New Announcements

It’s been too long since I updated this, so here are a few announcements!

This Autumn I’m excited to be taking part in the London premiere of Biedermann and the Arsonists, an opera by Šimon Voseček based on the play by Max Frisch. It’s being staged by Max Hoehn for Independent Opera at Sadler’s Wells, in a new translation by David Pountney.

In October, I will perform early Strauss songs and songs by his contemporaries at the Leeds Lieder Festival, with the pianist Joseph Middleton. Starting with Strauss’ very first Lied, which he wrote at the age of six, we will explore his output via his  Gedichte aus ‘Letzte Blätter’ through to the Opus 15 set (including the beautiful Heimkehr), in the context of songs by Mahler, Pfitzner and Ludwig Thuille, one of Strauss’ closest friends.

In November, I am delighted to return to Magdeburg for a revival of Philip Glass’ 2014 opera The Trial. Following soon after the initial run earlier this spring, these performances will be a great opportunity for us to continue developing our understanding of this extraordinary show, but with the benefit of a short break for reflection.

In the new year, I look forward to joining up with Scottish Opera for their Highlights Tour, which will be four singers and a pianist in a minibus travelling to perform arias and ensembles away from the major cities. ‘100 green bottles’ will be my warm-up of choice.

Later in the spring, I will return to Dijon to sing the role of the Traveller in Britten’s Curlew River. This is one of my favourite pieces, and I have very happy memories of performing it in 2011 in the RAM production by John Ramster. I can’t wait to revisit its haunting soundworld.

Between rehearsals for Curlew River, I will make my professional Wigmore Hall debut with James Bailieu, in a programme that I chose with complete self-indulgence: Schumann’s Opus 24 Liederkreis, songs by Judith Weir, and Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles. I’ll be singing most of the music for the first time, and I hope that these songs will be a constant presence throughout my career.

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Philip Glass The Trial

Press release about Philip Glass’s new opera The Trial

“Music Theatre Wales to present brand new opera by Philip Glass

Music Theatre Wales will present the World Premiere production of a new opera by the American composer Philip Glass. 02 Apr 2014

The Trial, based on the novel by Franz Kafka, and with a libretto by the playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton, will receive its World Premiere at the Linbury Theatre of the Royal Opera House on October 10, 2014, followed by a further five London performances and a national tour of Wales and England in October and November.

First published in 1925 Kafka’s The Trial tells the nightmare tale of Josef K, a respectable bank employee who is suddenly arrested and forced to defend his innocence against a charge for a crime about which he knows, and is told, nothing. It is probably Kafka’s best known work – a prophetic vision of the excesses of modern bureaucracy.

The Trial is a  co-commission and co-production with the Royal Opera House, Theater Magdeburg, Germany and Scottish Opera.  It has a cast of eight singers and is written for an ensemble of 12 players.  The opera will be directed by Michael McCarthy, with design is by Simon Banham and lighting by Ace McCarron. Michael Rafferty directs the Music Theatre Wales Ensemble.

The cast is led by much-garlanded young baritone Johnny Herford as the opera’s protagonist, Josef K, and soprano Amanda Forbes as Fraülein Bürstner – greatly admired for her performance as The Duchess in MTW’s production of Sciarrino’s The Killing Flower in 2013. Other roles are played by Rowan Hellier (mezzo), Paul Curievici (tenor), Michael Bennett (tenor), Gwion Thomas (baritone), Nicholas Folwell (bass-baritone) and Michael Druiett (bass).

The new Philip Glass opera is a further milestone for the innovative Welsh contemporary opera company which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013. Music Theatre Wales has commissioned operas from leading names such as Michael Berkeley and Ian McEwan – their collaboration on For You created worldwide interest – as well as discovering new compositional talent.   The company has also been responsible for landmark productions of classic contemporary operas by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and two leading voices of European new music, Salvatore Sciarrino and Philippe Boesmans.

Music Theatre Wales’s relationship with the music of Philip Glass goes back to 1989, when the company gave the European Premiere of The Fall of the House of Usher, also revived in 1990 and 1993.

