Independent Opera

Independent Opera at Sadler’s Wells was founded in 2005 to support outstanding young artists in every discipline of opera.

Recognising the need to bridge the gap between raw talent and a professional career, Bill and Judy Bollinger co-founded Independent Opera and, together with Alessandro Talevi, devised a series of initiatives to support young and talented artists. Following the success of their first venture, a production of Rossini’s La Scala di Seta directed by Talevi, IO supported the refurbishment of the Lilian Baylis Studio in order to be able to present subsequent productions there. IO’s most recent production was the UK première of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Simplicius Simplicissimus directed by the winner of IO’s 2016 Director Fellowship, Polly Graham.

Aware of the need for a broader and more permanent system of support for young artists, IO launched its Artist Support programme in 2007.  To date, IO, with conductor Natalie Murray Beale as consultant, has given over 150 grants in the fields of singing, directing, design, choreography and production. Now Creative Director of IO, Natalie has been instrumental in the development of IO’s programme, which is a unique combination of scholarships, fellowships, partnerships and patronage, supported by professional mentoring. In addition to an annual Wigmore Hall recital showcasing its Vocal Scholars and the sponsorship of the biennial Wigmore Hall International Song Competition, IO also commissions new works. Joby Talbot’s cantata A Sheen of Dew on Flowers – inspired by Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet gifted to the V&A by the Bollingers – was premièred at the Barbican in April 2019 to celebrate the bicentenary of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s births. 

Bill and Judy Bollinger were recognised as Philanthropists of the Year at the 2016 International Opera Awards. After 15 years of support for aspiring artists, Independent Opera will host its farewell concert at the Wigmore Hall on 15 October 2020.


Independent Opera today announced that they will close at the end of 2020. Read the full statement here.

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Meet the young artists who have been awarded Voice Scholarships and Postgraduate Voice Fellowships from Independent Opera for the 2019-20 season.

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“The vocalists, players and stage staff are drawn from the ranks of emerging talent by Independent Opera, a much-needed platform for outstanding entrants to the profession...”