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The Liverpool Athenaeum Opera Prize.

June 14, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 11:00 pm


The President David Roscoe is delighted to announce the inaugural Sir David Maddison Opera Prize presented by the Liverpool Athenaeum, and held in association with The Royal Northern College of Music, and produced by Athenaeum Proprietor David Cox.

Five outstanding Singers from the RNCM have been selected from a shortlist of students who put their names forward to take part in the Prize contest.   They will each perform two items from their repertoire before Athenaeum Proprietors and their invited guests, and whilst doing so they will be adjudged by a distinguished panel of Judges, chaired by Athenaeum Proprietor Dr Glyn Williams, on their technical and artistic merit. These opera stars of the future will be competing for the prestigious trophy awarded in his name by kind permission of Sir David Maddison.

A first prize of a cheque to the value of £250 given on behalf of the club, and a trophy donated by the Producer, will be awarded to the Singer judged to be the most outstanding on the night, with a runner up prize of a cheque to the value of £100 also given on behalf of the club. It is hoped that if this evening is well supported by Proprietors, The Sir David Maddison Opera Prize may become an annual event on the Clubs calendar and provide a platform for young outstanding Opera stars of the future to showcase their talents before an appreciative and discerning audience.

The accompanist for the contest performance will be Jason Ellis the very talented, Composer and Concert Pianist, who many of you will by now be familiar with, if you have attended the two Opera at The Athenaeum concerts held during the last year.

 The biographies for the artistes can be found below;



Alicia Cadwgan – Soprano

Alicia Cadwgan is a New Zealand soprano currently in her first year of study for a Master of Music at The Royal Northern College of Music under the tutelage of Susan Roper.  She holds a Bachelor of Music and Postgraduate Diploma with distinction from the New Zealand School of Music where she studied with Margaret Medlyn and Richard Greager, and is also an alumna of the prestigious New Zealand opera school.  Last year, Alicia sang the role of Susanna in the English production of The Marriage of Figaro with Wanderlust opera and performed as a chorus member in New Zealand Opera’s production of The Elixir of love.  Since moving to Manchester in September Alicia has become a member of the RNCM songsters and has also had the pleasure of performing with the RNCM Harp Ensemble.   She looks forward to exploring many more performance opportunities in the United Kingdom, and wishes to gratefully acknowledge the James and Mary Glass Award which she received towards her study this year.


Molly Barker – Mezzo-Soprano

Molly is a mezzo-soprano from Nottinghamshire, now living in the Peak District.  She is in her second year of a two-year masters degree at The Royal Northern College of Music, studying under the tutorage of Hilary Summers.   She has been generously supported by Joyce Kennedy as a recipient of The Michael Kennedy Award and a scholarship awarded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.     Molly is a newcomer to the professional singing world, having performed in her first opera in summer 2018 in the chorus of Tisbe, performed by La Serenissima at the Buxton Opera House.   Since then she has played the role of La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica  (Puccini) and Zita in Gianni Schicchi (Puccini)  in the RNCM winter productions.  This year she has performed with the Birmingham Opera Company in their production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk  (Shostakovich) and will be rejoining the Buxton International festival in a new opera called the Orphans of Koombu, a collaborative project involving local schools.      Alongside music, Molly maintains a strong interest in agriculture, having taken an undergraduate degree in Countryside Management at the University of Derby Buxton.  Alongside her current studies, she still enjoys time spent with the dairy cows, and keeping up to date with all the latest agricultural gossip.


Peter Lidbetter Biography

Peter Lidbetter is a second-year scholarship student at the Royal Northern College of Music, studying for a Master’s degree in vocal performance with Nicholas Powell.  His study is generously supported by the Choir association of St John’s College Cambridge and the HR Taylor Charitable Trust.   Peter graduated from Jesus College Cambridge in 2015 where he was a music student and choral scholar, winning the Margaret Mair prize for vocal performance in his final year. Subsequently, he worked with the choir of St John’s College Cambridge as a lay clerk.

Peter made his professional Operatic debut in 2018 as Colline (La Boheme) with Flat Pack Opera and has also played Figaro (La Nozze di Figaro) for the same company.   He was in the choruses of Mozart’s Idomeneo and Verdi’s Alzira last year with Buxton Festival Opera and returns this year to play the role of Policeman in their upcoming production of Orphans of Koombu.  At the RNCM he has performed the roles of Simone (Gianni Schicchi) and Evangelist (Pilgrim’s Progress).  Prior to this had sixteen operatic credits with the Cambridge University Opera Society, including Sid (Albert Herring) Tarquinius (The rape of Lucretia) and Zebul (Jephtha)   He also premiered the role of the Count in Owain Park’s opera The Snow Child at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Other recent solo performances include both Bach Passions, Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Schubert’s Mass in B flat, and Magnificat, Handel’s Messiah, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with the Nottingham Bach Choir, and Mozart’s Requiem with Christopher Herrick and the Brandenburg Sinfonia.


