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Artist Development Programmes

Artists in Development 2023-2025

Margaret Bridge

Mezzo-soprano Margaret Bridge is a former Northern Ireland Opera studio artist (2018-19 season) and winner of the 2018 NI Opera Young Opera Voice Prize.…
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Frasier Hickland

Praised in recital for his ‘flair and dexterity’ (Seen and Heard International), Irish pianist Frasier Hickland is a recent graduate of the Royal College…
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Aaron O’Hare

Irish tenor Aaron O’Hare transitioned from baritone in 2021, having previously sung with leading companies across the UK and Ireland. He recently sang Spoletta…
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Deirbhile Larkin

Deirbhile is a freelance Stage Manager and Production Manager based in Belfast, and has worked with Replay Theatre Company, Belfast Ma Productions, Bright Umbrella,…
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Ellen Mawhinney

Originally from Northern Ireland, soprano Ellen Mawhinney studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is now in her first year at Royal Academy…
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Conor Quinn

Conor Quinn is an actor-musician from “Banbridge Town in the County Down”. He is a graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Credits include:…
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Matthew Quinn

Matthew is a versatile conductor/musical director from Belfast, Northern Ireland who is developing a reputation for his exciting and dynamic approach to his music…
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The first six months of the NI Opera Artist Development Study Programme has been extremely focused on vocal lessons with top vocal teachers, including Robert Dean, Matthew Best and Jack LiVigni. It has allowed me to have regular lessons both online and in person. Already in these six months, I can feel steady improvement and my tenor singing is feeling more and more secure every month. The next six months will include the same focus on vocal development, as while I feel great improvement, the transition from baritone to tenor will be a long and steady process which will continue passed the year of the programme. As well as voice lessons, I plan to travel to the major UK companies and have coachings with the top coaching staff to continue to build my repertoire. I have also booked an initial recording session in October with Jan Capinski to begin to build my tenor portfolio online, with a view to do a second session in early 2024. I cannot thank NI Opera and this programme enough for allowing me the space to develop this transition of voice types, and their continued support of NI artists.

Aaron O’Hare: Artist Development Programme 2023

Since being awarded a grant from NI Opera to implement a study plan, I have made great progress in developing my skillset and resources in the hopes of propelling my career in the arts. So far, I have bought a soft light and tripod set to elevate the quality and professionalism of my self-tapes. I have taken part in 2 casting director workshops where I’ve been able to receive direct feedback and make personal connections with industry professionals which has led me to being seen for more auditions. I bought an annual subscription to the Irish casting service called Fishpond which allows me to see local castings happening which I am able to audition for. I have just returned from Glasgow where I was able to use some of the grant to get a professional 4K showreel recorded which I will add to my CV and send to casting directors. This was a great way to get more comfortable behind a camera and work on some new material. When I was in Glasgow I booked a dance class which was a great way to refresh my choreography skills since we don’t have any classes like that in Belfast. Within the next 6 months, I plan to use the grant towards more lessons like singing, instruments and dancing and I’m keen to do more casting director workshops as they have been a great way to network as well as developing my skills. I am also booking headshots in London to update my CV and will be recording a voice reel to accompany my new showreel. So far the award has been incredibly helpful in giving me access to things I wouldn’t have access to here in Belfast, so I am very grateful for the opportunities and trust that has been given to me by NI Opera.

Conor Quinn: Artist Development Programme 2023

I am very grateful to have had the support of Northern Ireland Opera and to have been selected for their Artist Development Programme. So far, this award has enabled me to attend the Leeds Lieder Festival as a Young Artist, where I had the opportunity to work with renowned singers and pianists - Sir Thomas Allen, Graham Johnson and Joan Rodgers in masterclasses. It also gave me the chance to watch other celebrated artists in recital, including Veronique Gens, Ailish Tynan, and Sir Simon Keenlyside. This was immensely beneficial as it gave me a whole week to fully immerse in vocal repertoire and to receive a lot of helpful information and feedback, as well as learn from the other Young Artists participating. I also used some of the grant to travel to Wexford for a repetiteur workshop / audition with Wexford Festival Opera Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi. This was extremely helpful to work on Italian operatic repertoire with an Italian coach and, following on from this, I have been invited to take part in the Festival’s 2024 Young Artist Programme. This will afford me two weeks of intensive coaching alongside the singers selected for the programme, with masterclasses from external teachers, including from the Rossini Opera Festival. The rest of the award will be spent on lessons and tools for language (focussing on German and Italian), a digital piano for practice purposes, a course in vocal first aid and general tuition costs.

