Message from the Principal
Bicentenary Scholars are a select group of artists trained at the Academy. The idea behind this integrated scholarship programme is to deliver an experience of exceptional quality, sustainability and belonging.
That has meant designing a special year’s study, in some cases two, to reimagine how best to realise the talent in each scholar and to offer the right kind of momentum, with the right challenges, as they prepare for an exciting professional career.
Launched in 2018 with an initial commitment to fund five years of scholars, this has now been extended to 2028. We have refined the programme through its first period and now, I believe, this scheme is truly unique in the pre-professional musical world.
Some scholars are given the chance to record for Linn Records, while others undertake additional training with world-leading artists and pursue individual projects. Each has benefited from a uniquely intensive and productive year at the Academy. I have been privileged to play a small mentoring role for each of the scholars.
Several collaborations have emerged as a result of the scheme, including our blossoming friendship with the Mascarade Opera Studio in Florence, soon to become the new Mascarade Emerging Artists programme in collaboration with Teatro La Fenice in Venice. The students who have studied in Florence are a part of the network that the Academy has helped to shape. This also feeds into opportunities with the New Generation Festival. Annual reunions, alternating between London and Italy, allow our scholars and the students at Mascarade to make lifelong connections and meet up with old friends, while creating a collaborative and supportive network of exceptional musicians. The flagship reunion was hosted in the Duke’s Hall at the Academy at the start of our Bicentenary year. Our next event will take place in Florence in 2023.
It is always wonderful to hear from our students and alumni as they set out on their exciting careers and shape their unique position in the music industry. We are particularly proud of the collaborations that have been formed from our Bicentenary Scholars network. For example, violinist Charlie Lovell-Jones, cellist Yoanna Prodanova and pianist Ariel Lanyi have formed a piano trio and I wish these exceptional musicians all the best as they build their reputation as a chamber group as well as solo artists. We hope this example inspires future scholars to work together and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by this programme.
None of this would be possible without the generosity and sustained support of the founding donors, and I offer my deepest thanks again on behalf of everyone at the Academy.
Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood CBE
Please find current and past recipients of the Bicentenary Scholarship listed below in reverse chronological order.
Baritone Vitor Bispo began his musical education with the violin at the age of 10. He went on to study with the great Brazilian Soprano Edna de Oliveira at the São Paulo Municipal School of Music, making his debut at the age of 20 in the title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi with the Theatro São Pedro Opera Academy. He was also a bass chorister in the São Paulo State Youth Choir and Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo Academic Choir.
Competition successes include first prize at the Maria Callas Brazilian Singing Competition and the Revelation Singer Prize at the Linus Lerner International Singing Competition. He recently won the Blyth-Buesst Operatic Prize at the Academy, where he is now studying on the Royal Academy Opera course.
Vitor has sung in many productions, including Verdi’s La traviata, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and Puccini’s Turandot.
With Royal Academy Opera, he has performed roles in Gianni Schicchi, Ariadne auf Naxos, the newly commissioned opera by Freya Waley-Cohen, WITCH, and the title role in Imeneo.
Vitor’s Bicentenary Scholarship is co-funded by the Fordyce Award.
Pianist Junyan Chen’s ambitious solo and ensemble playing lends itself to a varied repertoire, from classical to contemporary.
As a soloist, Junyan has performed with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, Xin Zhu Symphony Orchestra and Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra. She has had the honour of working with Zhang Liang, Edward Gardner, Eleanor Alberga, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Wang-Hua Chu.
Junyan has now started her Master’s degree at the Academy, having finished her undergraduate degree under the tutelage of Professor Joanna MacGregor. Before this, she studied with Professor Weiling Chen at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Middle School.
At the 2018 Ciudad de Vigo International Piano Competition, Junyan was the winner of the Silver Medal, People’s Choice Award, Best Spanish Composition Performance Award and City Award as the youngest and only female competitor in the final. She was the prizewinner of all the piano categories at the Osaka International Music Competition in 2016, and also won the prestigious Osaka Prefecture Governor’s Award and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna Award.
