opera, Opera Collective Ireland and Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.
Soprano Francesca Federico spent all her summers growing up with family in west Cork and Kerry. Francesca received a Bachelor’s degree in Global Politics and a Masters in Voice at the Mannes School of Music. Her interest in classical music was sparked by seeing her first opera, Rigoletto at the Met when she was 15. Now based in NYC Francesca is due to perform in dell’Arte Opera's 2020 summer festival and recently made her debut at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center.
Tenor Andrew Gavin from Navan Co Meath, has performed with Wexford Festival Opera on a number of occasions in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He was recipient of the WFO / PwC Emerging Young Artist Bursary 2016. Graduating with an M. Phil in Children’s Literature from Trinity College, Andrew was awarded his Masters in Music Performance at the RIAM. Andrew made his debut at Wigmore Hall as part of the 'Irish Culture in Britain’ celebrations and participated in a joint production with the Juilliard school, New York and the RIAM, Ten Thousand Miles Away. Among the many awards he has won include prizes at the ESB Feis Ceoil, the O’Mara Cup, the Plunket Greene Cup, and the William T. Watt trophy for Tenor solo.
Bass-baritone David Howes, originally from Limerick completed his Bachelor of Music Degree at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. David’s grandad Harry, a self-taught bass singer inspired him to pursue singing along with his parents’ staunch support. A graduate of the distinguished Young Artist Programme with Northern Ireland Opera David has worked with the Belfast Philharmonic Choir, performed in the world premiere of Andrew Synnott’s opera, Dubliners at WFO 2017, Irish National Opera, Buxton Opera Festival and Kilkenny Arts Festival.
Currently based in NYC, soprano Kathleen Norchi studied Music at the Boston Conservatory of Music and her masters at the Mannes School of Music. With a love of performance since she was very young Kathleen has performed with Utopia Opera as well as in productions of Die Zauberflote, The Telephone, Carmen and Hansel und Gretel.
Bass Conall William O'Neill is based in London where he attended the Royal College of Music (RCM) for both his Bachelor and Masters degree in music and performing. Most recently, he performed as Colline in Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of La bohème, singled out for his “powerful bass voice and a knockout vecchia zimarra”. He also sang the role of Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring for the Koninklijk Conservatoire Antwerpen. Prior to studying at the RCM, Conall attended Imperial College London, receiving a BSc of Biology degree. His father hails from New Ross, Co. Wexford originally, so performing at the Festival adds an additional element of excitement to his involvement.
Jade Phoenix is an Irish lyric soprano based in Greystones, Wicklow, currently in her final year in the Royal Irish Academy of Music studying with Prof. Mary Brennan and Dr. Dearbhla Collins. From September, she will attend the Guildhall school of Music and Drama to begin her Masters in Music Performance under the tutelage of Yvonne Kenny, having been awarded a scholarship. In 2019, Jade performed the role of Charlotte Badger in the opera Banished by Stephen McNeff, performed in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Upcoming performances include Kevin O´Connell´s contemporary opera DreamCatcher, an opera for two principal females which will be performed in the Abbey Theatre.
Carrickfergus born mezzo-soprano Sarah Richmond made her Wexford Festival Opera debut in 2015 in the critically acclaimed Guglielmo Ratcliff by Mascagni, singing the role of Willie and returned in 2016 to sing the principal role of Yelena in the ShortWorks production of The Bear by William Walton. A recipient of the WFO / PwC Emerging Young Artist Bursary 2016, Sarah graduated from the RNCM with a MMus (Distinction) and a PG Dip Solo Performance (Distinction) as a Drapers' de Turckheim Scholar. Sarah has also performed with North West Opera, NI Opera/Nevill Holt Opera, Wide Open Opera, Castleward Opera and more.
Limerick soprano Sarah Shine studied at the RIAM under Veronica Dunne who has been her biggest inspiration in her career along with her grandmother who encouraged a love of music from an early age. Sarah was a member of the Salzburg Young Singers Project 2019 and has just finished two seasons as a singer in residence at the Académie of Opera National de Paris. After a performance at Palais Garnier in 2018, Sarah was awarded the Siemens Opera Award.
Tenor Vladimir-Mihai Sima studied computer programming and International Business /Economics before studying music and graduating from the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Music has always been a part of his journey which saw him start his own heavy metal band in his teens. The moment Vladimir-Mihai discovered that this was what wanted to do in life was when someone at work showed him a video of Placido Domingo singing 'E lucevan le stelle' and this changed the course of his life. Some key productions to date include Carmen, The Enchantress and La finta giardiniera.