Meet the Team

Sophie Gilpin - Director/Producer

Sophie is founder and Artistic Director of HeadFirst Productions.


Previous opera directing credits include the premiere of The Peasants’ Opera; Strauss’ Die Fledermaus for Celebrate Voice; Puccini’s La Bohème for Headfirst Productions; 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). Other theatre productions include Macbeth (RSC Open Stages), Double Falsehood, Hal V, 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.


Sophie studied at the University of Warwick, was involved with the Research and Development for Sasha Wares’ production of Wild Swans at the Young Vic Theatre, and was Trainee Resident Director at the Kings Head Theatre in 2011. She directed scenes from Don Pasquale for the Morley College Opera course and was the Associate Director for scenes from Idomeneo, The Consul, The Bartered Bride, Peter Grimes and Ariane et Barbe Bleue. 

(Biog - 2016)

Kelvin Lim - Conductor

Kelvin has worked as repetiteur for many companies including:

ENO, ROH2, Glyndebourne, Opera Holland Park, ETO, Longborough, Mid-Wales Opera, Opera Project, Northern Ireland Opera, Bampton Classical, Aldeburgh Music, Tete-a-Tete, & Dorset Opera. 

He is Co-Director of Postgraduate Opera at Trinity College of Music, (where he assisted Stueart Bedford on Albert Herring) & is Senior coach for Morley College Opera. He was also assistant conductor and coach at Co-Opera-Co, &  conductor/coach for the Advanced Performers Studio.


Conductor/pianist credits include

I Pagliacci, Hänsel & Gretel (King’s Head Theatre), Cosi fan Tutte (Shelley Theatre), Carmen, Madama Butterfly (Opera Brava), L'infedelta delusa (Bampton Classical Opera), Macbeth (St James Piccadilly)


Kelvin is a CREAR scholar, Bayreuth Bursary winner, & official accompanist for the Wagner Society and has worked for Sir John Tomlinson, Dame Anne Evans, Joyce DiDonato, Mary Plazas, accompanied coachings for Magdalena Koczena, Gerald Finlay, & played in masterclasses with Antonio Pappano, John Tomlinson, Susan Bullock & Malcolm Martineau. He has regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and recently accompanied Sir John Tomlinson both in recital & on Radio 3.

Recent engagements: Chorus Master for Opera Holland Park 2012 season, Don Giovanni for Mid Wales Opera, Hänsel & Gretel for Northern Ireland Opera.

Future engagements for 2013: Recital with Sir John Tomlinson, Ring Cycle for Longborough Festival Opera, Simone Boccanegra for ETO.

(Biog - 2013)

Jason Southgate - Designer

Jason trained at Central St. Martins in London and received an Arts Council Design Bursary in 2000.

He has worked for a number of prestigious companies in the UK including Theatre Royal Haymarket (West End), Royal Opera House

Covent Garden, English National Ballet, Welsh National Opera, Young Vic, Gate London, Citizens Theatre, The Globe, Buxton

Festival and Nottingham Playhouse.

Internationally for Bregenz Opera Festival, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Landestheater Salzburg, Frankfurt Opera, Opera Zuid , OMMA Athens, Wexford Opera, Teatro Comunale Bolzano, Komische Oper Berlin, Stanislavski Music Theatre Moscow and Mariinsky Opera St Petersburg.

Jason is also an acclaimed puppet designer/maker.

(Biog - 2014)

Will Evans - Lighting Designer

Will trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama.


Recent lighting design credits include:

Comedy of Errors (Grosvenor Park

Open Air Theatre), I Believe in Unicorns (West End and Tour), Far From The Sea (Theatre Absolute, Tour), Aliens Love Underpants (Big

Wooden Horse/Nick Brooke Ltd, West End and Tour), Moomin Summer Madness (Polka Theatre and Royal and Derngate) Hard Feelings (Finborough Theatre), Mudlarks and 66 Books (Bush Theatre, London), Bloody Ballad of Mary Maid (Theatr Iolo, Chapter Arts, Cardiff), Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin (Hertford Theatre),

Dream Space (Shakespeare’s Globe), Mr Happiness and The Water Engine (Theatre 6, Old Vic Tunnels) Tales of the Harrow Road

(Soho Theatre), The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Showbiz Pops Orchestra/RUG), Lady

Chatterley’s Lover (Buxton Opera House, Buxton).