Ryan Vaughan Davies
Welsh tenor Ryan Vaughan Davies is studying at the Royal Academy Opera (RAO). He is a Bicentenary scholar and is also generously supported by the Norman Ayrton award, John Clemence Trust, Arts Society Moor Park, Ryan Davies Memorial Fund and Bryn Terfel Foundation. He previously studied at the Royal Northern College of Music (BMus) and Royal College of Music (MPerf).
In 2019, he won the National Eisteddfod of Wales’s Blue Riband for best classical vocal performance by those aged 25 and under, alongside the David Lloyd memorial award for most promising tenor.
Recent operatic performances include Peppe in I Pagliacci with Iford Arts. Productions with Royal Academy Opera include Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi and Torquemada in L'heure Espagnole, Der Tenor in Ariadne auf Naxos and Interrogator 2 in Freya Waley-Cohen’s WITCH.
Ryan has performed with many of the UK's summer festivals including Longborough Opera Festival, Buxton Opera Festival, Garsington Opera Festival and The Grange Festival Opera. He is an extra chorus member of the Royal Opera House and looks forward to working at this prestigious house in the future.
International engagements include performances at Grieghallen in Bergen, Norway, and with the North American Festival of Wales in Milwaukee. In the summer of 2022, Ryan made his BBC Proms debut as one of the Two Lovers in Il Tabarro with the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder.
During this academic year, Ryan performs the role of Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress. He also makes his debut with the Ulster Orchestra in two performances of Handel’s Messiah, and covers the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute for the Welsh National Opera.
New Zealand lyric soprano Madison Horman is currently studying towards an Advanced Diploma in Opera at the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of Nuccia Focile and Ingrid Surgenor. Prior to her studies with Royal Academy Opera, she attained her MMus with Distinction as well as a Postgraduate Diploma: Advanced Studies in Performance from the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) under the tutelage of Eiddwen Harrhy.
In May 2022, she made her Bridgewater Hall debut performing as part of the ensemble and as the small role of Cousin in Madama Butterfly with the Hallé, conducted by Sir Mark Elder. In August 2022, she performed alongside the Philharmonia Voices in a performance of Fidelio, conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles at the Edinburgh International Festival. Earlier in 2022, Madison won the Royal Over-Seas League Award for a young New Zealand musician of promise, and, at the RNCM, the Bessie Cronshaw/Frost Brownson Song Cycle Prize and the Brigitte Fassbaender Prize for Lieder.
During her time at the RNCM, Madison made her operatic role debut as Mrs Gobineau in Menotti’s The Medium. Her other roles include Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes, Mimi in La bohème, the title role in Arabella, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Elettra in Idomeneo and Magda in a scene of La Rondine.
In 2021, Madison was one of two sopranos selected for the Opera North Chorus Mentorship Scheme. She has been a winner in the New Zealand Aria Competition and the International Trinity College Exhibition Prize. In 2020 and 2021, she was a finalist in the prestigious Frederic Cox Award competition at the RNCM and was a finalist in the 2021 Sir David Madison Opera Prize in Liverpool.
She holds a Trinity College ATCL diploma in Musical Theatre and has performed extensively in New Zealand’s regional musical theatre scene. Notable roles include Amber in Hairspray, the Confidante in The Phantom of the Opera, the Mistress in Evita, Lisa in Mamma Mia and Johanna in Sweeney Todd. With a family background in dance, Madison is also trained in RAD and IDTA Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Theatre Craft. She holds a diploma in Highland Dance from the NZAHND and at 15 was ranked fifth nationally. Since attaining her diploma in 2016, she has adjudicated competitions and championships around New Zealand.
Madison is generously sponsored by the Royal Academy of Music Bicentenary Scholarship, the O’Donnell Trust Grant and the International Opera Awards Foundation Bursary.
