Doreen O’Neill: The Highlights

23rd June, 2016

With over thirty years of memories, what are Doreen’s highlights?

The biggest highlight has been Bryn Terfel’s continued support of the agency, which has grown with his own career. I’m so grateful that he didn’t run off to a megastar agency in London. Loyalty matters to him and I know he’s proud that there’s a flourishing agency in Wales.

In the early years, ambitious ideas and spontaneity was the norm in Harlequin. In 1995, Harlequin presented ‘Wales Week’, a series of recitals and concerts featuring some of the finest young singers at the Wigmore Hall in London. Convinced of the project’s viability, Harlequin went the whole hog and hired the hall outright. The week offered a fascinating variety of repertoire, from medieval music to compositions of the twentieth century and although it was titled ‘Wales Week’ artists’ programmes included works by European and American composers. Artists included Jeremy Huw Williams, Elinor Bennett, Rebecca Evans, Neal Davies, Wyn Davies, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Leah-Marian Jones, Bryn Terfel and students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Harlequin’s ability to provide a line-up of high-calibre Welsh singers is nonetheless testament in itself to how far the agency had developed in its first ten years.

I’m very proud of what we achieved with ‘Wales Week’. We turned the Wigmore Hall into a little corner of Wales. It was also the first time television had been allowed inside the hall.

I’ve had a lot of highlights over the years, but my aim, when I formed the agency was to find young talent and see them grow up and get international credit. I love it when you're sitting there in a packed hall or opera house and you're listening to the applause for one of the singers you've nurtured along the way. It's a great buzz. It makes me feel very proud.

A recent highlight was listening to Gwyn Hughes Jones in Welsh National Opera’s 30th Anniversary production of Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci and remembering how he started out. He displayed signs of greatness at a very young age – he was technically proficient and could communicate well with audiences. He was a very familiar name on the Eisteddfod circuit and his career took off when he won the 1992 Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Prize.

Gwyn joined the agency as a young baritone studying at the London Guildhall School of Music and now he’s developed into a world class tenor. Making his role and company debut in the same production was Trystan Llŷr Griffiths – I couldn’t help thinking that in 20 years’ time it could be Trystan standing where Gwyn is, and that Sioned, who’s only job has been with Harlequin will be guiding him.