The Wexford Factory

14 singers, in a new Wexford academy, with guest

tutors including world-renowned tenor Juan Diego Flórez

As part of Wexford Festival Opera’s reimagined Festival 2020


Wexford Factory video:

Earlier this summer Wexford Festival Opera, had to take the difficult decision to reschedule the previously announced artistic programme to October 2021.  This is due to the ongoing worldwide uncertainty regarding the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions into the autumn, and in the best interests of the health and welfare of the Festival’s audiences, artists, staff, and volunteers.

However, the spirit which enabled a small provincial town to create a world-renowned opera festival continues to this day, inspiring Wexford, with the support and guidance of its board of directors, to develop a crisis-inspired formula by presenting a reimagined, online, free-to-view Festival.

Waiting for Shakespeare …The Festival in the air’ is an online celebration of music which will still encompass many of the artistic ambitions already set out by Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi earlier in the year, principally to nurture the talents of the best young Irish singers through the mentorship of world-renowned artists who share a love of Wexford. This reimagined Festival aims to bring together audiences and the wider worldwide Wexford community through the power of music.

The Festival will now run for eight consecutive days, from Sunday, 11 October until Sunday, 18 October 2020. During this time, audiences from home and abroad will be invited to experience the magic of Wexford Festival Opera online and free-to-view, from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Further details of where and how to join in will be announced shortly.

The inaugural Wexford Factory, a professional development academy for young Irish/Irish-based singers has been retained as a key part of this year’s reimagined Festival. Participants will be tutored by some of the most celebrated professionals in opera today, including world-renowned tenor Juan Diego Flórez, Irish soprano Celine Byrne, as well as Ernesto Palacio of the Rossini Opera Festival and Dmitry Vdovin, head of the Bolshoi Young Artists Opera Programme. Veteran Wexford Festival Opera director Roberto Recchia, classical music journalist Michael Dervan, movement specialist Sara Catellani and Rosetta Cucchi will also provide professional instruction.

A highlight of this year’s Festival will be the Falstaff Chronicles, a series of scenes from the Verdi opera, Falstaff, which will be performed by the members of the new Wexford Factory from the stage of the National Opera House and streamed in an episodic format over six consecutive days.

Speaking of her reasons for developing the Wexford Factory, Rosetta Cucchi said, “The best memories of my life are associated with the academies I attended in my youth. That is where I learned the true meaning of professionalism and how I could continue to challenge myself as an artist. This is the reason I decided to establish the Wexford Factory.  It is the duty of every highly regarded international festival such as Wexford to give a new generation of singers the opportunity to grow; giving them wings to fly in their careers.”

The Wexford Factory is in collaboration with TUD (Technological University Dublin), RIAM (Royal Irish Academy of Music) and in keeping with the International profile and reach of Wexford Festival Opera, a partnership with the Bolshoi Young Artists Opera Programme, Moscow, the Rossini Opera Festival Academy, Pesaro, and Opera for Peace has also been established.

In addition to the thirteen Irish/Irish-based singers it had been arranged that Dmitry Cheblykov a young singer from the Bolshoi Young Artists Opera Programme, Moscow, would join this new initiative. Unfortunately Dmitry is now unable to travel to Ireland but we are delighted to welcome in his place Gianni Giuga from the Rossini Opera Festival Young Artist Programme.

The fourteen singers are:

Anna BradyAva DoddRory DunneAndrew GavinFrancesca FedericoDavid HowesKathleen NorchiConall William O’NeillJade PhoenixSarah RichmondSarah ShineVladimir-Mihai Sima Conor Prendiville and Gianni Giuga

Find out a little more about them below.  Click on the link on their name to see a short video introducing them.

Wexford Festival Opera runs from 11th October to 18th October 2020.

Find out more at

Wexford Factory participants:


Dublin mezzo-soprano Anna Brady received her BA in Performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music in 2011 before studying for her Masters in Vocal Studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which she recently completed. She is a 2012/13 alumni of the Young Associate Artist Programme with Opera Theatre Company, now amalgamated with Irish National Opera. Her performing experience includes Annina in ‘La traviata’ with Fife Opera, Margot-Froufrou in ‘The Merry Widow’ with Opera Bohemia and Daisy in ‘The Next Station is Green Park’ with Opera Eos among others. Anna will sing the role of Arnalta in ‘L’Incoronazione di Poppea’ in the upcoming production at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS).



