The INDEPENDENT OPERA Director Fellowship provides an emerging director with the opportunity to stage a chamber opera at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells.

Polly Graham INDEPENDENT OPERA Director Fellow 2016, photograph StudioCano

Polly Graham was awarded the Independent Opera Fellowship 2016 in December 2014 from a shortlist of 10 finalists. Each candidate must be nominated in order to apply and Graham’s nominators were Michael McCarthy (Artistic Director, Music Theatre Wales) and Isabel Murphy (Director of Artistic Administration, Welsh National Opera).  All candidates presented a concept proposal and were interviewed by a panel including Stephen Medcalf and Nicholas Payne, along with representatives from Independent Opera.  Finalists were auditioned in a workshop setting by a panel comprised of David Pountney, Annilese Miskimmon and Martin Duncan. 

The Director Fellowship will enable her to stage the UK première of Hartmann’s Simplicius Simplicissimus at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, in November 2016, and includes mentoring from Stephen Medcalf and David Pountney, along with mentoring at Welsh National Opera where she has had the opportunity to direct Iain Bell’s A Christmas Carol, and is currently associate director of Bell’s In Parenthesis.  

“Independent Opera has given me wonderful encouragement from the start of the Fellowship; in supporting the production of Hartmann’s superb but little known opera, Simplicius Simplicissimus, they are allowing me to step into new territory and make work that I really believe in.” Polly Graham

Polly Graham read English at Trinity College, Dublin, before completing an MA in Text and Performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. She spent two years as a Genesis Assistant Director at Welsh National Opera, mentored by David Pountney. As an assistant director, Graham has also worked with Martin Constantine, Miranda Lakerveld, Mariusz Trelinski (WNO); Frederic Wake-Walker, Stephen Lawless (Buxton Opera) and Jenny Miller (Longborough Opera). Directing work includes the UK première of Iain Bell’s A Christmas Carol  (WNO), Unheard Voices: CREW (WNO), Mr Punch and Me (RWCMD), Nighthawks for Yellow Earth Theatre’s ‘Dim Sum Nights UK Tour’, Alcina Barefoot Opera (Arcola Theatre Grimeborn 2011) and Old Pye (a film co-directed with Simon Drew) for English National Opera’s Baylis program.

Future work includes Kommilitonen! (WNYO Summer 2016) and Le Vin Herbé (Welsh National Opera 2017). 

Graham’s work has been supported by Arts Council Wales and Arts Council England.

Director Fellowship workshop 
A short film showing the highlights from our finalists’ workshops in 2014
Libretto translation by Richard Stokes

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