School of Vocal Studies and Opera

The School of Vocal Studies and Opera is renowned as one of the world’s most inspiring departments in a conservatoire in which to pursue vocal and operatic training.

All students study on a combined vocal and opera course where every singer at the RNCM is given unparalleled opportunities to develop musicianship and communication skills. This integrated approach means that every student is able to work on different vocal styles through studying a range of repertoire, providing you with a broad range of training and performance opportunities.

Principal Study available in:

Repetiteur Studies (postgraduate study only)

Programmes available in:

Postgraduate Diploma: Advanced Studies
Postgraduate Diploma: International Artist (‘International Artist Diploma’)
PGCE in Music with Specialist Instrumental Teaching

How You Will Learn

Many of our weekly timetabled classes are taken by working high profile singers, accompanists and performers. Regular guest teachers in the department this year have included Sir Thomas Allen, Catherine Wyn Rogers,  Alice Coote, Sir John Tomlinson, Christopher Purves, Alastair Hume, Roderick Williams and James Gilchrist

As a student within the School of Vocal Studies and Opera, you will receive:

  • Principal Study singing lessons
  • One-to-one and ensemble coaching sessions
  • Language and phonetic tuition in Italian, German, French and Russian/Czech
  • Song repertoire classes in English, Italian, German French and Russian/Czech
  • Scheduled classes in Acting for Opera, Stagecraft and Diction, Physical Awareness, and Alexander Technique
  • Timetabled classes in Recitative, Chamber Music and Vocal Pedagogy
  • Tuition in Oratorio, Historical Performance and Contemporary repertoire
  • Staged Opera Excerpts (years 3 and 4)
  • Many opportunities to pursue Chamber Music and participation in Vocal Ensembles

RNCM Opera

The RNCM does not offer a specific Opera Studio training programme; we believe that it is essential for every student to receive advanced tuition in both concert singing and operatic training on a combined vocal and operatic course. We do, however, produce two fully-staged operas every year with a third project which may be as varied Sondheim’s Company and Bach St John Passion.

All students have the opportunity to participate in the RNCM Opera, both in the chorus and singing the principal roles. The principal roles are selected after competitive auditions within the school and are open to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. These productions are usually performed each academic year in the 657-seat RNCM Theatre. In addition to these, students also have the opportunity to participate in allocated Opera Excerpt performances as part of the core curriculum.

There may also be the opportunity to audition for the major opera companies who visit the RNCM on an annual basis. The RNCM is the only UK conservatoire to have professional partnerships in place with two major opera companies, Opera North and the Buxton Festival. There is an exciting range of placements, auditions and work opportunities offered exclusively to RNCM singers.

Performance Opportunities and Competitions

In additional to the scheduled classes, students have the opportunity to participate in internal and external recitals, masterclasses, festivals and orchestral concerts. There are numerous competitions open to the singers studying at the RNCM, many of which have substantial prize money attached for the winners and external performance opportunities offered to the participants.

RNCM Songsters


RNCM Songsters were formed in 2015 to promote and celebrate the Song repertoire. Each year singers and accompanists audition to join the Songsters and Junior Songsters and they take part in concerts throughout the UK and particularly in the North. The Songsters receive specialist coaching, this year our guests have included Julius Drake, Richard Stokes, Roderick Williams, Alice Coote, Hilary Summers and Ian Partridge and the team is led by Jonathan Fisher. RNCM Songsters can be booked for Professional Engagements, please see the Book Our Musicians page for details.

Recent Masterclasses

Our students have the opportunity to take part in masterclasses given by highly-experienced international artists, who have recently included Sir Thomas Allen, Susan Bullock, Sarah Connolly, Dame Emma Kirkby, Dame Ann Murray, Sir John Tomlinson and Roderick Williams.


The School is proud of the success of its graduates. We are delighted to have professional links with European Opera Studios and Young Artists Programmes, and we have many international prize-winning graduates now performing in opera houses and concert halls worldwide.

Many of our alumni have gone on to establish highly successful international singing careers, including: Barry Banks, Katherine Broderick, Alice Coote, Sara Fulgoni, Linda Kitchen, Simon Keenlyside, David Kempster, Jane Irwin, Darren Jeffery, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Paul Nilon, Mary Plazas, Christine Rice, Linda Richardson, Amanda Roocroft, Ann Taylor, Richard Wiegold and Louise Winter.

Recent alumni who are currently establishing fine careers in international opera houses and concert halls include Sipho Fubesi, Carolina Krogius, Nadine Livingston, John Pearce, Kathryn Rudge, Helen Sherman and Camilla Ribero-Souza.

