The renowned Garsington Opera Chorus is formed of members of the Alvarez Young Artists’ Programme, which aims to discover and nurture the next generation of professional opera singers.
Led by Head of Music and Chorus Director Jonathon Cole-Swinard, the programme recruits annually from conservatoires internationally in search of young singers with the talent and flair to become the soloists of tomorrow. In addition to singing in the chorus, the majority of our Young Artists understudy a principal role or sing a small role, which enables them to prepare as a soloist alongside established artists and creatives.
Understudies rehearse with assistant directors and conductors, culminating in a cover run of each opera attended by Garsington’s artistic team. In 2023 the OperaFirst schools’ project expanded to include performances of both Il barbiere di Siviglia and The Bartered Bride – giving two cover casts the chance to perform with full orchestra.
Furthermore, many of our Young Artists give highly memorable ‘jump-in’ performances of principal roles during the Festival. The ongoing challenges of the pandemic meant that 2022 was a bumper year for jump-ins, with eight Young Artist covers making role debuts on the main stage.
In addition to their chorus and cover activity, Young Artists attend extra-curricular seminars on auditioning, agents, self-promotion, CVs, tax for self-employed artists, mental well-being and working in the German Fest opera system. We also offer the chance to make a professionally produced aria recording, and hold masterclasses at Wormsley with guest teachers and Garsington principals. At the end of the Festival each artist has a feedback session to reflect on their progress and discuss prospects for the future.
The chance for progression is critical to the ethos of the programme. Certain principal roles in future seasons are earmarked to be cast with former Alvarez Young Artists and during each Festival members of the current cohort have the chance to be auditioned by Artistic Director Douglas Boyd. The result of that strategic investment was particularly evident in Ariadne auf Naxos (2023), with five roles cast with recent alumni of the Young Artists’ Programme.
2023 Award Winners
Each year we make financial awards to exceptional artists and colleagues who have excelled during the season. The Helen Clarke and Simon Sandbach Awards, given to members of the Chorus, honour the memory of two Garsington Opera staff members who left us before their time. The Leonard Ingrams Awards, named after our founder, can be awarded to any young professional – singers, conductors, directors – and recognise extraordinary talent and dedication. In 2023 we offered an additional award in memory of Graham Clark, who not only graced our stage but was a true friend and cherished advisor to younger artists:
Leonard Ingrams Award
Tess Jackson (assistant conductor for The Bartered Bride)
Claire Lees (Naiad in Ariadne auf Naxos)
Harriet Eyley (Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos)
Siân Griffiths (Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos)
Simon Sandbach Award
Siân Dicker (cover Mařenka and chorus in The Bartered Bride)
Helen Clarke Award
Indyana Schneider (cover Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and chorus in The Bartered Bride)
Graham Clark Award
Daniel Vening (Lackey in Ariadne auf Naxos, cover Mícha and chorus in The Bartered Bride and chorus in Il barbiere di Siviglia)