Meet the Team
Artistic Director: Fred Broom
Fred is no stranger to Bedfordshire Youth Opera; he first performed with them as Count Almaviva in Figaro’s Wedding in 1997, followed by one of his favourite roles, the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance in 1998. He fondly remembers swashbuckling with a pink sword and a bottle of Bacardi Breezer! He then moved to Bedford and continued to perform with BYO for another three years, his swansong being the title role in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
At the same time, he was Head of Drama at Mark Rutherford School. Once he became too old to be classified a “youth”, he took over from his dear friend Julia Fraser (then McLeish) becoming BYO’s third Artistic Director. Shows he directed in his first stint as Artistic Director include the first Candide, Albert Herring, The Mikado, Orpheus in the Underworld, and The Magic Flute, as well as many Schools’ Tours.
Once he reached the ripe old age of 30, he decided to change careers. He trained at Guildford School of Acting, gaining an MA in Musical Theatre, and was awarded the Post-Graduate Prize for Musical Theatre. Since training, Fred has enjoyed a prolific performing career. His credits include Sweeney Todd at the Royal Festival Hall with Bryn Terfel and Maria Friedman, the award-winning all-male Pirates of Penzance and many Mozart operas with Opera Loki. Most recently, he played Cliff Michelmore in the third series of The Crown.
Five years ago, he was honoured to be asked back to BYO to direct Sondheim’s beautiful A Little Night Music, and his passion for the company was reignited.
Musical Director: Richard Sisson
Alongside a wide-ranging catalogue of some 60 concert works, Richard’s theatre compositions include scores for The Magistrate (National Theatre), Restoration (Salisbury Playhouse), The History Boys (National Theatre, West End and Broadway), Cressida (Almeida), The Lady in the Van (West End) and Goodnight Children Everywhere (RSC). Other recent work includes Pied Beauty, an anthem for the choir of Merton College Oxford in celebration of their 750th anniversary, a congregational mass for St Nicholas in Arundel and a cantata commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Luton Peace Day Riots of 1919.
Recent musical adventures have included a performance in the 2015 Proms season, with singers Siân Phillips, Jamie Parker, Kitty Whately and saxophonist Anthony Brown, in a concert honouring the 85th birthday of Stephen Sondheim. In 2016 Richard curated the music for the celebrations of the historic 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta and was honoured to provide the live commentary for the event in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. On the concert platform he has performed in programmes with Martin Jarvis, Edward Fox, Emilia Fox, Freddie Fox, Joanna David and Alan Titchmarsh and with cabaret artistes Janie Dee, Rebecca Bottone and Susan Bullock, this last being an evening in tribute to the American Songbook.
Richard has written an original method for learning to sight read at the piano. Called At First Sight, he teaches the method at London’s Royal College of Music and at the annual international summer school, Ingenium, at Winchester College. He also teaches A level music at Luton Sixth Form College. As a proud member of his Bedfordshire community, he is Chairman of Luton Music, a concert society that presents an annual series of professional chamber music concerts.
Richard continues to broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3’s Building a Library, The Listening Service, In Tune and recently presenting and performing a live recital with the BBC Singers from Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the Shakespeare anniversary celebrations.
Vocal Director: Rachel Nicholls
Recently described by The Observer as ‘magnificent, full-toned, flexible, accurate and powerful,’ Rachel Nicholls is now widely recognised as one of the most exciting dramatic sopranos of her generation. She was born in Bedford and in 2013 was awarded an Opera Awards Foundation Bursary to study with Dame Anne Evans.
Recent and future engagements include Isolde, Tristan und Isolde for the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Rome, Turin, Karlsruhe, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Grange Park Opera as well as in concert with the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra, the title role in Elektra for Basel and Karlsruhe, Salome in Hannover, Brünnhilde, Die Walküre, in a new production for ENO, Brünnhilde, Siegfried in concert with the Hallé (recently released on CD), Brünnhilde, Götterdämmerung in Taiwan, Jenufa, A Midsummer Marriage in concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Fidelio for Lithuanian National Opera, Guinevere Gawain for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth for Karlsruhe and NI Opera, and Eva, Die Meistersinger for Karlsruhe and ENO.
She is also in demand as a concert artist and has worked with orchestras throughout Europe and the Far East and in recital at venues including Wigmore Hall, London. Recordings include Siegfried, Elgar’s The Spirit of England with the Hallé, a wide repertoire with Bach Collegium Japan and Tippett’ Third Symphony for Chandos.