Wexford Factory 2020/2021

Wexford Festival Opera has historically served as a springboard for many young singers at the beginning of their careers onto the international stage. The Wexford Factory, a professional development programme for young Irish or Irish-based singers, builds on this tradition and enables young singers to develop and learn from some of the best artists and coaches in the world. 

The 13 members of the inaugural Wexford Factor for 2020/2021 are: 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 and Gianni Giuga (representing the Rossini Opera Festival).

The Wexford Factory is designed to mentor young singers through masterclasses led by internationally recognised artists and professionals. In 2020, guest tutors included 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 also provided guidance and instruction.

After two-weeks of intensive masterclasses, the members went onto perform in Falstaff Chronicles, a six-part mini-series rendition of Verdi’s masterpiece Falstaff, which is still available to enjoy online through the WFO YouTube Channel. They will also form an integral part of the 2021 Festival in October, details to be announced soon.

The Wexford Factory is in collaboration with the Technological University Dublin and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. 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.

“An international company of the performing arts must help the younger generation to grow and thrive as artists and a great company like Wexford Festival Opera has a duty and responsibility to establish an educational scheme such as the Wexford Factory."  - Rosetta Cucchi, Artistic Director

You can help to support this vital programme by choosing to donate to the Wexford Factory, thereby helping to provide training and education for these emerging young artists and enabling them the unique opportunity to realise their dreams.

Read more about these promising young artists below.

Wexford Factory supported by Fundación Arnhold de la Cámara        

Wexford Factory 2020 Presentation

by artistic director Rosetta Cucchi

Anna Brady


Anna 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).

Kindly supported by Brenda & Lochlann Quinn.

2020 PwC Emerging Young Artist Bursary Winner

Ava Dodd


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. 

Kindly supported by Terry and Marjorie Neill.

Rory Dunne


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 underneath him, 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.

Kindly supported by Patrick & Evelyn O'Sullivan.

2020 PwC Emerging Young Artist Bursary Winner

Francesca Federico


Soprano Francesca Federico spent all her summers growing up with family in west Cork and Kerry. Francesca received a Bachelors degree in Global Politics and a Masters in Voice at the Mannes School of Music. Her interest career 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.

Kindly supported by Bill & Carol Emmott. 

Andrew Gavin


Andrew Gavin from Navan Co Meath, has performed with Wexford Festival Opera on a number of occasions in 2015, 2016 & 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.

Kindly supported by Cel & Bill Phelan.

David Howes


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.

Kindly supported by Michael Meagher and Conor Killeen/Key Capital

Kathleen Norchi


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.

Kindly supported by Wexford Festival Trust.

Conall William O’Neill


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 RSC, 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.     

Kindly supported in memory of Dr.& Mrs. Garrett Hickey, New Ross

Jade Phoenix


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.

Kindly supported by Brenda & Lochlann Quinn. 

Conor Prendiville


Conor Prendiville graduated recently with a Master’s degree from the Royal Irish Academy of Music where he studied with Owen Gilhooly and Dr. Dearbhla Collins. Recently Conor was one of the ‘Rising Stars’ at the Concert Hall in University of Limerick and company artists at the Cork Opera House. With a long passion for music of many kinds, Conor’s love of opera began when he decided to get his voice trained. Once he began performing opera there really was no looking back.

Conor has performed the role of Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Don Basilio/ Don Curzio (Le Nozze di Figaro) Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Captain (in Stephen McNeff’s ‘Banished’). Conor has sung Handel’s ‘Messiah’, Britten’s ‘Rejoice in the Lamb’, Bach’s ‘John Passion’ and ‘Actus Tragicus’, Mozart’s ‘Coronation Mass’ and Kevin O Connell’s ‘Mass’ and ‘Aifreann’, Handel’s ‘Messiah’ with St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. Conor sang in recitals with Opera Collective Ireland’s production of ‘The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat’ by Michael Nyman, with Cork Opera as Beppe in Pagliacci and Lunchbreak Opera in London as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi (Puccini).  

Kindly supported by Jean & Breffni Bryne. 

Sarah Richmond


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.

Kindly supported by Terry and Marjorie Neill

Sarah Shine


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.

Kindly supported by Kevin & Yvonne Mays & Friends.

Vladimir-Mihai Sima


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. Vladimir will start his master at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the autumn of 2020.

Kindly supported by Wexford Festival Trust.

Gianni Giuga


Born in Syracuse in 1992, Gianni graduated from the "Giusto Monaco" School of Dramatic Art. In 2014 he started studying singing with Salvatore Fisichella, while completing his degree in Modern Literature from the University of Catania in 2016.  He continued his vocal coaching with Marcello Giordani, and the pair performed together at the "Giordani and Friends" Concert with the Orchestra of the Massimo Bellini Theatre. In 2017 he sang Dandini in Cenerentola at the Young Artist Programme Academy and as part of a Masterclass at the Luciano Pavarotti Theatre in Modena. His debut came as Pagliacci (Silvio) in Augusta, alongside Marcello Giordani (Canio). Since then, he has sung Sestola and Piteglio (2017) Appennino in Canto Festival, Rigoletto (concert performance) in Fanano, La Fanciulla del West at Teatro Lirico of Cagliari, Madama Butterfly and Carmen (Morales). He sang Belcore in L'Elisir d'amore at the Teatro Comunale in Modena and Carpi, Gomes' Lo Schiavo at the premiere of Teatro Lirico in Cagliari, which was conducted by John Neschling. Other credits include Taddeo in L'Italiana in Algeri at Opéra de Tenerife and Teatro Comunale in Bologna and Andrea Chénier in Trieste, The Sword in the Stone at the Teatro Regio in Parma, Tosca and Turandot in Sicily and La Traviata in Ancona. In 2018 he was awarded first prize in the AsLiCo competition for the role of Escamillo in Carmen.

Kindly supported by Sarah Rogers. 

Support Wexford Factory

Should you want further assistance or if you would like to have a conversation about options to support The Wexford Factory or a Factory Singer you can contact Ann Marie Dalton, Head of Development, at adalton@wefordopera.com.