A "rare opportunity" to discover the next generation of talented Scottish singers has been announced today (November 3).

Titans of the Scottish arts scene, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and Scottish Opera have joined forces to nurture emerging talents to become the next international opera stars. 

A new one-year Artist Diploma in Opera at the RCS will offer a "highly specialised combination of vocal, movement and acting training", with students performing with Scottish Opera in Glasgow and Edinburgh as a culmination of their studies.  

Due to launch in September 2025, applications for the diploma open from July 2024. It is hoped to create a "bespoke, world-class learning and performance environment" required by contemporary singers and deepens the long-standing relationship between two of Scotland’s national arts organisations. 

The Herald: The cast of the barber of Seville, Scottish Opera 2023 The cast of the barber of Seville, Scottish Opera 2023 (Image: James Glossop)

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “The launch of this unique programme demonstrates beautifully the power and connectivity of the arts in Scotland.

"A connectivity which enables a world-leading national conservatoire and Scotland’s acclaimed national opera company to join forces to offer an unrivalled opportunity for next generation of leading singers to both train and perform in a dynamic and world-class environment.

“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Scottish Opera to offer a programme that is responsive to the needs of singers focused on entering the contemporary professional world.”

Alex Reedijk, general director of Scottish Opera, said the organisation is "delighted" to commit to a working partnership with RCS, describing it as a "reinvigorating to look into the future".

He said: "As well as supporting the development of early career singers, it is fantastic for Scottish audiences to have even more opportunity to experience opera on Scottish stages, featuring artists who will no doubt be future stars of the opera world. 

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“We already have a strong working relationship with the RCS and have them to thank for nurturing homegrown talent and attracting much young talent to Scotland, including members of our Young Company and the likes of Ross Cumming and Lea Shaw who are among the 2023/24 Season's emerging artists.”

This "rare opportunity" for emerging singers to perform with a national company as part of their studies is the final stage of a planned, high-level programme of "intensive" learning and teaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, supported by Scottish Opera from the recruitment phase to the final performances. 

Students will work with specialist RCS staff and international guest designers, vocal coaches, directors and conductors and be immersed in weekly coaching, mentoring, residencies and performance opportunities. Full course details are subject to validation.  

As well as to performing in RCS’s New Athenaeum Theatre, towards the end of their studies students will perform in a specially chosen opera, presented in collaboration with Scottish Opera, that sits alongside the company’s own productions, at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal and Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.

All applicants for the Artist Diploma are expected to have an undergraduate degree in vocal performance with those who reach the final selection auditioning for an expert panel supported by the Scottish Opera casting team.

The Herald: Oskar McCarthy performs during RCS's Les Mamelles de Tiresias Oskar McCarthy performs during RCS's Les Mamelles de Tiresias (Image: Robert McFadzean)

Philip White, head of opera at RCS, said: “The coming together of Scotland’s national opera company with the opera department of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland provides a unique, high-level student experience that is unparalleled in the United Kingdom.

"The new Artist Diploma course seeks to address the ever-changing landscape of the operatic world in providing the very best training, taking advantage of world-class facilities within a world-class institution.”

Anush Hovhannisyan, who performed with Scottish Opera as Violetta in the acclaimed production of La Traviata, said the new diploma offers an "extraordinary setup" for aspiring young singers.

The soprano said: “The absolutely brilliant three years I spent studying opera at the RCS was the most crucial time in my education.

"As a young student, I was lucky enough to sing lead roles in three major opera productions in collaboration with Scottish Opera. Having this exceptional training as a basis for my career, I always felt a step ahead."

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Ms Hovhannisyan, who is an ambassodor for the RCS' opera programme, said the diploma is designed to create a platform where young artists gain "vital professional experience", get to be seen "under the best possible light" working with the "glorious" Scottish Opera Orchestra, and being "nurtured and receiving guidance from the fantastic team at the RCS opera department".

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is consistently ranked in the top 10 of the prestigious QS World University Rankings for performing arts education and has an illustrious history in producing world-renowned classical singers who include Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and 2017 Cardiff Singer of the World Catriona Morison.

Scottish Opera is Scotland’s national opera company and the largest performing arts organisation in the country. It was founded by Sir Alexander Gibson, an alumnus of the RCS and the namesake of the Conservatoire’s Alexander Gibson Opera School. Opera productions are recognised worldwide for their quality of craftsmanship and performance, and the Company has been nominated for a 2023 International Opera Award.