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Vilar Young Artists launched at ROH
A unique opportunity for outstanding young artists to develop their skills has been launched this week by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

The Vilar Young Artists Programme offers a two-year course for selected professional singers at the start of their careers, whose talents will be nurtured through total immersion in the life of the Royal Opera House.

The presence of the young artists in the Royal Opera House will also provide a major new resource for developing and expanding the resident company of opera principals.

In its first season, the programme will offer places to six singers. From September 2002, this will increase to ten singers plus a young repetiteur, conductor and stage director.

The young artists will benefit from workshops and individual coaching with leading international artists at The Royal Opera: visiting singers, conductors, directors, composers and other opera professionals, including those specialising in more innovative forms of music theatre. They will also have the opportunity to observe every phase of the rehearsal and production of operas for the main stage of the Royal Opera House, in order to become fully conversant with the process and pressures of mounting opera in a full-time international house.

Elaine Padmore, Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, said: "The development of the artists of the future is central to the work of The Royal Opera. It is a great thrill for us to be able to inaugurate an exciting and challenging Young Artists Programme thanks to the tremendous support offered by Alberto Vilar. We are extremely proud and grateful to Alberto for his generosity in funding this wonderful programme, for a full ten years. The Vilar Young Artists Programme is a vital addition to our portfolio."

The participants will study major roles with the programme's dedicated coaching staff and other Royal Opera professionals, based in the programme's own rehearsal space at the heart of the Royal Opera House.

Audiences will be able to see the young artists in at least one annual opera production in the Linbury Studio Theatre. The production will be fully staged and with orchestra, with potential for touring. From 2002, the singers will be joined by a young conductor and stage director - a unique feature of the programme, which will enable the young artists to form a self-contained performing company.

The founder and President of US-based Amerindo Investment Advisers Inc., Alberto Vilar is known particularly for his sponsorship of opera but is equally generous in his support of health and education organizations. He is committed to preserving and broadening the legacy of opera, classical music and ballet by striving to make them collectively more accessible to larger audiences. The ROH said the Vilar Young Artists Programme was especially close to his heart as it combined his love of opera with his desire to support artists of the future. He is also a major supporter of the Metropolitan Opera's Young Artist Development Program in New York, and the founding supporter of both the Los Angeles Opera's and the Kirov's Young Artists Programme in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"As a former resident of London, I have a particular affection for this wonderful city - indeed Amerindo was born here - and the utmost respect for its fine tradition of excellence in the classical performing arts," said Mr. Vilar.

"Over the years, I have spent many of my happiest hours in the Royal Opera House’s auditorium, which is why I'm especially pleased to be able to assist the House in its role of nurturing the opera stars of tomorrow. With the first Young Artists Programme of its kind in Europe, the Royal Opera House reconfirms its status as one of the world's premier venues, and will, in the future, play an even more pivotal role helping promising and talented young people to achieve their full potential. I look forward to attending many more glorious performances at the Royal Opera House."

The names of the first six Vilar Young Artists were announced earlier this year. They are:

Gweneth-Ann Jeffers - British soprano

The 31-year old British soprano Gweneth-Ann Jeffers sang the title role in Massenet's La Navarraise to great acclaim whilst still a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and more recently she has been starring in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, performing throughout France with the Orchestre de Picardie.

Sally Matthews - British soprano

The 25-year old British soprano Sally Matthews was the winner of the 1999 Kathleen Ferrier Award. Earlier this season, due to the indisposition of Jenny Grahn, she made an unexpected debut with The Royal Opera as Nanetta in Graham Vick's production of Falstaff. She makes her second appearance with The Royal Opera as A Flowermaiden in Parsifal in 2002. She has recently completed the Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and regularly appears as a recitalist. Her future engagements include a concert tour with the English Chamber Orchestra singing the role of Zerlina.

Alfred Boe - British tenor

The 27-year old British tenor Alfred Boe studied at the Royal College of Music and last autumn received much praise for his stylish Rodolfo (La boheme) for Glyndebourne Touring Opera 2000. His future engagements include Roderigo (Otello) for La Monnaie, Ferrando (Cosi fan tutte) for Grange Park Opera and the title role in Albert Herring for the 2002 Glyndebourne Festival.

Edgaras Montvidas - Lithuanian tenor The 25-year old Lithuanian tenor Edgaras Montvidas already has a considerable reputation for his operatic performances in the Baltic states. He studied first as a pianist and subsequently on the opera course at the music school in Kaunas before continuing his vocal studies at the Conservatory of Juozas Gruodis and latterly the Lithuanian Music Academy. He made his debut with the Lithuanian National Opera in 1999 as Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor followed in 2000 by performances of Alfredo (La traviata). For Latvian National Opera he has sung Lenski (Eugene Onegin).

Grant Doyle - Australian baritone

The 29-year old Australian baritone Grant Doyle studied at the Elder Conservatorium, Adelaide before winning a scholarship to study overseas. He has sung several roles with the State Opera of South Australia and Co-Opera in Adelaide. He was widely praised while still a student at the Royal College of Music where he sang the title role in Owen Wingrave and the Count in The Marriage of Figaro, conducted by Sir Colin Davis.

Darren Jefferey - British bass-baritone

The 24-year old British bass-baritone Darren Jeffery is currently in his second year of postgraduate study at the Royal Northern College of Music. His roles include Cadmus (Semele), Antius (Il ritorno díUlisse in patria) at the Creakes Festival and Solino (Gli Equivoci) at Batignano Festival. At the RNCM he has successfully sung a number of roles including Colline (La boheme) and Bartolo (Le nozze di Figaro).

Alberto Vilar added: "The six individuals selected as Vilar Young Artists represent the future of opera, and it is my great pleasure to see them embark on this wonderful journey. They are being given a remarkable opportunity to develop their talents and benefit from the tutelage and guidance of some of the world's greatest teachers. I am thrilled to play a part in ensuring that tomorrow's stars receive the best possible training, and I am especially delighted that the participants are coming from as far away as Australia and Lithuania - making the programme truly a global one."

Thu Dec 13 2001 (4:36:39 PM)

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