Meet the Students

The Wales International Academy of Voice are proud of the talent of offer within the Academy.

Below is a collection of student profiles for those students who currently study within the Wales International Academy of Voice 

Born in Zurich, the 24-year-old Swiss soprano Annina Gieré started her vocal studies at the Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne with Frédéric Gindraux and continued with Louise Callinan in Paris. She currently studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice with Dennis O'Neill.

An opera and theatre enthusiast since early childhood, she interpreted various roles in Mozart operas, including Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte, Ouverture Opéra, Sion), Arminda (La finta giardiniera, Opernverein Zürich) and Cinna (Lucio Silla, Zürich), as well as the lead roles in Boieldieu's La dame blanche (Free Opera Company Zürich) and in Smetana's Two widows (Operella, Meilen). Annina has gained considerable experience on the theatre stage, both in French and German plays, where she acted Roxane in Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, the lead role in Giraudoux' La folle de Chaillot, and Eriphile in Racine's Iphigénie. She has also interpreted the monologue Das Kunstseidene Mädchen by Keun. She further participated in Commedia-dell-Arte-Training with Antonio Fava in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Annina Gieré has attended masterclasses with Helmuth Deutsch, Nadine Denize, Luisa Castellani, Stuart Patterson, Lina Maria Åkerlund, and Janet Perry.

Armenian bass-baritone Arshak Kuzikyan is currently studying with Dennis O'Neill at the Wales International Academy of Voice. He graduated from the Alexander Gibson Opera School at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2015 under the tutelage of Scott Johnson, having previously graduated from the Yerevan State Conservatory in 2005. Arshak was awarded the Independent Opera Prize in his final year at the Royal Conservatoire and was generously supported by The Hamilton Duval Music Scholarship.

Arshak's roles include Dulcamara, L'elisir d'amore (International Opera Studio Gijon, Spain), Colline, La Boheme (International Opera Studio Gijon, Spain), Sir. John Falstaff, Sir John in love (RCS), Leporello, Don Giovanni (Armenian Opera Theatre), Raimondo, Lucia di Lammermoor (Yerevan Opera Studio), Tempo and Nettuno, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (RCS), Publio, La clemenza di Tito, (RCS) Rambaldo, La Rondine (RCS) Figaro, Le nozze di Figaro (Trentino music festival, Italy and RCS).

Arshak’s prizes include first prize at Pvael Lisitian and Tatevik Sazandaryan (Armenian), Russian Song Prize 2013 (RCS), First Prize at Ye Cronies Opera Award 2014 (RCS) and First Prize at Les Azuriales International singing competition (France). He is a scholarship holder from George Solti Academia and had the privilege of working in masterclasses with Dennis O’Neill, Angela Gheorghiu and Richard Bonynge in Italy, 2012. Arshak is also a Samling Artist 2014 where he worked with Sir Thomas Allen and Malcom Martineau.

Bongani Justice was born and raised in Newcastle, a developing town of KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa. In 2010 he enrolled to study his Performers Diploma in Opera at the University of Cape Town, training with baritone Patrick Tikolo and receiving opera coaching from Professor Kamal Khan. He graduated in 2014 with 4 Distinctions and continued with post graduate studies in 2015.

During this time Bongani has developed as a young artist through a number of university productions and collaborations with Cape Town Opera. Roles include Papageno (Magic Flute), simultaneously the roles of Lüther and Crespel (The Tales of Hoffmann) the Commendatore (Don Giovanni), Don Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Lord Sydney (Il Viaggio a Reims), The Puppet Master (Postcard from Morocco) and Dottore Grenvil (La Traviata). His most recent production as part of his postgraduate studies was as Figaro in a UCT production of the Marriage of Figaro. He also has a keen interest in giving back to the community and participated in a prestigious local outreach music programme "Kunstreffers" which toured local schools and communities.

Bongani was chosen to perform with Bryn Terfel during his tour to South Africa in 2014. Also in 2014 he was invited to take part in a short course at Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Programme (YAVA). He has participated in a number of masterclasses and competitions and prizes include winning the Schock Foundation Prize for Singing, the Ian Renner Competition and the Amazwi Omzansi Competition founded by Njabulo Madlala. Most recently he was a finalist of the 2015 Operalia Competition held in London.

In October 2015 Bongani moved to Cardiff to continue his studies with a Master’s Programme in Advanced Vocal Studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the tutorship of Dennis O’ Neill.

