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

The much sought after programme was established in 2011 and since then it has nurtured and showcased up-and-coming singers and conductors from across Ireland. Since 2011, 19 local singers and 1 conductor have participated in the programme, many of whom have gone on to make their solo debuts with Northern Ireland Opera and other opera companies.

The programme offers four singers or creative artists the opportunity to develop their skills whilst being supported at a transitional stage in their careers. The participants work closely with the company and have regular coaching and training with Vocal Coach Giselle Allen and visiting coaches at the top of their professions – these include coaches from the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, the Royal Academy of Music, the National Opera Studio, and pianist and song expert Iain Burnside.

Members of the Young Artists Programme also perform at events, understudy roles in operas, travel to London to attend coachings and operas, and assist with the company’s outreach activities. The training and mentoring that they receive develops their technique and confidence and sets clear goals, bridging the gap between undergraduate degrees and further study particularly for highly competitive masters courses.

The Young Artists Programme 2016-17 is generously supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Foyle Foundation, The Idlewild Trust and The Garrick Charitable Trust.

Northern Ireland Opera Young Artists 2016-17

Sinéad O’Kelly (Soprano)

Sinéad O’Kelly has just attained a Masters with Distinction from the Royal College of Music in London, where she studied with Tim Evans-Jones and Caroline Dowdle. She is a BBC/Arts Council NI Young Musicians Platform Award Holder for 2015/16. She is the 2013 winner of the Courtney Kenny English Song Award, attained 2nd place in the RCM’s 2014 Joan Chisell Schumann Competition and won the Schubert Song Prize at the 2015 International Mozart Competition. She has participated in masterclasses with Sarah Connolly, Dame Ann Murray, Susan Bullock and Rebecca Evans. Sinéad is Northern Ireland Opera’s Voice of 2013 having won the main prize and the audience prize at the 2013 Festival of Voice. On the stage, Sinéad made her professional debut singing First Lady in Northern Ireland Opera’s 2014 autumn tour of The Magic Flute. She recently made her Royal Albert Hall solo debut singing Persephone in the world première of John Barber’s oratorio Seven Seeds.

Elaine Pelan (Soprano)

Elaine Pelan graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a First Class Honours in music. Here she played the role of Ruggiero in her first opera, Alcina. She graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in July 2016 with a Masters in Vocal Studies, under the tutelage of Suzanne Murphy. She has taken part in masterclasses with David Lowe, Mary King and Darren Hargan and has sung in the chorus for Northern Ireland Opera’s productions of The Flying Dutchman, L’elisir d’amore and Macbeth. During her time in Cardiff she has sung Miss Baggot in The Little Sweep, Dorothy in Cendrillon, and Bridesmaid in The Marriage of Figaro, and has also covered the role of Cherubino. She also played Hermia from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in RWCMD’s opera scenes concert. Other concert highlights include the Royal High School of Bath’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem, as the alto soloist.

Dominica Williams (Mezzo-Soprano)

Dominica Williams studied Drama and German at Trinity College Dublin and is now pursuing a career in singing. She has sung in choruses for Northern Ireland Opera, Opera Theatre Company, RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Wide Open Opera, and also covered the role of Second Secretary in Nixon in China with Wide Open Opera. She has also had solo roles as Second Bridesmaid in The Marriage of Figaro with Lyric Opera Ireland, Peep Bo in Lyric Opera Ireland’s The Mikado, Tessa in The Gondoliers with Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society, and Second Maiden in Northern Ireland Opera’s Turandot.

David Howes (Baritone)

David Howes graduated from DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in 2014 with 1st class honours. David has since began studying with Robert Dean in London. He has had the pleasure to work with Wexford Opera Festival singing the role of Sciarrone in Tosca as part of their Short Works, Peintre and 1st Philsosphe in Louise at Buxton Opera Festival, and Count Ceprano in Rigoletto with Opera Theatre Company. He has also sung in the chorus with all three companies and also with Northern Ireland Opera for The Magic Flute and Wide Open Opera for Nixon in China. In oratorio, to name but a few, David has sung the bass solo in Handel’s Messiah with Dun Laoghaire Choral Society conducted by David Brophy, Mozart’s Requiem at the Lismore Music Festival conducted by Marco Zambelli, and Dixit Dominus with the Irish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Cohen. David won the John McCormack bursary in 2014 for Baritone Solo and also The Merchant Cup for the Duet competition.