The new members of ENO’s programme for exceptionally talented singers are
Alexandra Oomens (soprano), Benson Wilson (baritone) and William Thomas
The ENO Harewood Artist programme gives talented singers the opportunity to
perform career-building roles with a major opera company whilst receiving
specialist coaching, guidance and support over a 2 to 3 year period.
In addition, Harewood Artists can receive dramatic, movement, performance
psychology and language coaching, as well as opportunities to learn from
distinguished artists and leading figures from the operatic world. The
programme is led by members of ENO’s Casting and Music Departments who
oversee each singer’s development and ensure that they each benefit from a
tailored programme of training and support.
Benson and William’s first roles as Harewood Artists will be Schaunard and
Colline in ENO Drive & Live’s La bohËme, a new drive-in opera
experience, 19-27 September at Alexandra Palace.
ENO Head of Casting Michelle Williams says: ‘We’re delighted to welcome
three new Harewood Artists to ENO. The programme is fundamental to our
ongoing commitment to supporting the development of talent in the opera
industry, and we look forward to helping our brilliant new artists grow.’
Former Harewood Artists include Sophie & Mary Bevan, Elizabeth
Llewellyn, Iain Paterson, Nicky Spence, Sarah Tynan and Leigh Melrose.
Soprano Alexandra Oomens comments: ‘Now more than ever, having the
opportunity to perform means so much and I am thrilled to finally announce
this next step in my career. The lack of music making over the past few
months has been incredibly hard on so many, and I feel very fortunate to be
joining the Harewood Artist Programme and following in the footsteps of
many of opera’s leading figures.’
Baritone Benson Wilson says: ‘In times like these, where music will be
crucial to the healing of the world, I am honoured to be joining the family
at ENO as a Harewood Artist. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn
from internationally-renowned coaches and artists, with the support of one
of the most prestigious companies in the world.’
Bass William Thomas adds: ‘I am so excited to join the ENO Harewood
programme. They have already provided so much support throughout the
Covid-19 crisis and I cannot wait to sing roles at the London Coliseum. ENO
was my first experience of opera; as a 17 year old I did my work experience
here watching rehearsals of Butterfly, Billy Budd and Dr. Dee and it’s such a thrill to be continuing my post-music
college career in the heart of the West End.’
Australian soprano Alexandra Oomens is a recent graduate of the Royal
Academy of Music Opera Programme. Alexandra is an alumna of the prestigious
Georg Solti Accademia. Alexandra studied at the Conservatorium of Music
Sydney, where she attained a Bachelor of Music with Honours. Moving to
London, Alexandra completed a Masters of Music at the Royal Academy of
Music, and was awarded a Dip RAM for an outstanding final recital. She went
on to complete an Advanced Diploma of Opera, and was awarded a Royal
Academy Foundation Award.
During her time at the Royal Academy Alexandra performed such roles as The
Vixen (Cunning Little Vixen), Semele (Semele), La
Princess/La Chauve-Souris (L’Enfant et les sortilËges), Laurette (Le Docteur Miracle), Tina (Flight), Cupidon (OrphÈe aux enfers), and Damigella ( L’incoronazione di Poppea). Alexandra is extremely grateful for
the generosity of the Carr-Gregory Trust Scholarship, and John Baker Opera
Award during her time in RAO.
Alexandra most recently performed as Barbarina with Opera North in their
production of The Marriage of Figaro. Other operatic productions
include, Clonter opera; Zerlina (Don Giovanni), London Handel
Festival; Clizia (Teseo), Pinchgut Opera; Isabelle (L’Amant Jaloux), Childerico (Faramondo), Lisel (The Chimneysweep), Alina (Giasone) and 2nd Woman ( Dido & Aeneas).
Alexandra has performed as a soloist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra,
Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Eroica
Ensemble, and the Orchestra of the Antipodes. In recital she has performed
in such works as Bach’s ‘Easter Oratorio’, and Telemann’s ‘Die Donner Ode’,
‘Exsultate Jubilate K. 165’, ‘Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen BWV 51’, Coffee
Cantata BWV 211’, Bach’s ‘B Minor Mass’, and Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’.
