wiav graduates

Louise Wayman | Soprano (England)

I really enjoyed my time at WIAV because it gave me the freedom to develop as an artist without the constraint of a typical conservatoire style course. The focus on the individual through coaching, masterclasses and singing lessons means that I feel I progressed technically more in a year than I would have done in 3 years of music college and opera course. The networking opportunities are fantastic and the coaches and visiting masters are world class, mostly down to Dennis's tireless work liaising with colleagues and contacts through the industry. I joked, as I left, that perhaps my results could be changed to a fail so I could do another year! 

Since graduating I have sung with Wexford Festival Chorus, the Chorus of Opera North, Manchester Opera Ensemble, the Art of Change and lots of smaller solo projects. It is wonderful to move through the world often meeting fellow WIAV graduates and knowing we all support each other, like a helpful alumni club.

Ryan Ross |Baritone (USA)

My time at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the unparalleled tutorage of Maestro Dennis ONeill was the pinnacle of my operatic and vocal education. I was aware of the extraordinary school in Wales while studying as a Cole Scholar at California State University and it became my goal to gain entrance to this once in a lifetime and unique finishing school. I was one of 20 vocal students from around the world to benefit from regular one on one lessons, coachings, masterclasses, and advanced vocal technique training. These carefully planned academic offerings were overseen by luminaries in the operatic world such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Richard Bonynge, Dame Josephine Barstow, Susan Bullock, among many others. The opportunity to work directly with conductors, language experts, and of course- working under Maestro O’Neill(with his unparalleled knowledge of the voice) prepared me for the highly competitive world of opera.

A further beneficial aspect of the academy is the familiar environment which WIAV nurtured. My fellow students and staff all worked intensively toward improving our technique but we all supported one another and I count both staff and fellow graduates among my close friends and work colleagues. One fellow student became my future wife!

Since graduating from WIAV, I have had the opportunity to sing internationally and share the stage with such Operatic legends as Sir Simon Keenlyside, Sir Bryn Terfel, Joseph Caleja, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa among many many other superior singers. I have just finished my first commercial recording as well. 

Without this unique tutelage, I likely would not have gained the necessary vocal technique necessary for this career! I owe WIAV immensely. 

Kudriasovas Romanas |Baritone (Lithuania)

I have spent one fantastic year at WIAV,  and have the fondest memories of my time there. Coming from abroad, I have not had the image of what to expect. And what I found at the academy was world class teachers and coaches, led by Dennis O'Neill, caring staff and, a group of like-minded students, ready to immerse into the world of opera singing. I have been incredibly lucky to have studied at WIAV. The nourishing and safe environment of the academy is a very rare thing to find, yet crucial for the development of a singer. Especially when behind it you have world-class singers and coaches giving you their best tutoring. I have not only developed my singing and performance technique while studying at WIAV, I have also learned to believe in myself and strive for the best. I cherish the memories from my time at WIAV and thank Dennis O'Neill, Nuccia Focile and Jane Samuel from all my heart for teaching me and for believing in me.

Directly after my year at WIAV I have earned a place at the National Opera Studio in London, where I trained for a year. During and after my training I have performed at the Welsh National Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, I have toured Italy, Germany and Oman. In my home country of Lithuania I have performed with the Lithuanian Baroque opera, and this season I will debut with Vilnius City Opera. At the moment I am rehearsing two roles and a cover role at Glyndebourne Tour.

Fleur de Bray | Soprano(England)

My time studying with Dennis O'Neill at the Wales International Academy of Voice was absolutely beneficial to my progress as a singer.  Dennis's technical mastery of the voice and his wonderfully patient yet nurturing teaching style is a real gift for every student.  The voice academy gives singers the most valuable opportunity to focus on singing technique while allowing time to expand on repertoire suited to each individual voice. 

I am proud to recommend WIAV and Dennis's teaching to every singer I meet and will continue to do so.

Performing-wise I have just finished singing the role of Norina in a production of Don Pasquale on the Isle of Man and previous to this, I sang the role of Katherina Cavalieri in Amadeus at the National Theatre, London. 

Maria Gulik | Mezzo Soprano  (Russia) 

I was studying in the Wales International Academy of Voice in 2015-2016. I came from Russia and it was my first International education. I find myself extremely lucky because I met Dennis O'Neill, who invited me to the Academy and became my vocal coach.

At the end of the first year, I made my debut on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall in Verdi's Requiem, later I performed Ulrica's part in Verdi's opera Un Ballo in Maschera in the UK festival. This year I made my debut as Azucena's in Il Trovatore by Verdi in Belgium. All those parts I prepared during my study at the Academy. Azucena was my exam role. And I am very grateful for all the knowledge I got from conductors, vocal coaches and language coaches during my academic year in Cardiff.

