With a singular body of work spanning almost 60 years, David Matthews has established an international reputation as one of the leading symphonists of our time. Born in London in 1943, he began composing at the age of sixteen.
The natural world provides Matthews with a constant source of inspiration, and his scores often evoke strong feelings of place and are filled with birdsong. As well as growing out of his English background, his musical language is also strongly connected to the central European tradition – back through Mahler to Beethoven. He has been preoccupied with working in the great inherited forms of the past – symphony, string quartet, and oratorio – and the task of finding new ways to renew them. Matthews’s music unashamedly embraces his own brand of tonality and he retains a firm commitment to a music that is grounded in song and dance, and is connected to the vernacular.
Matthews has been the recipient of numerous BBC Proms commissions, including Cantiga, his dramatic 1988 scena for soprano and orchestra, and the Concerto in Azzurro for cellist Steven Isserlis, which was nominated for a 2003 BBC Radio 3 Listeners’ Award. Matthews has written prodigiously for string quartet and in his vocal music has set poets from E.E. Cummings and Rilke to Housman and D.H. Lawrence, Hill, Eliot and Auden to Sappho (in the original Greek). Choral music is equally important. Matthews composed his most ambitious work to date, Vespers for soloists, chorus and orchestra, for the Huddersfield Choral Society in 1994, and his 2014 anthem To what God shall we chant our songs of battle? was broadcast live on BBC Television as part of a vigil at Westminster Abbey commemorating the outbreak of the First World War.
A philosopher, public commentator and author of over 40 books, Roger Scruton specialised in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture.
He engaged in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and was well known as a powerful polemicist. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a fellow of the British Academy.
Jac van Steen was born in The Netherlands and studied orchestra and choir conducting at the Brabant Conservatory of Music.
Since participating in the BBC Conductors Seminar in 1985, he enjoys a very busy career and conducts the best orchestras in Europe, which included holding the posts of Music Director and Chief Conductor of the National Ballet of The Netherlands, the orchestras of Bochum, Nürenberg, the Staatskapelle Weimar, The Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra of Dortmund, Musikkollegium Winterthur and Principal Guest conductor at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. At present he is Principal Guest conductor of the Ulster Orchestra and the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
He made his debut with Opera North in 2013, as well as with the Volksoper in Vienna. In 2015 he has made a very successful debut at the Garsington Opera. He returned to Opera North for several productions and developed a yearly relationship with the Volksoper Vienna and bi-yearly appearances for Garsington Opera such as with Debussy's Pelleas and Melisande in 2017 and Smetana’s The Bartered Bride in 2019. In the 2018-19 season he made his debut at the Oslo Opera with two Puccini productions. Jac van Steen visits the UK regularly with the British orchestras such as the Philharmonia Orchestra, the CBSO, Royal Philharmonic, Ulster Orchestra and made his debut in Tokyo with the New Japan Philharmonic and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Jac van Steen participates in numerous recordings for the BBC, as well as live- broadcasts of his concerts. There are a substantial number of CD recordings of his work with various orchestras.
Besides his activities as conductor, he is dedicated to teaching and is Professor for Conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague. He also regularly works with the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham School of Music (Manchester) as well as the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music (London). In May-June 2018 he lead the Jette Parker Young Artists showcase as organised by the Royal Opera House Covent Garden London.
Described as “ruling the stage” (Opera Magazine) in his debut as Pluto last season in English National Opera’s new production of Orpheus in the Underworld, British baritone Alex Otterburn delights audiences and critics alike with his bright tone and commanding stage presence. As an ENO Harewood Artist, Alex has appeared as Morales in Calixto Bieito’s production of Carmen conducted by Valentina Peleggi, and Squibby in the world premiere of Iain Bell’s Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitehall, conducted by Martyn Brabbins. He returns this season in his debut as Ned Keene in David Alden’s production of Peter Grimes, conducted by Nicholas Collon.
Alex’s critically acclaimed debut as Eddy in Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek at the Edinburgh International Festival defined him as an exciting and important artist of the new generation, with further performances given in Glasgow for Scottish Opera and on tour to the Brooklyn Academy of Arts, marking his US operatic debut. Further successes have included Chip in Antony McDonald’s new production of On the Town at the Hyogo Performing Arts Centre and on tour in Tokyo, Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos for both Scottish Opera and Opera Holland Park, Pallante in Agrippina for The Grange Festival, and his company debut at Opera North as Cascada in The Merry Widow under Martin André.
Current engagements for Rhian Lois include GRETEL Hänsel und Gretel Hamburg State Opera, JULIETTE Die Tote Stadt English National Opera, as well as Faure Requiem and Stanford Te Deum and Elegiac Ode BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Recent engagements include JANINE/OFWARREN The Handmaid’s Tale ENO, ANGELICA in Elena Langer’s Figaro Get’s a Divorce Theatre Magdeburg and Grand Théâtre de Genève, JERUSHA The Intelligence Park Royal Opera House (Linbury Theatre), MAX Where The Wild Things Are Alexandra Palace, London and the Mariinsky Theatre, GOVERNESS The Turn of the Screw filmed Opera Glassworks conducted by John Wilson, GRETEL Hansel and Gretel and MUSETTA La bohème Scottish Opera, ORIANA Amadigi Garsington Opera, NANETTA Falstaff Grange Festival, ZERLINA Don Giovanni Santa Fe Opera and ADELE Die Fledermaus Welsh National Opera.
