South African born Kristian Bezuidenhout began his studies in Australia, and completed them at the Eastman School of Music in New York. After initial training as a modern pianist with Rebecca Penneys, he explored early keyboards, studying harpsichord with Arthur Haas, fortepiano with Malcolm Bilson and continuo playing and performance practice with Paul O’Dette. He first gained international recognition at the age of 21 after winning the prestigious first prize as well as the audience prize in the Bruges Fortepiano Competition.
Bezuidenhout is a frequent guest artist with the world’s leading ensembles including Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Orchestre des Champs Elysées, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Concerto Köln, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, in many instances assuming the role of guest director. He has performed with celebrated artists including John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, Frans Brüggen, Trevor Pinnock, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Isabelle Faust, Alina Ibragimova, Rachel Podger, Carolyn Sampson, Anne Sophie von Otter and Mark Padmore.
Since 2009, Bezuidenhout has embarked on a long-term recording relationship with Harmonia Mundi. Recordings include Mozart Violin Sonatas with Petra Müllejans, and Volumes 1-7 of the complete keyboard music of Mozart (awards include Diapason d’Or de L’année, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and Caecilia). Other projects for Harmonia Mundi include Mendelssohn piano concertos with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Beethoven, Haydn & Mozart and Schumann Dichterliebe with Mark Padmore (Edison Award). His latest recordings are Volumes 8 & 9 of Mozart Sonatas and Volume 2 of Mozart Piano Concertos with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. His recording of Beethoven violin sonatas with Viktoria Mullova (ONYX label) won an ICMA and an ECHO Klassik award for the best chamber music album of 2011. In 2013 Bezuidenhout was awarded the ECHO Klassik Award for Concerto Recording of the Year (Mozart Concertos with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra) and nominated as Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year.
Soraya Mafi studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal College of Music International Opera School. She won the 2014 Maggie Teyte Prize and 2nd Prize in the 2015 Kathleen Ferrier Awards. Her roles have included Papagena (The Magic Flute) and Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance) for English National Opera, Constance (Dialogues des Carmélites) and First Niece (Peter Grimes) for Grange Park Opera, Aminta (Il re pastore) for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, and the title role in Arianna in Creta for The London Handel Festival. She was the winner of the 2016 Susan Chilcott Award, and is a Classical Opera Associate Artist.
The Orchestra of Classical Opera
The Orchestra of Classical Opera plays on period-instruments, and comprises some of the leading players in their field.
The orchestra, which varies in size from 12 to 50 depending on repertoire and venue, has won consistently high praise from public and critics alike, and performs symphonies and concertos as well as operas. 18th century instruments are generally far more exposed and difficult to play than their modern counterparts, but they bring a thrilling vibrancy and immediacy to the music. This is particularly true of vocal repertoire, where the orchestra provide a dynamic subtext and often become an extra actor in the drama.
Ian Page is the founder, conductor and artistic director of Classical Opera. He began his musical education as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, and studied English Literature at the University of York before completing his studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At the start of his career he worked on the music staff at Scottish Opera, Opera Factory, Drottningholm and Glyndebourne, working with such conductors as Sir Alexander Gibson, Nicholas McGegan, Mark Wigglesworth, Ivor Bolton and Sir Charles Mackerras.
With Classical Opera he has conducted most of Mozart’s early operas, including the world premières of the “original” version of Mitridate, re di Ponto and a new completion of Zaide, as well as Le nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte and La clemenza di Tito. He has also conducted the UK premières of Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito and Telemann’s Orpheus, and the first new staging for 250 years of Johann Christian Bach’s Adriano in Siria. In 2009 he made his Royal Opera House début conducting Arne’s Artaxerxes at the Linbury Studio Theatre, and his studio recording of the work was released in 2011 on Linn Records.
He also devised and conducted Classical Opera’s recordings of ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’ (Signum Classics) and ‘Blessed Spirit – a Gluck retrospective’ (Wigmore Hall Live), both of which were selected for Gramophone magazine’s annual Critic’s Choice, and he recently embarked on a new complete cycle of Mozart opera recordings with Classical Opera.