Critical acclaim for Jennifer France at Opera Holland Park
Jennifer France received outstanding critical acclaim for her performance as Zerbinetta in Opera Holland Park’s production of Ariadne auf Naxos this summer.
“This living jewel in opera’s crown” WhatsOnStage
“There hasn’t mean a more meaningful Zerbinetta than young Jennifer France’s...” David Nice - The Arts Desk
“…surely the Zerbinetta of our dreams: nimble in her acting as she is agile in her singing; she exudes charisma and guile in equal measure.” Matthew Rye - Bachtrack
“Jennifer France’s Zerbinetta brings the Composer down to earth with a lovely blend of pragmatism and tenderness, then in the Opera opens out into a sensational account of the long coloratura aria ‘Großmächtige Prinzessin...” Peter Reed - Classical Source
“Jennifer France’s sparky Zerbinetta rises to the virtuoso challenge of her showpiece aria with aplomb.” George Hall - The Financial Times
“Jennifer France, whose sparkly, girlish Zerbinetta wins the evening.” Erica Jeal - The Guardian
“Jennifer France is a revelation as Zerbinetta, carrying off ‘So war es mit Pagliazzo’ with a glistening sound, excellent coloratura and real panache.” Sam Smith - Music OMH
“Jennifer France was the true Sirius in a stellar show, delivering her vocal acrobatics with astonishing athleticism, precision and expressive nuance, all the while performing a teasing strip-show. Languor and assertiveness were wonderfully melded in sensual sublimity. It was hard to tell who enjoyed it most; France or the mesmerised audience.” Claire Seymour - Opera Today
“Jennifer France’s fickle, sexy Zerbinetta…on terrific form…” Fiona Maddocks - The Observer
“Her command of the music means that she can negotiate the felicitates of the staging with ease; but it was the vocal fireworks that were most memorable. She commands the stage with her mesmerising presence; her sound enchants the ear.” Colin Clarke - Seen and Heard International
“…a show stopping coloratura striptease, performed by (Jennifer) France with spectacular vocal panache.” Richard Bratby - The Spectator
“Jennifer France embodies the role of the life-loving Zerbinetta, sparkling in the coloratura showpiece ‘Großmächtige Prinzessin’.” Inge Kjemtrup - The Stage
“…a dazzling display of coloratura singing…” Claire Colvin – The Sunday Express
“…Jennifer France’s star-turn as Zerbinetta.” Hugh Canning - The Sunday Times
“(Jennifer) France delivers coloratura thrills whilst swinging across the stage in the skimpiest of costumes.” Neil Fisher - The Times
“When it comes to Zerbinetta, a role of a gold for a coloratura soprano, we’re in star-turn territory. Jennifer France has been championed by OHP for several years now and she returns the company’s faith in her by delivering one of the performances of the year. Decked out like Marlene Dietrich, France performs an elaborate striptease during her 12-minute showstopping aria and, I swear, makes eye contact with every hot-blooded male and female in the audience. More importantly, this living jewel in opera’s crown sings the heck out of her music - helium notes and all.” Mark Valencia - WhatsOnStage
Praise for JBM artists in ENO’s The Turn of the Screw last month
English National Opera’s new production of The Turn of the Screw in association with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre enjoyed a successful run last month. There was praise for JBM artists Anita Watson as The Governess and conductor Toby Purser.
"…excellently conducted by Toby Purser…” Michael Billington, The Guardian
"…conducted with superb authority by ENO Mackerras Fellow Toby Purser." Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
“...Toby Purser’s impassioned conducting of excellent ENO instrumentalists…” Richard Morrison, The Times
“…a first night performance of scintillating precision under Toby Purser…" Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage
“Hers is a gorgeous, liquid lyric soprano…” David Nice, The Arts Desk
“Without disguising the Governess’ complexity…Anita Watson powerfully makes her a woman driven more by moral anxiety than by luridly subjective fantasy.” Michael Billington, The Guardian
“As the Governess, Asia Watson sang with a beautifully sweet tone and finely, entrancingly nuanced phrasing.” Claire Seymour, Opera Today
“…Anita Watson’s superbly expressive Governess…” Richard Morrison, The Times
New recordings out now
Two new recordings released this month featuring James Black represented artists.
