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

NIO Studio (PNG) (pink)

The Northern Ireland Opera Studio is a programme for emerging artists which is a cornerstone of Northern Ireland Opera’s mission to develop talent.  This year for the first time Northern Ireland Opera will take in two cadres of talented professionals working on the island of Ireland.  Previously limited to opera singers, the Studio will now also provide professional development and paid training opportunities in the creative and technical disciplines which are key to bringing an opera to life on stage. You can find out more about this new element to the NI Opera Studio here.

The opera singers who will join the 2021/22 Studio programme are soprano Jade Phoenix, mezzo-soprano Erin Kennedy, tenor Owen Lucas and bass Fionn Ó hAlmhain. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to read their biographies.

The creative and technical members of this year’s Studio programme are Andrea Ferran (Opera and Theatre Director), Zara Jackson (Stage Manager), Bethan McDonnell (Costume Designer), Michael McEvoy (Choreographer) Matthew Quinn (Conductor) and Roisin Whelan (Choreographer).  You can find out more about each of them in their biographies at the bottom of the page and read the press release about this expansion of the Studio into creative and technical disciplines here.

The Northern Ireland Opera Studio, (previously known as the Young Artists Programme) has been running since 2011 and to date has supported 39 emerging opera singers, helping prepare them for their future careers. It has offered its members a programme which includes studio-scale productions, recitals, and opportunities to be involved in main-stage productions. The singers have benefitted from individual coaching, masterclasses with leading international artists, as well as professional mentoring, career guidance, and language coaching. Additionally, the Studio members have played an active role in Northern Ireland Opera’s outreach work. During the course of their year with the Studio, the singers build a long-term professional relationship with Northern Ireland Opera.

We are excited to see how the NI Opera Studio develops with the addition this year for the first time of the Creative and Technical Cadre – follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter to make sure you are the first to hear about their new projects.


Follow the NI Opera Studio on Twitter @NIOpera_Studio

Click and read a short interview with one of our prestigious vocal coaches about her work with the Studio: Ingrid Surgenor.

Opera Singers

Jade Phoenix

Jade Phoenix is a 23 year old lyric soprano from Ireland. In 2020 she graduated with First Class honours from the Royal Irish Academy of Music with a Bachelor of Music Performance studying Mary Brennan and Dearbhla Collins. Jade is currently studying in Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London under the tutelage of Yvonne Kenny for her Masters in Music Performance. In 2020 Jade was a winner of the Flax Trust Music bursary in Belfast, a finalist in the Glenarm Festival of Voice and a winner of the Veronica Dunne International Singing competition Bursary. Jade also participated in Wexford Festival Opera’s Academy programme where she received coaching and masterclasses from world-renowned musicians such as: Juan Diego Flores, Ernesto Palacio, Dmitry Vdovin, Ermonela Jaho and Rosetta Cucchi. Jade’s roles include Charlotte Badger in Stephen McNeff’s contemporary opera ‘Banished’ and Alice in Verdi’s ‘Faltaff’ with Wexford Festival Opera. Currently Jade is participating in the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro where she will sing the role of Madama Cortese in Rossini’s ‘Il Viaggio a Reims.’

Erin Kennedy

Erin Kennedy is an inspiring mezzo-soprano from Newtownabbey, with a Second Class Upper Division BA in Music from Ulster University.  Her final year performance showcased her vocal talent and love of Shakespeare; singing Roger Quilter’s Five Shakespeare Songs.  As part of the Ulster University choir, Erin had opportunities to perform across Northern Ireland and Ireland representing the university.  She also had a great experience performing the American premiere of Paul Mealor’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall, New York.  Erin has taken part in many local music festivals, Mossgrove Music Festival, Ballymena Youth Music Festival and City of Derry, International Music Festival to name a few.  She was a member of the Ulster Youth Choir performing various works including Vivaldi’s Gloria and Faure’s Requiem.  Erin is seeking to expand her vocal knowledge and operatic ability and is honoured to be a part of the NI Opera’s 2021 Studio.

Owen Lucas

Owen Lucas is a Tenor based in Northern Ireland. Originally studying the oboe at RWCMD, Owen has gone onto to develop his passion for singing. He has been fortunate to been involved in the Glyndebourne Academy (2019), The Associate Artists of Northern Ireland Opera (2020) and sings regularly with St Anne’s Cathedral Choir, where recently he was the soloist  for the choirs performance of Stainer’s Crucifixion. He recently competed at the Dublin Feis where he won the Tenor Solo section.

Fionn Ó hAlmhain

Fionn Ó hAlmhain is a young, German-born bass who grew up in Co. Wicklow and is now based in Dublin. In 2019 he completed a degree in Irish Traditional Music at the TU Dublin Conservatoire of Music and Drama, where he met his singing teacher Dr. Robert Alderson and began singing operatically. Since then he has performed across Ireland and the UK, including work with Irish National Opera, Lyric Opera, the Salford Choral Society, Opera Collective Ireland, Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, North Wales Opera, and the Yorke Trust Opera. Fionn was fortunate to be accepted onto the Glyndebourne Academy for talented young singers in 2017 where he was nominated for the Gus Christie Award. Fionn is also a founding member of the TU Dublin Operatic Society, where he both organised and performed in several events including Operatic Productions, a series of Lieder Concerts, and masterclasses with Gavan Ring, Orla Boylan, and Deirdre Grier-Delaney and is currently Chair of the same.

