HENRY PURCELL Dido and Aeneas
John Butt, conductor
Nicole Heaston, Dido
Matthew Brook, Aeneas
Nardus Williams, Belinda
Allison Cook, Sorceress
Valérie Sainte-Agathe, chorale director
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
About This Concert
Mark Twain famously said “If I had more time
I would have written a shorter letter.” Henry Purcell’s mini-masterpiece Dido and Aeneas distills all the drama and power usually found in a standard-length opera into a taut, fast moving and ultimately devastatingly powerful 60 minutes, along the way taking in a love story, pirates, sorcery and drunken sailors, all painted in vivid musical detail.
John Butt is Gardiner Professor of Music at the University of Glasgow and Music Director of Edinburgh’s Dunedin Consort.
As an undergraduate at Cambridge University, he held the office of organ scholar at King’s College. Continuing as a graduate student working on the music of Bach he received his PhD in 1987. He was subsequently a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen and a Fellow of Magdalene College Cambridge, joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1989 as University Organist and Professor of Music. He performed as organist with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra from 1990-1997 and founded the Philharmonia Chorale in 1995. In autumn 1997 he returned to Cambridge as a University Lecturer and Fellow of King’s College, and in October 2001 he took up his current post at Glasgow. His books have been published by Cambridge University Press: these include Bach Interpretation (1990), a handbook on Bach’s Mass in B Minor (1991), Music Education and the Art of Performance in the German Baroque (1994). Playing with History (2002) marked a new tack, examining the broad culture of historically informed performance and attempting to explain and justify it as a contemporary phenomenon. He is also editor or joint editor of both the Cambridge and Oxford Companions to Bach and of the Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Music (2005). His book on Bach’s Passions, Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity, was published in 2010, and explores the ways in which Bach’s Passion settings relate to some of the broader concepts of modernity, such as subjectivity and time consciousness.
John Butt’s conducting engagements with the Dunedin Consort (2003 –) have included major Baroque repertory and several new commissions. He has been guest conductor with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The English Concert, The Irish Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, The Royal Academy of Music Bach Cantata series, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Portland Baroque Orchestra and the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. John Butt also continues to be active as a solo organist and harpsichordist. Eleven recordings on organ, harpsichord and clavichord have been released by Harmonia Mundi. As conductor or organist he has performed throughout the world, including recent trips to Germany, France, Poland, Israel, Korea, Canada, Belgium, Holland and Irish Republic.
In 2003 John Butt was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and received the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association. That year his book, Playing with History, was shortlisted for the British Academy’s annual Book Prize. In 2006 he was elected Fellow of the British Academy and began a two-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for his research on Bach’s Passions. He has recently served on the Council of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. In January 2011 he became the fifth recipient of the Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation’s Bach Prize, for his work in the performance and scholarship of Bach. In 2013 John Butt was awarded the medal of the Royal College of Organists and the OBE for his services to music in Scotland.
Ms. Heaston begins the 2022-23 season with the long-awaited world premiere of Mazzoli/Vavrek’s The Listeners at Den Norkse Opera, in which she sings the central role of Claire Devon. She sings Amore in a new production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice with San Francisco Opera, later returning to the city for her role debut as Melissa in Handel’s Amadigidi Gaula with Philharmonia Baroque, and also sings performances of Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro with Houston Grand Opera.
The soprano’s 2021-22 season included returns to San Francisco Opera, making a role debut as Despina in Così fan tutte, and Houston Grand Opera, singing the role of Liù in Turandot. She sings further performances of Liù with Maryland Lyric Opera, performs in “The Majesty of the Spiritual” at Aurora College, and joins the Houston Ballet, singing songs by Joseph Canteloube on their Jubilee of Dance program. Future engagements for Nicole Heaston include leading roles at Den Norske Opera (Oslo), Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and San Francisco Opera.