Jorge Navarro Colorado sings 'Ich will in aller Not' by Daniel Eberlin on German Cantatas with Solo Violin with Nahuel Di Pierro and Ensemble Diderot conducted by Johannes Pramsohler, now available on Audax Records.
Reviews for Scottish Opera new production of Flight
Scottish Opera’s new production of Flight has received much praise from the critics, especially for the performances of Jennifer France and James Laing.
“Jennifer France, as the God-like controller, alone in her tower, sings with a stunning clarity, giving the role a balanced fusion of dominance with serenity...”
“(James) Laing’s portrayal of the Refugee’s account of his journey is chillingly stirring, as he sings with impeccable vocal control...” The Arts Desk
“Flight is something of a passion play for our time, with the Christ-like figure of the Refugee, here sensitively portrayed by James Laing, at its centre. His separateness is given expression by the otherworldly timbre of the countertenor voice. Commenting on and overseeing the action is the icily celestial Controller, whose stratospheric vocal writing is deftly negotiated by soprano Jennifer France.” The Guardian
“Rising countertenor star James Laing makes consistently beautiful sounds as he converts the quiet despair of the central character, with soprano Jennifer France hitting the vocal heights as the stratospherically inclined Controller." The Stage
“...it is quite superbly cast across the board, the vocal quality startling from the start, with counter-tenor James Laing as the Refugee and stratospheric soprano Jennifer France, as the Controller…” The Sunday Herald
“All members of an expert cast seize every opportunity that Dove offers them – and if I single out James Laing as the refugee and Jennifer France as the air-traffic controller, that is only because they are presented with the biggest vocal challenges, met with gusto in both cases.” The Telegraph
“...a cast whose comic timing is as sure as their vocal prowess. In the latter department, Jennifer France’s quasi-supernatural airport controller is first among equals. I’ve rarely heard such ravishingly pure phrasing of notes so high above the stave, especially in her final transcendental duet with James Laing’s touchingly portrayed refugee.” The Times
Jette Parker Young Artists 2018/2019 announced
The Royal Opera has announced the latest singers to join its professional development programme, the Jette Parker Young Artists. We're delighted to announce that countertenor Patrick Terry will be one of the five new singers to join the Company in September 2018. They were chosen from more than 440 applicants from 59 countries and will join six others who continue on the Programme into their second year next Season.
Anush Hovhannisyan debut at Scottish opera
Congratulations to Anush Hovhannisyan on a highly successful role and company debut for Scottish Opera as Violetta in La traviata.
For The Sunday Times, Hugh Canning wrote:
“Anush Hovhannisyan sweeps all before her with her bright, lyric soprano and tall, handsome figure. She’s helped by David Parry’s stylish, Italianate conducting, but I’d hazard that this was a “star is born” moment for the young Armenian.”
Reviews for Lee Bisset as Isolde at Longborough Opera
Lee Bisset received outstanding reviews for her return to the role of Isolde in Longborough Festival Opera’s revival of Tristan und Isolde, The Times writing:
"Lee Bisset is an overwhelming and richly luminous Isolde, taking us from death-filled desires to feverish love with stamina and insight."
