The European Opera Centre was launched at the end of 1997 following extensive consultation with the European Parliament and the European Commission, which provided consistent support for some twenty years.
From the outset, the Centre has maintained two broad aims: to help people of high potential move from education to employment in opera; and to help develop audiences for opera. In 2015, the Centre’s Trustees decided to extend the opportunities offered to include the rest of the world as well as Europe.
People from 37 European countries attended the Centre when its focus was principally European. Singers have been heard and assisted in 50 cities, and major performance projects undertaken in 17 countries. The Centre’s most recent auditions attracted people from 77 countries.
Cosi fan tutte – Conductor & cast biographies
Laurent Pillot – conductor
French conductor Laurent Pillot was Associate Music Director of Los Angeles Opera, where he worked alongside Kent Nagano and Plácido Domingo. In Los Angeles, he conducted a new production of Ariadne auf Naxos and performances of Tosca, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème. He gave in New York the American première of the original French version of Bloch’s Macbeth “…Drawing vibrant and colorful playing from the orchestra, Laurent Pillot was especially good at conveying the mysteriousness that pervades this overlooked score…” The New York Times. His previous New York performances include Fauré’s Pénélope, Les contes d’Hoffmann, Béatrice et Bénédict and Cendrillon.
As Music Director of the Orchestre Symphonique Rhône-Alpes Auvergne he reaches a new audience for the symphonic repertoire. Guest engagements have included with the Opéra National de Lyon, New York City Opera, Teatro Regio Turin, the Hallé orchestra Manchester, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lille, Orchestre Philharmonique de Montpellier, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, I Pomeriggi Musicali Milan, Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla and Orquesta de Valencia.
Laurent Pillot has a commitment to taking opera through a range of media to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it. Film work has included Britten’s Owen Wingrave and The Seven Deadly Sins with Teresa Stratas, Peter Sellars and Kent Nagano. He has overseen each new language version of the award-winning BBC film of The Cunning Little Vixen, creating sound tracks in addition to the English in Czech, French, Spanish and Catalan. He has brought Janáček’s masterpiece to an entirely new audience through live performance – big screen showings with orchestra live on stage – most recently with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Alongside his work with professional ensembles, Laurent Pillot has developed a passion for working in opera with talented young singers and instrumentalists. His work in Munich, where he founded the Opera Studio at the Bavarian State Opera, was the subject of a three-part documentary for German television. He has been associated with the European Opera Centre for more than a decade, conducting the Centre’s singers and European Union Youth Orchestra for Plácido Domingo’s birthday celebrations at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam as well as in London. He is a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et Danse de Lyon.
Laurent Pillot’s own professional experience as a conductor came from working at the Opéra de Lyon, the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic, at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and in the United States.
Alexander Sprague – Ferrando
Alexander Sprague played Captain Macheath in Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera presented by the European Opera Centre and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in the Britten centenary year. Since then he has performed with most of the major British opera companies, including the Royal Opera (Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo), English National Opera (Acis in Handel’s Acis and Galatea) and the title role in Britten’s Albert Herring with Opera North. He made his Welsh National Opera début in Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron. He performed at the Salzburg Festival in Birtwistle’s Gawain and at the Royal Danish Opera in Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel. A graduate of Durham University, Alexander studied at the Royal Academy of Music and National Opera Studio. Future plans include Don Ottavio (Mozart Don Giovanni) with Opéra National du Rhin; and Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights with Opéra National de Lorraine. Concert appearances include with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques at Salle Pleyel, Paris; and for the London Handel Festival.
Biagio Pizzuti – Guglielmo
Biagio Pizzuti, who made his UK début in this production of Così fan tutte, comes from Salerno where he graduated from the conservatoire. He studied with the distinguished Italian baritones, Renato Bruson and Rolando Panerai, also attending the Opera Studio of Santa Cecilia, Rome under the guidance of Renata Scotto. Winning first prize in both the AsLiCo and Spoleto vocal competitions, Biagio has been a member of the Ensemble Opera Studio, Genoa where he performed and recorded under Fabio Luisi. Shortly after Così fan tutte, he appeared in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi for the Spoleto Festival and Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims with Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam. In summer 2018, he played Moralès in Bizet’s Carmen at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival. In the 2018/2019 season, he performs two Handel operas – Serse and Agrippina – at Theater an der Wien and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris; and in Summer 2019 makes his début with the Fondazione del Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino as Belcore in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.