Postgraduate leavers 2015 went on to secure professional contracts with:

  • Brussels Opera
  • Buxton Festival Opera
  • Clonter Opera
  • Gabrieli Consort
  • Garsington Opera
  • Glyndebourne Festival Opera
  • Grange Park Opera
  • National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company
  • Opera Holland Park
  • Opera North
  • Weimar Opera
  • West Green House Opera
  • Wexford Festival Opera
  • Woodhouse Opera

Recent School Highlights (2017/18)

  • A number of Vocal Studies and Opera alumni achieved success in major international singing competitions, including the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, Elizabeth Connell Prize, and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.
  • Students experienced professional work and placements with our partners including Opera North, Buxton Festival and Edward Grieg Choir/Bergen National Opera (Norway).
  • During the last academic year, our students were involved in major CD recordings and broadcasting projects with Chandos, Naxos and the BBC.
  • British director Graham Vick was recently appointed as International Chair of Opera and made his first visit to College in March 2018, while acclaimed contralto Hilary Summers has been appointed new vocal tutor.

Staff List

International Chair in Opera
Graham Vick CBE

Head of Vocal Studies and Opera
Professor Lynne Dawson Member of Institute of Linguists, FRNCM

Deputy Head of Vocal Studies
Susan Roper BA, Magister Linguae (Florence), PGDipRNCM

Deputy Head of Opera
Kevin Thraves DipRCM (Hons), ARCM

Principal Study Vocal Tutors
Matthew Best MA (Hons) Cantab
Professor Lynne Dawson MIL, FRNCM
Sandra Dugdale AGSM
Jane Irwin BMus (Hons), PGDipRNCM
Quentin Hayes AGSM
Andrew Heggie BMus (Hons) UNSW, PGDip RNCM
Paul Nilon PPRNCM
Mary Plazas GMus (Hons), PPRNCM
Nicholas Powell
Deborah Rees PPRNCM
Sarah Rhodes AGSM
Susan Roper BA, Magister Linguae (Florence), PGDipRNCM
Thomas Schulze
Antonia Sotgiu GRNCM
Peter Alexander Wilson DipRSAMD
Louise Winter GRNCM, PPRNCM

Recent International Visiting Tutors
Sir Thomas Allen CBE
Susan Bullock CBE
Julius Drake
James Gilchrist
Della Jones
Patricia MacMahon
Nelly Miricioiu
Professor David Owen Norris
Anne Sofie von Otter
Joan Rodgers CBE
Ian Partridge
Christopher Purves
Andrew Shore
Anthony Spiri
Hilary Summers
Sir John Tomlinson CBE
Roger Vignoles
Roderick Williams
Catherine Wyn-Rogers

Repertoire and Song Class Tutors
Professor Lynne Dawson MIL, FRNCM
Henry Herford MA, ARNCM, GRNCM
Nataliya Kompaniyets-Jouri BEng (Hons), BA (Hons), PGDipRNCM, PPRNCM, PGCertPAE, FHEA
Deborah Rees PPRNCM
Susan Roper BA, Magister Linguae (Florence), PGDipRNCM
Thomas Schulze
Antonia Sotgiu GRNCM
Peter Alexander Wilson DipRSAMD
Louise Winter GRNCM, PPRNCM

Tutors in Operatic Repertoire and Visiting Repetiteurs
Hein Boterberg (International Opera Academy – Belgium)
Derek Clark (Scottish Opera)
David Cowan (Opera North)
Isobel Flinn
Andrew Greenwood (Welsh National Opera)
David Gowland (Jette Parker – Royal Opera House)
Robin Humphreys BMus, PPRNCM
Russell Medley GRNCM, ARNCM
Gareth Morrell (The Metropolitan Opera, USA)
Martin Pickard (Opera North)
Phillip Thomas
Kevin Thraves DipRCM, ARCM
Philip White (Opera de Lyon – France)
Paul Wynne Griffiths (Royal Opera House)

Tutors in Stagecraft, Voice & Speech and Stage Combat
Kenan Ali BA (Hons), PGCE
Natalie Grady BA (Hons)

Tutors in Physical Awareness and Alexander Technique
Margaret Heaton
Bethan Rhys Wiliam ARAD, AISTD, CertEd, TDLB D32 & 33, FHE

Tutors in Academic Language Classes
Dr Beate Peter BA, PhD, FHEA, PGCE, CELTA
Antonio Tilli Dottore in Lettere Moderne (Chieti)
Alexander Vonrospach BA, MA, CELTA, DPSI

Tutors in Pedagogy and Vocal Health
Frances Ascott BSc (Hons), MRCSLT
Lead Speech and Language Therapist (Manchester Royal Infirmary)
Yakubu Karagama DLO, MSc (Advanced Voice Research), FRCS (ORL & HN)
Consultant Otolaryngologist (Manchester Royal Infirmary)
Dr Ron Morris PhD
Susan Roper BA, Magister Linguae (Florence), PGDipRNCM

Further Information

Click here to read more about the audition process and audition requirements

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