University of Leicester alumnus breaks into European opera circuit

Credit: Clonter Opera Finals 2022

A former student from the University of Leicester has found success in Europe’s prestigious opera scene.

Bass-baritone, Liam James Karai, is currently a member of the International Opera Studio at Staatsoper Hamburg, appearing in productions of Carmen, Tosca, and Le Nozze di Figaro amongst others during the 2023/2024 season.

However, Liam started his opera career at the University of Leicester, where he studied for a BSc in Banking and Finance.

Whilst studying at Leicester, Liam successfully applied for one of the University’s Music Scholarships, which helps students cover the cost of music lessons.

Attenborough Arts Centre and Dr Paul Jenkins, Honorary Director of Student Music at the University of Leicester, deliver the scholarships.

Liam said: “The University of Leicester was my second choice originally so I didn’t have a singing scholarship lined up when I arrived. I joined the University of Leicester Chorus and that is where I met Paul Jenkins and he told me that they were auditioning for vocal scholarships.

“Paul is such an important person to me in terms of my career because I don’t think I would be a singer at this level without him pushing me. When I joined the University of Leicester, I played basketball and studied, that was my main thing. Paul pushed me to learn a lot of music and a lot of languages which I think was crucial.”

Liam James Karai playing Escamillo in Carmen at Staatstheatre Mainz. Credit: Andreas Etter

Dr Jenkins recently made the trip to Germany to watch Liam perform as lead baritone, Escamillo in Carmen at Mainz Opera House.

Dr Jenkins said: “Music at the University of Leicester is a student-led recreational activity. We have eight music groups covering a wide range of genres from the Band and Gig Society to the Chamber Choir.

“About 300 students are involved in these music groups and many put in a large amount of time organising and performing music.

“It was very rewarding to see Liam Karai in a leading role in the opera Carmen at a professional opera house in Mainz, Germany. Well done, Liam."

After his studies at Leicester, Liam enrolled in the Royal Northern College of Music where he was taught by Quentin Hayes to complete his Master of Music and Postgraduate Diploma.

More information on opportunities available to musicians at the University of Leicester can be found on the University website.

Liam James Karai as Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro. Credit: Robin Clewley