Welcome to our
Summer 2019 newsletter!


It’s a pleasure to once again be in beautiful Castiglione della Pescaia for our 2019 Bel Canto course. My husband and I spent over 35 summers here, during which time he prepared his scores, enjoyed the beauty of Tuscany from the terrace of our home, and rode his bicycle along the country roads, whistling to the birds in the pines that accompanied him on his route.
This year we have a wonderful group of singers, faculty, and accompanists led by the Artistic Director of the Accademia – Jonathan Papp. I especially welcome Sir Richard Bonynge, who has generously given so much of his time over the past years to imparting his invaluable advice to the students of the Accademia.
It is my hope that this year’s singers take the opportunity to both study Italian opera, and to experience life in a real Italian village: the people, the food, the traditions, and of course, the sea and the beach.
Thank you again to all the teachers, the helpers, to Jonathan and Candice for inventing this course in the first place, and of course to you, our wonderful supporters for making this fantastic course possible!


Welcome to the Summer Newsletter, and greetings from Castilgione della Pescaia, where we are in the middle of the 16th edition of the GSA. Venice was not only marked by a particularly talented group of pianists, but more by an ambition of mine finally being realised. This was the return of an alumnus to teach. We met Rodrigo de Vera when he joined us for the Solti Peretti programme in Barcelona, the year before we moved to our current home at the Fondazione Cini in Venice – way back in 2013.

The dynamic of having Anthony Legge, with his wealth of experience and current knowledge, teaming up with Rodrigo, made for a wonderfully happy and creative course. Rodrigo brought all the experience of his early career: from auditions right up to what it’s like to work at the Liceu, one of the world’s great opera houses. He works with some of the greatest conductors and singers, and was more than happy to share his experiences, as well as to advise. He is a great musician and he’s as rigorous as anyone on our faculty! The final concert was very impressive and very well received.

L-R: Rodrigo de Vera, Madeline Slettedahl, and Joanna Lasczckowska

Our work at the NCPA in China was marked by two things: the level of the participants, which continues to grow, and most importantly a new development: the introduction of a session where we taught in front of the Chinese singing teachers, invited by the NCPA to listen to the lessons. We encouraged a dialogue and welcomed them to question what we do. Barbara and I both enjoyed this and I hope it will become a regular part of the course, there. 

Left: The interview with Barbara Frittoli and Jonathan Papp was clearly going well!
Right: All the participants and faculty of the NCPA public masterclass. ©Rolex

And now we are here in Castiglione for the main part of the programme: three weeks of singers. Richard Bonynge and Barbara Frittoli return as members of our faculty, and they are joined by the wonderful Italian baritone, Roberto Frontali. This year’s talented 12 are a particularly impressive bunch. Each of them has something special and, as ever, they join us from all over the globe. I am delighted to welcome back my new assistant, Venice course alumnus, and already a Castiglione veteran, Jonathan Palmer Lakeland. He is joined by Mikey Pandya (Venice 2018) along-side Madeline Slettedahl (Venice 2019). All of us at the GSA look forward to seeing you in Italy very soon. To all our supporters, both moral and financial, a huge thank you - you know we could not do this without you!



We can’t begin to describe the productive time we had at the NCPA in Beijing… but they say a picture is worth a thousand words! So without further adieu, our time in Beijing in “six thousand words”:

Barbara Frittoli, Giacomo Prestia, and of course, Jonathan Papp, inspiring and teaching the next generation of singers in Beijing. Also pictured: Candice Wood, our Executive Director, and Madame Zhui Jing, Vice President of the NCPA. ©Rolex



Every Easter we are astounded by the talented young répétiteurs who come to study with us in Venice. This year was no exception! Read their takes on the course here


Alexandra Oomens (GSA 2018) has recently been signed by Rayfield Alliance and will make her debut with Opera North next season as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro.
(Left: Alexandra Oomens)

Adam Smith (GSA 2013) has a full 2019/2020 season across two continents. He’ll be singing the title role in Les contes d’Hoffmann at Opera de Bordeaux, Don José at both Tulsa Opera and Opera Theatre of St Louis, and Pinkerton at English National Opera.

Robert Houssart (GSA 2009) has been appointed permanent staff conductor at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen. His 2019/20 season will include conducting Carmen and La traviata at the RDO, as well as Les contes d’Hoffmann at Staatstheater Mainz.

Runette Botha (GSA 2010) has been living in Germany and working at the Nordharzer Städtebundtheater. This year her roles included Sonja in Der Zarewitsh and the title roles in both Mignon and Die lustige Witwe.
(Left: Runette Botha as Hanna Glawari in Die Lustige Witwe. ©Ray Behringer)

Carly Owen (GSA 2016) has been on contract at Theater und Orchester Heidelberg this season, singing Gilda, Ilia, Pamina, and Hanna Glawari. Amidst that she also made it back to the UK to sing Marzelline in Fidelio at Welsh National Opera.

Benson Wilson (GSA 2017) won 1st Prize in the 2019 Kathleen Ferrier Awards earlier this year. He also made his debut with English National Opera, singing John Shears in their production of Paul Bunyan. This summer he joins that Salzburg Young Singer’s Project and in September he starts at the National Opera Studio.

Paul Grant (GSA 2017) will join the Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan this coming fall. This summer he also appears as an Alvarez Young Artist at Garsington Opera.

Jonathon Swinard (GSA 2013) began his tenure this season as Head of Music Staff at Garsington Opera, where he also serves as Artistic Director of Garsington’s Alvarez Young Artist Programme. He continues to work as Chorus Master of Scottish Opera and Artistic Director of the Scottish Opera Young Company.

Michael Pandya (GSA 2018) joins the opera studio at the Bayerisches Staatsoper this coming season as a young artist repetiteur.

Gemma Summerfield as Pamina with Scottish Opera. ©James Glossop

Gemma Summerfield (GSA 2015) made two significant company debuts this season: first at Wexford Festival Opera singing Paul Jordan in their European Premiere of Dinner at Eight (William Balcom) then with Scottish Opera singing Pamina in The Magic Flute.


Jan 22 - 23, 2020
Royal Academy of Music, London

April 09 - 18, 2020
Solti Peretti Repetiteurs’ Masterclasses

2020 TBC
NCPA Beijing Masterclasses

June 23 - July 12, 2020
GSA Bel Canto summer school
Castiglione della Pescaia

Left: Booklet program. ©Jennifer Lorenzini
Below: Participants of the 2018 GSA having a bit of fun in Castiglione della Pescaia. ©Clive Barda

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