Her previous appearances at English National Opera also include VALENCIENNE The Merry Widow, SUSANNA Le Nozze di Figaro, ADELE Die Fledermaus, NERIS Medea, ATALANTA Xerxes, GOVERNESS The Turn of the Screw, MUSETTA La bohème, FRASQUITA Carmen, YOUNG WOMAN Between Worlds, FIRST NIECE Peter Grimes, PAPAGENA Die Zauberflöte and YVETTE The Passenger. She has also sung PAPAGENA Die Zauberflöte Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, PAMINA Die Zauberflöte Nevill Holt and EURYDICE in Telemann’s Orpheus London Handel Festival.
In concert Rhian has performed for the International Opera Awards Foundation and at venues such as the International Enescu Festival and Royal Festival Hall where she performed with Kings College Cambridge Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra and Aria ‘Ah! perfido’ with BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Jonathan Bloxham. She has also performed Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Simon Halsey, CBSO‘s Stravinsky retrospective Igor Fest, Brahms’s Requiem at Milton Court, Barbican, Handel’s Messiah in Cambridge; Carmina Burana at the Brangwyn Hall; a concert of Mozart Masterpieces at the Royal Festival Hall; and a performance of Mendelssohn’s Incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Edward Gardner and CBSO recorded by Chandos.
Rhian is a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Royal College of Music and National Opera Studio.
Praised for her “warm mezzo” (The Telegraph) and “velvet-voice” (Daily Telegraph), British-Spanish mezzo soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons recently made critically acclaimed house and role debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Siébel in David McVicar's production of Faustand creating the role of Hel in the world premiere of Gavin Higgins’ The Monstrous Childat the ROH Linbury Theatre.
In the 2022/23 season, Fontanals-Simmons performs Jack The Wreckers Ethel Smyth with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Robin Ticciati; recitals with Iain Burnside at Wigmore Hall and the Lammermuir Festival; Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde at the Roman River Festival and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the Worcester Festival Choral Society. Marta also reprises her role in Gavin Higgins’ The Faerie Bride with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales following a very well received world premiere at Aldeburgh Festival in 2022.
Recent operatic highlights include her house and role debut at English National Opera as Eurydice Woman in Daniel Kramer’s iconic production of Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus;her house debut as Jennie Hildebrand in Weill’s Street Scene for Opéra de Monte-Carlo; Amando Le Grand Macabre with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester; Zweite Dame Die Zauberflöte for Glyndebourne Festival; Jennie Hildebrand Street Scene at the Teatro Real; Cherubino Le nozze di Figaro for Garsington Opera and at the Théâtre Champs Elysées; the title role in La Cenerentola for Diva Opera; and Kate Pinkerton Madama Butterfly for the Glyndebourne Tour and Grange Park Opera. On the concert platform, Fontanals-Simmons has emerged as a “strong artistic personality and an unflinchingly direct communicator”and as an interpreter of a broad range of repertoire.
British tenor Oliver Johnston is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and was a participant in the 2016 Salzburg Festival’s Young Singers Project.
Highlights in his 2022/23 season include role debuts as Tichon Káťa Kabanová for Opéra National de Lyon, Alfredo La Traviata for Opera North and a return to Garsington Opera as Jenik in The Bartered Bride. On the concert platform, he sings Handel’s Messiah with the Philharmonia Orchestra/Brian Wright and Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast with the Royal Orchestral Society/Ronald Corp.
Recent engagements include Don Jose Carmen for Opera Holland Park; Italian Tenor Der Rosenkavalier for Garsington Opera; Jacquino Fidelio for Opera North; Ein Soldat Der Kaiser von Atlantis with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; house debuts at Teatro Real Madrid and Opera di Roma as High Priest Idomeneo; Mademoiselle Bouillabaisse in Offenbach’s Mesdames de la Halle for the Glyndebourne Festival and Jenik Bartered Bride at Garsington Opera.
His concert engagements have included Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Walker; Vaughan-Williams’ Serenade to Music with the London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski and at the The Last Night of the Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo; 2nd Nazarene in concert performances of Salome with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits; Handel’s Messiah with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/ Sofi Jeannin; Beethoven Symphony No.9 with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Edo de Waart and Mozart Requiem with the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra.
Jonathan Lemalu, a New Zealand born Samoan, is a joint winner of the 2002 Kathleen Ferrier award and the recipient of the 2002 Royal Philharmonic Society’s Award for Young Artist of the Year. He has been made an ONZM for his services to opera, as well as having been named an honorary fellow at the Royal College of Music.
Jonathan performs at world renowned opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Chicago Lyric, Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera Australia, and Glyndebourne. He has also performed at the Salzburg Festival. His concert and recital performances span both classical and contemporary repertoire and include the Berlin, New York, Rotterdam, Hong Kong, Strasbourg and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, and the New Zealand, London, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris and Tokyo Symphony Orchestras with world renowned conductors that include Davis, Dutoit, Gergiev, Harding, Harnoncourt, Mackerras, Mehta, Norrington, Pappano, Rattle and Summers.
Jonathan’s debut recital disc was awarded the Gramophone Magazine Debut Artist of the Year award. He subsequently released his first solo recording, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and then a recital disc with Malcolm Martineau, also featuring the Belcea Quartet.