“Divas & Scholars offers a very interesting educational programme. The intimate format of the talk, performance and dinner is fun and it’s an entertaining and informative way to get inside the world of opera. I enjoyed meeting a lovely group of opera fans and aficionados when I came as a guest to talk about singing Handel. Lucy creates a warm and friendly atmosphere and it is a wonderful and rare opportunity for opera lovers to meet opera insiders. Most importantly, the young artists from the Opera Studio benefit from the chance to perform alongside established performers and scholars. Everyone comes away with something special.”
Danielle de Niese
Lucy, I had a wonderful time yesterday, and am full of appreciation for your vision and energy in putting all this together.
Eric Winkler, Physicist, Technology Manufacturer
After many years of being part of opera audiences, the Divas & Scholars course has been much more than promised. Besides the social aspect of meeting other opera fanatics, the course has provided a new dimension to my operatic experience. It has been a privilege to be able to talk to people “in the trade” and learn about their lives, and especially to hear singing by the talented opera stars of the future.
I am sure that at the end my feeling will be similar to when a Ring Cycle I have seen ends – I wish it would start again.
Ivor Brecker, Dentist.
I have been attending Divas & Scholars study days since their earliest inception and witnessed their popularity grow from strength to strength. The skill and knowledge of the speakers is world-class and with up and coming talent bringing the art form alive, these sessions are not to be missed.
Rachel Piggott, Marketing Manager, Glyndebourne Festival.
"Lucy Woodruff has worked tirelessly to bring together artists from the opera world with those who, like myself, have been hungry for knowledge about this wonderful art form. The pinnacle of this learning process has been the Divas & Scholars Opera Studies Series. The recitals performed for us by some of the young pianists and singers of the National Opera Studio have been just magical. I have had the privilege of talking with them over dinner and learning more. This has been, and will no doubt continue to be, a brilliant experience!"
'Our young singers hugely enoy and appreciate taking part in Divas and Scholars masterclasses - all performance opportunities help them and it is important for them to perform outside College whilst they are still students. They learn a lot!'
Lynne Dawson, Opera Singer, Head of Vocal Studies, Royal Northern College of Music
“I have learnt so much about opera today from the three excellent speakers. The singing was sublime and I enjoyed meeting some lovely people.” Catherine Bowers, Lifestyle Journalist
“Many alumni and students of the conservatoire have valued the performance opportunities offered in London by Divas & Scholars over the last few years.”
Thank you for organising a brilliant day on Donizetti yesterday. Both speakers in the morning session were excellent with focussed presentations that ensured one learnt a good deal not just about Donizetti but about bel canto operas in general. Then the masterclass after lunch was wonderful with well chosen arias and great presentation. I enjoyed it all and was fascinated to understand WHY I like Donizetti better than Rossini. - I will certainly focus on this when listening to Donizetti in future. I look forward to hearing more from Nelly Miricioiu on Tuesday evening.
Mr Nairn Glen
You are enriching the lives of us all who attend. The left-brainers among us (e.g. self) are nourished by right-brain experiences and guidance, the left-brainers are invited to look at structures and processes. A lovely balance.
I just wanted to convey how much I enjoyed your Rossini Day. I thought all the speakers were really interesting and each brought different insights and snippets of gossip. I also enjoyed speaking to them during the lunch break. The singing was also a real treat.
Dr C.G. London
That was just exquisite! So I am learning that there is more to opera than Mozart, Verdi and Puccini . . . and Hanna has such a beautiful voice!
Mr P., Surrey
I was fortunate enough to recently be invited to attend an Opera Study Day which focusing on Donizetti and his life and work. A composer who is already a firm favourite of mine, I readily accepted the chance to really brush up on my Donizetti knowledge and to indulge in a day of learning. I didn’t quite anticipate the effect this day was to have on me, nor the feeling of sheer joy presented to us, an extremely fortunate audience, by the sensational soprano Nelly Miricioiu.
Divas & Scholars is the ingenious idea of Lucy Woodruff. Having been organising recitals in her home for several years for the purpose of promoting young talent, and with a background in public relations, Lucy has been running Divas & Scholars for the past two years creating opera study days and opera champagne evenings. Although the clue is in the title, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of the structure of the day, but by the time I left Cadogan Hall that day, I quite literally wanted to call up all the singers I know telling them how fantastically informative, enjoyable and inspiring a day it was.
The day commenced with coffee and mingling; the first lecture, given by Mel Cooper (Founder of Opera Now magazine & Classic FM Broadcaster) vivaciously presented to us “The Life & Times of Donizetti”. Cooper imparted a wonderfully digestible history of the composer’s life including some really touching facts; Donizetti’s childhood, the lack of his musical heritage, and the great love of his life, his wife Virginia. He is believed to have said that she was ALL his heroines, be they comic or tragic. Callas appeared at several points during this talk, and quite rightly, it being she who raised the Bel Canto repertoire to its rightful place in the classical music world in the 1950’s. Cooper spoke in such a way that kept us engaged and alert and most importantly, created an excitement about every fact he imparted.
After a short break, a second lecture began, this time led by Philip Headlam, whose subject was “The musical language of Donizetti’s operas.” A very different delivery was had here, as he took to the piano to demonstrate his findings but nonetheless it was fascinating, especially from a singers point of view, to be able to soak up the music and atmosphere of Donizetti and to try and understand what the composers intentions had originally been for his music. No one person’s interpretation of a song or aria is ever the same and sometimes it is easy to indulge and create something which perhaps is not true to the style or intentions of the composer. This was an aspect of the day which really made you think about the artistic decisions one makes and why.
After lunch, we reassembled to be met with the radiant soprano Nelly Miricioiu. From the outset she was charming, eloquent and to be quite honest, you couldn’t keep your eyes off her, such is her aura which is simply electric. She sang excerpts from numerous Donizetti operas, including Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, Lucrezia Borgia. Whether she sang or spoke she exuded such a deep attachment to everything she delivered, it really felt as though she held nothing back, and genuinely wanted us to feel as strongly about bel canto and Donizetti in particular as she clearly does. We also heard from two very fine young singers, mezzo-soprano, Hanna-Liisa Kirchin and Soprano Bryony Williams, both of whom have studied at the Royal Northern College of Music. The concept is one that works in association with the RNCM and the singers I heard were very much a credit to an institution that already has a wonderful reputation. These two singers have only enhanced that fact for me.
Although I could exude enthusiasm for several pages, I would conclude that this is an experience which should be enjoyed at first hand by all opera lovers, and most certainly all singers training towards an operatic career. Whilst opera is constantly changing and developing as we look forward to the future, it is so important to be aware of what came before and to fully understand the historical aspect, as well as appreciating and learning from the singers who have done so much in enriching an art which thankfully we still enjoy today.