Elizabeth Mandeno began her performance training in children’s productions and stagecraft classes at Opera Factory in Auckland. She completed a BMus with First Class Honours and a BA in European languages at Auckland University in 2013. Elizabeth was a was a 2013/2014 Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with NZ Opera, where she understudied roles, performed in nationwide tours and mentored school students in singing. She has also been a soloist with Aventa Ensemble (Canada), New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (understudy), Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Opera Otago, as well as many local choirs, orchestras and chamber groups.  Elizabeth also had the honour of singing Mozart’s Letter Duet with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in 2010 and Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier trio with Dame Felicity Lott in 2015.

Recent roles and works performed include Jane Kendall in Anthony Ritchie’s This Other Eden (world premiere), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Galatea (Acis and Galatea), Pierrot Lunaire (Schoenberg), Papagena/Second Lady (The Magic Flute – Opera in Schools adaptation), Madame Herz (The Impresario), Ulla (Ulla’s Odyssey – world premiere), Carmina Burana (Orff), The Creation (Haydn), Requiem (Mozart), Stabat Mater (Pergolesi).  Excerpts performed include Anne Truelove (The Rake’s Progress), Thérèse/Tirésias (Les mamelles de Tirésias), Zaide (Zaide) and Cunegonde (Candide).

Anglo/Italian mezzo Francesca Saracino is an alumna of Chetham’s School of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire where she graduated with First Class Honours. She is currently studying towards the MA in Advanced Vocal Studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice.

Recent performance highlights include Dido, Dido & Aeneas (Orchestra of St John’s) at St John’s Smith Square, and a series of recitals in Burgundy, France. After an early start as a child in roles such as the Shepherd Boy Tosca (South Coast Opera) alongside Rosalind Plowright in the title role, subsequent opera roles have included 3e Adolescent La cour de Célimène (Wexford Festival Opera), Dorabella Così fan tutte (Pavilion Opera), 1st Wild Goose (cover) Paul Bunyan (British Youth Opera) and Cherubino Figaro! Figaro! Figaro! (Bloomsbury Opera).

Equally at home on the concert platform, concert and oratorio repertoire includes Mozart’s Requiem, Bach Cantata 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Bach’s St John Passion, and concerts at Blenheim Palace and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Francesca has also appeared as a singer for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Hannah trained on English National Opera’s professional development programme Opera Works and holds a BA in Philosophy from The University of Nottingham.

Opera highlights include Anne Page (The Merry Wives of Windsor) for Brent Opera, Belinda (Dido and Aeneas) for Benslow Baroque Opera, Annina (La Traviata) for Chelmsford Opera, Papagena (The Magic Flute) for OpSoc and Bessie Throckmorton (Merrie England) for Chelmsford City Opera. She has also performed the roles of Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Adele (Die Fledermaus) and Lucia (The Rape of Lucretia) in extracts for City Opera.

 As a recitalist Hannah has taken solos in Tippett’s Five Negro Spirituals, Stravinksy’s Mass, Handel’s Messiah, Rutter’s Requiem, Faure’s Requiem and Haydn’s Creation.

Hannah is generously supported by the Belinda Starling Memorial Fund through the Essex Community Foundation.

Korean tenor Ji Hyun Kim studied at Yonsei University and at CNIPAL (Centre national d’insertion professionnelle d’artistes lyriques) in Marseille. He has participated in masterclasses with Jaume Aragall, Renato Bruson, Salvatore Fisichella and Bonaldo Giaotti. Prizes include winning the Young Korean Singers’ Competition, the Nanpa Competition and the Schubert Song Competition in Korea and the Ottavio Ziino, Giulietta Simionato and Toulouse International Singing competitions in Europe.

Opera performances include Tamino DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE, Nemorino L’ELISIR D’AMORE and Don Curzio LE NOZZE DI FIGARO at Yonsei University, Bastien BASTIEN UND BASTIENNE at Sejong Arts Centre in Seoul, Major Domo II DER ROSENKAVALIER at Opéra de Marseille and UN CONTE DE NOËL with CNIPAL at the opera houses of Avignon, Marseille and Toulon. In concert, he has sung with L’Orchestre Régional de Cannes PACA and in recital at the opera houses of Bordeaux, Toulon, Marseille and Avignon as well as at the Musique dans les vignes Cairanne.

