Studying opera at RWCMD’s David Seligman Opera School

The David Seligman Opera School at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama offers a fully integrated operatic training experience.

Storytelling through music and drama is at the heart of this intensive, personalised training, shaped by hands-on industry experience and guided by eminent teachers, performers and practitioners from the international world of opera.

Why study opera at RWCMD?

  • As a member of the David Seligman Opera School, you’ll develop your talent through studying every aspect of opera training.
  • Our specialist teachers’ extensive operatic experience will prepare you for the demands and requirements of this competitive industry.
  • As part of your fully integrated operatic training you’ll have opportunities to work with, and learn from leading visiting artists, singers, coaches and opera company professionals, recent visiting artistic such as including Maestro Carlo Rizzi, Susan Bullock, Gerald Finley and Sir Antonio Pappano.
  • Our close, creative partnership with Welsh National Opera (WNO) means you’ll benefit from many opportunities to attend company dress rehearsals, study with resident music staff and take part in WNO Youth Opera Young Company productions.
  • The Opera School also has strong links with key opera companies including Scottish opera, Opera North and the Royal Opera House, giving students a variety of industry linked experiences such as mentoring, coaching and observational experience.
  • In addition to specialist programmes of study for singers, directors and repetiteurs, the Opera School creates vibrant cross departmental collaboration for instrumental performers, conductors, stage managers, designers and composers to work together in a unique and world-class training environment.
  • BBC Cardiff Singer of the World’s Song Prize takes place at RWCMD every two years, giving you the opportunity to take part in masterclasses and watch world class young talent.  

The David Seligman Opera School

In association with WNO, the Opera School provides enhanced opportunities for students to work with, and learn from, leading international artists and practitioners.

As one of the leading advanced opera training programmes in the UK our students are immersed in an unparalleled learning environment, where the concept of ‘company’ is at the heart of our ethos.

Where next...?

RWCMD opera graduates can currently be seen with English National Opera (ENO),  Welsh National Opera (WNO), Opera North, Glyndebourne, as well as with opera houses throughout Europe and North America. There are currently RWCMD opera graduates in Young Artists programmes including National Opera Studio, Jette Parker at ROH and Hannover Opera Ensemble.

Some have continued their studies at the National Opera Studio and Jette Parker Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House.

Led by conductor, pianist and coach James Southall  

James has conducted with leading opera companies and orchestras including Welsh National Opera, English Touring Opera, Sinfonia Cymru, L'orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento, Camerata Nordica and Opéra de Baugé.

Alongside his work at WNO, James has been a coach at RWCMD since 2013, conducting the Opera Gala with the WNO Orchestra in 2018.

At WNO he has been assistant conductor to WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi, Lothar Koenigs and Tomáš Hanus.

An award-winning pianist, he has performed recitals at Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall and live on BBC Radio 3. He has also collaborated with Sir Bryn Terfel CBe, Rebecca Evans, Elizabeth Watts and Ailish Tynan.

James was Organ Scholar at Queens’ Cambridge and is an alumnus of the Royal College of Music.

  • Find out more about RWCMD
    • Our thriving, multicultural institution welcomes 800 students from more than 40 countries. You’ll train side-by-side with other instrumentalists, actors, singers, composers and performance designers and will work with them on projects throughout the year.  
    • Collaboration forms a huge part of what we do, allowing you to immerse yourself in new experiences with a broad range of disciplines and skills from across the college. Our unique student-led company REPCo, encourages students to work together to be bold, imaginative and entrepreneurial.
    • Our industry partnerships provide real-world, enhanced learning experiences with leading arts organisations and professional musicians, also offering you opportunities to build your future professional networks.
    • RWCMD is a vibrant arts centre staging 500 performances a year (many of which are free) which are a combination of world-leading artists and student work, often side by side. Regular major events at RWCMD include BBC Young Musician of the Year, and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World and standalone events such as the World Harp Congress in July 2022. 
    • The College is the first UK conservatoire to achieve a gold standard level of quality assurance across Music, Drama and Under 18s in the recent international MusiQuE, Music Quality Enhancement review. Reviewers were particularly impressed with the College's approach to the individual student experience, multidisciplinary collaboration, and overall ambition, citing RWCMD as a shining example of best practice across European conservatoires, and reflecting the College's exceptional people and unique community. 
    • As the world’s only Steinway-exclusive conservatoire the College now has a world-leading fleet of pianos, and every acoustic piano at the College is a Steinway.
    • We fundamentally believe in the power of music to transform and enrich society, developing skills in teaching, coaching and co-creating projects to create musicians of the future who will make an impact as performers, teachers and enablers within the broader community. Fundamental questions - ‘How can we shape the industry of the future’, ‘How can we use art to make a difference’ - help us to produce musicians who are truly relevant to a 21st Century world.
    • You’ll practice, study and perform in a beautiful, inspiring setting, bordering Bute Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city. We have a chamber music hall with extraordinary acoustics, a glass-lined foyer and performance space, the Richard Burton Theatre, as well as state-of-the-art studios and rehearsal spaces.
    • Our campus is right in the centre of Cardiff, the UK’s first Music City, and the thriving, compact capital of Wales, which is only two hours by train to central London. 
    • Cardiff was named as the most cost-effective city in the UK for students, according to the NatWest Student Living Index 2022.

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