Our mission: To develop and launch the next generation of opera professionals, enriching the future of British opera.
British Youth Opera is a rarified gem in the training field of opera. It provided me with the most useful and enjoyable springboard into the singing profession and I owe them a great deal.
Nicky Spence – Tenor and alumnus
British Youth Opera was founded in 1987 to provide professional rehearsal and performance opportunities for emerging singers, musicians and technical trainees on the threshold of their careers.
There is, in fact, no age limit on applicants for BYO: instead, what our participants share is their place at the beginning of their lives in opera. Our role as the country’s foremost training opera company is to provide the very best professional development through an annual programme of workshops and fully-staged operas. Then we launch our participants onto the world stage.
More than 5,000 young people have benefitted from British Youth Opera’s training. Around half of these have been singers, and the other half a host of talented music, creative and production staff: assistant conductors and repetiteurs; assistant directors, assistant designers, assistant lighting designers and costume assistants; and assistant production and stage managers.
The breadth of British Youth Opera’s placements means that we are uniquely able to mount exceptional professional opera productions with trainees in every department. And we present our productions in partnership with Southbank Sinfonia, an orchestra which shares our aim to nurture and launch the next generation of musical talent.
All our trainees benefit from first-hand experience combined with the opportunity to learn from leading professionals in their respective fields: chosen for their commitment and skill in passing on their expertise.
BYO participants therefore learn in a rigorous, professional, but nurturing environment: providing an essential bridge between their conservatoire or college training and the profession.
British Youth Opera is unique in offering essential experience to the most promising talent from our music colleges, bridging that inevitable and cavernous gap between graduation and professional life. A brief glance at its illustrious list of alumni is simple proof of its continued and vital relevance to students across the country.
Paul Wingfield – Head of Vocal Studies, Birmingham Conservatoire
BYO has given opportunities to so many young people in the world of opera, both on stage and backstage. Participants learn about everything that goes into making an opera happen, from translating the initial designs into sets, sourcing or making costumes (and getting singers in and out of them with split-second timing), to learning about lighting, stage management, assisting the conductor and director - and how to handle temperamental people! There are so many possible jobs to be found in the business besides being a singer. For the singers themselves, it is a big leap from performing in the security of music college to finding work in the profession, and BYO provides an intermediate step, with performances of an incredibly high standard in the Peacock Theatre. I am very proud to be the President of such a vibrant and practical company.
Dame Felicity Lott – Soprano and President of BYO
Showcasing talent to secure the future of British opera
We have a unique opportunity to enrich the future of British opera: Each year, with a shortlist of operas, we audition around 400 singers currently in training, and offer the opportunity to the most promising performers. Other trainees are selected from a pool of around 200 applicants.
The season’s operas are then chosen to suit the particular talents of the company of singers. We give them a unique training, and a central-London platform for their talents so they can be seen in leading roles by agents, casting directors, and heads of music of the UK’s great opera houses. In doing so, we allow their potential to be recognised at the earliest possible stage. Our work is therefore valued by the leading figures in the industry as much as by our young participants.
As an opera casting director with a particular interest in young talent I have attended BYO performances and cover performances right from the start. I have found them an important showcase for young singers who benefit hugely from the opportunity to sing in a supportive and professional environment at this early stage in their careers. I have lost count of the number of successful singers whom I have heard first in BYO performances or as covers.
Sarah Playfair – Opera casting director
Just as important is the work British Youth Opera does with young professional trainees in production, creative and musical roles. Participants in all the non-singing disciplines we train go on to successful careers in opera, having learnt on the job in a nurturing environment.
British Youth Opera has helped a huge number of talented and committed young people in a very concrete and practical way to make the transition in to the professional world of opera. Quality is paramount to the BYO ethos, and great care is taken at all levels of the production, in the coaching of singers, the training of assistant conductors, the set design, costumes, and every other vital element of what is finally presented on stage. BYO holds a unique position in the musical eco system of the UK and I expect it to continue to give invaluable experiences to the next generations of young operatic talent for many years to come.
Martyn Brabbins – Music Director, English National Opera
Offering equal opportunities to participants from all backgrounds
Thanks to the generous support of individual donors, trusts and foundations, we are able to ensure that all young singers and opera professionals who are successful at audition and interview are able to take up the opportunity to participate in British Youth Opera.Our policy of ‘no fees’ is core to our mission: we exist to provide training and support to those demonstrating talent and potential, not only to those who can afford to pay.
We pay a subsistence contribution to all our trainees, and source free accommodation when needed so that they can relocate to London for the duration of their time with us. For those who need further help, a bursary fund is also available.
BYO gave me the opportunity to sing a title role (Don Giovanni, a staple for my voice type) in a new, fully staged production with a professional orchestra. This experience simply isn't obtainable anywhere else in the UK at an educational level. BYO also supported me when I ran into financial trouble halfway through the rehearsal period and I'll always be grateful for that. The opportunity to work with the directors and conductors on the BYO roster at no personal cost is a fantastic and very rare thing!
Jake Muffett – Baritone and alumnus