He joined the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in September 2010 and made his Royal Opera debut as First Prisoner FIDELIO. Further roles there included cover Nadir LES PÊVHEURS DE PERLES, Poisson ADRIANA LECOUVREUR, Almaviva IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA and Jacquino FIDELIO, Venditore and Amante IL TABARRO, Gastone de Letorières LA TRAVIATA, Helenus LE TROYENS, Roderigo OTELLO, Zefirino IL VIAGGIO A REIMS (JPYAP 10th Anniversary Summer Performance), cover Elvino LA SONNAMBULA, Tonio LA FILLE DU REGIMENT, Fenton FALSTAFF and Iopas/Hylas LES TROYENS for The Royal Opera and Brahms LIEBESLIEDER WALZER in Meet the Young Artists Week in the Linbury Studio theatre.

American soprano Julia Hamon is currently studying with Tenor Dennis O’Neill and vocal coach Jane Samuel at the Wales International Academy of Voice, Cardiff. Julia recently received her Master of Performance degree from the Royal College of Music, London under the tutelage of Tenor Tim Evans-Jones. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Texas,  Austin, where she studied under Metropolitan Opera tenor William Lewis. During her studies in Texas she performed the leading role of Orontea in Antonio Cesti’s Orontea, Belinda in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and Gianetta in Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore. Miss Hamon has spent her summers at the Cratoule Summer School, Austrian American Vocal Academy, Franco American Vocal Academy, and University of Illinois’s Scuola Italia summer programs, where she intensely studied and performed the roles of Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Eurydice in Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers, Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Zdenka in Strauss’s Arabella and Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust. She has also had the pleasure to participate in masterclasses with Roger Vignoles, Teresa Zylis-Gara, Isabelle Aboulker, and William Matteuzzi

Louise, originally from Dorset, studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice with Dennis O’Neill and Jane Samuel. Previously she studied at Birmingham Conservatoire with Christine Cairns winning prizes for Oratorio, English Song, Lieder, Opera, Academic Achievement and Recitals.

Opera credits include Amore in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Papagena in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Adina in scenes from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, all with Birmingham Conservatoire, Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen for Oxford International Links, Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas for Operamus, Soprano Solo 4 in Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht, Giannetta in The Elixir of Love by Donizetti with Midland Opera and Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Moon-Little Theatre. She also sang for the theatre piece, Trauerzeit, with Belgian actor Johan Leysen and composer Dominique Pauwels.

Solo engagements have included Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s C Minor Mass and Exsultate Jubilate, Haydn’s Creation and Nelson Mass and a cycle of Bach Cantatas in liturgy at St Michael at the North Gate, Oxford. She was a finalist in the 2012 Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards and a semi-finalist in both the London Mozart and Bach Singing Competitions in 2013 and the 2014 Dean and Chadlington Competition.

Maria Gulik was born in 1983 in Kargopol Arhangelsk, a province of Russia. After studying at the Academy of Arts Theatre between 2002 and 2007, she devoted herself to singing with Galina Vishnevskaya at the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre.

Since 2007, Maria has worked as an actress in Russia and  at the Edinburgh International Festival. In 2012, she participated in "Midsummer Night's Dream (as you like it)" for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the International Chekhov Festival (in association with  The Laboratory of Dmitriy Krymov) which was awarded the Grand Prize at the Edinburgh International Festival. Maris has also performed the lead role of "In Paris", produced by Baryshnikov Arts Centre (in association with The Laboratory of Dmitriy Krymov).

In 2013, at the Wissembourgh Musical Festival in France, Maria performed the song cycle ‘Five Songs based on poetry by Lesya Ukrainka’ which were written for Maria by the composer Mariyana Lysenko. In 2014, at the same festival, Maria sang Wagner's song cycle ‘Wesndonck Lieder’ as well as Musorgskiy’s song cycle ‘Songs and Dances of Death’.

In 2014, Marie made her debut on the stage of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre performing the part of Venus in Wagner's ‘Tannhäuser’.

Maria Gulik has also appeared in:

  • "The Tsar's Bride", Rimsky-Korsakov (Lyubasha)
  • "Eugene Onegin," Tchaikovsky (Olga, Nyanya)
  • "Boris Godunov", Mussorgsky (Shinkarka)
  • "Rigoletto" Verdi (Maddalena)
  • "The Rape of Lucretia," Benjamin Britten (Lucretia)
  • "Sweeney Todd" (Mrs. Lovett)
  • "Moskva Cheriomushky" Dmitry Shostakovich (Vava)

Matthew Reardon is a Tenor from Sydney, Australia. He was a Dame Nellie Melba Opera scholar and a graduate from Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Matthew made his professional solo operatic debut as Young Man 1 in Pecan Summer, the first Indigenous opera composed by Yorta Yorta soprano Deborah Cheetham. Matthew was also a member of West Australian Opera and Opera Australia Chorus.

