Skip to main content
Read all the latest news and announcements from Northern Ireland Opera.

At Home for Heroes: Biographies of Performers

Sir James Galway

Sir James Galway is globally renowned as the supreme interpreter of the classical flute repertoire, a consummate performer whose appeal transcends all musical boundaries.
With over 30 million recordings sold worldwide, extensive international touring, frequent television appearances, tireless promotion of the arts and his passionate work in music education, Galway has been a household name for decades. His uniquely expressive interpretations of the flute literature span an extensive range of genres, from classical masterworks to high profile commissions, and provide the benchmark standard for all modern flautists. He has also collaborated on film soundtracks such as The Lord of the Rings, and partnered such popular artists as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell and Sir Elton John. The diversity of Galway’s repertoire reflects his impressive musical range, and has served to establish him as an artist of the very highest stature.

http://www.jamesgalway.com/bio

Lady Jeanne Galway

An accomplished flutist, Lady Jeanne Galway continues to grace the international platforms with her virtuosity. One of the leading female flute soloists of the decade, Lady Galway brings to the audience her unique style and elegance.
Her touring schedule regularly takes her to many of the major cities in the U.S. to perform as soloist with orchestras such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Denver and the National Symphony. Internationally, she has appeared in the cultural capitals of the world including London, New York, Milan, Rome, Vienna, Salzburg, Zurich, Dublin, Belfast, Tokyo, Beijing and Singapore.
Appearing regularly as the premiere flute duo partner with her husband Sir James Galway, the two delight audiences and bring a rare freshness to the platform, unique in the music world.

http://www.jeannegalway.com/bio

Dearbhla Brosnan (accompanist)

Dearbhla Brosnan is one of the official accompanists for the Galway’s annual Flute Festival in Weggis, Switzerland. Dearbhla is Head of Chamber Music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
She began her musical studies at the Royal Irish Academy of Music where she studied piano with John O’Conor. She received an Honours Degree in Music from Trinity College Dublin, before commencing her postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where her teachers included John Streets and Iain Ledingham.
Dearbhla has performed extensively throughout Ireland, Great Britain, Europe, the United States and the Far East. As an instrumental accompanist at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dearbhla has worked with many distinguished musicians and frequently broadcasts on both television and radio. She has worked as official accompanist for music festivals and competitions including the RTÉ Musician of the Future Festival, the Freemasons’ Young Musician of the Year and the Great Music in Irish Houses Festival.

http://galwayflutefestival.com/pianists

Barry Douglas

Barry Douglas has established a major international career since winning the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, Moscow. As Artistic Director of Camerata Ireland, the only all-Ireland orchestra and the Clandeboye Festival, he continues to celebrate his Irish heritage whilst also maintaining a busy international touring schedule.
In 1999 Barry Douglas founded the chamber orchestra Camerata Ireland to celebrate and nurture the very best of young musicians from both Northern and the Republic of Ireland. In addition to striving for musical excellence, one of the orchestra’s aims is to further the peace process in Ireland by promoting dialogue and collaboration through its musical education programmes. Barry regularly tours with Camerata Ireland throughout the world and visited the US in the spring of 2018. They have also played at the BBC Proms in London.
Barry Douglas received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2002 New Year’s Honours List for services to music. Barry is an exclusive Chandos recording artist.

http://www.barrydouglas.com/

The Priests

Founding members Father Eugene O’Hagan, Father Martin O’Hagan, and Father David Delargy hail from Northern Ireland, where they began singing together as students at the grammar school St. MacNissi’s College. They later trained for the priesthood at Irish College in Rome, and during their time there, they were invited to sing for the Pope in the sacred liturgy. Returning to Ireland to work in their separate ministries, they continued to sing together while still fulfilling their duties as full-time parish priests.
Eleven years after signing a recording contract with Sony, the classical music sensations – who are all full-time clergymen – have enjoyed a remarkable chart-topping musical career on both sides of the Atlantic. The multi-platinum sellers’ first album in 2008 sold more than three million copies, making it the fastest-selling classical debut of all time. In 2018 The Priests performed at the Festival of Families concert for Pope Francis in front of an audience of 75,000 people in Dublin’s Croke Park.
They were awarded MBEs in the New Year’s Honours List for their services to music and charity in Northern Ireland.

