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 very different from their modern counterparts. Access to new materials through global trade and advances in technology mean that today’s instruments are lighter and more robust, and might also be more naturally resonant. Most 18-century instruments are far more exposed and difficult to play than their modern equivalents, 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.
Thomas Guthrie began his musical training as a treble under George Guest at St John’s College Cambridge. He then returned to Cambridge to read Classics at Trinity before winning a scholarship to study at the RNCM, where prizes include the Fassbaender Award for Lieder, the Schubert Prize, and an ESU scholarship to study with Thomas Allen in Chicago. He continues to enjoy a wide-ranging singing career. In August 2007 he took up a two-year position as Stage Director on the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, where he directed both in the Linbury Studio Theatre and on the main stage. His productions include Steffani’s Orlando Generoso (Barber Opera), Hot House, Ludd and Isis (ROH), The Barber of Seville, The Fairy Queen (ETO), The Magic Flute (winner of an Angel Award at the Brighton Festival), King Arthur(Armonico Consort), Der Stein der Weisen, The Impresario, Cimarosa’s Two Barons of Rocca Azzurra (Bampton Classical Opera), Donizetti’s Rita, Walton’s The Bear (ROH), and Bach’s St John Passion. His production of Winterreise with puppet and animation has visited festivals in London, St Endellion, Buxton, Oslo and Aldeburgh, and he directed the world premiere of Bootmaker’s Daughter at Brighton Festival with the Cardinall’s Musick in 2008.
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.
Benjamin Hulett trained as a choral scholar at New College, Oxford and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Ben made his Classical Opera début at Wigmore Hall in 2013, and appears in the role of Agenore on our recording of Il re pastore, the fourth release in our complete recording cycle of Mozart’s operas. Ben’s opera roles have included Flute (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Jaquino (Fidelio), the Four Servants (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Ferrando (Così fan tutte) and Narraboth (Salome) for Hamburg State Opera, Tamino (The Magic Flute) for Welsh National Opera, Edmondo (Manon Lescaut) for the Royal Opera House, Peter Quint (The Turn of the Screw) for Opera North, Madwoman (Curlew River) for Rome Opera, and Ferrando (Così fan tutte) for Grange Park Opera.
Klara Ek has previously appeared with Classical Opera as Vitellia (UK première of Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito) and Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), and in concerts at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican and, in September 2016, at the annual Haydn Festival at the Esterházy palace in Eisenstadt. She can also be heard on the company’s début recording ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’. Other operatic roles include Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) for Staatstheater Stuttgart, Ilia (Idomeneo) for Danish National Opera, Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) for Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels and Arminda (La finta giardiniera) for the Academy of Ancient Music, and she has appeared in concert with many of the world’s leading orchestras.
Gemma Summerfield is studying at the Royal College of Music’s International Opera School, having graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a First Class Honours degree and gained a Masters in Performance at the RCM. She won First Prize and the Loveday Song Prize at the 2015 Kathleen Ferrier Awards. Her previous awards have included The Cuthbert Smith Prize in the Lies Askonas Competition 2014, The Governors’ Recital Prize for Voice 2013, The Norma Grieg Prize for French Song 2013 and the Jean Highgate Scholarship for Singing 2011. Her opera roles have included Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) at the RCM and Annina (La traviata) for the Rye Arts Festival.
Tim Mead read Music as a choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, before winning a number of scholarships to continue his vocal studies at the Royal College of Music. He made his Classical Opera début in 2004 as Farnace in Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto. Other roles include Oberon (Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Goffredo and Eustazio (Rinaldo), and Giulio Cesare (title role) at Glyndebourne, the title role in Philip Glass’ Akhnaten at Opera Vlaanderen, Voice of Apollo (Death in Venice), Tolomeo (Julius Caesar), and Ottone (L’incoronazione di Poppea) at English National Opera, Angel/Boy in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin at Théâtre du Capitole Toulouse, Gulbenkian Lisbon, on tour with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and in the U.S. première at Lincoln Center, Orlando (title role) at Scottish Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, and Fifth Innocent in the world première of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Minotaur for the Royal Opera House.
James Hall graduated with distinction from the Royal College of Music in 2012. He was awarded the Sir Geraint Evans Prize in 2009 and again in 2010, was a finalist in the Brooks Van Der Pump English Song Competition (2012), and winner of the Somerset Song Prize (2013). He will make his Classical Opera début in June 2017 in Mozart’s Apollo et Hyacinthus. His past role include Spirit (Dido & Aeneas) for OperaUpClose, Soloist in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with the Temple Ensemble, Cupid and Huntsman (Blow’s Venus & Adonis) for the Dunedin Consort and Opera Lyrica, Osmida (Jommelli’s La Didone) for Ensemble Serse, Endymion (Cavalli’s La Calisto) for Hampstead Garden Opera, Oronte (Handel’s Riccardo Primo)at the London Handel Festival, Bertarido (Rodelinda) for the Amade Players, and Pastore III (L’Orfeo) with the Monteverdi Choir at the BBC Proms. James sung the role of Johan in the world première of David Bruce’s Nothing, a community opera led by Glyndebourne in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Benjamin Appl trained as a chorister at the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen, and continued his studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, München, and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. He became an exclusive SONY Classical recording artist in May 2016, is a BBC New Generation Artist, and was an ECHO Rising Star artist for the 2015/16 season. He will make his Classical Opera début in Mozart’s Apollo et Hyacinthus in June 2017. Other operatic roles include Owen Wingrave (title role) at the Banff Festival, Aeneas (Dido and Aeneas) at the Aldeburgh and Brighton Festivals, Schaunard (La bohème) with the Munich Radio Orchestra, Baron Tusenbach (Eötvös’s Tri Sestri) for the Deutsche Staatsoper and a new commission for Bregenz Festival (Das Leben am Rande der Milchstraße by Bernhard Gander).