Anna Im won first prize in the 10th Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand. Her prize recording, Amabile, was released in 2021 and is available on various global streaming platforms.
Anna earned her Bachelor of Music degree at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Shmuel Ashkenasi and Aaron Rosand. Upon graduation, she was awarded the Curtis/Milka Violin Artist Prize. The recording of a live performance of the Brahms String Quintet, which she led as first violin, was selected as the first track of the Curtis 95 Years of Artistry Season Selections album.
Anna has appeared as a soloist with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra and Salzburger Solisten, among others. She has also been invited to participate in festivals including the Kronberg Academy Festival, IMS Prussia Cove and Aspen Music Festival.
Anna is a recipient of the Hattori Foundation and Drake Calleja Trust and is grateful for the generous support she receives from the Royal Academy of Music, where she studies with So-Ock Kim.
Pianist Aidan Mikdad is studying with Professor Joanna MacGregor. In June 2021, he graduated from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with a Bachelor’s degree in music, receiving a perfect score and the highest honour, summa cum laude.
Aidan has participated from a young age in international piano competitions and has won numerous prizes. At the age of 11, he won first prize in the Koninklijk Concertgebouw Concours. The following year he came first in the Lagny-sur-Marne International Piano Competition, and in 2015 he received the Klavier-Festival Ruhr Scholarship, awarded to him by pianist Hélène Grimaud. Other competition successes include winning the Premio Internazionale Pianistico 'A Scriabin', the prestigious Royal Concertgebouw Young Talent Award, the Tabor Foundation Piano Award at the Verbier Festival and the Pnina Salzman Memorial Prize at the Tel-Hai International Piano Master Classes in Israel.
He has been coached by many notable musicians including Sergei Babayan, Dmitri Bashkirov, Nelson Goerner, Richard Goode, Sir András Schiff, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Arie Vardi.
Xiaowen Shang is a versatile pianist and harpsichordist, interested in early, classical and contemporary music. She has a wide range of repertoire, from Orlando Gibbons to John Cage. She has worked with renowned musicians and composers including Dame Imogen Cooper, Rachel Podger and Brett Dean. Xiaowen is always keen to collaborate with other musicians, composers and artists, including improvising with silent films, playing concerts with animation and premiering new works.
Having completed her undergraduate degree at the Academy, Xioawen is now in the first year of her Master’s degree at the Academy as a Bicentenary Scholar, studying with Joanna MacGregor. Her recent awards include the Isaacs & Pirani Piano Trio Prize in 2022, Harold Samuel Bach Prize (harpsichord) and the May Mukle/Douglas Cameron Prize (cello and piano duo) in 2021. She also received the first prize in the Musicians' Company Harriet Cohen Bach Competition (piano) at the Royal Academy of Music in 2019. As a result of the prize, she was invited to join the Musicians' Company's Young Artists' Programme.
As an active musician performing on stage, her recent performances include a Bach concert at Wigmore Hall, Vaughan Williams’s Piano Quintet in C minor with the Whitman Ensemble at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and as the harpsichord soloist for the Bach Keyboard Concerto in F minor alongside violinist Rachel Podger, as part of the 'Bach the European' series at the Academy. She has also performed as a soloist in other venues and festivals including St James’s Piccadilly and the Bloomsbury and Dartington festivals. Additionally, she has performed in every Summer and Autumn Piano Festival at the Academy since she arrived in 2018. In July 2022, she received a near-perfect score in her final recital and made her recording debut, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, with Linn Records.
Soprano Luiza Willert is studying on the Royal Academy Opera course with Nuccia Focile and Ingrid Surgenor. She sang as a chorister and soloist in the Coro Vozes do Vale in Itajaí, Santa Catarina, and studied at the School of Music and Fine Arts of Paraná, then with tenor Paulo Mandarino at the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo Opera Studio.
