Irish-South African director/performer/artist, Colleen Rae Holmes, was born in Johannesburg. She made her Operatic debut while still a scholar, singing Arias by Handel with the Johannesburg Symphony under John Hancock.
After matriculating in Music she studied at the University of the Witwatersrand where she graduated in 1985 with a BA Honours Degree in Acting and Stage Design.
Colleen Rae Holmes’ early stage career encompassed acting roles such as Adriane in “A Comedy of Errors”, Titania and Hippolyta in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and Solange in “The Maids” as well as musical roles including Ursula in “Sweet Charity”; Johanna in “Sweeny Todd” and Vera Lynn in “Happy as a Sandbag”. Aside from performing she was active in all aspects of theatrical endeavour, being engaged as a set and costume designer (“Is Uncle Jack an Anarchist?”, “Prince of the Pagodas”); as musical director and composer (“The Bacchae”, “The Hostage”, “Genocide”); and working in several other technical theatrical disciplines such as set construction, lighting, stage management and production.
However, after her breakthrough success in “The Pirates of Penzance” (for which she was awarded the Nederburg Opera Prize) she decided to focus entirely on a classical singing career. She appeared in several coloratura roles, at the Civic Theatre in Johannesburg and the Nico Malan Opera House in Cape Town; among them Olympia (“Les Contes d’Hoffmann”), Queen of the Night (“Die Zauberflöte”), Fräulein Silberklang (“Der Schauspieldirektor”) and Cunegonde (“Candide”) before moving to Vienna in1990.
Colleen Rae Holmes has subsequently performed in opera and concert throughout Europe and has been a guest artist in several festivals; among them the Haydn Festtage in Eisenstadt, Klangbogen in Vienna and the Wienerfestwochen.
Motivated to return to her theatrical roots and the possibility of integrating the various and disparate aspects of her artistic experience, she began to move into the realm of stage direction in 2011, beginning with the musical revue “Moulin Orange” at the Black Box Theatre in Vienna. She has since directed and designed several productions, including German language versions of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Marlowe’s “Dr Faustus” and, most recently, Euripides’ “Trojan Women”.
She is co-founder of the Conservatorium for Acting: The Open Acting Academy in Vienna, and has been Director of the Academy and Chairwoman of the Association since 2015.
She is the founder and president of the Rough Magic Theatre Company.