Will has lit many shows for younger audiences including Stuck, The Way Back Home, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and The Legend of Perseus all for Big Wooden Horse. For Tall Stories he has lit My Brother the Robot, Twinkle Twonkle, How the Giraffe got its Neck, Monster Hits and Does A Monster Live Next Door?

Will also lit the popular jazz singer, Clare Teal’s 2007 Paradisi Carousel tour. La Bohème

is Will's first design for opera.

(Biog - 2014)

Elspeth Wilkes - Assistant Music Director

Born in Leigh-on-sea, Essex, Elspeth studied at King’s College, London, Trinity College of Music and Royal Academy of Music.


She has performed at venues including St John’s Smith Square; Royal Opera House; Hackney Empire and St James’, Piccadilly and at the Ravenna festival in Italy as well as performing recitals in Greece, Turkey, Portugal, France and South Africa. Elspeth has worked with BBC Wales, Royal Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, Lesley Garrett and Southbank Sinfonia amongst others. She has worked as a repetiteur/musical director with Opera up Close, Co-Opera Company, Merry Opera Company, Northern Ireland Opera, Riverside Opera, Tete a Tete Opera and Opera de Bauge, playing continuo on several of their productions.


Elspeth works as accompanist/assistant conductor with Barnes Choir, Oriana Choir and Thurrock Choral Society and is a member of the Argento trio (piano, clarinet, voice) and the Bridgetower trio (violin, cello, piano).

(Biog - 2014)

Danyal Dhondy

Danyal Dhondy is a composer and arranger from South London. Four of his operas have been premiered in the past three years, and he has also arranged Puccini's Tosca and Madama Butterfly, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Holst's The Wandering Scholar for OperaUpClose, Malmö Opera and Opera Les Fauves


He has worked for companies such as  TARA Arts, Kensington Chamber Orchestra,Voce Chamber choir and Clemenger BBDO, and collaborated with Sam LeeDiagramsLaura HockingThe Rivers of England and David Mountain.

He is founder and chair of Lucid Arts and Music, which has produced new works of theatre and opera at Tête à Tête: The Opera FestivalThe Yard Theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Bharat Rang Mahotsav Festival.

He was nominated for an Arts Foundation Award in Opera Composition in 2010, and contributed to Sam Lee's Mercury-nominated album in 2012.

(Biog - 2014)

Hannah Tookey - Assistant Producer

Hannah is a freelance theatre and film producer specialising in marketing, sales and fundraising. She has experience producing both in the UK and France, and touring technically challenging productions to festivals.


Hannah graduated from Warwick University in 2013 with a BA (hons) in Philosophy and Literature. It was at university where Hannah discovered her love of producing, overseeing more than 10 productions including Pornography (WUDS) which won the Award for Audio-Visual Design at National Student Drama Festival 2013, Vinegar Tom(WUDS) which received 4* reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013, and Rent(MTW) which has been selected for NSDF 2014. 


In 2013, she completed six months of arts administration and producing courses, and was selected for the NSDF Management Training Programme where she helped to coordinate events at the annual festival in Scarborough. She also holds a Diploma in Accounting and Business (ACCA) as well as an NVQ in Business and Administration. 


Her work as a producer includes The Confessions of Gordon Brown for Many Rivers Productions, daily shows for award-winning London comedy club The 99 Club, touring work for AK Productions and Fighetta theatre company, and a short film Wildflower. Hannah has also worked with Warwick Arts Centre, The Royal Shakespeare Company and Burnt Out Theatre, amongst others.

(Biog - 2014)