New Zealand-born S?moan baritone Benson Wilson is the winner of the
prestigious 64th Kathleen Ferrier Award. That same year he was awarded the
Most Outstanding Overseas Performer of the Royal Overseas League
Competition, the Worshipful Company of Musicians Award, and was the 2018
winner of the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Foundation Award and
the People’s Choice Award.
This season Benson makes his debut for Opera Queensland in the title role
of Le nozze di Figaro. On the concert platform he begins the
season with a recital tour of New Zealand including for Auckland Chamber
Concert Hall, Hawkes Bay Opera House and Auckland Opera Studio, and later
gives UK recitals for Oxford Lieder and Kings Lynn Festivals with pianists
Sholto Kynoch and Lucy Colquhoun.
Previous operatic roles include Marullo (Rigoletto) for
Glyndebourne on Tour, John Shears (Paul Bunyan) for ENO, Mirza Der
Gesang (Der Zauberinse) at the Salzburger Festspiele as a 2019
Salzburg Young Singer, cover John Sorel (The Consul) for Welsh
National Opera, Guglielmo (Cosi fan tutte) and Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro) for Bloomsbury Opera, Schabernack (Le Grand Macabre) with London Symphony Orchestra, Schaunard (La bohËme) for Festival Opera Napier, and Guglielmo ( Cosi fan tutte), Demetrius (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
and Assan (The Consul) as a scholar on the Guildhall School of
Music & Drama Opera Course.
Benson regularly appears in concert in repertoire including Handel
‘Messiah’, Mozart ‘Requiem’, FaurÈ ‘Requiem’, DuruflÈ ‘Requiem’ and Brahms
‘Ein Deutches Requiem’, and in 2016 he joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra
for a Total Immersion Concert featuring works by Richard Rodney Bennett.
Prior to relocating to the UK, he won New Zealand’s premier singing
competition, the Lexus Song Quest, and graduated with a BMus from the
University of Auckland. Benson is a former young artist of the Georg Solti
Accademia di Bel Canto, the Samling Young Artist Programme, the
International Vocal Arts Institute, and New Zealand Opera School.
British bass William Thomas is winner of a number of major prizes, which
include the Kathleen Ferrier Award and John Christie Award in 2018, and the
Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in 2019. William is a
Drake Calleja Scholar and Help Musicians UK Maidment award holder, and is a
recent graduate of the Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and
Drama, where he studied with John Evans.
William made his Vienna State Opera debut in 2019 as Snug in a new
production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was directed by Irina
Brook and conducted by Simone Young. Other opera engagements have included
the role of Nicholas in the UK premiere of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa
for the Glyndebourne Festival, where he was as a Jerwood Young Artist in
2018, his Garsington Opera debut as Shepherd in PellÈas et MÈlisande in 2017.
Recently in concert, William performed Bartok’s ‘Cantata Profana’ in his
debut with the London Symphony Orchestra under FranÁois-Xavier Roth, and
the Beethoven ‘Symphony No. 9’ with the Orchestre national de Lyon
conducted by Alan Gilbert. He appeared in the Irish National Opera Gala at
the National Concert Hall Dublin, where he appeared last season in Handel’s
‘Messiah’ with the RTE Concert Orchestra and for Dvorak’s ‘Requiem’ with
the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. Other concert work also includes
Beethoven ‘Symphony No. 9’ in Paris and Versaille with Les SiËcles.
Upcoming concert work includes a European tour of Bach’s ‘St John Passion’
with the Monteverdi Choir under Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
Increasingly in demand as an interpreter of song, William has made several
appearances at London’s Wigmore Hall, where he appeared most recently as
part of Graham Johnson’s ‘Songmakers’ Almanac’ series. Elsewhere in
recital, he returns to the Leeds Lieder Festival alongside Graham Johnson
and appears at the Barber Institute with Joseph Middleton.