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MMus/MA Opera

Introduction

The RCS MMus Opera course has, over the last twenty years, established an enviable record in training and preparing singers for a career, and continues to serve as an effective platform to launch young artists onto the first steps of their professional career pathway.

The Opera School is led by Head of Opera, Philip White. The school is also supported by Professor Stephen Robertson, a vocal pedagogue, and Vocal Studies lecturer Mark Hathaway.

The department is a relatively small one, with 20-25 students over the two-year course, so all students receive a great deal of individual attention.

The RCS vocal staff is made up of experienced and distinguished teachers and practitioners, and a wide range of visiting coaches, directors and guest artists provide a constant source of external stimulus.

Twice-weekly singing lessons and regular coachings are the foundation of the programme, with a wide range of performance opportunities, scenes and full scale productions, mostly in house, but some with Scottish Opera and other partners, providing the learning experience vital to students with ambitions embark on a career in opera.

Introduction

The RCS MMus Opera course has, over the last twenty years, established an enviable record in training and preparing singers for a career, and continues to serve as an effective platform to launch young artists onto the first steps of their professional career pathway.

The Opera School is led by Head of Opera, Philip White. The school is also supported by Professor Stephen Robertson, a vocal pedagogue, and Vocal Studies lecturer Mark Hathaway.

The department is a relatively small one, with 20-25 students over the two-year course, so all students receive a great deal of individual attention.

The RCS vocal staff is made up of experienced and distinguished teachers and practitioners, and a wide range of visiting coaches, directors and guest artists provide a constant source of external stimulus.

Twice-weekly singing lessons and regular coachings are the foundation of the programme, with a wide range of performance opportunities, scenes and full scale productions, mostly in house, but some with Scottish Opera and other partners, providing the learning experience vital to students with ambitions embark on a career in opera.

Programme Outline

In addition to singing lessons, coaching and performance opportunities, a range of core skills in acting, dance, movement, stage combat, languages, Alexander Technique, French, German and Italian repertoire, audition technique, French phonetics are taught. Singers also continue to receive Concert Classes to ensure that their song and oratorio repertoire continues to develop as well as their stage skills. These are assessed on an ongoing basis as part of ‘Supporting Studies’, while the principal assessments are, of course, focussed on the performances themselves.

Opera scenes allow students to experience different repertoire and style, and to discover their own strengths and weaknesses. The annual Opera Project explores both contemporary/20 th century and baroque repertoire, while the annual full-scale in house production (in the Conservatoire’s own Athenaeum Theatre) and the regular collaboration with Scottish Opera focus on more mainstream repertoire. Professional agents and opera companies are frequent visitors.

The RCS shares a close relationship with Scottish Opera and has collaborated on a project or production annually since 2004, with performances in professional external venues in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. The largest of these was Prokofiev’s ‘War and Peace’ in 2009, which was nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. This was also a collaboration with the Rachmaninov Conservatoire in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Students have frequent access to Scottish Opera rehearsals, a ‘shadowing’ scheme (primarily observation) and a shared ‘Emerging Artist’ scheme, lasting a full year, which has now run successfully for five years.

Repertoire is very wide ranging. At the core is Mozart, Handel and Britten, but repertoire is chosen around the strengths of the students and its suitability for that purpose so has explored the very early (Monteverdi, Cavalli), mainstream (Rossini, Donizetti, Massenet, Bizet, Puccini,Tchaikovsky), a rich vein of 20 th century repertoire (Prokofiev, Stravinsky,Britten) to contemporary works by Jonathan Dove and Judith Weir and a new commission by Rory Boyle.

Guest directors and conductors come and work frequently – recently Christian Curnyn and David Roblou (Baroque specialists), Guido Rumstadt (from Nuremberg, conducting Nicolai’s Merry Wives) and directors; Olivia Fuchs, Lee Blakeley, William Relton, Ashley Dean, Nicolette Molnar, Harry Fehr and Benjamin Davies.

There are many opportunities to participate in masterclasses. Guest teachers have recently included: Dame Gwyneth Jones, Dame Felicity Lott, Patricia MacMahon, Sir Thomas Allen, John Treleaven, Malcolm Martineau, Rosalind Plowright, Barbara Bonney, Roderick Williams, Jane Eaglen and Christine Brewer. Several of these are regular visitors, and not only work in the ‘traditional’ masterclass format, but also work in private, closed sessions without the pressure and distraction of the public gaze.

