Royal Opera House Youth Opera Company

Karen and Suzi spearheaded ROH YOC for eight years, developing an outstanding model to excite young people and give them the chance to immerse themselves musically and dramatically. With their vision, commitment and creativity, Karen and Suzi have led generations of young people on an inspiring journey through which they have developed as individuals and artists. We owe both a debt of gratitude for all that they have done.’

Jillian Barker, Director of Learning and Participation at Royal Opera House


‘Power to the children in this revival of Carmen, and high fives to the Royal Opera House Youth Opera Company, to Suzi Zumpe their vocal director and to their stage director William Edelstein for helping them steal the show. It’s the children’s energy that carries the ensemble numbers, while their well-drilled French pronunciation could teach the adult soloists a thing or two.’ writes

Mark Valencia in his review of Bizet’s Carmen for What’s On Stage


Together with Karen Gillingham, Suzi was artistic director of The Royal Opera House’s Youth Opera Company (ROH YOC) from 2009 until 2017. Under their tenure, the company was made up of around fifty 9-13 year old children.   It was established following an extensive series of audition workshops involving hundreds of children, with an aim to keep the recruitment base for YOC as broad as possible and to give opportunities to everyone, irrespective of whether they had previous experience of opera.


The Royal Opera were so impressed with YOC’s debut performance in the Linbury Studio Theatre in May 2011, that they asked YOC to provide the children’s cast for La Bohème in summer 2012. Since then, YOC have also provided the children’s cast for numerous productions on the main stage including Carmen and Otello.  In February 2015, the YOC were featured in their own right, in a gala evening on the main stage of the Royal Opera House.  They performed a new work, Out of the Ruins, by Charlotte Bray specially commissioned for the event.


YOC’s short film, The Watchers In The Wings, a miniature opera by John Barber, with a libretto by Steven Butler was launched in October 2016.   You can find out more information about the project here.


Other performances of note include –

  • A triple bill of short operas in the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House – Mighty Oaks by John Barber, with a libretto by Denton Chikura; Colony by Evan Kassof, with a libretto by Ruth Willow-Mariner and Aleksander Hut-Kono and Out of the Ruins by Charlotte Bray, with a libretto by Kate Kennedy (2015)
  • The Crackle, a new opera by Matthew Herbert.   This piece was part of ROH’s Faustian Pack season which featured new works written in response the Faust legend. (2014)
  • Gone Fishing, which was devised from existing opera repertory by Karen and Suzi and arranged by composer Richard Taylor.  In Gone Fishing, the children got to grips with a wide range of material and languages including French, Italian and Spanish, and they encountered all sorts of music along the way – from extracts from Nixon in China and El Niño by contemporary composer John Adams, to fragments from Rameau’s Platée and Monteverdi’s Orfeo via Britten, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Ravel and others.  Director Karen Gillingham, designer Bernie Roberts. (2013)


Read an article about the Youth Opera Company here.  This article first appeared in the April 2011 issue of ROH’s About the House magazine.

You can watch a clip of ROH YOC in rehearsal here