KATE FLOWERS  Artistic Director

Artistic Director

Kate Flowers - Artistic Director

Co-Opera Co was founded in 2008 by myself and Paul Need with the express purpose of finding, training and nurturing talented students and recent graduates at the start of their careers in the operatic world. Our vision for the future was to provide the highest possible quality training to enable talented young people to succeed to the best of their ability. Over the years, the company has gone from strength to strength, with first-rate performances of a wide variety of repertoire showing off the skills of these young performers and providing workshops with some truly outstanding established artists to give them the best possible start.

As with any artistic organisation, it is imperative to keep moving forward and the time is right for the company to move to the next stage of its development, building on its past successes and increasing its profile. In order to achieve this, I am delighted to be joined on the Co-Opera Co Board by some truly outstanding individuals, not only from the arts world but from the worlds of PR, business and finance. I believe we have the skills and expertise to take Co-Opera Co forward into a hugely exciting future so that the vital work of finding and training the stars of tomorrow can continue and grow.

You, the public, also have your part to play in helping us realise our dream. Please support us – the best way is by coming to our shows, of course! But we are also very keen to hear your suggestions and comments through the contact page of this website.

Contact Kate:


Kate was born in Cheshire and studied at the RNCM before training in Paris with Pierre Bernac and joining Benjamin Britten's English Opera Group. Her first major rôle after college was at Glyndebourne where she sang Barbarina, Despina, Nerina in La Fedelta Premiata, Isotta in Die Schweigsame Frau and the Vixen in Cunning Little Vixen .and where she was given the John Christie Award. Since then her career has taken her around the world and more specifically to all the major opera companies in the UK. Among the numerous roles she has performed with Opera North are Susanna, Despina, Zerlina, Gretel, Thérèse in Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Jenny in The Threepenny Opera, Nedda in Pagliacci, Aloes in L'Etoile and Yum Yum. At Welsh National her roles include Jenufa, Marenka in The Bartered Bride, Valencienne in The Merry Widow and Micaela in Carmen. With Scottish Opera Kate has sung many roles including Jenny in Mahagonny, Polly in Beggars Opera Anna in Intermezzo and Gabrielle in La Vie Parisienne. For Graham Vick's company in Birmingham - Karolina in The Two Widows, Dolly in Silas Marner, Alice in Falstaff and War – in Peace. And for Garsington - Madame La Rose in Rossini's La Gazetta.

Kate made her debut at La Fenice in Venice as Selina in Weber's Oberon, her ENO debut as Damigella in Stephen Pimlott's Poppea and her Royal Opera House debut as Marianne Von Leitmezzerin in Der Rosenkavelier. Kate’s concert career is equally distinguished, singing with Rattle, Dorati, Elliot Gardner, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Hickox, Andrew Davis, Heitink, Solti and many of the major orchestras in this country and abroad. Kate is just as at home in cabaret as in opera and has taken her one-woman show to major festivals in the UK and abroad. But the one thing that she is most proud of is having appeared as Mrs F in the National Theatre of Brent’s production of The Messiah at the Bush Theatre!



Paul J Need - General Manager

Paul is Managing Director and CEO of Ten out of Productions Ltd and has worked in the technical side of theatre since 1980 specialising in lighting design. A Graduate of The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) where he later joined the staff teaching lighting design and stage electrics.    Credits include the World Premieres of Fallujah (2007) and Katrina (2009) by Jonathan Holmes, Syria's first ever opera production, Dido & Aeneas, staged in various Roman Amphitheatres (British Council/Syrian Ministry of Culture) directed by Caroline Sharman; the World Premiere of Stephen McNeff’s The Wasteland (Donmar Warehouse) and the British Premiere of John Adam's, I was Looking at the Ceiling and Saw the Sky (Royal Opera House, Lindbury). La Bohème, (Scottish Opera); The Tales of Hoffman,L'elisir d'amore, Rigoletto, La Bohème, (Mid-Wales Opera), Tosca (Holland Park), Vixen and Semele (British Youth Opera), Hérodiade,Turandot, Pearl Fishers and Cav. & Pag. (Dorset Opera). Theatre credits include work for The Royal Court, Greenwich Theatre, Liverpool Playhouse, Leicester Haymarket and Theatr Clywd. In the world of music concerts Paul has been lighting designer for Nitin Sawhney since 2000 and more recently engaged as lighting consultant for Anoushka Shankar’s World Tour. 