Ralph Thomas Williams – Countertenor

Ralph Thomas Williams is a British Countertenor reading Masters at The Royal Northern College of Music under the esteemed tutorage of Nicholas Powell after obtaining BMus Hons at The Royal Holloway University of London.  This academic year, Ralph has enjoyed performing in RNCM’s production of Vaughan Williams The Pilgrims Progress as The Woodcutters boy, and in Flight by Jonathan Dove as the title role Refugee for RNCM’s Spring term opera scenes.  Before Masters, he was a student at City Lit Opera School at Convent Garden performing opera scenes from Handel’s Jeptha as Hamor, Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon, and Handel’s Giulio Cesare as Tolomeo, and premiered three operas with Manchester Contemporary Youth opera. A versatile performer, this current academic year Ralph has performed concerts as soloist with Manchester Baroque at Manchester Art gallery, Alexey Pudinov and Kimi Makino at Cross street chapel, Mozart Vespers with Wigan Choral Society, and as a member of Canzonetta Choir at Bridgewater Hall and Birmingham Symphony Hall.   Additionally, he has won two competitions at this time: the Bessie Cronshaw and Frost Brownson Song Cycle competition with Rodger Steptoes cycle “Chinese Lyrics Set Two”  and the Rosamond Prize with Composer/Pianist Aaron Breeze and Librettist Lauren Garland with the premiere performance of ” Bed Scenes with Mammoth”   Ralph’s upcoming performances include Summer term opera scenes at RNCM as Fox in Dove’s Adventures of Pinocchio, Prince Orlofsky in Leeds Youth opera’s 1920 production of Strauss ‘DieFledermaus and an Early Music lunchtime recital with lutenist Sara Sallom at Blackburn Cathedral.


 Julia Smith – Soprano

Hailing from North East England, Julia grew up with a background in the musical theatre as a part of Chester-le-Street Theatre group from 1999-2011.  During this time she also became proficient in the piano and flute while at school and has won various awards, including the James Etherington Music Award, and the Jack Smith Memorial Prize.    Julia went on to study music at the Liverpool Hope university studying with Vanessa Williamson, where she graduated with first class honours.  She went on to complete an MA by Creative Practice as part of the vocal consort ‘ Voices of Hope’ at the same institution.   Voices of Hope have toured around the country for various engagements, including the House of Lords on two occasions, and have also toured three times to the south of France to raise money for the charity ‘The Sangaman Project’ directed by John Bates. She has taken part in masterclasses with I Fagiolini director Robert Hollingworth, and musicologist John Milsom.  Julia was also awarded The Sue Willis Memorial Prize for outstanding contribution to the life of the university through music.

Julia is currently studying under the tutelage of Deborah Rees at the Royal Northern College of Music for a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Musical performance.  She is generously supported by the Richard Newitt fund, Liverpool University, the Rushworth Trust, Split Infinitive Trust, and the Mario Lanza Educational Foundation.  At the RNCM she is a member of the RNCM Songsters and the ‘Quintata’ Consort.  She has played the role of ‘Tina’ in Flight by Jonathan Dove for Opera scenes, performed as a soloist for the RNCM Chamber music festival, and has performed for a chamber recital at St Ann’s church in Manchester city centre.   At the RNCM she has taken part in Masterclasses with many professionals including Sir John Tomlinson, Janice Watson, and Alister Hume.  She is also a member of the Manchester Chamber Choir, and Manchester Canzonetta choir with performances including the world premiere of the BBC’s ‘One Planet, Seven Worlds’ by Hans Zimmer, and Karl Jenkins birthday celebrations at Birmingham Symphony Hall.     Julia looks forward to touring with the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company as ‘Gianetta’ in The Gondoliers and ‘Kate’ in The Yeoman of the Guard from July to September 2019.


Jason Ellis

Jason was born in Yorkshire and is a graduate of Leeds college of Music, and Liverpool University where he trained in classical and romantic piano performance, composition, orchestration, and arranging.

Jason has been involved with choral music since accompanying the Liverpool University singers during his studies, and in 2013 Jason founded the Mersey wave choir. He works with several choral groups across Merseyside including the Magull based Georgian singers, and Wirral based Cappriccio singers.  Since 2010 he has been accompanist to the Froneysyllte Male voice choir.   Since 2014 Jason can be regularly found at the piano in the Liverpool Empire theatre and was recently accompanist for the Rainhill Music festival.

Jason performs regularly on the concert platform as a soloist and accompanist, composes and creates musical arrangements and transcriptions on a freelance basis.   Jason is a session musician at Industrial Music studios and has an active piano/theory music tutor practice.   He is also a member of the Music and staging committee for the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.




Arrivals 6.30pm.   

Opera contest concert 7pm.

Supper 8.15pm.

9.45pm Prize giving and Winners reprise performance.

10.10pm Opera prize concludes.


June 14, 2019
6:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Event Category:


The Athenaeum Liverpool
Church Alley
Liverpool, L1 3DD United Kingdom
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+44 151 709 7770