Other reviews were no less enthusiastic:
“Isolde is a passionate young girl with a manipulative streak. But what Wagnerian soprano ever troubles to convey such mundane intricacies? At Longborough Lee Bissett does so, and with enormous intelligence and conviction. Not only does she sing with power and control, but from the start she creates, through bodily gesture and mobile facial expression, a vivid image of a young woman who is finding it hard to decide whether she hates or is in love with the man who is escorting her to marry the King of Cornwall. And once she has made up her mind, she conveys equally well the rapture and intensity, and the inevitable doom, of the love in question.“ The Arts Desk
“First among equals was Lee Bisset, a natural Wagnerian who impressed as Sieglinde in Opera North's Ring project, and who here delivered an Isolde that was more than the equal of any you will find on the international stage today." Bachtrack
“By not getting in the way, the staging enhances the intensity between the lovers, and with Peter Wedd (who was in the original run) and Lee Bisset you see and hear something quite remarkable unfold, something you know the opera carries but which rarely erupts to such annihilating effect, and it’s not just because they both are easy on the eye. On first-night Wedd’s singing was heroic and tireless, and the final Act must count as this already-superb Wagner-tenor’s finest achievement, on top of which he delivers Tristan’s madness with a truly distressing realism. Bisset’s soprano had the penetration, lyricism, range and volume to encompass Isolde’s imperious will and extreme vulnerability in Act One and, with Wedd of course, a sensationally erotic love-duet in the next one; they practically devoured each other, matched by singing of sublime tenderness and volcanic passion.” Classical Source
“Lee Bisset’s Isolde is remarkable, so beautifully expressive and vocally powerful." Mark Ronan
“As well as proving the most engaging and subtle of actors, Lee Bisset is vocally brilliant, with a soprano that can display sensitivity, restraint, strength and power while still always achieving a sense of overarching unity." Music OMH
“Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset excelled in the title roles, their obsessive love so quietly erotic you felt almost voyeuristic watching them, their singing tireless, searing, intelligent.” The Observer
"The most important change of cast is the Isolde of Lee Bisset. Two years ago (her predecessor) was powerful and passionate, sometimes almost too loud, but Bisset has a greater regal presence, a richer tone, and integrates passages that can sound like mere declamation into the overall forward pressure of the drama. She and the Tristan of Peter Wedd make the most convincing couple I have ever seen in this work." The Spectator
"I fear that I will run short of compliments for the two title characters. Lee Bisset, who debuted in the second cast in 2015, turned out to be the Isolde of my dreams, finished in every inch, felt to the very depths. This is one of those singers who rivet one’s attention from their first entrance onstage, engage the listener not only with perfect mastery of their part, but also with an accurate feel for the words and fantastic acting. Bisset pulled off something that (her predecessor) had previously been unable to manage – to show Isolde as an equal partner to Tristan, a strong woman aware from the outset of her feelings, with which she initially fights as fiercely as she later yields to them. Her dark, expressive, strikingly powerful soprano sparkles with every hue of emotion: it sounded one way in the fiery, furious duet with Brangäne, another way in ecstatic union with Tristan, for whom she had longed for years." Upiór w operze
Lee Bisset as Isolde, Peter Wedd as Tristan and Stuart Pendred as Kurwenal.
JBM artists triumph in The Grange Festival’s ‘Albert Herring’
Tenor Richard Pinkstone made his professional opera debut in the title role of Britten's Albert Herring at the inaugural season of The Grange Festival. The Arts Desk writes:
"In perfect synch with their instrumental colleagues throughout, the singers are both magnificent soloists and - again as becomes especially apparent in Act 3 - team players. Richard Pinkstone gives us a different, and utterly credible, take on shop-boy Albert, the good boy voted May King since all the village girls are, in the words of the chief moralist, "not virgins but trollops". Tied to his widowed mum's apron strings but clearly strong enough to break loose from the first, this Albert has the operatic-tenor heft for the will to freedom in the voice from his very first scene, rather than the usual softer grain of the lyric-character choral scholar. The emancipation sees him very much in control; again, it's completely believable."
There will be further performances on 29 June, 1, 7 and 9 July. Full details here.
Richard Pinkstone as Albert and Kathleen Wilkinson as Mrs. Herring. Photographer: Alastair Muir.
Alessandro Fisher becomes Associate Artist for Classical Opera
We are thrilled to announce that tenor Alessandro Fisher has been announced as Associate Artist for the 2017/2018 Classical Opera season, alongside mezzo soprano Emily Edmonds and tenor Thomas Elwin.
The scheme was launched in 2006 by Classical Opera’s founder and artistic director Ian Page to consolidate the company’s work in assisting the development of young singers in the early stages of their career. Previous participants of the scheme include Louise Alder, Allen Clayton and Sophie Bevan.