During my studies at the Academy, I am not only strengthened vocally, but I learned how to prepare a role. Analysis of the role, correct pronunciation, work with the musical material. All that I learned from wonderful professionals who are working in the Academy. Each of them a highly professional and very talented person. I will always grateful for their work with me. My colleagues are always interested in where I had studied. And I am proud to say that I was studying in the Wales International Academy of Voice. And what is more interesting, very often, on the productions I meet the other students from the academy, from the other years. We are always feeling like a part of the big family! Even if we didn't know each other before, we going to be closed immediately.

It's a wonderful feeling to be a part of that talented family. I am very happy to be able to come to the academy when I feel that I need help. And I know that I'll be able to take lessons, to use a library resource (which is huge!!), to speak with my teachers, to feel myself like at home and then, full of energy, continue my work in an opera world.

Gabriella Cassidy | Soprano, Jersey 

I’m ever grateful to the Wales International Academy of Voice lead by Dennis O’Neill for giving me the tools to prepare me for a career in opera. The one to one nature of the MA in advanced Vocal Studies meant that I was able to tailor the course to my needs and study with world-class singers and tutors in an encouraging and nurturing environment much like a young artist programme. Dennis O’Neill, as well as being an expert in his field, is a generous and patient teacher and he has quite simply changed my life. The training I received at WIAV transformed my singing and since graduating I have performed principal roles at English National Opera, Music Theatre Wales and Garsington Opera (where I received the Leonard Ingrams Award for Emerging Artists), and BBC Radio 3 broadcasts as well as studio recordings as a soloist with BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Future engagements include debuts at English Touring Opera, Longborough Festival Opera and the Royal Albert Hall. I owe all my successes to Dennis and the Wales International Academy of Voice and I will always treasure my memories of studying there. 

Jassy Husk | Soprano, Australia 

I absolutely loved my time at WIAV. It is incredibly rare that, during one’s professional life, an opportunity to work so intensively on your skill-set, with the best coaches and teachers in the country, comes along. WIAV provided this for me. I was able to take the time to learn new skills in the presentation of myself and my repertoire,  and learn a completely new style - Bel canto - at the same time.

I had the opportunity to have a practice room and all the hours in the day to practice and I cherished this. It was a gift.

Francesca Saraceno | Mezzo Soprano, British/Italian

The Master's course at WIAV is a wonderful opportunity for any singer pursuing a professional career in opera. The wealth of knowledge Dennis O’Neill brings to his teaching is invaluable, drawing on his experiences following a long and distinguished international career. Regular coaching with Nuccia Focile and Jane Robinson also gave me the chance to develop as a singer and as a performer, as did masterclasses with some of the best in the business. The course provides so many performance opportunities, from recitals to opera galas - for me, our Academy concert at the Wales Millennium Centre was a particular highlight. I am now a full-time chorister at Welsh National Opera, and am privileged to call the WMC my place of work. The support and encouragement I was given during my time at WIAV is a testament to the nurturing place it is. From the office staff to the visiting tutors and coaches, the aim is to help young singers thrive in a friendly, creative environment.

Arshak Kuzikyan | Baritone, Ukraine 

I completed my M.Mus at RCS Glasgow which trained me how to sing and control my voice and expression, and this was expanded by WIAV, where I was able to refine my vocal technique and to reach a level where I felt I was able to start my professional career- but a very important new element was the instruction in how to handle my career as a singer which covers the approach to, auditions, preparation of roles, choosing the right repertoire to represent myself &c. It was a great privilege to be under the permanent direction of an internationally acclaimed opera singer. This took place in a particularly happy and friendly atmosphere and the help I received from Dennis in individual coaching and discussion has been a revelation for me. The fact that Dennis O’Neill has so many friends in the operatic world who are famous singers and conductors who were willing to share their expertise either in master classes or on a more individual basis was something wonderful for me and gave me a new confidence in my approach to almost every aspect of my career; and also I have to thank my time at WIAV for the fact that I was granted the Exceptional talent visa which allows me to continue my career in the United Kingdom. Currently, I am mostly working in the UK, my recent engagements include the role of the Duke in Romeo and Juliette with Grange Park Opera, the role of Masetto in Don Giovanni in Florence with New Generation Festival and the next engagement is covering the role of Macbeth with English touring opera.

Waka Yoshida | Soprano (Japan)

I yearn whenever l look back on my memories of Weals and WIAV...

I had valuable experience at WIAV, for example, some music sessions with great coaches. They taught me singing technique, music and behaviour as a singer.

