Bryn Terfel and Julia Lezhneva join students from the Wales International Academy of Voice for a special Gala Concert


Students from the prestigious Wales International Academy of Voice (WIAV) will be joined by World renowned bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel and Decca recording artist, Julia Lezhneva, for a special concert that will take place at the Wales Millennium Centre on Sunday, March 20th.

The student who are all studying at the Wales International Academy of Voice - part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David - will be accompanied by Cardiff Sinfonietta and conducted by Jonathan Mann. 

The Gala Concert, which will be presented by David Emanuel, will be an opportunity to hear the superb young voices that are currently being nurtured by WIAV’s Director, distinguished opera star, Dennis O’Neill.  The concert will be a fantastic occasion for the young artistes as they join such eminent performers as Bryn Terfel and Julia Lezhneva on stage.

Bryn Terfel has performed in all the great opera houses of the world, and is especially recognized for his portrayals of Figaro, Falstaff and Wotan. He is also known for his versatility as a concert performer with highlights ranging from the opening ceremony of the Wales Millennium Centre, BBC Last Night of the Proms, and the Royal Variety Show to a gala concert with Andrea Bocelli in Central Park, New York. He has given recitals in the major cities of the world and for nine years hosted his own festival in Faenol, North Wales.

He is a Grammy, Classical Brit and Gramophone Award winner with a discography encompassing operas of Mozart, Wagner and Strauss, and more than fifteen solo discs including Lieder, American musical theatre, Welsh songs and sacred repertory.

In 2016 Bryn will make his debut in the role of Boris Godunov for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and will give recitals in North America and concerts in festivals throughout Europe.

Julia Lezhneva is one of the leading artists of her generation – who first came to Wales to study with Dennis O'Neill in 2008. The young Russian soprano’s international career sky-rocketed when she created a sensation at the Classical Brit Awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2010, singing Rossini’s Fra il padre at the invitation of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Since then, Julia has been appearing in concerts and operas around the globe.

In 2011, Julia became an exclusive Decca artist releasing her first recording, Alleluia, in March 2013 and her second album, Handel, in 2015.

The Gala Concert also introduces 24 year-old South African Bongani Kubheka, who has received a special grant from Wales Millennium Centre to enable the singer to study at WAIV, and live in Cardiff for one academic year.

“Bongani has an amazing talent and a rare gift,” said WIAV’S Director, Denni O’Neill, who chose Bogani from a pool of emerging talent at Cape Town Opera, a partner organisation of the Wales Millennium Centre. “His voice has a certain beauty; the scholarship is a generous opportunity that will allow Bongani to refine his work. He really does have a star quality and I think he will rise very quickly through the ranks,” he adds.

WIAV is a world-class institution that selects a limited number of aspiring professional opera students from all over the world to come and study at its base in Cardiff each year.  The small number of exceptional singers at the early-professional stage are selected and recruited globally and come to WIAV to further their talent in order to reach the highest professional standards.  All those studying voice at the Academy are following a MA course in Advanced Vocal Studies.

This year’s cohort - selected by Dennis O’Neill - come from the four corners of the earth, from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, USA, South Africa, Korea, Russia, Italy, England and Wales.

“We are all looking forward to our Gala Concert and this year, we are particularly delighted to be joined by two very special guests - Bryn Terfel and one of my former students, Julia Lezhneva. It will also be a joy to share the evening with David Emanuel as our host as well as Jonathan Mann who will conduct the Cardiff Sinfonietta,” says Dennis O’Neill.

“WIAV is proud to be part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.  The University continues its commitment to Music and the Arts in Wales, through its exceptional provision of professional tuition and guidance to developing performing artists,” continues Dennis.

Students studying at WIAV are given the opportunity to progress with their studies and to develop their voices under the guidance of Dennis and his high-calibre coaching staff.  Distinguished visiting vocal consultants also visit regularly, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (WIAV’s President), Susan Bullock, Ryland Davies, Della Jones, Richard Bonynge and Joyce Fieldsend.

During their studies, the young singers have the opportunity to concentrate on stylistic issues and advanced vocal technique. WIAV is a centre of excellence and gives students the opportunity to prepare for the challenge of life on an extremely exacting and exciting world stage.  The Academy’s underlying ethos is the provision of a solid technique with linguistic and stylistic understanding.

“The University of Wales Trinity Saint David makes a significant contribution to the creative industries in Wales and beyond.  It is committed to the development of the Arts and to seek outlets for such creative work in order to raise the profile of the University and Wales to international audiences,” says Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

“The establishment of the Wales International Academy of Voice under the directorship of Dennis O’Neill was, therefore, a natural step.  We are proud of the fact that we have at its helm a person of Dennis O’Neill’s calibre and ability.  His luminous career and vast experience provides the young opera singers in his care with unrivalled opportunities. With Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as the Academy’s Patron and a regular visitor, the training provided is among the best in the world and during this Gala Concert, our students will have the invaluable experience of sharing a stage with luminaries of the opera world as well as other artistes at the forefront of their professional careers,” continues Professor Hughes.

Tickets for the Gala Concert are available from the Wales Millennium Centre box office.  Call 029 2063 6464 or visit

For further information on the Wales International Academy of Voice, please visit

Information on the students currently studying at WIAV can be found here:

Note to Editor

For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies by emailing / 01267 676908 / 07449 998476