Paul is co-founder and General Manager of Co-Opera Co.

Contact Paul:





Stephen Higgins - Music Director

Stephen studied at Oxford University, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the National Opera Studio in London. His conducting experience has included work for the Musica nel Chiostro opera festival in Batignano, Tuscany, where he was musical director for 6 years, Music director of Opera Faber in North Portugal, conducting L’Elisir d’Amore and Don Giovanni with the Orquesta da Norte and the Orquesta Nacional de Porto and the LPO and Philharmonia orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall in Jude Kelly’s celebrated production of Carmen Jones. A stint in Paris working on A Little Night  Music led to meeting Sondheim himself.  A member of ENO’s music staff for six years, Stephen conducted Magic Flute for the company, and created a new commission The Duchess of Malfi, a co-production with ENO and the theatre company punchdrunk, which he premiered in July 2011. Recent engagements include La Boheme and Magic Flute with Co-opera-co on a UK tour, a series of concerts with tenor Alfie Boe, and a new piece, ’Dr Dee’ by Damon Albarn for the Manchester festival and ENO, which has been recorded by EMI. Stephen has conducted the orchestra for a national tour with Alfie Boe, perfromed opera highlights and Last Night of the Proms material in Canary Wharf and revived of Dr Dee at the London Coliseum as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. An interest in community and education work has led to music directorships of many innovative and critically acclaimed cross-over projects Stephen has also worked for many TV and film companies in the role of Music Supervisor, producing films and documentaries for FilmFour, BBC2, and Channel 4, including Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet’ recently in production in London.


Antonia Couling director of communications

Antonia Couling
director of communications

Antonia Couling
Director of Communications

Antonia is sought out as an authoritative voice in career and company development and presentation in the performing arts. Until 2010, Antonia spent 15 years as Deputy Editor of Opera Now magazine, travelling the world to report on the international opera scene. During this time she was also the Editor of The Singer magazine which, under her management, was taken to the forefront of progressive thought on singing, from performance to training. Antonia continues to work as a freelance journalist, but also works as a consultant, offering development advice to opera companies and performers. Her media training and career management sessions take her to music colleges and artist training programmes around the country and abroad and she works regularly with the performers on the Royal opera House's Jette Parker Young Artist Programme. She has also set up her own business as a website creation consultant and designer for people working in the arts.






Toby Spence

An honours graduate and choral scholar from New College, Oxford, Toby Spence studied at the Opera School of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In concert, Toby has sung with the Cleveland Orchestra under von Dohnanyi, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic under Rattle, the San Francisco Symphony under Tilson Thomas, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Pappano, the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Gergiev, the London Symphony Orchestra under Davis, the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Nezet-Seguin, the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Dudamel, and at the Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals under Norrington and Mackerras. Toby sang an acclaimed Madwoman in Britten’s “Curlew River” for the Edinburgh Festival, where he has also appeared in recital. Other recitals include the LSO St Lukes, Opera de Lille and the Wigmore Hall. He has made numerous recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, BMG, Philips, Collins, Linn Records, Hyperion and EMI.

For the Royal Opera House, Toby has sung Ferdinand (“The Tempest”), David (“Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), Count Almaviva (“Il Barbiere di Siviglia”), Ramiro and Tom Rakewell. For the English National Opera his roles include Tamino, Candide, Paris (“La Belle Hélène”), Lensky and Faust. His many roles at the Paris Opera include Tom Rakewell and David. He has sung with the Glyndebourne Festival, the Bavarian and Hamburg State Operas and the Monnaie, Brussels. In America he has appeared with  the San Francisco Opera, the Santa Fe Festival, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera. 

During the 2011 / 2012 season, Toby sings Antonio (“The Tempest”) for the Metropolitan Opera, Don Ottavio for the Vienna State Opera and Essex (“Gloriana”) for the Royal Opera House. Concerts this season include the London Symphony Orchestra with Gergiev, Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Ticciati, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra with Gardner, Hamburg Philharmonic with Tate, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with Adés and at the Tonhalle, Zurich with Dutoit.

Toby was the winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society 2011 Singer of the Year award