Staff and masterclasses

Head of Vocal Performance: Professor Stephen Robertson MA (Oxon) FRCO LRAM ARCM

Head of Opera: Philip White

Consultant Visiting Artist in Vocal Performance

Lisa Milne MBE

Coaches

Julia Lynch BA CPGS

Michael Bawtree MA, MMus, FRCO

Jacco Lamfers

Ingrid Sawers ARCM, MA

Visiting Coaches – Fiona MacSherry, Duncan Williams, Patricia McMahon

Accompanist – Repertoire Coach
Julia Lynch BA CPGS
Acting
Mark Hathaway

Physical Performance
Rosina Bonsu

Alexander Technique
Isobel Anderson

Language Coaches

French
Professor Christopher Underwood

Italian
Patricia Hay DRSAMD, Patrizia Dina (guest coach)

German
Helen Lawson, Julia Lynch BA CPGS

Language Tutors
Dr Gabi Maas D.Phil (Oxon) (French)

Dr Ralph Strehle (German)

Svetlana Zvereva (Russian)

Dr Elisabetta Toreno (Italian)

Masterclasses

All students can attend and take part in masterclasses as appropriate. Masterclass guests have recently included Dame Gwyneth Jones, Dame Felicity Lott, Patricia MacMahon, Sir Thomas Allen, John Treleaven, Malcolm Martineau, Rosalind Plowright, Barbara Bonney, Roderick Williams, Jane Eaglen and Christine Brewer. Many of these not only give the oft-encountered three hour public format but also give coaching sessions and teaching in closed situations where students can really feel that they can risk trying a new challenge. Many of our masterclass givers return more than once to further pursue the work which they have previously begun.

Audition requirements

The audition and interview

Before your audition, you will have 15 minutes (or more dependent on your Principal Study) to warm-up on your instrument. RCS is not able to offer additional practice facilities before the allocated warm-up time, because the building is in full use by current students or by other audition candidates.

Through the audition, applicants will be required to demonstrate:

  • a high degree of technical competency on the instrument or voice in the service of specific repertoire
  • an ability to demonstrate a considerable degree of understanding of the repertoire performed
  • an ability to perform specific repertoire convincingly
  • a considerable degree of self-confidence and creativity with respect to the repertoire performed
  • a degree of self-sufficiency, initiative and independence in selecting, preparing and performing a particular programme
  • a developing musical personality

The interview will assess the candidate’s suitability for the programme in terms of knowledge, experience and commitment.

Accompanists

Instrumentalists (excluding piano, guitar, jazz, Scottish music and percussion and timpani) and vocalists will be automatically allocated an official RCS accompanist to play for them at their audition (unless RCS is notified that the applicant intends to use his/her own). Applicants will be given time with the accompanist prior to their audition in order to run through their programme. RCS does not require advance notice of your audition programme.

Opera

Please note that Opera auditions may take place over two rounds. Following the first audition, you will be notified if you have been sent to the second round (first and second rounds are on the same day). The audition requirement is:

  • The performance of a programme of three contrasting operatic arias in at least two languages, one of which should be by Mozart, Gluck or Handel.

Repetiteurship

Entrance requirements

In addition to the general entry requirements, candidates will preferably already have:

  • some repetiteur experience at professional or near-professional level
  • broad knowledge (and performance experience) of mainstream operatic repertoire, from performance and listening
  • the ability to work encouragingly and effectively with others, including as part of a larger team

Experience of working in the context of operatic and/or musical theatre, and a knowledge of the main operatic languages (French, Italian, German) is desirable.

Audition

Applicants will be required to perform a solo piano work of their own choice (five minutes), and two operatic scenes of their own choice, one of which should be from a Mozart opera, and the other from a 19th or 20th century score. The scenes should be for a minimum of two characters/voices (i.e. not just arias), the Mozart scene should contain some secco recitative and applicants should be prepared to play and sing from the vocal score, preferably in the original language.

Applicants are also required to play a set operatic excerpt (notified to them two to three week weeks in advance) and to play at sight from both vocal and orchestral scores.

 

All decisions will be posted on UCAS Conservatoires following your audition via UCAS Conservatoires Track, (you will need your username and password). You will also receive notification from UCAS Conservatoires when decisions on all your choices are available.

How to apply

Before applying we recommend that you follow our Applicant Guide journey which provides all the essential information regarding entry requirements, and the full application and audition process.

Begin your Applicant Journey here.

Making your application

Applications for the MMus/MA programme should be made through the UCAS Conservatoires website. There is a UCAS application fee of £25 (which is in addition to the audition fee) which allows you up to six choices of programme of study.

Why choose us?

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is third in the world for performing arts education.

