Meet the Team

Sophie Gilpin - Director/Producer

Sophie is founder and Artistic Director of HeadFirst Productions.


Upcoming work includes A Festival of Sex, Love and Death (Producer, Pleasance Theatre Islington); Don Giovanni (Director, Pleasance Theatre); Madama Butterfly (Assistant Director, Opera North); La Traviata (Director, Hampstead Garden Opera); Mirabai (Director, Modi Mandi Temple, Uttar Pradesh).

She has produced every event for HeadFirst Productions since its foundation in 2014: an Arts Council-funded La Bohème (LOST Theatre and Trinity Theatre) and four concerts including the 6-hour fundraising event, A Concert for Nepal, in aid of UNICEF's Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Other theatre productions include Macbeth (RSC Open Stages); Double Falsehood; and Hal V (RSC Open Stages). 

Previous opera directing credits include the premiere of The Peasants’ Opera; Strauss’ Die Fledermaus for Celebrate Voice; Puccini’s La Bohème; Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet for Riverside Opera at the Rose Theatre Kingston; Puccini’s Tosca; Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (scenes); and the premiere of a new composition, Quays & Laila, for the Grimeborne Festival at the Arcola Theatre. From 2012 – 2013 Sophie was Director in Residence for the New London Opera Players.

Sophie has also directed numerous pieces of new writing at venues including the Park Theatre, Theatre 503 and The Firestation Arts Centre in Windsor. Highlights include Katherine Armitage’s Duet for Re:Sound Music Theatre - a new commission by The Oxford Lieder Festival; Solitude, the winner of the Kenneth Branagh Drama Award; And Then He Came Back and Him, Her & Us both at the Park Theatre (Park200). Promenade productions include A Dickensian Christmas and Narnia on the Pantiles.

Work as an Associate or Assistant Director includes Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte for Metta Theatre at the Oxford Playhouse; Verdi’s La Traviata for Iford Arts; Verdi’s Otello for Dorset Opera; Bizet’s Carmen for Riverside Opera; Louis Nowra’s Cosi at the Kings Head Theatre; Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci for Opera up Close; The Women of Troy; and Shakespeare’s King Lear.

(BIOG 2017)

Sonia Ben Santamaria - Conductor

Sonia began her musical education at the age of 6 when she was offered a place at the Conservatoire National de Toulouse, Horaires Aménagés. During her time there she achieved a Médaille d'Or in Solfège and graduated in Piano and Piano Accompaniment.

She continued her studies at the Royal Academy of Music under the tuition of Julius Drake and Iain Ledingham where she  graduated with a PGDip in Piano Accompaniment. Here she became sought after as a repetiteur for the Opera Course and was a popular accompanist among the singing students.

Whilst at the Academy Sonia was awarded the Elsie Pratter, RAM Power Biggs and MA Garrett scholarships as well as winning the Major Van Someren Godfrey prize for accompaniment in English Song.

 In 2010 Sonia joined the National Opera Studio where she was awarded the Leonard Hancock Memorial Trust. Subsequently she joined English National Opera as their trainee repetiteur where her responsibilities included coaching cover singers, playing for production rehearsals and for radio broadcast as well as conducting backstage.

Sonia works as a repetiteur for companies including WNO, OHP, Wexford, DOF,  as well as a recital accompanist for the Wagner Society & the Mastersingers. She has established herself as a freelance vocal and french language coach, and in this capcity she joined the National Opera Studio on their summer programmes. Conducting engagements include Die Zauberflöte, Macbeth, Die Fledermaus, Don Giovanni and Carmen.

Sonia was previously the music director and conductor of Opera Integra and recently the Assistant Conductor for the Royal Opera House’s production of Sukaniya.

(BIOG 2017)

Anna Bonomelli - Designer

Anna graduated in Design before completing a Masters in Theatre Studies in Venice. She trained alongside Paul Brown. 

Her credits as a designer include Falstaff (Les Azuriales Opera, Nice), Tallis and the tides of love (Cutty Sark, Greenwich London) Love on the dole (The Space, London) La chiave dell’ascensore (Teatro di Como, Italy) King Lear  and The Love Shack (Technis Theatre, London) The Love for Three Oranges (Teatro Malibran, Italy). 

She has worked extensively as an associate for a number of international productions such as Albert Herring, Otello, Don Giovanni, Gianni Schicchi, Margherita D’Anjou, L’Histoire du Soldat, West Side Story, The rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny, Lady Macbeth in the Mzensk district. 

She has collaborated with Maggio Musicale, Arcola Theatre, Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, Goteborg Opera, Festival della Valle d’Itria, NYMT, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro Regio Parma, Zurich Opernhaus, Teatro Sociale di Como. 

(BIOG - 2017)

Marco Alba - Lighting Designer