Only 2 out of 6 new Covent Garden singers are British

Only 2 out of 6 new Covent Garden singers are British


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2023

The Royal Opera House has announced participants in next year’s Jette Parker Artists Programme, its springboard to an operatic career.

As ever, only a small proportion of the candidates below are British.

By contrast, at the Met the majority of singers selected for the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program are North American.

Some anomaly, surely?

Here are the new Jette hopefuls:

Isabela Díaz – Soprano
Chilean soprano Isabela Díaz is currently completing her studies at the University of Chile. Roles at Teatro Colón include Serpetta and Sandrina (La finta giardiniera), Ingrata (Altri Canti d’amor), Norina (Don Pasquale) and Susanna and Zerlina in the Mozart Lyric Gala and, for the Juventus Lyrica Company Pamina (The Magic Flute) and Valencienne (Die Lustige Witwe).

Grisha Martirosyan – Baritone
Armenian baritone Grisha Martirosyan took first prize, the audience prize and the Dame Joan Sutherland Prize at the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition 2022 and was awarded first prize at the Gohar Gasparian Armenian National Singing Competition 2019.

Jamie Woollard – Bass
British Bass Jamie Woollard is currently studying at the Royal College of Music Opera Studio. At RCM Jamie has performed roles including Sarastro (The Magic Flute), Jupiter in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, and the Immigration Officer in Dove’s Flight, and he will perform Il Re in Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco in March 2023. In Summer 2023, Jamie will join Glyndebourne Festival to cover Snug in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and to play Thierry in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. In concert Jamie has recently performed Mozart’s Requiem (St Martin in the Fields), Bach’s Cantata 215 (Wigmore Hall), and Verdi’s Requiem (Leith Hill Music Festival), as well as the title role in Handel’s Saul (Exeter Bach Choir), and in the premiere of Teresa Barlow’s Requiem (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra).

Veena Akama-Makia – Mezzo Soprano (pictured)
Cameroonian/Ugandan American mezzo-soprano Veena Akama-Makia is currently a Young Artist at the Chicago Opera Theatre and a professional diploma candidate at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Valentina Puscas – Soprano
Transylvanian soprano Valentina Puscas is currently employed at the National Theatre of Miskolc, Hungary, and has worked as a soloist with Bucharest National Opera, Transylvania Philharmonic, Oradea State Philharmonic, ‘Ion D. Sirbu’ Theatre Petrosani, Deva’s Theatre of Arts and ‘Queen Mary’ State Theatre Oradea. She has a master’s degree from the National University of Music Bucharest.

Ryan Vaughan Davies – Tenor
Welsh tenor Ryan Vaughan Davies is currently a student of the Royal Academy of Music’s Opera School where he is a Bicentenary Scholar, and generously supported by The Norman Ayrton award, The John Clemence Trust, The Arts Society Moor Park, The Ryan Davies Memorial fund and The Bryn Terfel Foundation. He previously received his Master’s of Music degree from the Royal College of Music and Bachelor of Music from the Royal Northern College of Music. He will join the Jette Parker Artists Programme in the 2023/24 Season.


  • lol says:

    London has always been largely a cultural importer, whereas the US is a cultural exporter. Therefore, the US is more likely than the UK to train up its own artists for world domination, whereas the UK assumes its cultural supremacy by showcasing that they can attract foreign talent.

    • anon says:

      The US is also over 4 times bigger population so it’s hardly a surprise it might find more singers within its borders.

  • cockney bobby says:

    What a shame. what did we do Brexit for?

    • Emil says:

      Indeed, great question: what for? Given that Brexit massively harmed British musicians who now face difficulties working in Europe, and that the same government that “delivered Brexit” just put the axe to most of the major cultural institutions in the UK (not to mention the constant diminishing of the BBC, itself a major cultural institution), you clearly didn’t “do Brexit” to promote British cultural institutions and musicians.