http://www.thepriests.org/

Ruth McGinley

Ruth McGinley quickly became a young star of Classical Music when she won the piano final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 1994, aged just 16. Studying at the Royal Academy and Royal College in London, she went on to perform as a soloist with the BBC Philharmonic, the London Mozart Players, the National Symphony Orchestra, the RTE Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, and as a recitalist throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East, before returning to Derry in 2004 to focus on raising her young son. She has been the official accompanist for the multi-platinum selling vocal trio The Priests, since 2010. She also regularly features in broadcasts with BBC Northern Ireland and has appeared as soloist at BBC Proms in the Park.
She released her debut album Reconnection in 2016. It features a diverse composer list that includes Rachmaninoff, Satie, Debussy, Gershwin and Randy Newman.

http://www.ruthmcginley.co.uk/

Tanya Houghton

Originally from Birmingham, Tanya studied in Cambridge, London and Paris before
embarking on a freelance career, based in the UK and Ireland. Her harp work spans
symphony orchestras to chamber groups, solo recitals and accompanying soloists and choirs. She regularly appears with the Ulster Orchestra and has also recently appeared with the CBSO, both RTE orchestras and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. She is Musician in Residence at the First Presbyterian Church in Belfast City Centre.

Featured on many recordings and broadcasts, Tanya played live on Radio 3 in 2018, performing in Tollymore Forest, both as a soloist and in one of her folk song arrangements accompanying Sinead O’Kelly. She has accompanied choirs for John Rutter, Bob Chilcott, David Hill and Graham Ross amongst others, and features on the chart-topping ‘A rose in the middle of winter’ in music by Bob Chilcott. She accompanied the BBC Singers in a live broadcast of Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ as well as a new work written for the occasion, and last year accompanied their broadcast of ‘Chichester Psalms’ as part of the Total Immersion series. She played for Britten’s 100th birthday concert in Wigmore Hall, accompanying tenor Nicholas Mulroy, and in has accompanied Sir James Galway for Songs of Praise. Tanya also sings and conducts, and is musical director of the Belfast-based vocal ensemble Melisma. In 2015 Tanya was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music for her contribution to the profession.

http://www.tanyahoughton.info/

Daniele Rustioni – Chief Conductor, Ulster Orchestra

Daniele Rustioni, 36, is one of the most compelling conductors of both opera and symphonic works of his generation. In the 2017–18 season, Rustioni began his tenure as Principal Conductor of Opéra National de Lyon. He is also the Principal Conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana, a position he has held since 2011. Rustioni was appointed Chief Conductor of Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, Northern Ireland in January 2019 and began his tenure with the Orchestra in September 2019.
Rustioni is in-demand worldwide as a versatile conductor of symphonic music and has been engaged by many of the major international opera houses. He also has an extensive discography.
In 2013, Rustioni received the International Opera Award for Best Newcomer of the Year.

https://www.danielerustioni.com/home

Francesca Dego

Celebrated for her sonorous tone, compelling interpretations and flawless technique, Francesca Dego is one of the most sought after young violinists on the international scene. She was signed in 2012 by Deutsche Grammophon.
Born in Lecco, Italy, to Italian and American parents, Francesca regularly appears with major orchestras worldwide. Her international career to date has allowed Francesca to work alongside many esteemed conductors and as an outstanding collaborative artist, she thrives in chamber settings.
Francesca is the winner of numerous national and international competitions, and in 2008 attracted widespread attention for being the first Italian female prize-winner of the renowned “Paganini Competition” in Genoa since 1961. In addition she was awarded the “Enrico Costa” prize for having been the youngest finalist.
In June 2014 she performed at Rio de Janeiro’s Teatro Municipal at the opening of the Football World Cup in Brazil. She is a frequent contributor to specialist music magazines and plays on a precious Francesco Ruggeri violin (Cremona 1697).

https://www.francescadego.com/

Ulster Orchestra Musicians

Tamás Kocsis – Violin 1

Tamás is a native of Budapest, Hungary. At the age of nine he was accepted at the Liszt Academy of Music where he studied violin with Dánes Kovás. In 1989 he moved to the United States to work with Josef Gingold on a full scholarship at Indiana University, Bloomington, and later with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School in New York. He also received a full scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival. During these years he studied with Nelli Shkolnikova, Isaac Stern, Rostislav Dubinsky and János Starker.
Before his appointment as Leader of the Ulster Orchestra in 2010, Tamas held Concertmaster positions with the Fort Worth Symphony, the Savannah Symphony and the Orlando Philharmonic. He also had Concertmaster positions at the summer festivals of Breckenridge and Crested Butte in Colorado. He has been invited as Guest Concertmaster with the orchestras of Charleston, Tampa, Sydney and Vancouver as well as being the Concertmaster of Opera Tampa. He recorded Brahms’ Violin Sonatas and Piano Quartets with pianist Fabio Bidini for the EPR Encore label and has made a number of recordings for Hungarian Radio.