In the 2020/21 season her close collaboration with Houston Grand Opera continues, as she sings Yolanda Cantrell in Jim Luigs’ reimagined The Impresario and Sir Elton John’s Trainer in David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s chamber opera Vinkensport, co-hosts Giving Voice with Lawrence Brownlee, and presents a recital with Richard Bado as part of the Live from the Cullen recital series, all presented as part of Houston Grand Opera’s re-imagined digital season. Further showcasing her versatility during the last year, she created the Purple Robe Series, featuring songs from a large variety of genres including Opera, R&B, Gospel, Rap, and Musical Theater. The series went viral, especially for its episode honoring Juneteenth featuring Lift Every Voice and Sing as arranged by Roland Carter and performed by a chorus of outstanding Black opera singers.
In the 2019/20 season, Heaston appeared in the Memphis Symphony’s opening weekend gala and sang Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro at the San Francisco Opera. In the 2018/19 season, the soprano made three significant role debuts: Mimì in La Bohème at the Houston Grand Opera, Liù in Turandot with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, and the title role in Didone Abbandonata at Theater Basel. She also debuted at the Hamburg State Opera as Countess Almaviva, sang her first Mahler Symphony No. 2 with the Houston Symphony, and appeared in recital at the Wang Center in Naples, Florida. Engagements from the 2017/18 season included the title role in Alcina at Theater Basel, Alice Ford at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, Brahms’ Requiem with the Houston Symphony, and a gala concert at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
In the 2016/17 season, Heaston sang Adina in L’elisir d’amore at the Houston Grand Opera, Haydn’s The Creation with the Houston Symphony (released on the Pentatone label), Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Boston Lyric Opera, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Engagements for the 2015/16 season included Alice Ford in Falstaff at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen and Countess Almaviva at Den Norske Opera and the Utah Opera. In the 2014/15 season, she sang Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at the Houston Grand Opera, the title role in Alcina at the Royal Danish Opera, and was the featured vocal soloist in the Houston Ballet’s staging of Stravinsky’s Les Noces. Her engagements for the 2013/14 season included Alcina at Den Norske Opera, Arminda in La Finta Giardiniera at the Glyndebourne Festival, and the featured soloist in Of Blessed Memory at the Houston Ballet. In the 2011/12 season, Heaston sang Alice Ford in Falstaff with Opera de Lausanne and the title role in L’incoronazione diPoppea at the Semperoper Dresden.
Heaston has established a long-standing relationship with Houston Grand Opera, beginning as a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Her debut with the company was in the title role of Roméo et Juliette, and she has since been heard as Gilda in Rigoletto, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Pamina in The Magic Flute. Heaston also created the title role in Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere of Jackie O, subsequently recording the opera for the Argo label.
Since her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Ms. Heaston has appeared regularly with the theater, singing Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (conducted by James Levine), and Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos. A regular presence in opera houses throughout the United States, Heaston recently sang Musetta in La Bohème with the Fort Worth Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and for her debut with New York City Opera alongside Rolando Villazon (which was recorded and broadcast nationwide). She has performed the role of Oscar in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera with the San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and she has sung Gilda in Rigoletto at the Nashville Opera and Opera Grand Rapids. Heaston made her debut with the Michigan Opera Theatre as Nanetta in Falstaff and has since returned to the company as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. She sang Despina in Così Fan Tutte with the Dallas Opera and made her debut with the Washington National Opera in the role of Pamina. Heaston made her debut at the Glimmerglass Opera in New York as Susanna, performing the same role at the Wolf Trap Opera in Virginia, and sang the role of the Princess in Respighi’s La Bella Dormente nel Bosco at the Spoleto Festival and the 2005 Lincoln Center Festival.
In recent seasons, Heaston made her Italian debut in Adriano in Siria at the Fondazione Pergolesi in Jesi, Italy. She also made her debut at the Los Angeles Opera as Musetta in La Bohème, joined the New Orleans Opera in Rigoletto, and returned to Carnegie Hall for the Marilyn Horne Foundation “The Song Continues” annual recital. Heaston performed in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera de Lille and The Creation at the Teatro Carlo Felice, and she sang Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni for her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival and the title role in L’incoronazione di Poppea for her debut at the Semperoper Dresden.