Originally from Wicklow, soprano Ava Dodd is in her fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Music Performance (vocal studies) in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, under the tutelage of Professor Mary Brennan and Dr. Dearbhla Collins. She was offered a place and scholarship to complete a Masters degree in The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, The Royal Academy of Music and The Royal College of Music in London and will begin her Masters in the Royal College of Music under the tutelage of Professor Janis Kelly in September 2020. Ava received first prize at the Festival of Voice competition with Northern Ireland Opera and was named the ‘Young Opera voice of 2019’. She won Seven Competitions in the Feis Ceoil, 2019, including the Gervase Elwas, the Margaret Burke Sheridan, the Percy Whitehead and the Plunket Greene Cups, and qualified as a finalist in the RDS Music Bursary. Ava also given the ‘Most Promising’ award in the Irene Sandford Competition 2019. In Arklow Music Festival 2018, she received the Overall Festival award and the Wadden Bursary. Ava has performed in diverse venues including the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the Project Arts Centre, Birr Theatre, the RDS Concert Hall, the Peacock Theatre, Saint Anne’s Church, Calary Church and Kilmainham Gaol. As a Past Member of Dublin Youth Orchestras, Ava is an accomplished pianist and viola player.




Kildare born bass-baritone Rory Dunne is currently a member of the Irish National Opera Studio, Rory is a graduate of both the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama (BMus Hons) and The Bull Alley Theatre Training Company, studying as both an actor and a classical singer. His career has led him to work with Irish National Opera, Cork Opera, Northern Ireland Opera, Opera Collective Ireland, Lyric Opera Productions, Opera in the Open and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra Chorus, performing roles in the National Opera House, Wexford, The National Concert Hall, The Bord Gais Energy Theatre and The Buxton Opera House. Recently performed roles include Colline in ‘La bohème’, The Mikado in ‘The Mikado’, Monterone in ‘Rigoletto’, Pimpinone in ‘Pimpinone’, Haly in ‘L’italiana in Algeri’, Buck Mulligan in Eric Sweeney’s ‘Ulysses’, Dottore Grenvil in ‘La traviata’, Greatrakes in ‘Vagabones’, Sciarrone in ‘Tosca’, David in ‘A Hand of Bridge’, Fiorello in ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’ and Dancaïre in ‘Carmen’. Upcoming engagements include a national tour of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Riders to the Sea’, Puccini’s ‘Gianni Schicchi’ with Blackwater Valley Opera Festival, and Handel’s ‘Semele’ with Opera Collective Ireland.



Soprano Francesca Federico, whose father hails from Cork, was born in Paris, but is now based in New York City. She received a Masters in Voice at the Mannes School of Music, and currently studies with Bonnie Hamilton. She received a Bachelor’s degree from New York University, where she majored in Global Politics. Upcoming singing engagements include returning to Fresh Squeezed Opera to premiere Jillian Flexner’s opera, ‘Self Defined Circuits’, as Voice 5, and joining dell’Arte Opera’s 2020 summer festival ‘Love for Truth’, covering the roles of Condesa and Sor Andrea in Carla Lucero’s opera ‘Juana’, with libretto by Alicia Gaspar de Alba. She appeared in concert with the Children’s Philharmonic of New Jersey, and returned to sing in their 2019 mainstage production of ‘Die Zauberflöte’ as Pamina. She was also named as finalist in the 2019 Vermont Vocal Competition, and the 2020 American Prize. Highlights of her 2018-19 season included her debut at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center with the Teatro Nuovo bel canto festival under the baton of Maestro Will Crutchfield, where she covered the role of Ninetta in Rossini’s ‘La gazza ladra’, and joined their production of Bellini’s ‘La straniera’; a company debut with The Bronx Opera, performing the role of Anna Gomez in Menotti’s ‘The Consul’, and being named the winner of a 2018 opera grant from the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust, as well as being a finalist for a Career Bridges grant.




Tenor Andrew Gavin completed his Masters in Music Performance at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in 2016, achieving First Class Honours under the tuition of Mary Brennan. A graduate of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Andrew attained First Class Honours in English Literature. He also holds an M. Phil in Children’s Literature from Trinity College, Dublin. In 2016 Andrew was awarded the PwC / Wexford Festival Opera Emerging Young Artist bursary and is currently a member of the Irish National Opera ABL Aviation Studio. Operatic highlights include Tamino and Monostatos in ‘Die Zauberflöte’, Arbace in ‘Idomeneo’, Acis and Damon in ‘Acis and Galatea’, Don Curzio in ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, Ormindo in ‘L’Ormindo’, Andrés, Cochenille, Pitichinaccio and Franz in Offenbach’s ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’, and the roles of Bob Doran, Mr. Alleyne and O’Halleran in the world premiere of Andrew Synnott’s opera, ‘Dubliners’.