In 2018, Luiza was the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem at the 13th Festival de Música de Santa Catarina (FEMUSC). In 2019, she performed in two professional opera productions, as First Lady in Die Zauberflöte and Bastienne in Bastien und Bastienne. She subsequently played the part of Annina in La traviata at the 15th FEMUSC.
In 2020, she won Best Soprano at the 18th Brazilian Singing Contest 'Maria Callas'. She came joint first for Best Soprano at the Linus Lerner International Singing Competition and won three artistic awards and a performance award at the Festival Amazonas de Ópera.
With Royal Academy Opera, she performed as La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, Zerbinetta in the Ariadne auf Naxos prologue, Sarah in the newly commissioned Freya Waley-Cohen opera WITCH, and Rosmene in Imeneo.
Luiza’s scholarship is co-funded by the Fordyce Award and the Fairfield Trust.
Australian soprano Cassandra Wright is in her second year at Royal Academy Opera under the tutelage of Kate Paterson and Jonathan Papp.
Cassandra completed her undergraduate music studies at the Queensland Conservatorium, where she studied with Dr Margaret Schindler and Joseph Ward OBE. She then obtained her Master’s with Distinction from the Academy in 2021, where she also received a DipRAM for her outstanding final recital and was awarded the Alumni Development Award for Distinguished Studentship. She is an alumna of the Georg Solti Accademia, where she studied with distinguished musicians including Richard Bonynge, Jonathan Papp, Barbara Frittoli and Roberto Frontali.
She was a 2021 Kathleen Ferrier Awards semi-finalist and was recently the winner of the Bampton Young Singers’ Competition and the Royal Over-Seas League Overseas Final. At the Academy she was the joint winner of the Isabel Jay Memorial Prize and was a Richard Lewis Prize semi-finalist.
Previous roles and scenes include Rosmene in Imeneo, Arianna in Lamento d’Arianna, Green Death Witch in Freya Waley-Cohen’s WITCH, Primadonna in Ariadne auf Naxos, Nella in Gianni Schicchi, Sandrina in La finta giardiniera, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and, in Opera Scenes, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Manon in Manon and Lisette in La Rondine.
Equally at home on the concert platform, she recently performed Knussen's Songs and a Sea Interlude at Royal Festival Hall with members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Foyle Future Firsts and the Royal Academy of Music under the baton of Edward Gardner. In January 2022, she made her Wigmore Hall debut with the Academy’s prestigious Song Circle in a recital of Schubert Lieder. In 2021, she performed Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Academy Symphony Orchestra under the baton of John Wilson. She was also a 2021 Leeds Lieder Young Artist.
As well as the support received through her Bicentenary Scholarship, Cassandra is supported by the Australian Music Foundation, Nora Goodridge Developing Artist Award and Knights of the Round Table.
Vitor Bispo - Singing, Baritone (Opera)
Liam Bonthrone - Singing, Tenor (Opera)
Junyan Chen - Piano
Nicolò Umberto Foron - Conductor
Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE - Cello
Ilan Kurtser - Piano Accompaniment
Charlie Lovell-Jones - Violin
Aidan Mikdad - Piano
Edvard Pogossian - Cello
Joshua Ryan - Organ
Luiza Willert - Singing, Soprano (Opera)
Liam Bonthrone - Singing, Tenor (Opera)
Camilla Harris - Singing, Soprano (Opera)
Ossian Huskinson - Singing, Bar/Bass (Opera)
Ha Min (Daniel) Go - Cello
Do Gyung (Anna) Im - Violin
Charles Lovell-Jones - Violin
Julie Park - Viola
Margarita Balanas - Cello
Roberts Balanas - Violin
Camilla Harris Singing - Soprano (Opera)
Ossian Huskinson Singing - Bar/Bass (Opera)
James Orford - Organ
Ariel-Shimon Lanyi-Umansky - Piano
Anna Geniushene - PFT
Claudia Lucia Lamanna - Harp
Emily Nebel - Violin
Yoanna Prodanova - Viola