We had 2 vocal lessons under Dennis O'Neill and Nuccia Focile in a week. It was very important for me because my aim was to get certain vocal technique. I often sang O mio babbino caro when I was student. So whenever I sing this aria I remember these days...

Sometimes we had some concerts. They were very precious experience. 

I really appreciate to you. Thank you very much, I was able to become confident.

Ellie Edmonds | Mezzo Soprano

I came to WIAV aged 23. I was at the time in the fortunate position of being overwhelmed with work and exciting opportunities, however, felt lost and well out of my depth- particularly when it came to vocal technique. Dennis O’Neill was the man to see and I was very fortunate to study with him for 2 years in Cardiff.

Overall, I had a varied time at WIAV and experienced a whole range of mixed emotions over the 2 years.

Being a part-timer was great as it meant I could still keep up some work commitments in London and had time to make auditions on my days off.

Lessons with Dennis were the best thing about WIAV. I love that he taught all of us and we could watch each other learn through his open door policy. He fixed my passagio and I went from barely singing G’s to belting out C#’s! And I’m a mezzo!! He was very passionate and did his best to keep us all as a close group. I loved listening to his stories and he was always very real about the industry. He’s a true inspiration.

I enjoyed the performance opportunities and it kept us on our toes to always have an area ready. The gala at the wales millennium centre was particularly special. I feel so lucky to have sung there. 

After Wiav I jumped straight into a contract for a role with  Opera Holland Park. I spent the following August writing lots of applications and doing lots of auditions. Since then I have worked with Birmingham Opera Company in both a role and as a chorus Mentor.  The Royal Opera House, Graeae Theatre Company and returned to  Opera Holland Park. I also went to Berlin where I had been selected to be part of Berlin Opera Academy 2018. I performed the role of Ottavia in their production of Poppea. 

I am now back in London enjoying a bit of teaching and outreach work and am getting ready for the next audition season. I hope to move abroad in the next couple of years in hope of a permanent contract.

An essential part of my technique puzzle was found with Dennis. My voice is clearer. I managed to brave singing to some famous people- some of them complete dragons! And some complete legends too.  I was put down and sometimes felt completely crushed-but only to get back up again! I get to do what I love every day- I feel completely blessed. Thank you, Dennis, for having faith in me.

Nela Saric | Soprano (Croatia)

Being a part of this incredible programme has been a huge honour and it gave me the possibility to grow as a professional singer and as a young person.

The atmosphere was always very positive, motivating and warm.

At the moment, I am covering Violetta in La Traviata at Welsh National Opera, where I would not be without WIAV. I have made an incredible improvement while being there, working with all these amazing voice teachers, vocal coaches, language coaches, conductors, etc.

Mr Dennis O'Neill will always have a special place in my heart for inviting me, teaching me and giving me a fantastic opportunity to start a great career.

I have learned so much from him, not only about vocal technique and interpretation. I have learned much more; how to be a real Musician. That is the most valuable thing I will remember always.

Mr O'Neill has made a worldwide known school based on strong roots of remarkable vocal knowledge and collected a team of top-ranked musicians around himself. In combination with Ms Nuccia Focile, who is a part of WIAV team, they gave us a precious career start and strength to be as best as we can! 

Sian Cameron | Mezzo Soprano (Wales)

I look back on my time at WIAV very fondly. I was overwhelmingly excited to be offered a place on such a prestigious, world-renowned course and received tuition that would not have been available to me anywhere else. Dennis O’Neill’s care and nurturing of his students is like none other and I learnt so much from him during my time at WIAV, particularly with regard to vocal technique. I had studied singing for a long time before attending this course, but finally, I felt like I had a teacher who could answer all my questions and I could, at last, begin to understand some very important elements of technique that had eluded me this far. This expert tuition has enabled me to continue my singing career and also pass on a few things that I learned to others.

Aside from Dennis’ teaching I particularly enjoyed working with Nuccia Focile and all the wonderful language coaches that we were lucky enough to work with during our time there. In addition to this I loved collaborating with the student pianists that were there at the time and also taking part in the gala concert at Wales Millennium Centre. What an amazing experience to sing a duet with the orchestra in such a venue and sing in a concert in which Dennis and Kiri Te Kanawa also sang.

Since leaving WIAV my roles have included Dorabella for Dubrovnik Summer Opera, Zweite Dame for La Fabrique Opera, Val de Loire, Sesto for Teatru Manoel, Malta, Zerlina for Head First Productions in London, Sesto (cover) for Bury Court Opera, England and Cherubino for Kilden theatre, Kristiansand in Norway.  I also work as a vocal animateur for Welsh National Opera; leading school workshops and acting as vocal coach for Welsh National Youth Opera.