Limerick bass-baritone David Howes, initially studied with Olive Cowpar in Limerick before moving onto the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, where he completed the Bachelor of Music degree with 1st class honours. David now studies with Robert Dean and is a graduate of the distinguished Young Artist Programme with Northern Ireland Opera. Highlights of his career to date include performing the bass solo in Verdi’s Requiem at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin with Co-orch Dublin, Dun Laoghaire Choral Society and Cantairí Avondale, the roles of Jack and Flynn in the world premiere of Andrew Synnott’s opera, ‘Dubliners’, a co-production between Opera Theatre Company and Wexford Festival Opera, 2017. Other roles include the title role in Hans Krasa’s ‘Brundibar’ (Killaloe Chamber Music Festival), Count Ceprano in ‘Rigoletto’ (OTC), Buff in ‘Der Schauspieldirektor’ (Irish National Opera), Marchese d’Obigny in ‘La traviata’, Prince Yamadori in ‘ Madama Butterfly’ (Lyric Opera, Dublin), Figaro in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ (Zerere Arts Festival), Peintre and 2nd Philosophe in Charpentier’s ‘Louise’ (Buxton Opera Festival), Sciarrone in ‘Tosca’ (WFO ShortWork 2015), Father Truelove in ‘The Rake’s Progress’, Noye in Britten’s ‘Noye’s Fludde’, and Quince in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. In recital, David has performed at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in a new edition of Beethoven’s Irish Airs, and also, Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer in the John Field Room at the National Concert Hall.



New York based soprano, Kathleen Norchi studied music at the Boston Conservatory of Music and received her Masters at the Mannes School of Music. She has performed with Utopia Opera as well as in productions of ‘Die Zauberflöte’, ‘The Telephone’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Hansel und Gretel’.



Based in London, bass Conall William O’Neill attended the Royal College of Music (RCM) for both his Bachelor and Masters degree in music and performing. Most recently, he performed as Colline in Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of ‘La bohème’, singled out for his “powerful bass voice and a knockout vecchia zimarra”. He also sang the role of Superintendent Budd in ‘Albert Herring’ for the Koninklijk Conservatorium Antwerpen. Prior to studying at the RCM, Conall attended Imperial College London, receiving a BSc of Biology degree. His father hails from New Ross, Co. Wexford originally, so performing at the Festival adds an additional element of excitement to his involvement.



Lyric soprano Jade Phoenix, originally from Greystones, Co. Wicklow, is in her 4th year in the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) studying with Prof. Mary Brennan and Dr. Dearbhla Collins. Jade will begin her Masters this September at the Guildhall school of Music and Drama in London, where she was awarded a scholarship to study with Yvonne Kenny. In 2017 Jade received three ESB Feis Ceoil singing competition awards; Vincent O’Brien Memorial Cup, Soprano solo cup and the overall female final Margret-Burke Sheridan Cup. She later won the Dennis O’Sullivan medals and was a finalist in the Gervase Elwes memorial cup at the 2019 ESB Feis Ceoil singing Competition. During her training at the RIAM she has worked with highly respected coaches such as David Adams, Andrew Synnott, Dame Ann Murray and Brenda Hurley. in 2019, Jade was cast in her first principal role in the Irish premiere of the contemporary opera ‘Banished’ by Stephen McNeff, performed in Kilmainham Goal in 2019.



Conor Prendiville recently graduated with a Master’s degree from the Royal Irish Academy of Music where he studied with Owen Gilhooly and Dr. Dearbhla Collins. ‘Rising Stars’ at the University Concert Hall in University of Limerick and company artists at the Cork Opera House. With a long passion for music of many kinds, Conor’s love of opera began when he decided to get his voice trained. Once he began performing opera there really was no looking back. Conor has performed the role of Tamino in ‘Die Zauberflöte’, Don Basilio/ Don Curzio in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, Don Ottavio in ‘Don Giovanni’, Rinuccio in ‘Gianni Schicchi’, Captain in Stephen McNeff’s ‘Banished’ and Beppe in ‘Pagliacci’. Conor has sung Handel’s ‘Messiah’, Britten’s ‘Rejoice in the Lamb’, Bach’s ‘John Passion’ and ‘Actus Tragicus’, Mozart’s ‘Coronation Mass’ and Kevin O Connell’s ‘Mass’ and ‘Aifreann’.