Most recently Matthew won a full scholarship to study at the American Institute of Musical studies(AIMS) in Graz, Austria and performed many successful concerts with the AIMS orchestra.

Matthew has also enjoyed success in a number of singing competitions; a finalist in the 2015 McDonalds Aria Competition – Sydney Australia, the audience prize at the Australian - German Wiesbaden Award, and was a finalist in the Richard Bonynge and Joan Sutherland Bel Canto award.

Matthew’s most recent opera performances include a regional tour of Australia performing the role of Ferrando in Mozart’s, Cosi fan tutte with Co- Opera. And Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème.

Australian soprano Rhian Saunders graduated from The Australian Institute of Music with a BMus in classical performance in 2015, and continues on to complete her Masters at the Wales International Academy of Voice 2015/16 under the tutelage of Dennis O’Neill. 

During 2014 Rhian travelled with two colleagues on a concert tour of Armenia, singing works by Komitas and Mansouryan, and was a semi-finalist for the Young Virtuoso Award with 2MBS Fine Music radio.  Rhian received the BBM Music and Travel Scholarship for 2013/14, the Joan Sutherland Memorial Scholarship Award and the Farleigh Vocal Scholarship, the Penrith City Aria, and received a ‘MO’ Award for ‘New Talent’. 

Opera roles include Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro (Pacific Opera), Liza in The Queen of Spades (Opera Coast), Dido in Dido and Aeneas (National Youth Opera), and 1st Lady in The Magic Flute (National Youth Opera), and Queen of the Night, The Magic Flute (AIM).  Other soloist performances include the World Masters Ball, and the closing of the World Masters Games, The Sydney Royal Easter Show, Darling Harbour Australia Day Spectacular, the Duke of Edinburgh Youth Talent Concert, and performances with the Sydney Welsh Choir. 

British Mezzo Soprano Ellie Edmonds trained at Chethams School of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire with Christine Cairns, where she won numerous prizes and awards. Ellie is currently working towards a Master’s degree at WIAV where she is a student of Dennis O'Niell.

Recent Operatic roles include Una Novizia Puccini’s Il Trittico Opera Holland Park (debut), 2nd witch Purcell's Dido & Aeneas Ad Parnassum, Olga Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and The old prioress Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites (Birmingham Conservatoire).Concert highlights include Tippet’s A Child of our Time (Dartington 2014), Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder (Bham Conservatoire) and Handel’s The Messiah (OSJ).

Ellie is looking forward to performing the role of Victorian in Opera Holland Park's 'Alice's Adventures in wonderland' to be performed at the Royal Opera House in November.

British born New Zealand tenor, Frederick Jones is currently studying for a Master of Arts in Advanced Vocal Studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice with internationally renowned tenor, Dennis O’Neill. His study in Wales is generously supported by the New Zealand Opera Foundation and the John and Margaret Hunn trust.

He began his vocal studies at Te Kōkī, The New Zealand School of Music in 2010 under tutelage of NZ tenor Richard Greager, gaining a BMus in 2012, followed by a Postgraduate Diploma in operatic performance (Distinction) in 2013.

His most recent engagements were in Day’s Bay Opera’s production of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier; The New Zealand Festival’s production of Golijov’s Ainadamar, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and The New Zealand School of Music’s 2013 production of Verdi’s Il corsaro. Other recent performances have been The Garden Opera Company’s The Zoo and Trial by Jury in 2011; The New Zealand School of Music’s 2011 season of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Candide with Orchestra Wellington in 2012; and the NZCF’s 2013 concert performance of Carmen.

Pembrokeshire born Georgina graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with a First Class Honours degree in Vocal and Operatic Studies in 2011. She studied with Margaret Field, Julian Pike and Louise Crane. She is currently studying with Dennis O’Neill at Wales International Academy of Voice in Cardiff.

Recent operatic roles include Barbarina and First Bridesmaid in Swansea City Opera’s touring production of The Marriage of Figaro and Peep-Bo in Co-Opera-Co's touring production of The Mikado. Georgina will be joining the Chorus at Buxton Opera Festival 2015 summer season and sang numerous roles of their production of Louise by Charpentier.

Georgina made her international debut at the Fondazione Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte in Montepulciano, Tuscany, singing Emmie in Britten’s Albert Herring directed by Keith Warner and has since returned to sing Echo in Strauss’ Ariadne Auf Naxos, directed by Tilman Knabe, and Amore in Gluck’s Orfeo e Euridice, directed by Stefano Simone Pintor. In the World Premiere of David Blake’s Scoring a Century, directed by Keith Warner, Georgina sang Woman 2 and Show Girl.