Frasier Hickland: Artist Development Programme 2023

I attended Bobby Houlihan's Practical Conducting Workshop Summer School in Kerry over the weekend of June 2 - 5. Over the four days, we worked on aural skills, baton technique and some core repertoire; I chose the Magic Flute overture, the prelude from Tristan und Isolde and the first four movements of Pictures at an Exhibition. I felt myself improve dramatically over the weekend. The core classes in aural skill and basic beat pattern were of course important but Bobby's focus as a teacher is on economy of gesture; I felt myself move from large, dramatic, but unsustainable gestures to smaller, but much more intentional, focussed - and effective - gestures. I'm very excited to put these to work over the course of my remaining program. Over the next six months, I will continue to study individually with conducting teachers to further refine my technique but I am most excited to put that technique into practice by taking on Act 2 of the Fairy Queen with a full group of singers and a small instrumental ensemble over the course of two workshop sessions.

Margaret Bridge: Artist Development Programme 2023

So far, this bursary has allowed me to work for three days with the English Symphony Orchestra, conducting the Elgar Introduction and Allegro for strings and being coached by Kenneth Woods. This was a part of the 2023 Elgar Festival in Worcester. I have also used the grant to take two lessons with notable piano teachers in London to develop my technique and ability to accompany rehearsals/score read. Both of these things have been incredibly valuable to my development. Three days conducting a professional symphony orchestra in a safe environment enabled me to better my conducting technique without worrying about rehearsing for a performance. It also provided me with footage that I have since used for further conducting applications. I will continue with two more piano lessons with Ruth McGinley while working on Tosca in Belfast. Further, I was offered a place on a prestigious conducting masterclass in Vienna with the head of conducting at RCM, Toby Purser, at the start of October for 4 days. This will allow me to focus on the physicality of conducting while also making more European connections at Opera Houses/Orchestras. Finally, I will be using the remainder of the money to have a lesson with Jac Van Steen with a singer and a piano either during Tosca rehearsals in Belfast (while Jac is working with the Ulster Orchestra) or in London while Jac is teaching at RCM.

Matthew Quinn: Artist Development Programme 2023

Thanks to Northern Ireland Opera, I have just completed my first overseas productions with Opera Holland Park. Whilst there, I have met some of the most amazing and creative individuals that have only helped me develop creatively, but learn new ways to build a production. By doing both the main production and Young Artist production of the Barber of Seville, I got to see how different directors develop comedy and use their performers skills to enrich the lively score. As part of the Stage Management team, I learned to adapt to a large stage scale, facing new challenges of prop sourcing, making, and quite often the weather in the park! Some of the highlights were sourcing props from the Royal College of Music, the National Theatre, and Angels Costumes, and of course seeing Holland House for the first time. I am delighted to return to Belfast and put my newfound confidence and skills to work for Eugene Onegin in September with both new and familiar faces.

Deirbhile Larkin, Artist in Development 2024 to 2025

Studio Alumni

  • 2020/21
  • Fionn Ó hAlmhain
  • Erin Kennedy
  • Owen Lucas
  • Jade Phoenix
  • 2019/20
  • Ana Acunune
  • Zoë Jackson
  • David Lee
  • David Corr
  • 2018/19
  • Margaret Bridge
  • Jessica Hackett
  • Elaine McDaid
  • Kelli-Ann Masterson
  • Rebecca Murphy
  • Francesco Giusti
  • 2017/18
  • Dawn Burns
  • Kevin Neville
  • Maria Hughes
  • Cormac Lawlor
  • Lauren Scully
  • 2016/17
  • Elaine Pelan
  • Sinéad O'Kelly
  • Dominica Williams
  • David Howes
  • 2015/16
  • Gabrielle Mulcahy
  • Rebecca Rodgers
  • Laura McFall
  • David Lynn
  • 2014/15
  • Helen Aiken
  • Conor Breen
  • Maria McGrann
  • Andrea Delaney
  • 2013/14
  • Richard Shaffrey
  • Jean Wallace
  • Ioana Pipilea
  • Sarah Richmond
  • 2012/13
  • Aaron O'Hare
  • Laura Murphy
  • Laura Sheerin
  • Eugene Monteith
  • 2011/12
  • Páidí Ó Dubháin
  • Gemma Prince
  • Marcella Walsh
  • Mary McCabe