Creative and Technical Cadre

Andrea Ferran

Andrea Ferran is a theatre and opera director from Limavady. She is currently Guest Artist at Deutsches Theater, Visiting Director at Teatre Lliure and British Council Resident Director at Ivano-Frankivsk National Theatre. She has staged work at the Young Vic, Sadlers Wells, Southbank Centre, Gate, Arcola and Schaubühne, and associate directed at the London Coliseum and in the West End. From 2012-2014, she was Resident Director at the National Theatre Studio, where she was awarded the Leverhulme Bursary for Directing. She received her MFA in Directing from Columbia University with an AG Leventis scholarship.

Zara Jackson

Zara is a film graduate from Belfast who has worked freelance as a script supervisor in the local screen industry for the last five years. She studied Media & Production at Ulster University where she was chosen to speak on behalf of the Faculty Of Arts at their summer graduation ceremony in 2015. Zara went onto study an MA in Film & Visual Art at Queens University, writing her dissertation on contemporary cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare plays. Zara co-hosts a podcast called 8-Bit Popcorn where she and her fellow cinema enthusiasts discuss film theory, review trailers and often invite industry guests to contribute. Zara also started a photography business in 2019 specialising in events, fashion and portraits. The role of stage manager has interested Zara since she worked on productions of Les Misérables, West Side Story and several pantomimes with local community theatres while she was studying. She is thrilled to be part of NI Opera’s 2021 Studio and is excited to apply the skills she has acquired in the film industry to opera. Zara has always strived to be involved with creative organisations who are pushing the boundaries of what audiences expect with innovative experiences.

Bethan McDonnell

Bethan McDonnell is from Northern Ireland and has grown up with an appreciation for music, art, and her homeland. She is a recent graduate from Ulster University, Belfast, where she completed her BA (Hons) in Textile Art, Design and Fashion. Specialising in designing and making knitwear garments, her knitted narratives are often inspired by exploring literature and the landscapes of Northern Ireland. Her final year project, ‘Nurtured,’ was a womenswear collection based on the novel ‘The Secret Garden,’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Bethan’s work revolves around storytelling giving her a strong foundation as a costume designer. She has worked on projects such as CS. Lewis’ ‘Narnia’, William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and historical stories from Northern Ireland. Her work has been showcased in Ulster University, Titanic Museum and St. Anne’s Cathedral. In addition, she has completed an art residency in Cambridge, England. Some of the awards she has received include, ‘CCEA Reward Learning,’ ‘John Bush Design Art Award’, ‘The Gloria Sidwell Bursary for Art and Design’, and ‘Dean’s List Award, Ulster University.’ As part of her degree, she worked on Inis Meáin, Galway, and Florence, Italy.

Michael McEvoy

Michael McEvoy, 23 is a Belfast based Dance Artist. He graduated in 2020, with a First Class Honours BA from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. TL also awarded Michael in the Silvia Bodmer Memorial Fund for outstanding Achievement in Choreological Studies. Since graduating, Michael has toured with Peter Corry Productions, performed work with companies such as Maiden Voyage Dance and NI Opera, choreographed for MMK Productions and received numerous bursaries and grants to develop his own creative practice. Michael’s ambitions for the future are to keep working alongside Irish/Northern Irish artists and companies; creating and performing works in as many performance genres as possible. Michael is fortunate enough to be a working artist at Vault Artist Studios, where you will find his co-creative company POKE Theatre – a multi-disciplinary group that train in contemporary dance and circus.

Matthew Quinn

Matthew is a versatile young conductor/musical director from Belfast, Northern Ireland who is developing a reputation for his exciting and dynamic approach to his music making. Working across the UK and Ireland, Matthew has conducted ensembles such as the Ulster Orchestra, NI Opera, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Hallam Sinfonia, and Manchester Philharmonic Choir, and is comfortable across a wide range of operatic, orchestral, and choral repertoire. He was the winner of the 2019 RTÉ/Feis Ceoil Orchestral Conducting Award with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra – securing the opportunity to record Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony with the orchestra last season. Matthew also featured as a Young Conductor on the Crouch End Festival Chorus’ Inaugural Conducting Mentorship programme last season, receiving coaching and assisting opportunities with the choir’s Musical Director, David Temple MBE. He is a sought after Musical Director and vocal coach, having worked for companies such as the National Stage School of Ireland and Voiceworks NI, as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Roisin Whelan

Roisin began her professional career with Black Box Dance Company in Denmark and then joined Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures as a company dancer for their Romeo and Juliet world premiere and UK tour in 2019. In 2021 Roisin joined Iseli-Chiodi company on their new work ‘Turnstile’ and will be working with Laura Macken as a performer on her new work later this year. Roisin will be presenting her own new works this year. ‘Man Down’ funded by Bank of Ireland through the Business to Arts Awards. Roisin also received a Dance Bursary in 2020 and 2021 from the Arts Council of Ireland to research two new works, entitled ‘The Galaxy of Occupations’ and ’Hidden Figures’. Roisin was the first artist to be awarded the first LD Dance Shawbrook Production Residency Award for ‘Man Down’, A regional residency award with Dance Ireland and an artist in residence award at the VISUAL in Carlow. Roisin will be working with the VISUAL in Carlow on a large participation project entitled ‘Doorstep Dances’. Roisin will be bringing 1 on 1 contemporary dance to 45 individuals over three months who have been isolated through Covid and are over the age of 65.