Carolyn Holt is a mezzo from a farming background in Ireland. She was the winner of the Dermot Troy Prize for the best Irish singer in the 2019 Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition, a competition which in 2020 again awarded her a €5000 prize in their inaugural bursary.
She recently sang the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the UK staged premiere of Dead Man Walking in Glasgow to great critical acclaim. Opera Magazine wrote: “Carolyn Holt’s Sister Helen was impeccably sung, sensitively acted and never less than sincere”. She was a 2020 Garsington Young Artist, covering Kitchen Boy in Dvořák's Rusalka, and 2021, covering Coryphee Dame Rossini's Le Comte Ory and Madame Larina in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.
Despite being struck with cancellations due to Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021, she reached the live final rounds of the 2021 Tenor Viñas Contest, and was a semi-finalist in the 2021 Zenith Opera Competition, 2021 Offenbach Grand Prix, and the 2020 Premiere Opera Competition, which were all held online. She was also a semi finalist in the 2019 Grange International Singing Competition and was awarded second place at the Bampton Opera Young Singers' Competition 2019. Carolyn has previously had success in competitions in the UK and Ireland including first prize in the inaugural Irish Heritage Bursary, the Audience Prize in Northern Ireland Opera Festival of Voice, the Trench Award and Bursary, the Geraldine McGee Bursary, the Mahler Prize and the P.J. Geoghegan Memorial Cup in the ESB Feis Ceoil.
Carolyn regularly performs at home with Irish National Opera, most notably in 2018 singing The Voice (Mother) in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, for which she again received excellent critical acclaim (Bachtrack wrote “Carolyn Holt as the voice of Antonia’s mother stood out with her rich and seductive mezzo-soprano”.)
Carolyn also performs much contemporary music and was praised by the Irish Independent for her “powerful and earthy mezzo” in the role of Florence Newton, ‘The Witch of Youghal’, in the premiere of Raymond Deane’s Vagabones with Opera Collective Ireland in 2019. Other contemporary roles include Minskwoman in Jonathan Dove’s Flight (RAM Scenes), the premiere of The Art of Chaos, presented by the Royal Academy of Music's Composition Department and performances in the award winning opera The Second Violinist by Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh.
Carolyn performs regularly as soloist with orchestras, choral societies and in recitals. In 2020 Carolyn was expected to sing The Angel in Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, but the concert has been rescheduled until after the Covid-19 crisis. In 2018 she toured Ireland singing Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Esker Festival Orchestra and was the soloist in Elgar’s Sea Pictures with the Lambeth Orchestra. She is invited regularly as soloist with choral societies throughout the UK and Ireland where critics acclaim her “wonderfully dark, rich tone”.
Recent and upcoming roles include Madame Larina (cover) (Eugene Onegin - Tchaikovsky) with Garsington Opera, Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking - Jake Heggie), Dido (Dido and Aeneas - Purcell) and Mrs Jones (Street Scene - Kurt Weill), all with the Alexander Gibson Opera School, Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus - Strauss) with Winterbourne Opera, Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni - Mozart) (cover) with Opera Theatre Company and Sesto (Giulio Cesare - Handel), La Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica - Puccini), Mamma Rosa (L'Arlesiana - Cilea), Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte - Mozart) and Kitchen Boy (cover) (Rusalka - Dvořák) with Garsington Opera.
"Carolyn Holt's powerful and earthy mezzo performance as Florence assumes the recklessness of the condemned."
Carolyn completed her studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Alexander Gibson Opera School in 2019. In 2017 she graduated with Distinction from the London’s Royal Academy of Music, where she was a Kohn Foundation Bach scholar and was awarded a DipRAM for outstanding performance, the Cork Scholarship and Isabel May Walton Scholarship.
Carolyn began singing at age 15 and studied with Mary Brennan at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, with Judith Mok in Dublin and with Yvonne Howard at London’s Royal Academy of Music. At the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, she studied with Scott Johnson and Duncan Williams at the Opera School. She has participated in masterclasses with Ann Murray, Susan Bullock, Simon Keenlyside, Alison Browner, Iain Burnside and Roy Laughlin.
Carolyn's studies have been generously supported by The Arts Council of Ireland, the Mario Lanza Trust and the Sybil Tutton Award.