Nazan Fikret – Fiordiligi
Born in the UK of Turkish and Irish parents, Nazan Fikret studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating with 1st class honours and Masters with distinction, continuing her study with the renowned Mozartian soprano, Yvonne Kenny. She made her operatic début at the age of twelve as Flora in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw – a role performed in the Luc Bondy production for Aix-en-Provence Festival, David McVicar’s for English National Opera and the Teatro Real Madrid and Steven Langridge’s for Nederlandse Reisopera. After graduating, she created the role of Diane Disney in Philip Glass’s The Perfect American for English National Opera and Teatro Real; and of the Girl/Polar Bear in Julian Philip’s How the Whale Became for the Royal Opera. Recent highlights include Queen of the Night (Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte) for Garsington Opera, the title role in Handel’s Theodora for Snape Maltings, Elin in Howard Moody’s Agreed for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, as well as a number of roles for Nederlandse Reisopera. She continues to benefit from an International Opera Awards bursary.
Héloïse Mas – Dorabella
After graduating in economics from the University of Nancy, Héloïse Mas spent a year in Italy developing the musical education she had had since a child, while becoming fluent in Italian. In 2010, she successfully applied to become a student at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse, Lyon. Héloïse, who made her UK début in this production, has received a number of awards: she was the selected mezzo-soprano for Révélations classiques 2014 by ADAMI – the French society for the collective administration of performers’ rights; and a prize-winner at the Queen Elisabeth Competition 2018. She has sung the title role in Bizet’s Carmen at Grand-Théâtre de Genève, returning for Wagner’s Die Walküre. Also in 2019, she returns to Opéra de Lyon, where she first appeared in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, for a production of Offenbach’s Barbe-bleue directed by Laurent Pelly. Since these performances of Così fan tutte, Héloïse has also appeared at opera houses in Fribourg, Lille, Monte-Carlo, Nice and Reims.
Francesco Paolo Vultaggio – Don Alfonso
Francesco Vultaggio – who comes from Erice in Sicily – won both the 64th Concorso AsLiCo and the International Lyric Contest organised by the Fondazione Arena di Verona. Prize-winner in numerous international singing competitions, he made his début in the Netherlands at the Belcanto Festival Dordrecht (in Pergolesi’s La serva padrona). Since then he has appeared in a wide variety of roles throughout Italy including through AsLiCo’s touring circuit. This production of Così fan tutte was his first appearance in Great Britain. Subsequent performances include: Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (Nino Rota) in Bari; Adriana Lecouvreur (Francesco Cilea) in Como, Cremona, Pavia and Sassari; Puccini’s La bohème at the Teatro Filarmonico, Verona; Lehár’s Die lustige Witwe at the Arena di Verona; and the title role in Don Pasquale at the Teatro Massimo di Palermo; as well as Dulcamara in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Royal Opera House of Muscat. In 2015, he was one of the European Opera Centre singers to perform for the London Europe Day Concert under Ainārs Rubiķis.
Hamida Kristoffersen – Despina
Hamida Kristoffersen comes from the island of Bjarkøy in northern Norway. She graduated from the University of Tromsø, where she also completed her Masters degree. She was a finalist in The Queen Sonja International Music Competition, being awarded the Ingrid Bjoner scholarship as the best Norwegian contestant. Hamida became a member of the Opera Studio in Zurich shortly after these performances of Così fan tutte, graduating in 2016. While with the Opera Studio, Hamida sang a number of roles at the main Opernhaus Zürich, including standing in at short notice as Pamina is Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte – a performance met with considerable acclaim. She also sang Micaëla (Bizet’s Carmen) for Den Norske Opera, Oslo. She is now a Member of the Principal Ensemble at Opernhaus Zürich, performing a wide range of roles from Monteverdi, Mozart, Donizetti and Rossini to Verdi, Wagner and Ravel. In 2019, she makes her début at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris in a new Zürich production of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie.