Lizzie Holmes was just 10-years-old the first time she sang in public, performing Walking in the Air at her local church. Little did she know at the time, that it was the catalyst for a glittering opera career in the West End.

She became the youngest person in the world to play Madame Giry in The Phantom of the Opera aged 25, and recently starred in a modern adaptation of La Boheme.

Now Lizzie Holmes, who grew up in Branksome and returns to visit her family whenever she has the chance, has set up her own company to introduce opera to a new audience.

It wasn’t until that church performance that Lizzie’s parents even realised she had a voice, and set her up with regular singing lessons.

She went on to study English at Warwick University, where she met a singing teacher who encouraged her to explore opera.

“I had never known anything about opera,” she explains. “As a family we didn’t listen to a lot of classical music. I was watching an opera a day online before I got into music college, just to see what it was all about.”

Lizzie auditioned for music college, but was not accepted initially, so she spent a year working as a carer and focusing on honing her skills. The following year, she auditioned again and was offered places at all top five music conservatoires in the UK, including the prestigious Royal College of Music, where she went on to study for two years.

Her role in Phantom came about following “a bit of whim”, when Lizzie’s mum saw a Tweet from a friend about auditions for ballet dancers for the London show.

“I went to a friend from Warwick University who was assistant casting for Cameron Mackintosh,” says Lizzie, now 28.

“She said she would put my name in the mix, so they would see my CV. I did five auditions and I had never even seen Phantom until just before my final audition. I initially went for Christine, the lead, but I got put up for Madame Giry, which is the severe and much older ballet mistress. I was 25 – I’m the youngest person in the world to play her.”

Lizzie was offered the part of ‘first cover’, playing the part whenever the main performer was ill or on holiday. She performed in 80 shows over two years at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, which she describes as “a really amazing experience”.

When her two-year contract came to an end, Lizzie decided she wanted to move to shorter projects, so took part in The Grange Festival, an annual opera event in Hampshire, before performing in a modern English translation of La Boheme at The Trafalgar Studios in London.

“It was a pared down production in a studio, so it was opera in a totally different way with a piano and a cello. You were in touching distance of the audience,” she says.

It was this intimate setting which inspired Lizzie to set up Debut Opera in 2015, in a bid to share her love of opera with others who may not have experienced it.

“You can feel the emotion up close,” she explains. “For people that have never experienced opera before, they said they didn’t realise you could get those feelings from it.

“I think opera is one of the most vivacious art forms that there is, but often people say it feels so far away that they think it’s lifeless.”

Debut Opera hosts private parties, as well as its monthly Debut Treehouse concert series in collaboration with the Shoreditch Treehouse, to showcase some of the UK’s brightest musicians to new audiences.

“We have three sessions of music, so it’s classical, although we do some musical theatre as well,” says Lizzie of the monthly concerts.

“But the difference is that in the breaks, I encourage the audience to talk to the musicians. I’m hosting, so I will ask lots of questions about things like where they got their instruments from.

“It’s a Sunday every month and it’s sold out, which is amazing for classical music. It’s been a really fulfilling and exciting company to set up and I think it means that more people are engaging with opera or just getting introduced to it.”

Lizzie’s next project, with a company called Into Opera, will see her as the only professional opera singer working with 160 schoolchildren in Norwich to put on a world premier of a children’s opera with the Britten Symphonia chamber orchestra ensemble.

"My career is hugely varied,” she smiles. “Because you have to audition and apply, especially as a young singer, you have to just go for as many things as you can and see where these opportunities take you.”

Lizzie’s ultimate career goal is to have a long, international career as a soloist, but she is keen to retain links to her Bournemouth home.

“I’ve only been doing it since 18 – ten years,” she says. “It’s been a slow burn, but it’s picking up and it’s snowballing.

“I want to buy a house down in Bournemouth overlooking the water so I can go for my run every day and sing really loudly and not disturb the neighbours.”