Georgina has also appeared as a soloist in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard II with David Tennant at the Barbican, London. She has worked with internationally renowned conductors including Roland Böer, Stephen Barlow, Lionel Friend and Richard Hickox.

Eleanor Hemmens, soprano, read English Literature at King’s College London. She went on to pursue voice, and trained on the English National Opera ‘Opera Works’ programme, with whom she performed at Sadler’s Wells in the Lilian Baylis Studio, the National Portrait Gallery and Banqueting House. Operatic roles include Serpina La Serva Padrona (Wilton’s Music Hall), Anna Reich Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Weimar Lyric Opera), Adele Die Fledermaus (Somerset Opera), Patron The Daisy Chain (Tête à Tête), Frasquita Carmen (Guildford Opera), Belinda Dido & Aeneas (King’s Opera). As an oratorio soloist, Eleanor has performed at venues such as St-Martin-in-the-Fields for the Brandenburg Festival, St David’s Cathedral, Romsey Abbey and Southwark Cathedral. A keen recitalist, she has recently given recitals in London and Hampshire. Eleanor has an interest in contemporary music, and has had several pieces written for her. She is delighted to be continuing her studies with Dennis O’Neill at the Wales International Academy of Voice. For further information please visit

Hannah Macaulay is a full lyric soprano, hailing from Solihull. Hannah Studied at the Dublin Institute of Technology Conservatory of Music and Drama (DIT) where she completed a Bachelors and Masters of Music, under Colette McGahon-Tosh. Whilst in Dublin, Hannah was a chorus member of Opera Ireland, performing in Madama Butterfly, Macbeth, and Tosca; she also performed in the chorus with Lyric Opera in Don Giovanni, and Madama Butterfly in which she sang the role of ‘cousin’.

Whilst at the DIT, Hannah’s opera roles included Diana in Orpheus in the Underworld, Musetta in La Bohème (scenes), Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus (scenes) and Fiordiligi in  Cosi fan tutte (scenes). Following this, Hannah performed as soloist at the Irish Presidential Residence Aras an Uachtarain, and later at the Salon K Smuut Selskabslokale København in Copenhagen. Hannah was also a member of the Co-Opera Co. 2013 Programme in the UK.

Now residing in Cardiff, Hannah is studying with Dennis O’Neill at the Wales International Academy of Voice. Recent performances have included classical concerts around Cardiff centre and also oratorio Haydn’s ‘Nelson Mass’ in Surrey.

Llyr hails from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. He graduated from a 4-year undergraduate BMus course at The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama focusing on classical piano under the tutelage of Fazliddin Husanov. He performed as a soloist numerous times - his crowning achievement performing as a finalist in the College's Concerto Competition where he performed Prokofiev's virtuosic Third Piano Concerto. 

In the 2008 National Eisteddfod of Wales he won 1st prize in the 16-25 piano competition. He was also invited to perform a recital at St. Martin's In The Fields, Trafalgar Square, due to his achievements at the North London Piano School summer course which he attended every year. Here he received intensive coaching from renowned international piano teachers and concert pianists, including Boris Berman and Stephen Hough. 

Currently, Llyr is a piano teacher and freelance pianist specialising in vocal/operatic and choral accompaniment. He works extensively for Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra and Choir of Wales and performs regularly with solo singers. He has had the privilege of working with singers such as Bryn Terfel, Shân Cothi, Nuccia Focile, Dennis O'Neill, Connie Fisher and Peter Karrie. He is the accompanist for Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Youth Choir and has recently been appointed co-accompanist to the renowned Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir. As of September 2014, Llyr is a post-graduate student at Dennis O'Neill's Wales International Academy of Voice in Cardiff.

Raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, Cheuky Chan was a NZ Opera’s Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist in 2013. She completed a Master of Music with distinction (2006), a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature (2008), and a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning (2011) at the University of Canterbury, as well as Postgraduate Studies in Piano at Hochschule für Musik Franz Liszt Weimar, Germany (2008). She was the recipient of the University of Canterbury’s Masters Scholarship in 2005 and the Leslie Atkinson Memorial Prize in Music (2003). She has performed alongside Dame Malvina Major in numerous DMMF fundraising galas, and with Plácido Domingo & Katherine Jenkins, in “A Night to Remember - Charity Concert” for the Christchurch Earthquake. In 2015 she was a faculty accompanist for the IFAC Handa New Zealand Singing School. Cheuky has performed at the NZ Embassy in Berlin, as well as in numerous concerts as part of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the International Akaroa Music Festival, and NZ Opera.