The success of that production led to Music Theatre Wales’s decision to stage the UK Premiere of another of Glass’s so-called ‘pocket’ operas, In the Penal Colony, which it also recorded for the composer’s own music label, Orange Mountain Music. Michael McCarthy’s “taut, angry production” (Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday) was widely praised, as was the brilliant playing of the string quintet drawn from the Music Theatre Wales Ensemble under Music Director Michael Rafferty.

Philip Glass found the experience of working with Music Theatre Wales so obviously rewarding that he offered to write another ‘Kafka’ opera for the company for 2013 – this time based on The Trial.  As in In the Penal Colony, it will be intimate in scale and dark and claustrophobic in atmosphere.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Music Theatre Wales.  They are wonderful to work with and they seem to like these ‘odd’ pieces of mine, and they do them very well,” said Philip Glass in a recent BBC Radio 3 interview, adding: “I think of my pocket operas as neutron bombs – small, but packing a terrific punch”.

Philip Glass remains one of the most popular and distinctive of all living composers. Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations, he has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times – indeed, Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music simultaneously.

Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton have worked together before: Glass wrote the score for 1996 film adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, written and directed by Hampton whilst Hampton wrote librettos for Glass’s 2005 opera Waiting for the Barbarians (2005), based on the novel by J M Coetzee and for Appomattox, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War (2007).”

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Kathleen Ferrier Song Prize 2013

At the finals of this year’s Kathleen Ferrier Competition on the 26th April at the Wigmore Hall, I won the Song Prize. I was accompanied by William Vann, and we had a great time working on the repertoire together.

The overall winner was Gareth John, 2nd Prize went to Louise Alder, and Peter Foggitt won the Accompanist’s Prize. Full details can be found here:

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In Tune etc.

Busy week ahead! Rehearsals start on Monday for Grange Park Opera (Dialogues des Carmélites and Fortunio), Ferrier competition semi-final on Tuesday and then Fauré Requiem and orchestrated songs on Wednesday at St John’s, Smith Square with the Orchestra of St John and John Lubbock. It never rains but there are two London buses in the bush. Or something.

Also, you can catch a snippet of last year’s Mansfield Park at the Royal Academy of Music on In Tune from the 16th April, featuring Aoife Miskelly as Mary, Rachel Kelly as Fanny and me as Edmund, accompanied by Emily Senturia and Chad Kelly, with Lionel Friend conducting. 

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Coffee Cantata on BBC Radio 3

On Friday the 15th (Red Nose Day) I sang Bach’s Coffee Cantata on Radio 3, alongside Jenni France, Richard Dowling and players from the Royal Academy of Music’s baroque ensemble led by Margaret Faultless. Iain Ledingham conducted from the harpsichord. It was part of a special Comic Relief edition of In Tune, and the following link should work for a while:

Listen from 52 mins in, 1 hr 11 mins and then finally 1 hr 39 mins.

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Handel and Bach at the Ashmolean

On January 16th at 7.30, I will be singing in a ‘prom’ concert of great music by Handel (Apollo e Dafne) and Bach (Cantata 32: Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen) at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The soprano is Louise Wayman, and the Orchestra of St John’s will be conducted by John Lubbock.

Go here for tickets:

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Salzburg & Berlin Limbus Limbo cancelled

I’m very disappointed to announce that the performances of Stefano Gervasoni’s Limbus Limbo which were due to take place in Salzburg and Berlin next March have been cancelled. It’s a real shame because it’s a great piece and I was really looking forward to being part of it.

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Les Mamelles de Tiresias: 18, 19, & 21 October

I’ll be starting rehearsals soon for a production of Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias at Aldeburgh for Britten-Pears Young Artists. It’s being performed in the Britten arrangement for two pianos (which he made for himself and Poulenc to play), and the pianists are the legendary Malcolm Martineau and Roger Vignoles. I’m playing the role of the Gendarme, which will be a lot of fun. Performances in Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall on the 18, 19, and 21 October. It’s just under an hour long, so it’s possible to get the train back to London afterwards if necessary. Please come!

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