When in 1999 theatre and opera director Guy Joosten took the initiative of setting up the International Opera Academy (IOA, formerly known as Flanders Operastudio), he responded to a long-standing need for a postgraduate course for opera singers.

With its specialised complement to the existing basic training, the IOA provides a bridge between musical education and the professional opera world. The IOA’s curriculum provides specialised technical, musical, theoretical and stage training for both singers and repetiteurs, with specific attention to contemporary opera and musical theatre repertoire.

The existing needs of professional practice have become fully integrated into the programme through student participation in actual opera productions and concerts, directed and supervised by performing artists. The IOA invites internationally renowned performers to give masterclasses. During the second year of the programme, all students participate in a fully staged opera production with performances in internationally acclaimed opera houses. In addition, students are offered the possibility of participating in internships in international opera houses during the second year of the programme.

This postgraduate is an intensive course in which students, in consultation with their teachers, are given sufficient freedom to develop in the direction they themselves choose. In this way, students receive individual coaching that breaks away from the pattern of normal education and enables them to develop a personal career.

The mission of the IOA is more up to date than comparable initiatives abroad, which are incorporated into an opera house or musical-theatre company, or are part of a broader educational institution.

The International Opera Academy has an independent artistic aim and in the first place an educational purpose. In addition to the cooperative links with Kunsthuis Opera Vlaanderen, la Monnaie/de Munt, Aalto-Musiktheater in Essen (Germany), Ópera de Oviedo (Spain), Nederlandse Reisopera (The Netherlands) and the Conservatoires in Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels and Leuven and the School of Arts in Ghent, new collaborative ties have also been established with institutions and courses, cultural organisations and musical ensembles in Belgium and abroad (such as Spectra, Minard, CCHA, Bozar, LOD, Transparant, B’Rock, Flanders Festival, the Flanders Symphony Orchestra, the Università per Stranieri (Sienna) and others).

The IOA appeals to new, young target groups by organising concerts, recitals, public courses and a number of productions.