Carrickfergus mezzo-soprano Sarah Richmond is no stranger to Wexford Festival Opera, having debuted in 2015 in the critically acclaimed ‘Guglielmo Ratcliff’ by Mascagni, singing the role of Willie. She then returned in 2016 to sing the principal role of Yelena in the ShortWorks production of ‘The Bear’ by William Walton. That year she also performed in the chorus of two of the evening operas, ‘Herculanum’ by David and ‘Vanessa’ by Barber. She graduated from the RNCM under the late Barbara Robotham and Ann Taylor with a MMus (Distinction) and a PG Dip Solo Performance (Distinction) as a Drapers’ de Turckheim Scholar. Sarah was a NI Opera Young Artist 2013-14 after being an ENO Opera Works artist 2012-13. Sarah already has many credits to her name including, The Second Lady in  in ‘The Magic Flute’ with INO, Rosina cover in ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’ (Wide Open Oper); Dritte Dame in ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (Pavilion Opera); Mercédès in ‘Carmen’ (North West Opera), as well as the Third Witch in ‘Macbeth’ (Iford Arts), to name a few. Not surprisingly Sarah has been successful in many competitions including: The Joyce and Michael Kennedy Award for the Singing of Strauss adjudicated by Dame Janet Baker, The Dramatic Cup and Tony Quigley Award at Feis Ceoil and The Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland’s Competition The Soloist.



Limerick soprano Sarah Shine was a recent member of the Salzburg Young Singers Project 2019 and has just finished two seasons as a singer in residence at  l’Académie de l’Opéra de Paris. At the Salzburg Festspiele, she performed the role of Angelika in ‘Der Gesang der Zauberinsel’ a commissioned children’s opera by Marius Felix Lange, performed in Masterclass with Helmut Deutsch and sang a final concert with the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg. Sarah graduated with a B.A in Music Performance and a Recital Artist Diploma from the Royal Irish Academy of Music where she studied with Dr. Veronica Dunne. Shortly after, Sarah was chosen as one of 40 finalists to compete at the Neue Stimmen International Singing Competition 2015 in Gütersloh, Germany. During her studies, Sarah made her operatic debut with some of Ireland’s leading opera companies. She played the role of Jenny’s Girl in ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’ with Opera Theatre Company in June 2014 and in December 2015 made her Wide-Open Opera debut as ‘Storyteller’ in ‘The Oldest Woman in Limerick’. She has also performed with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland) and Ulster Orchestra (Ireland) on numerous occasions Sarah has been a grateful recipient of bursaries from Siemens, The Arts Council of Ireland, Limerick City Arts Council and the Christopher Lynch Operatic Bursary.


Vladimir-Mihai Sima

Tenor Vladimir-Mihai Sima, originally from Romania, moved to Ireland to study music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music after first completing a BA degree in International Business and Economics as well as a Masters in International Business Management. Music was always a part of his life. However it was only when he heard Placido Domingo singing ‘E lucevan le stelle’ that he realised opera was the career he had to pursue. His largest roles to date have been Remendado in ‘Carmen’, Eduardo in ‘La cambiale di matrimonio’, Prince Ivan in Herbert’s ‘The Enchantress’ and Don Anchises in Mozart’s ‘La finta giardiniera’.


Born in Syracuse in 1992, Gianni graduated from the Giusto Monaco School of Dramatic Art. In 2014 he started studying singing with Salvatore Fisichella, while completing his degree in Modern Literature from the University of Catania in 2016.  He continued his vocal coaching with Marcello Giordani, and the pair performed together at the Giordani and Friends Concert with the Orchestra of the Massimo Bellini Theatre. In 2017 he sang Dandini in ‘La cenerentola’ at the Young Artist Programme Academy and as part of a Masterclass at the Luciano Pavarotti Theatre in Modena. His debut came in ‘Pagliacci’ (Silvio) in Augusta, alongside ‘Marcello Giordani’ (Canio). Since then, he has sung Sestola and Piteglio (2017) Appennino in Canto Festival, ‘Rigoletto’ (concert performance) in Fanano,’ La fanciulla del West’ at Teatro Lirico of Cagliari, ‘Madama Butterfly’ and ‘Carmen’ (Morales). He sang in ‘L’elisir d’amore’ (Belcore) at the Teatro Comunale in Modena and Carpi, Gomes’ ‘Lo Schiavo’ at the premiere of Teatro Lirico in Cagliari, which was conducted by John Neschling. Other credits include ‘L’Italiana in Algeri’ (Taddeo) at Opéra de Tenerife and Teatro Comunale in Bologna and ‘Andrea Chénier’ in Trieste, ‘The Sword in the Stone’ at the Teatro Regio in Parma, ‘Tosca’ and ‘Turandot’in Sicily and ‘La traviata’ in Ancona. In 2018 he was awarded first prize in the AsLiCo competition for the role of Escamillo in ‘Carmen’.

For more see:  @wexfordfestivalopera / @wexfordopera