Alessandro appeared as Christian in the company’s recent production of Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes. The new Associate Artists will all feature in a new semi-staging of Mozart’s La finta semplice at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 6 & 8 June 2018, and will also appear in a concert performance of the same opera at Birmingham Town Hall on 2 June 2018.
New releases for June
Anush Hovhannisyan sings Three Songs by Glinka with Malcolm Martineau, piano, on Decades: A Century of Song, Volume 2, now available on Vivat CD. Anita Watson sings Second Flowermaiden on Parsifal with the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, now available on the Hallé’s own label.
BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competitors announced
We are thrilled to anounce that Anush Hovhannisyan will represent Armenia at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 which will take place from 11th to the 18th June. The jury with be chaired by director David Pountney and include the competitions's patron Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
Recent recordings roundup
Recent recordings featuring James Black artists include Anita Watson singing Fata Morgana: The Songs of Pavel Haas, available on Resonus CD; and The Complete Songs of Granados, featuring Carol Garcia, now available on IBS Classical CD.
Also recently released are Elgar’s Une voix dans le desert, featuring Jennifer France with the Hallé conducted by Sir Mark Elder (now available on the Hallé’s own label); and Wozzeck with the Houston Symphony conducted by Hans Graf (available on Naxos CD) featuring Marc Molomot alongside Anne Schwanewilms and Roman Trekel.
Jennifer France nominated for multiple awards for 2016 season roles
Jennifer France has been nominated for the 2016 Schaunard Award by the Dutch online opera magazine Place de l’Opera for her debut performance as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at Nederlandse Reisopera in September 2016. The production, directed by Laurence Dale, has also been nominated for Outstanding Opera Production.
Of her performance, Peter Franken wrote in Opera Magazine of The Netherlands: "Jennifer France's coloratura "Großmächtige Prinzessin" proved an absolute showstopper. France could match up to Gruberova in her best years."
She has also been nominated for the Outstanding Achievement in Operatic Performance award for her performance as Adele in Die Fledermaus at Opera Holland Park in the What's On Stage Opera Poll 2017.
Hugh Canning wrote in the October 2016 issue of Opera: "Rising almost unobtrusively over this fine ensemble was Jennifer France's Adele, an obvious star turn ill-suited to life as a chambermaid - and singing both her Laughing Song and Audition piece with an easy, show-stopping bravura. I haven't seen an Adele to match her since Watson at Covent Garden back in 1989."
Jennifer France as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos. Photo: Marco Borggreve.
Award winning Anush Hovhannisyan
Congratulations to Anush Hovhannisyan who has been awarded one of the three prizes at the 2016 Concours international de Bel Canto Vincenzo Bellini held at the Opéra de Marseille. She will perform a recital as part of the Gstaad New Year Music Festival. Judges included the esteemed coloratura soprano Mady Mesplé and new singing talent Pretty Yende.
James Black artists feature in the inaugural season of new opera festival at the Grange
The inaugural Grange Festival opens in June 2017 under the Artistic Directorship of Michael Chance. Fiona Kimm sings Ericlea in the opening production of Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, to be directed by Tim Supple and conducted by Michael Chance. In Albert Herring, to be conducted by Steuart Bedford and directed by John Copley, Richard Pinkstone sings Albert, Kathleen Wilkinson sings Mrs Herring, Alexander Robin Baker sings The Vicar and Timothy Nelson sings Sid.
Congratulations to award winner Eric Barry
We are delighted to announce that Eric Barry has won the 2016 Bel Canto prize at the Maryland Lyric Opera Vocal Competition, judged this year by legendary soprano Aprile Millo.
JBM artists enjoy major success at Opera Holland Park 2016
La bohème (Christine Collins Young Artists Performance):
“Julien Van Mellaerts sang a very stylish and lively Schaunard.” Mark Ronan - Reviews
“…in a stand out performance, Jennifer France's dispatch of her two soubrette showpiece arias was spot-on and dazzling." Rupert Christiansen - The Telegraph
“Samantha Price makes a lively, luscious-sounding Prince Orlofsky.” Warwick Thompson - BLOUIN ARTINFO
“…exceptionally well conducted by John Rigby.” David Mellor - Daily Mail
The Queen of Spades:
"Star quality comes from Rosalind Plowright, whose Countess still boasts plenty of voice and a formidable stage presence." Richard Fairman - The Financial Times
These are just a selection of the reviews received by JBM artists during the 2016 Opera Holland Park season. A full roundup of Festival reviews will be posted in September.
