BVOF Bursary Awards

BVOF Bursary Awards

In 2020, we established the new Blackwater Festival Opera Bursary Award. This annual €10,000 award was founded with the support of a private donor. The bursary winners are selected by the festival’s Artistic Director, Dieter Kaegi, and are encouraged to use the funding to further their musical education and performing ability.

The establishment and development of a bursary awards programme is in keeping with the BVOF mission to discover and support exceptional talents, helping to define a new future for Irish artists that have the potential to develop successful solo careers.

2021 BVOF Bursary Awards Recipients

Amy Gillen (flute) and Rory Dunne (bass baritone).

Amy Gillen graduated from the Royal College of Music London with a Distinction First Class Honours Masters of Music Performance in Classical and Jazz Flute and the prestigious Tagore Gold Medal. She received first class honours in her BA in Music Performance in Flute at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and was awarded the McCullough Cup and RTÉ Lyric FM Bursary. She has performed as soloist with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Amy made her debut performance at the Wigmore Hall in London where she was awarded the 2018 Irish Heritage Bursary for Performance. Amy has won numerous prizes, including the Sir James Galway Rising Star Award, a14K Gold Nagahara, Flax Trust Bursary and Audience Award at the Flax, Belfast, Gemeinhardt piccolo and a Haynes head joint at GFF, Switzerland, Yamaha Woodwind and Brass Bursary for Ireland, and Most Promising Young Musician at Clandeboye Music Festival Belfast.

Rory Dunne studied as a singer and as an actor, and is a graduate of both the TU Dublin Conservatoire (BMus Hons) and The Bull Alley Theatre Training Company. His career has led him to work with Irish National Opera, Wexford Festival Opera, Cork Opera House, Northern Ireland Opera, Opera Collective Ireland, Lyric Opera Productions, Opera in the Open and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra Chorus. He has been awarded prizes from Feis Ceoil, Bernadette Greevy Bursary, Navan Choral Festival and the John McCormack Society, as well as being selected as a finalist in Northern Ireland Opera’s Glenarm Festival of Voice. 2021 performances included Cosi fan tutte with the Vienna Opera Academy, Gianni Schicchi with Blackwater Valley Opera Festival, Semele with Opera Collective Ireland and Le Songe d’une nuit d’été and Il Capuleti e i Montecchi with Wexford Festival Opera .

2020 BVOF Bursary Awards Recipients

Naho Koizumi (soprano) and Darren Hargan (pianist/conductor).

Naho Koizumi is a Japanese UK based soprano and is a recent graduate of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where she studied under the tutelage of Scott Johnson. She has previously studied with Sinéad Campbell-Wallace in the TU Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama, where she graduated with a first-class honours degree.


Naho has performed with Lyric Opera, Irish National Opera and Blackwater Valley Opera Festival. Previously sung roles include Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Despina (Così fan tutte), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel) and Adina (L’elisir d’amore). Naho will be singing the roles of Amie/Earine in the world premiere of Ina Boyle’s Maudlin of Paplewick with BVOF.

Naho was also understudying the role of Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi during the 2021 festival, which was then followed by an engagement with Seiji Ozawa Academy as Ida in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus.

Darren Hargan is the founder and Artistic Director of Le Foyer des Artistes. He is a conductor and one of the most sought-after vocal coaches and accompanists for singers in Europe. From Derry City in Ireland, he is also a Swiss citizen. He studied on the prestigious joint course at the Royal Northern College of Music with the University of Manchester, spending his final year at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and was awarded a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London. Passionate about contemporary music, he has conducted several world premières and conducted the Philharmonia Opernhaus Zürich, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Voralberg Sinfonieorchester in Bregenz, ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg Choir, and the Karlsbader Sinfonieorchester in the Czech Republic. In 2019, he was invited to the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival where he conducted Don Pasquale to critical acclaim. He returned in 2021 to conduct Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi as well as the world première of Ina Boyle’s Maudlin of Paplewick in his own critical performing edition.

 Irish Heritage Award

In 2017, Irish Heritage and BVOF established a collaboration to enhance the benefits of the former’s annual music bursary with the inauguration of the Irish Heritage Award. The recipients of this award are the winner and two runners-up of the Irish Heritage Bursary auditions that take place in the Wigmore Hall each year. The three young musicians share a special debut recital at Dromore Yard during the festival, giving them a vital opportunity to showcase their individual talents. The three students then each receive performance fees and travel expenses as part of their award.


RDS Collins Memorial Award

This award is a performance award exclusively for past RDS Music Bursary award winners. Created in 2017 thanks to the support of Michael and Loret O’Brien, the RDS Collins Memorial Performance Award is in association with the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival. The RDS Music Bursary Programme itself consists of three separate awards – the RDS Music Bursary Award, the RDS Jago Award and the RDS Collins Memorial Performance Award. Each comes with a professional performance opportunity courtesy of RDS partnerships with the RTÉ National Symphony and Concert Orchestras and with the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival. The winner of the RDS Collins Memorial Performance Award is selected by BVOF Artistic Director Dieter Kaegi and given an important performance opportunity at St. Carthage’s Cathedral as part of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.