Claire Surman, soprano

Claire Surman photoClaire graduated from the postgraduate opera course at the RCM with distinction, having won the Lies Askonas Prize, Agnes Nicholls Harty Trophy and Ted Moss Lieder Prize.
She made her Welsh National Opera (WNO) debut as Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) and her Glyndebourne Festival Opera (GFO) debut as Helena (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Other roles include: Tatyana (Eugene Onegin), Violetta (La Traviata), Gilda (Rigoletto), Leïla (The Pearl Fishers), Mimì (La Bohème), Governess (Turn of the Screw), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro), First Lady (Die Zauberflöte) and Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus).

Concert highlights as a soloist include performing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO)/Vladimir Jurowski (Royal Festival Hall); with the OAE/Sir Simon Rattle (Royal Festival Hall), in Raymond Gubbay’s Last Night of the Spring Proms Concerts (Symphony Hall, Bridgewater Hall) and with the Berlin Philharmonic/Sir Simon Rattle (Berlin, and the Salzburg Festival).

Claire appeared as a guest artist for the television series ‘Sopranos’, performing Sempre libera with the City of London Sinfonia.


Catriona Clark, soprano

Catriona studied at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Opera School, winning competitions including Ye Cronies Opera Prize and Governors Recital Award. Career highlights include Adèle (Die Fledermaus) alongside Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras and Bryn Terfel at the Royal Albert Hall, and performances for London Festival Opera, Covent Garden (Linbury Theatre) and Festivals, including Les Azuriales, Festival de Vézère and Edinburgh International Festival.

Catriona has toured Europe with Diva Opera, singing Marie (La Fille du Regiment), Musetta (La Bohème), Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro) and Euridice (Orphee aux Enfers). For Opera Bohemia, roles include Violetta (La Traviata), Hanna Glawari (Merry Widow), Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly), Tatyana (Eugene Onegin) and Mimì (La Bohème). For Scottish Opera, roles include Madame Mao (Nixon in China), Frasquita (Carmen) for access performances and Suor Osmina in David McVicar’s critically-acclaimed production of Il Trittico. Cover roles include Adina (L’Elisir d’Amore), Musetta, Fiordiligi (Così fan Tutte), Gianetta (Gondoliers) and Zara (Utopia Limited).

Most recently, Catriona recorded the role of Banshee (Shamus O’Brien) for Retrospect Opera with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, and sang Berta in Scottish Opera’s Barber of Seville access show. 


Louise Collett, mezzo-soprano

Louise studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, gaining a first-class Honours Degree, Post-Graduate Diploma in Concert Singing, Master of Music and Master of Opera at the Alexander Gibson Opera School (all with distinction). During her studies she won numerous prizes, including the Governors’ Recital Prize and the Margaret Dick Competition.

She was a Scottish Opera Emerging Artist before moving on to sing many roles for the company including Maddalena (Rigoletto), Third Lady (Die Zauberflöte), Suzuki (Madama Butterfly) and Lola (Cavalleria Rusticana). Louise has also worked as a soloist with Opera North (Annina La Traviata, The Baker’s Wife Into the Woods), Opera Bohemia (Suzuki Madama Butterfly, Olga Eugene Onegin) and English National Opera (Ensemble Jakob Lenz) as well as singing at the prestigious Bayreuth Festspiele. She has performed recitals, concerts and oratorios throughout the UK.

Alongside her performing, Louise has built up a successful private and peripatetic teaching practice in Derbyshire, and directs Hasland Community Choir in Chesterfield. She was Co-Director of Cantamus Girls Training Choir in Nottinghamshire for 12 years after being in Cantamus herself whilst at school and was fortunate enough to study with Pamela Cook MBE.


Connor Smith, tenor

Connor, a Scottish Tenor from West Lothian, is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music, where he studied under professors Robert Dean and Adrian Thompson, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. 

Connor has worked extensively around the country as a soloist and chorister with companies including Scottish Opera (Nixon in China, Rigoletto, Edgar, Silvano, The Magic Flute, Tosca, Iris), the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, Fox Opera (Le Docteur Miracle), and Opera Bohemia (The Pearl Fishers, The Merry Widow). Last year, he was an Alvarez Young Artist with Garsington Opera (Così Fan Tutte, Rusalka). This year, Connor has covered in the world premier of Noah Max’s A Child In Striped Pyjamas, covered El Remondado in Scottish Opera’s production of Carmen. Next year, he will cover The Spy in Scottish Opera’s Marx in London, Guiseppe in La Traviata, and will perform in Thomas Allen’s production of The Barber of Seville.

As well as a busy singing schedule, Connor is also in demand as a choral conductor, having been the musical director of Cathures Choir in Glasgow, Assistant Conductor for Ayr Choral Union and a guest conductor of many choirs throughout the UK.


Douglas Nairne, baritone

Douglas won a scholarship to study at the Guildhall School of Music where he gained an advanced Masters with distinction before completing a Masters in Opera at the Sir Alexander Gibson Opera School. 

Operatic roles include Marcello (La Bohème) at Haddo House Opera and Edinburgh Grand Opera, Silvio (Pagliacci) with Lakeland Opera, Zurga (The Pearl Fishers), the title role in Eugene Onegin, with Opera Bohemia, and Herald (Burning Fiery Furnace) which he performed at the Aldeburgh Festival and at the Hermitage in St Petersburg with Mahogany Opera. For Scottish Opera Douglas has sung the roles of The Herald (Burning Fiery Furnace), Marchese (La Traviata), Pinellino (Gianni Schicchi), and will perform the role of the Sergeant (Marx in London) next year.  

Highlights as a soloist on the concert platform include, Britten’s War Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, including a New Year performance with the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union and the Vaughan-Williams Sea Symphony with the Scottish Opera Orchestra. He has performed Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden GesellenKindertoten Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Mahler Players. In 2015 Douglas toured New York, San Francisco and North Carolina with the Britten Sinfonia. 


Benjamin Powell, piano

Since winning the British Contemporary Piano Competition in 2010 Benjamin Powell has gained a reputation for intelligent and expressive performances with a strong commitment to contemporary music. He has performed across the UK and Europe as a soloist, chamber musician, and song accompanist in venues including Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, Snape Maltings, Bridgewater Hall, IRCAM (Paris), and Harpa (Reykjavik).

From 2014-2023 he was the pianist for Manchester’s leading new music group, Psappha. Through his work with Psappha and elsewhere he has given over a hundred world premieres, working closely with both established and emerging composers across the UK and internationally.
Benjamin is a professor in piano at the RNCM and Chetham’s School of Music, and has been a staff pianist at the RNCM since 2007. His students have gone on to win prizes in major competitions, including BBC Young Musician of the Year, James Mottram International Competiton, Manchester International Piano Concerto Competition and the British Contemporary Piano Competition.
Benjamin was born and raised in West Sussex and currently lives in Glossop with his wife and three children.