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Multimillion pound legacy backs talent development in opera and music in Wales

4 May 2023

A multimillion pound legacy, shared between the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) and Welsh National Opera (WNO), will deliver lasting support to the training of singers and musicians and also create future opportunities for young artists to perform on a professional scale.

The late Philippa and David Seligman were passionate supporters of the arts. David has left legacies exceeding £3 million pounds to RWCMD and WNO and these generous gifts will ensure the continuation and further development of projects that meant a great deal to them during their lives.

RWCMD’s David Seligman Opera School offers a fully integrated operatic training experience, with storytelling through music and drama at the heart of its intensive, personalised training. Part of the legacy will be directly invested into the productions, with hands-on industry experience and guidance that eminent teachers, performers and renowned practitioners from the international world of opera offer to the School’s students. Crucially-needed new scholarships will also be created in the Seligman name for opera and other music disciplines.

RWCMD Director of Music, Tim Rhys-Evans said, ‘I had the very great pleasure of knowing David and Philippa for many years and saw first-hand their belief in young people and the power of singing to enrich young lives. Their passion for opera in particular was something incredibly dear to them, and the need for this artform to be made accessible and relevant to young people of every background was a major driving force behind their philanthropy. David knew the impact that legacies of any size can have, and now his exceptional gift will ensure that future generations of artists will continue to be supported for many years to come. Diolch and thank you. We will be forever grateful.’

WNO Youth Opera was established in the mid-1990s as a way for the WNO company to share its love of opera with aspiring young singers. It is an award-winning training programme for young people, aged from 10-25 years, who love to sing and perform. Members gain a professional and unique training experience working with WNO’s orchestra, designers, stage managers and technicians, helping develop and support their professional skills. The impact of David’s legacy will ensure that WNO Youth Opera can present a showcase performance every year.

WNO Youth Opera producer, Paula Scott said: ‘We are incredibly grateful for this generous bequest. David and Philippa Seligman were passionate supporters of WNO Youth Opera, and we are delighted to be honouring them both by continuing our work with young artists.’

The legacy also allows for a continuation of a talent development pathway that has historically linked both WNO and RWCMD. Numerous youth opera alumni have gone on to train at the College and then subsequently returned to WNO in a professional capacity.

Most recently, Carys Davies, a previous member of WNO Youth Opera and current RWCMD student, performed in WNO’s main scale production of The Magic Flute. Carys said: ‘Singing with WNO Youth Opera was an invaluable experience and has influenced my training at the Royal Welsh College. My work with WNO has also given me an incredible insight into professional life after studying here at the Welsh conservatoire and has been an experience I will never forget.’

This year’s WNO Youth Opera showcase, The Pied Piper of Hamelin & The Crab that played with the Sea, is being performed in the Weston Studio of Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th May. Students of the David Seligman Opera School can next be seen performing Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel in the RWCMD’s Richard Burton Theatre from Saturday 1st to Wednesday 5th July.

Press photos here. Credit Craig Fuller

Notes to Editors

David Seligman

The late David and Philippa Seligman took great joy in sharing their love of the performing arts and in supporting young talent. David’s extraordinary commitment and philanthropy, expressed through his involvement with many arts organisations across Cardiff, has left an indelible mark on the cultural life of Wales, not just at the Royal Welsh College and WNO, but at St David’s Hall, Chapter Arts Centre, the Wales Millennium Centre and the Sherman Theatre, to name but a few. In 2010, he and Philippa were jointly awarded The Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy to celebrate individuals who support the arts, and to recognise the contribution of ‘the most inspiring cultural philanthropists in the UK’.

Welsh soprano Carys Davies is in her third year of undergraduate vocal studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, studying under Suzanne Murphy. Carys has been a member of WNO Youth Opera from 2014-2022, where she performed in the children’s chorus for Hansel and Gretel, Cat in Brundibár, and in the chorus of Cherry Town, Moscow. More recently, Carys has sung with BBC National Chorus of Wales at the Royal Albert Hall and as Second Witch in Dido and Aeneas.

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama attracts the best creative talent from across the globe. As Wales’ national conservatoire, we fire imagination and drive innovation, offering training to more than 800 actors, musicians, designers, technicians and arts managers from more than 40 countries. Our students’ extraordinary talent and potential is fused with exceptional teaching and unrivalled industry links, to bring dreams to life. A space for everyone, creative ambition and collaboration are central to our excellence.
Our students are immersed in a live industry environment from the moment they arrive. With some of Wales’ most prestigious venues, we operate a dynamic arts centre, and our performance programme of world class professionals is integral to students’ training.

Welsh National Opera

We believe in the power of opera to transform lives. Our mission is to bring the power, drama and raw emotion of opera to as wide an audience as possible in performances, marked by an uncompromising quest for artistic quality. As a national company with international status, we sit at the heart of music-making in Wales and play a valuable role in the communities we serve in England. We work with our partners to discover and nurture young operatic talent and provide the springboard for international careers.
Touring is our lifeblood and we strive to present the highest quality work across our artistic programme, entertaining and inspiring audiences at our operas and concerts and providing transformative experiences through our youth and community work. Building on our 70-year history and our roots in the communities of South Wales, we aim to demonstrate to future generations that opera is a rewarding, relevant and universal art form. More than any other company, WNO opens up the world of opera to everyone.