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The Northern Ireland Opera Studio is at the heart of the company’s mission to promote and develop young emerging talent.

The Northern Ireland Opera Studio programme supports five emerging opera singers and prepares them for their future operatic careers. It focuses on offering the singers regular and meaningful performance opportunities, coupled with the support of a professional opera company at a formative stage in their careers.

As well as a performance programme that includes studio productions, recitals, concerts and open masterclasses with leading international artists, the studio members play an active role in Northern Ireland Opera’s outreach work, acting as ambassadors for the company.

During the course of their year with the Studio, the five singers will nurture a long term-professional relationship with Northern Ireland Opera, a relationship which will continue long after their completion of their year on the programme.

The members of the Northern Ireland Opera Studio for 2017/18 are: soprano Maria Hughes from County Wexford, soprano Lauren Scully from Dublin, mezzo-soprano Dawn Burns from Belfast, bass-baritone Cormac Lawlor from County Kerry, and bass-baritone Kevin Neville from County Limerick.


The Northern Ireland Opera Studio 2017-18 is generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.

Northern Ireland Opera Studio Artists 2017-18

Maria Hughes (Soprano)

Wexford native Maria Hughes has just finished the MMus Opera course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, studying under the tutelage of Scott Johnson and Paul Plummer. She also completed the MMus Performance programme in 2015 with distinction at the RCS.

To date Maria has performed the roles of: Agrippina Agrippina (RCS), Miss Wingrave Owen Wingave (RCS), The Mother Hansel and Gretel (St Magnus Festival), Marie Koanga (Wexford Festival Opera), The Forrester’s Wife The Cunning Little Vixen (British Youth Opera), Laetitia The Old Maid and the Thief (Opera Castalia), Mercedes Carmen (Opera Theatre Company), and Miss Jessel The Turn of the Screw (DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama). She is an alumnus of the young associated artist with Opera Theatre Company. Maria has previously been part of chorus’ with Wexford Festival Opera, The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Wide Open Opera, Lyric Opera, Opera Ireland and Glasthule Opera.

Lauren Scully (Soprano)

From Dublin, Lauren Scully is in her final year of the Master in Music Performance at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, under the tutelage of Dr Imelda Drumm and répétiteur Dearbhla Collins. She also completed a Diploma in Music Performance and Teaching at the Academy in 2014. Subsequently, she studied for a year under Dr Veronica Dunne and as part of her training has worked with many distinguished artists and coaches including Ann Murray DBE, Iain Burnside, Ailish Tynan and Kathryn Harries. Lauren is also a graduate of St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2013.

She has performed as a soprano soloist with The Lassus Scholars both in Ireland and abroad, with Irish pianist and conductor Colman Pearce and in David Greig’s The Events at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. Past performances also include chorus in the RIAM’s productions of Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea for Opera at Castalia and Bizet’s Carmen for Lyric Opera. In March 2015 she performed a small role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica at the Abbey Theatre. Most recently Lauren played the role of Hermia in RIAM’s production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen at the Samuel Beckett Theatre. She was recently a finalist in the Sligo Feis Ceoil Vocal Bursary and was also a finalist in the Northern Ireland Opera 2016 Festival of Voice Competition.

Dawn Burns (Mezzo-Soprano)

Belfast-born mezzo-soprano Dawn Burns is a former winner of the Northern Ireland Opera Festival of Voice and a recipient of the BBC and Arts Council of Northern Ireland Young Musician’s Platform award. She graduated with distinction from the MA Opera course at RWCMD, studying with Suzanne Murphy.

Dawn’s operatic roles include Narciso (Agrippina Irish Youth Opera / Northern Ireland Opera), Ino (Semele Mid Wales Opera), Nancy (Martha Burry Port Opera), Mercedes (Carmen Mid Wales Opera YAP), Second Lady (The Magic Flute RWCMD) and Minskwoman (Flight RWCMD). She has worked with Northern Ireland Opera, Scottish Opera, Grange Park Opera and Opera Holland Park. Solo concert highlights include performances with the Ulster Orchestra and BBC Proms.

Cormac Lawlor (Bass-Baritone)

Originally from Tralee, Co. Kerry, Cormac Lawlor is a graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music where he studied under Veronica Dunne, Cormac is currently studying under Judith Mok.

Cormac recently completed a term as a Young Associated Artist with Opera Theatre Company in Dublin before going on to work with companies such as Northern Ireland Opera, Glyndebourne Opera Festival and Opera Holland Park.

Operatic roles include Bonze in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with RTE NCO, Colline in Puccini’s La Bohème with Lyric Opera, 3rd Jew in Strauss Salome with Northern Ireland Opera, the King of Egyptin Verdi’s Aida, Kromow in Lehar’s The Merry Widow, An Old Gypsy in Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Baron Douphol in Verdi’s La Traviata with Lyric Opera Productions.

As a student at RIAM, he has also sung the roles of Supt. Budd in Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, David in Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge, Cadmus in Handel’s Semele and Simone in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

His concert works include Haydn’s Stabat Mater, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Magnificat, Vaughan William’s A Serenade to Music and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

Kevin Neville (Bass-Baritone)

Kevin Neville is a bass-baritone from Limerick city who began his training with Olive Cowpar. He completed his BA (Hons) in Music and English Literature at Trinity College Dublin in 2013 and his MMus with First Class Honours under the tutelage of Emmanuel Lawler at the Conservatory of Music and Drama D.I.T. In 2015 where he was awarded the Conservatory Gold Medal. Kevin has won numerous competitions for opera, lieder, oratorio, sacred song, art song and musical theatre at Feis Ceoil Dublin, Feis Ceoil Sligo, Féile Luimní (Limerick), Feis Maitiú (Cork) and Birr Festival of Music & Voice.

Kevin has sang principal roles in The Mermaid (Prince) by Carl Davis, H.M.S. Pinafore (Sir Joseph Porter) by Gilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance (Pirate King) by Gilbert & Sullivan, The Medium (Mr. Gobbineau) by Menotti, Breakdown (Landy Worker) by Andrew Synnott, Le Nozze di Figaro (Figaro) by Mozart, Die Zauberflöte (Sarastro, Sprecher, Erster Priester and Zweiter Geharnischter Mann) and Don Giovanni (Leporello). He understudied Don Basilio in Wide Open Opera’s production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Benoît in Opera Theatre Company’s La Bohème. Kevin has performed oratorio works across Ireland with conductors Peter Barley, David Brophy, John Dexter and Cecilia Madden.