Globally-acclaimed soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper bring our Winter Weekend to a close with a beautiful and sensuous programme that is sure to leave the heart strings thoroughly tugged.
Winning hearts with her magnetic stage presence and minds with the beautiful depth of her vocal expression, Elizabeth Llewellyn has established herself internationally as a dramatic and vocal artist of distinction. Elizabeth will be joined for her Irish debut performance by pianist Simon Lepper, whose “prowess as a pianist is fused with a real sensitivity to words and to the voice” (The Times, UK)
The duo’s gorgeous programme begins with Finzi’s Till Earth Outwears, a collection of songs set to texts by Thomas Hardy. Two mélodies by Ernest Chausson follow, including “Les Papillons,” whose tricky piano accompaniment imitates a butterfly traveling from flower to tree on a windy day.
“Le rossignol des lilas” (The nightingale among the lilac) is one of the Venezuelan-born French composer Reynaldo Hahn’s loveliest creations and is every bit as evocative as its title suggests, while Verdi’s songs condense all the drama and suspense of his grand operas into a chamber setting.
The second half begins with a selection of songs by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor from Llewellyn and Lepper’s award-winning album Heart & Hereafter. A British composer of African heritage, Coleridge-Taylor was a composer ahead of his time who is at last starting to receive the recognition he deserves. Bittersweet, painfully-beautiful, heart-breaking and sensuous, Strauss’s Four Last Songs are his farewell to life, to art, to a vanished world. Strauss saved his best for the very end.
“With her compellingly focused voice, Elizabeth Llewellyn is superb...”The Times (UK)
“Simon Lepper, whose prowess as a pianist is fused with a real sensitivity to words and to the voice, is a rarity indeed.”The Times (UK)
Known for her vivid portrayals of Puccini heroines and for her full, distinctive voice, London-born soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn has quickly risen through the ranks since making her debut as Mimi in La bohéme at English National Opera, establishing herself internationally as an artist of distinction.
Elizabeth begins the 22-23 season with the first instalment of her upcoming trilogy recital series at the Wigmore Hall, focussing on the music of British composer Samuel-Coleridge Taylor. This series continues Elizabeth’s exploration of the composer’s work following the release of her 2021 debut solo album Heart & Hereafter - a collection of songs by Coleridge-Taylor. Further highlights this season include her role and house debut as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos at Opera North, a performance of Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a recital at this year’s Oxford Lieder Festival.
In recent years, Elizabeth has established herself as a notable lyrico spinto soprano, singing the title roles in Verdi’s Luisa Miller for English National Opera, Aida at the Theater Bielefeld and Manon Lescaut with Opera Holland Park. Further recent notable debuts include her role and company debut as Jenůfa at Welsh National Opera, Desdemona in Otello for Grange Park Opera, and Alice Ford in Falstaff, directed by Sir David McVicar with Scottish Opera. On the concert platform recent highlights include the world premiere of James MacMillan’s When Soft Voices Die at the first night of the BBC Proms 2021, and Mozart Requiem for ENO’s first public performance since lockdown, broadcast live to audiences on BBC 2.
Simon read music at King’s College, Cambridge before studying piano accompaniment with Michael Dussek at the Royal Academy of Music and later with Ruben Lifschitz at the Fondation Royaumont. He is a currently professor of collaborative piano and a vocal repertoire coach at the Royal College of Music, London where he also in charge of the collaborative piano course. Since 2003 he has been an official accompanist for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. He has given masterclasses at the Mozarteum, Fondation Royaumont and La Chappelle, Belgium.
Performance highlights have included an invitation from the Wigmore Hall, London to present a three concert project on the songs of Joseph Marx; recital tours with Stéphane Degout which have included the Ravinia and Edinburgh Festivals and the opera houses of Bordeaux, Dijon, La Monnaie, Lausanne and Lyon; recitals at Carnegie Hall, New York with Karen Cargill and Sally Matthews and at the Frick Collection with Christopher Purves; performances of the Schubert song cycles with Gerald Finley and Mark Padmore including at the Schubertiade, Hohenhems, recitals with Christiane Karg at Frankfurt Opera and the Rheingau Fesitval and recitals with Angelika Kirchschlager in Verbier and at the Wigmore Hall.
He has presented an all Schubert programme with Ilker Arcayürek in Barcelona, Zürich, New York (Park Armory), San Francisco and at the Wigmore Hall where further appearances have included recitals with Dame Felicity Palmer, Karen Cargill, Sally Matthews and Mark Padmore. With Benjamin Appl he toured to India including recitals in Mumbai and Chennai and gave the opening performance for the highest concert hall in the wolrd in Shenzhen with Aida Garifulina. Future highlights include a European tour with Stéphane Degout, a performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang with Gerald Finley and recitals with Christiane Karg and with Ilker Arcayürek at the Hohenhems and Schwarzenverg Schubertiade.
His discography includes a recital disc with Dame Felicity Palmer, 2 volumes of Debussy Songs and a Strauss disc with Gillian Keith, a disc of French Song and Mahler songs with Karen Cargill, the complete songs of Jonathan Dove with Kitty Whately and a CD of contemporary violin works with Carolin Widmann which received a Diapason d’or. Recent releases include the songs of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with Elixabeth Llewellyn, a CD of Schubert songs with tenor Ilker Arcayürek, a disc of Ballads with Stéphane Degout as well as recital disc “Poèmes d’un jour” which was a Gramophone magazine editor’s choice. Future CD releases include a “Woman in Gold” fin-de-siécle Viennese songs sung by Robyn Allegra-Parton and a song CD with Christopher Purves.