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Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Scottish Opera strengthen partnership with unique opportunity for the next generation of opera talent

A new partnership to nurture the next generation of international opera talent is unveiled today (Friday, November 3) by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Scottish Opera.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is introducing a new one-year Artist Diploma in Opera to 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.

The Diploma is due to launch in September 2025, with applications open from July 2024. It will 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.

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.

In addition 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.


Announcing the new partnership, 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 the 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.”

Scottish Opera General Director Alex Reedijk said: “We are delighted to commit to working in partnership with the RCS with this new formal agreement, and it is reinvigorating to look into the future.

“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.

“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.”

A scene from Les Mamelles de Tirésias at RCS © Robbie McFadzean


Philip White, Head of Opera at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 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.”

Soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, Alumni Ambassador for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Opera programme, who performed with Scottish Opera as Violetta in the company’s acclaimed 2017 production of La Traviata, 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.

Three Decembers starring Rosie Lavery, Flora Birkbeck, Pawel Piotrowski, cond. William Cole. © Robbie McFadzean


“RCS’s new Artist Diploma in Opera is offering an extraordinary setup for aspiring young singers. It’s 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 ten of the prestigious QS World University Rankings for performing arts education and has an illustrious history in producing world-renowned classical singers who, in addition to Hovhannisyan, include Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and 2017 Cardiff Singer of the World Catriona Morison.

RCS stages the opera Flight © Robbie McFadzean


Scottish Opera is Scotland’s national opera company and the largest performing arts organisation in the country. The Company 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.

The cast of Scottish Opera’s The Barber of Seville © James Glossop


Scottish Opera regularly tours to all corners of Scotland, reaching 60 different communities in 2022/23. Each year, Scottish Opera works with around 100 primary schools, giving 10,000 pupils an opportunity to sing, act and dance.

RCS Opera’s Double Bill has its last performance tonight (3 November) at the Alexander Gibson Opera School, while Scottish Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville opens at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.