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Three Questions! We interview Ingrid Surgenor, distinguished pianist and vocal coach.

The NI Opera Studio is proud of its partnership with distinguished pianist and vocal coach Ingrid Surgenor, who has worked for the Bayreuther Festspiele, Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, National Opera Studio and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. We asked her three questions about her work with the NI Opera Studio.


Ingrid, how would you describe your experience of coaching the members of the NI Opera Studio?

Having been born and brought up in Northern Ireland, I am thrilled that there is now a possibility for singers to be able to access tuition, performance experience and contacts with the opera world while still living and working at home. It is a real pleasure to work with the young artists of the NI Opera Studio and to share my knowledge of singing and the opera world with them. The opportunity afforded by NI Opera Studio and the Glenarm Festival of Voice Competition is a huge boost for those who have the talent and desire to follow this profession.

How can the NI Opera Studio add to a young singer’s career trajectory?

There are many aspects to a singer’s career, finding out about their individual voice, learning about and singing in a variety of languages, stagecraft and discovering the ability to connect with an audience. Then there is the question, where do I study, with whom and in the final analysis how and where do I find work. These are the aspects of the profession where the coach/ teacher with wide experience of the profession can be essential to the NI Opera Studio.

What do you look out for when working with young singers?

When working with young singers, the immediate impression is the voice, it’s type and quality and then the task is to help the singer to find their appropriate repertoire through which to find their individuality, express the text with understanding and sincerity and forge their route in the profession. Hard work, determination and self-belief play an important part in the process.

Ingrid Surgenor


Ingrid Surgenor was born in Belfast and studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London and with Gerald Moore. She began her career at the Glyndebourne Festival and in addition to a long association with Welsh National Opera, has worked at the Vienna, Taormina, Wexford, Hong Kong Festivals, Oper Stuttgart and with conductors including Sir Bernard Haitink, Carlo Maria Giulini, Sir John Barbirolli, Christoph Von Dohnanyi, and Sir Charles Mackerras. She spent nine seasons at the Bayreuth Festival, four as head of music preparation for Parsifal, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli and Pierre Boulez, directed by Wolfgang Wagner and Christoph Schlingensief. Ingrid has given recitals in Aix-en-Provence, Beijing, Belfast, Bergen, Berlin, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, San Francisco, and Stockholm and at opera houses in Brussels, Marseille, Munich, Oslo, at the Teatro Amazonas, Brazil and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Ingrid Surgenor’s television and radio performances have included career documentaries, song recitals and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition where she enjoyed much acclaim as official accompanist for almost twenty years. She has made many recordings including a series of the complete songs of Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi for the Naxos label. She is a senior coach at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; National Opera Studio; London; Northern Ireland Opera; Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and principal opera coach at the Royal Academy of Music, London. She has been a jury member for the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarships and Richard Lewis Prize in London, Northern Ireland Opera’s Festival of Voice, the John McCormack and Veronica Dunne Prizes in Dublin, Llangollen International Eisteddfod and the International Opera Competition in Beijing. She has been a member of the selection panel for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition since 2013. Ingrid Surgenor is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, London and has been granted Honorary Fellowships by the University of Wales and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In June 2000, she received an MBE for services to music from the Queen and in July 2018 an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Ulster. Future engagements include an invitation to Moscow to head a project at the Bolshoi Young Artists programme, Senior Coach for Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and 2021 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Selection Panel.