  • We have a close relationship with Scottish Opera, with students participating in workshops and collaborative projects; many graduates have professed to join Scottish Opera’s prestigious Emerging Artists programme
  • Regular performing and collaborative opportunities across RCS
  • Busy masterclass schedule
  • Excellent staff-student ratio
  • Frequent visits from professional companies and agents including Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Bayreuth Festival, Independent Opera, British Youth Opera and the Britten Pears School
  • 100% of postgraduate respondents from the School of Music are in employment or further study (HESA, 15/16)

Entry requirements

  • Normally a good Honours (at least 2.2) degree, or its overseas equivalent, in a subject area relevant to the demands of the programme

Entrance to the Conservatoire is based on talent, potential and ability, therefore consideration will be given to relevant experience which is deemed to compensate for any traditional education. We accept a wide range of qualification, including international qualifications. If you wish to check the suitability of your qualification/experience, please contact admissions@rcs.ac.uk.

English Language

The language of study is English. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. We accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Other equivalent English Language qualifications may be considered, please contact admissions@rcs.ac.uk for more information.

  • IELTS – 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component

Audition Requirements

Audition requirements can be found on our Applicant Guide.

Fees and scholarships

Tuition fees for academic year 2017-18

  • MMus Opera (2 years) UK/EU Students – £8,865
  • MMus Opera (2 years) International (non-EU) – £18,648
  • MA Opera (1 year) UK/EU Students – £12,141
  • MA Opera (1 year) International (non-EU) – £20,910

Scottish/EU students

New Scottish and EU domiciled students may be eligible for a Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan. All eligible students will be able to apply directly to Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for a non-means tested loan of up to £3,400. See the following website for further details of the PSAS scheme:

http://www.saas.gov.uk/full_time/pg/index.htm

Scottish domiciled postgraduate students on eligible courses can also apply for a Postgraduate Living Cost Loan up to £4,500 towards living expenses. This is in addition to the existing loan available towards the cost of their tuition fees.

Scholarships

Any potential student who auditions for a place at the Royal Conservatoire will automatically be considered for a scholarship. They are awarded on a combination of talent, potential and financial need. More information about Scholarships is available here

Sources of external funding

For more information about alternative funding sources, including external scholarships and bursaries, please visit here.

The Conservatoire’s International and Student Experience team are available to advise and assist applicants and current students in respect of queries about funding your studies at the Conservatoire. Please email or telephone +44 (0)141 270 8281/ +44 (0)141 270 8223 for further information.

Graduate destinations

Since the inception of the MMus Opera programme in 1994, students have come from all over the world to study in Glasgow and, of course, many have since have forged international careers and are therefore now to be found singing on the international opera stage. The most common immediate destinations are:

  • Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Programme
  • Opera Studios / Young Artist Programmes in Europe (Strasbourg, Berlin, Zurich, Munich)
  • Equivalent destinations in the UK ie The National Opera Studio/ Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

Graduates and alumni include: Peter Auty, Daniel Ohlmann, Jason Bridges, Elin Pritchard, Rebecca Afonwy Jones, Jung Soo Yun, Elizabeth Atherton, Kevin Greenlaw, Alison Cooke, Madeleine Mulhall, Orlando Mason, Marc Labonnette and Andrew McTaggart

In 2014, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was the only UK Conservatoire to have two graduates on the Jette Parker Programme at the Royal Opera House: Anush Hovannisyan and Michel de Souza.

Graduate Catriona Morison received an Honorary Professorship during our 2017 Graduation and Fellowship Ceremony.

Facilities

The facilities which the department enjoys are excellent. In addition to the expected range of well-equipped teaching studios, singers have the benefit of the Alexander Gibson Opera School – including the Opera Studio space there. The Conservatoire Concert Hall, and the Theatre are used by the vocal department giving students the valuable performance experience. The Ledger Recital Room is used for many classes and competitions. In addition those involved in opera performances in collaboration with Scottish Opera would normally expect to perform in the fully professional theatres of the Theatre Royal (Glasgow) and the Festival Theatre (Edinburgh). In the past year the department has also undertaken performances in Glasgow City Halls (home of the BBCSO) with a commemorative performance of Verdi’s Simone Boccanegra and Stravinksy’s Les Noces. Other venues which have housed opera and concert performances outside the main Conservatoire building include the splendid early Gothic Glasgow Cathedral, St Mary’s Cathedral, Paisley Abbey, and the concert halls in Perth and Aberdeen. Students also have access to expertise amongst staff in Spectrographic Analysis of resonance and vowels, with the ancillary information that can be utilised using Electroglottogram information. These two advanced software-based tools can often make yet clearer what is being studied and understood using excellent traditional methodologies.

Images and videos

Die Fledermaus

 

Agrippina

 

Two French Tragedies