      That being said, as a broader point, the ROH has always been a great opera house because it has worldwide talent. In my view, if there’s to be any concern following this announcement, it should be ‘how can British singers get better?’, not ‘are these foreign singers taking the place of British ones?’ The fact that foreign singers want to come train and sing in London, or at British educational institutions, is a strength, not a liability. And they’ll come back and sing at the ROH throughout their career, thereby benefitting British arts. That’s how education works (and it’s the same thing with the government’s nonsense instruction to universities to reduce intake of foreign students).

  • Singeril says:

    Gee…one reason could also be that there are a LOT more young singers from other countries combined than there are British singers. That’s not a “slam” of any sort…it’s just a numbers thing. Obviously, more singers means more being placed in various programs. The truly fascinating thing is realizing how many British administrators have been leading opera companies and orchestras all over the world.

    • Maria says:

      Most of the students in London colleges of music are foreigners, paying the full whack overseas fees so four music colleges can stay afloat. More students than jobs. But they go back home, and become heroes. As for pianists in the Royal Northern when it was 40 years old – now it’s 50 years old – 40% of the pianists were from the Orient/Far East by way of Koreans, Chinese, and broken English. Can’t vouch for the singers but it was verified by Sean Rafferty on BBC Radio 3 in 2013 when the programme came live from the RNCM, and I heard it. In my day there, staff were actively going out to Oz and NZ recruiting, and again they paid the full whack not the British rate for home students. The more foreigners, the more money goes in the bank!

  • anon says:

    I think it’s something to be proud of as a country, that the ROH attracts the best early career singers from all over the world.

  • n/a says:

    … your point being?

  • Jonathon says:

    Many aspiring British opera singers who want to make a serious shot at a decent career will try for one of the top level young singer programmes on offer in Europe. Aside from the training and exposure they will gain, it gives them a chance to learn another language fluently, and to make contacts beyond the UK.

  • Ernest says:

    Jette Parker, like the ROH roster, attracts the best internationally. Lindemann, like the Met roster, is insular in comparison.

  • Elaine says:

    Who of their young artists actually go on to have any kind of a career. Waste of tax payer £.

  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    Jette Parker is for UK based and international singers.

    Ryan Vaughan Davies identifies as Welsh, so there’s at most one “British” singer here.

    Another slow news day!

  • Calaf says:

    I’m astonished at NL’s comment. It borders on xenophobia… it’s not dissimilar to the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting asking a guest at a Buckingham Palace garden party where she was really from. In this day and age NL’s remarks are not acceptable, especially in light of the fact that this programme is open to ALL nationalities. The bigger question, which reveals a problem and a deficiency is WHY are there only two British participants chosen for the programme, and the answers are: less general interest, a lesser quality/talent, fewer overall opportunities to attain training at a level that would enable a young artist to join the ROH’s programme… All of these warrant an in-depth look, etc… But never to stoop so low as to join in the “the foreigners are taking over” Brexit lie.
    Norman, I’m really disappointed at how you chose to word these news… better luck next time!

  • Andre Heller-Lopes says:

    As a former Jette Parker Young Artist and I someone whose family had to flee Eastern Europe and Germany I find your comment to be offensive. You of all people cannot relate to Young Artists or anyone which has to leave their country to study, escape persecution of simply pursue the possibility of a better life? I own a lot to the ROH’s generosity and whatever career I have would not have been the same without having had the change of being the first stage director to join their Young Artist. Several British and non-British directors came after me. Being a Brazilian makes me less worth of a chance in your opinion? Well, my grandfather’s parents rest in Golders Green, his sister in Canada. There are cousins in Poland, France, Israel or the US. Where does your own family come from? This is not the first time you take that tone to write about the Jette Parker. I find it offensive and pointless. Please, Sir, focus your energies on campaigning for more opportunities and even better chances for any UK artists — not in instigating and kind of ethnic hatred.

  • Graeme Hall says:

    I’m confused. In recent times this blog has been full of complaints that Little England will no longer see non-UK performers, now the complaint is…?