Congratulations to multiple award winner Julien van Mellearts
We are delighted to announce that Julien Van Mellaerts has won a 2016 Kiwi Music Scholarship towards his Artist Diploma in Opera at London’s Royal College of Music.
Julien also recently won first prizes in both the 2016 Brooks/van der Pump English Song Competition and the 2016 Joan Chissell Schumann Competition at the Royal College of Music, as well as winning a Countess Of Munster award for 2016.
Opera North’s world premiere of ‘Pleasure’ featuring Timothy Nelson
Timothy Nelson will sing the role of Nathan in Opera North's world premiere of Mark Simpson's new opera Pleasure, directed by Tim Albery and conducted by Nicolas Kok.
Pleaure is an exciting collaborative project between Opera North, Aldeburgh Music and the Royal Opera House. With a cast of just four singers, including Lesley Garrett, the opera tells the story of a toilet attendant in a hedonistic gay club in the north of England, presided over by a bacchanialian drag queen.
The opera premieres at Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds on 28th April and will also be performed at Liverpool Playhouse, the Britten Studio (Aldebugh) and the Lyric Hammersmith. See here for complete dates and details.
‘Dialogues des Carmelites’ featuring Rosalind Plowright wins Best DVD at BBC Music Magazine Awards
The Warner Erato recording of Dialogues des Carmelites (directed by Olivier Py) has won Best DVD at the 2016 BBC Music Magazine Awards. Rosalind Plowright, who sang Mme de Croissy, accepted the award on behalf of the team at King’s Place.
This highly acclaimed production - with a cast including Sandrine Piau, Veronique Gens and Patricia Petibon - was stylishly filmed at Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.
Jennifer France nominated for the 2016 South Bank / The Times Breakthrough Award
Congratulations to Jennifer France who has been nominated in the Opera Category for the 2016 South Bank / The Times Breakthrough Award.
The winner, chosen in an online vote by Times readers and fans, will follow such young stars as the actor Luke Pasqualino and Tom Hiddleston, the dancer Aaron Sills, the soprano Sophie Bevan and the rock band Everything Everything.
Angela Simkin joins the Royal Opera House Jette Parker scheme
Congratulations to Angela Simkin who will join the Jette Parker young artists scheme at the Royal Opera House, London, starting in the Autumn season this September 2016.
Toby Purser appointed ENO Mackerras Fellowship
Toby Purser has been appointed an ENO Mackerras Fellowship. The award is a joint initiative between ENO and the Philip Loubser Foundation, and celebrates the legacy of Sir Charles Mackerras. The ENO Mackerras Fellowship offers exceptionally talented young conductors the opportunity to work and develop at ENO, mentored by ENO Music Director Mark Wigglesworth.
Julien Van Mellaerts wins 2015 Maureen Lehane Vocal Award
Congratulations to Juilen Van Mellaerts who has one first prize at the prestigious 2015 Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards at the Wigmore Hall.
The panel of judges this year included the singers Mary Plazas and Adrian Thompson, and previous winners include the tenor Andrew Kennedy and baritone Christopher Maltman.
Carol Garcia wins Opera Actual magazine’s 2015 Young Artist award.
Congratulations mezzo-soprano Carol Garcia who has won the 2015 Young Artist Prize from Opera Actual magazine. A graduate of the Atelie Lyrique at the Opéra National de Paris and a Finalist at Operalia 2014, her engagements last season included Doña Damiana / La Clementina at the Teatro de la Zaruela, Madrid, Carmen at the Palau de Congressos de Santa Eulàlia de Ibiza, Mme Dangeville / Adriana Lecouvreur at the Opéra national de Paris and Rosina / Il barbiere di Siviglia for the Opéra national de Montréal.
Carol Garcia makes her Italian debut as Charlotte / Werther at the Teatro Verdi Trieste later this month.