Michael Alexander – Violin 2

Michael Alexander plays in the Ulster Orchestra and is 2nd Vln Section Leader Emeritus. He is President of Holywood Music Festival and is on the board of the Ulster Orchestra Foundation.

Philip Walton – Viola

Philip Walton was born In Northumberland and has been a Violist with the Ulster Orchestra since 1983. He is also a Conductor and Composer, featuring in both roles in recent UO outreach activities in Londonderry. Philip is Associate Conductor of the Studio Symphony Orchestra, and Musical Director of Ballylone Concert Flute Band (current Northern Ireland Champions). Teaching has been an important part of his life, teaching privately and also at both Wallace and Friends schools in Lisburn.

Charles-Antoine Archambault – Cello

Charles-Antoine Archambault studied the cello with Jean-Guihen Queyras and Troels Svane, as well as baroque cello with Christophe Coin and Kristin von der Goltz. He has won many prestigious first prizes in the International J&A Beare Solo Bach Competition, International Beethoven Competition, Possehl Musikpreis, Ton und Erklärung. As a soloist, he has played with the NDR RadioPhilharmonie, BR Rundfunkorchester, WDR Funkhausorchester, RTS Serbian RadioSinfonie Orchestra, Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, Academy of Taiwan Strings. He is a regular guest at world renowned festivals, including Schleswig-Holstein, Prag Spring, Heidelberger-Frühling, Philharmonie Gasteig Münich, Stadtcasino Basel, Konzerthaus Berlin. His first album “Le corps des Cordes” has been recorded 2015 by the NDR Hannover, joining compositions by Diego Ortiz, Isabel Mundry, Johann Sebastian Bach and Francis Poulenc. Charles-Antoine Archambault has been working as a Solo-Cellist under many European orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Hamburg Opera House Orchestra, the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, the Orchestre National de Belgique, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Brêmen, the Brêmer Philharmoniker, the Hamburger Symfoniker. He is currently the Principal Cellist of the Ulster Orchestra in the United Kingdom. Archambault plays a cello by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and a five-stringed Italian Baroque cello.

Chris Blake – Oboe

‘Christopher Blake has been Principal Oboe with the Ulster Orchestra since 1988. He has enjoyed playing concerts, recordings throughout Ireland and further afield and likes to play chamber concerts and devote sometime to teaching.

https://www.ulsterorchestra.org.uk/

Ellen Mawhinney (soprano):

Originally from Northern Ireland, Ellen Mawhinney is a soprano who is currently studying on the MMus Vocal Performance programme at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland under the tutelage of Wilma MacDougall after graduating the BMus programme with a First Class Honours.
Her opera performances most recently include Die Fledermaus with NI Opera, the role of Amore in RCS Opera Scenes, Scottish Opera’s concert production of Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel and English National Opera’s collaboration with RCS of Dove’s The Day After.
Ellen is the most recent recipient of the Irish Heritage Bursary Award after winning the competition at the Wigmore Hall. This result is only after her success at the Charles Wood Song Competition where she was also awarded first place. Other results include third place in the Hugh S Robertson Award (RCS), third place in the Norma Grieg French song Prize and a finalist of the Governor’s Recital Prize (RCS). Ellen was also appointed as a choral scholar for the Genesis Sixteen programme 2018-2019 and has since joined The Sixteen in concert for their world debut performance of James Macmillan’s The Grand Inconnu at the opening of the Edinburgh International Festival at Usher Hall and the Barbican Hall in London. backing vocals for Kylie Minogue’s Christmas Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Dawn Burns (mezzo)

Dawn is a previous winner of the NI Opera Festival of Voice competition and recipient of the BBC NI / Arts Council NI Young Musicians’ Platform Award. She recently performed in the award-winning Abomination: A DUP Opera (Best Opera: Irish Times Theatre Awards) with The Belfast Ensemble. Other recent engagements include Ida in Die Fledermaus, Théodorine in L’Ile de Tulipatan and Dorabella in The School for Lovers with Northern Ireland Opera. Her other roles include Nancy (Martha), Mercedes (Carmen), Second Lady (The Magic Flute), Minskwoman (Flight) and Dido (Dido and Aeneas).
Dawn is a former Studio Artist at NI Opera and a former Young Artist at Mid Wales Opera. She has performed in the chorus at Irish National Opera, Scottish Opera, Grange Park Opera, Opera Holland Park and Mid Wales Opera. Dawn studied at the University of Bristol and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

http://dawnburns.co.uk/

John Porter (tenor)

Hailing from Donegal, Ireland, John is a graduate of Royal Academy Opera and
University of Ulster. He currently studies under the tutelage of Rosa Mannion, Catrin
Wyn-Davies and Audrey Hyland. Also an alumnus of the Georg Solti Accademia and Les Azuriales, John has found professional advance as a former Young Artist for Garsington Opera and Northern Ireland Opera. More recently he was declared a finalist in Accademia Teatro alla Scala competition.
Operatic roles include: Alfred | Die Fledermaus, Tamino | The Magic Flute, Rodolfo |
La bohème, Nemorino | L’elisir d’amore, Pedrillo | Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Tony | West Side Story, Kornélis | La princesse jaune, Anthony | Sweeney Todd,
Basilio | Le nozze di Figaro, Borsa | Rigoletto, Nadir | The Pearl Fishers, Rinuccio |
Gianni Schicchi, Beppe | Rita, Spoletta | Tosca and Ulysses | Ulysses, A Musical Odyssey (Laurence Roman; première) and opera scenes including: Bill | Flight, Graf Albert | Die tote Stadt, Pylade | Iphigénie en Tauride and Il Duca | Rigoletto.

This season saw John return to Northern Ireland Opera in the roles of Alfred in Die Fledermaus and the Narrator in The Chronic Identity Crisis of Pamplemousse. He also joined The Belfast Ensemble for the world premiere of Abomination: A DUP Opera.

https://www.johnportertenor.com/

Ben McAteer (baritone)

Northern Irish baritone, Ben McAteer is an alumnus of the National Opera Studio in London and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Before embarking on a musical career he studied Chemistry at the University of St Andrews.
Recent and future operatic highlights include Frank/Fritz Die Tote Stadt with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus for Northern Ireland Opera, Hansel & Gretel and Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro both for Irish National Opera, Marcello in La Bohème for Lyric Opera Ireland, Calchas in La Belle Hélène Blackheath Opera and Pangloss & Voltaire in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide with the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and also for West Green Opera. While in residence at Scottish Opera, Ben created the role of James in the world première of The Devil Inside, for which he won Outstanding Performance in an Opera at the My Theatre Awards in Toronto.
Other notable roles include the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro with Scottish Opera, Marullo in Rigoletto and Papageno in The Magic Flute for Northern Ireland Opera, Falke in Die Fledermaus and Goryanchikov in From the House of the Dead for Welsh National Opera, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at Opera Holland Park, Des Grieux in Le Portrait de Manon, Remigio in La Navarraise, and Mr Webb in the European première of Ned Rorem’s Our Town.
He has also recently recorded the role of Jesus in Arthur Sullivan’s oratorio The Light of the World and Rupert Vernon in his operetta Haddon Hall, both with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

http://www.benmcateer.com/

David Quigley

Since his early successes in major competitions including BBC Young Musician of the Year, the Royal Over-Seas League music competition and his selection as the UK’s representative for the ECHO Rising Stars concert series, Irish pianist David Quigley now enjoys a varied international career as a recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician.
Aside from performing, David is passionate about musical education. He is a member of the piano faculty at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the University of Birmingham. He is co-founder/artistic director of Newry Chamber Music, with his violinist sister Joanne Quigley-McParland: a concert society that provides concerts and education projects in his home town and surrounding areas. David is frequently invited to give Masterclasses and to adjudicate piano competitions throughout Ireland and the UK. He also is co-founder and pianist of the Fews Ensemble, Ireland’s newest chamber music group. He has performed throughout Europe, USA and Asia in many of the world’s greatest concert halls. As a concerto soloist he has appeared with many orchestras and is a much sought after chamber musician.
David’s discography includes Piano Music From Northern Ireland (Lontano records), Saint-Saëns Carnival Of The Animals with the Lancashire Sinfonietta, Rediscoveries: Old and New Music of Ireland with Joanne Quigley-McParland (Ischia Records), Piano music by Philip Hammond (Lontano records), Piano Classics (El Greco Records) and Piano Nocturnes (Avie Records). He broadcasts extensively on both radio and television for the BBC, RTÉ, Classic FM, RTÉ Lyric FM and NPO Radio 4.

http://www.davidquigley.co.uk/

Sean Rafferty – Host

Sean Rafferty was born in Belfast and brought up in Newcastle, Co Down. He studied law at Queen’s University, Belfast and soon after began his career in broadcasting. He has presented a wide variety of radio and television programmes and presents In Tune every weekday at 4.30 p.m., Radio 3’s flagship early evening music programme. Sean is Patron of Northern Ireland Opera.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/55Yt3BQkkLsYs40lX49mwzf/sean-rafferty

Please click here to see full details of the concert which will be broadcast on our YouTube channel on Monday 25th May at 8 p.m.