Heaston made her European operatic debut as Anne Truelove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in Montpellier and sang Zerlina in Don Giovanni at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. She performed the role of Drusilla in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea for her debuts at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence and at the Vienna Festwochen. She sang the role of Eve in Haydn’s The Creation for the Flanders Opera in Belgium, and sang performances of Gluck’s Armide with Les Musiciens du Louvre under the baton of Marc Minkowski, which was recorded for Archiv Production Deutsche Grammophon. Other collaborations with Maestro Minkowski have included Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in Grenoble, France, and an appearance in William Klein’s motion picture Le Messie, based on Handel’s Messiah, for which she also recorded the soundtrack.
Hailed as ‘one to listen out for’ (The Guardian), Soprano Nardus Williams is establishing herself as one of the most exciting British singers of her generation. Winner of the Rising Talent award at the 2022 International Opera Awards, upcoming highlights of the 2022/23 season include a return to the Glyndebourne tour as Countess Le Nozze di Figaro after resounding success this summer, and also to the festival as Adina L’elisir d’amore. She will make her house and role debut as Helena A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Opéra de Rouen Normandie, and on the concert platform, return to the London Handel Festival, Wigmore Hall, perform a programme of Handel with the Dunedin Consort, and Tippett A Child of Our Time with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. A former English National Opera Harewood Artist, Williams was recently nominated for the Times Breakthrough Award at The South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2022 and in the Young Artist category for the RPS Awards 2023.
Recent highlights for Williams include Anne Trulove The Rake’s Progress for the Glyndebourne Tour, her house debut as Mimi La Boheme for Opera Vlaanderen, Fiordiligi Cosi fan tutte for English National Opera, Countess Le Nozze di Figaro for Opera Holland Park, Mimi La Boheme for English National Opera’s Drive & Live series, Ciboulette In The Market for Love for the Glyndebourne Tour, the world premiere of Dido’s Ghost a co-commission with the Dunedin Consort, Mahogany Opera & The Barbican, Micaëla Carmen at English National Opera, Mimi La boheme and Donna Anna Don Giovanni for Houston Grand Opera, Armida Rinaldo (cover) and Adina L’elisir d’amore (cover) at Glyndbourne Festival Opera, Governess The Turn of the Screw for Garsington Opera (cover), the role of Martha in a new commission Wake by Giorgio Battistelli for Birmingham Opera Company directed by Graham Vick, and Countess (cover) The Marriage of Figaro for English National Opera. Further roles have included Maggie/Marjana in the world premiere of Lewis Murphy Belongings for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Donna Elvira Don Giovanni for Opera Holland Park, Mimi La boheme and Donna Anna Don Giovanni for Houston Grand Opera and Fox in Janáček The Cunning Little Vixen at the Royal College of Music. Williams was also invited to perform with Welsh National Opera and Nevill Holt Opera.
On the concert and recital platform, recent and upcoming highlights include recitals for Oxford Lieder, Leeds Lieder, Wigmore Hall, St. John’s Smith Square, her BBC Proms debut with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Ben Glassberg, and Handel’s Messiah at King’s Place and English National Opera.
Williams was a member of the Houston Opera Studio for the 2018/19 season and is a former Jerwood Young Artist at Glyndebourne. Williams trained at the International Opera School at the Royal College of Music where she was the sole recipient of the prestigious Kiri Te Kanawa Scholarship. Other awards and prizes include the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards First Prize and Audience Prize (2016).
Bertie Watson Photography
Matthew Brook leapt to fame with his 2007 Gramophone Award-winning recording of Handel’s Messiah with the Dunedin Consort, followed by equally critically acclaimed recordings of Acis and Galatea and St Matthew Passion. He has appeared as a soloist throughout Europe, Australia, North and South America and the Far East, and has worked with many of the world’s leading conductors. He has developed a world-wide reputation for his interpretation of the music of J.S Bach and George Frederic Handel but his musical tastes stretch far beyond this, often performing new commissions. Other concert repertoire he performs regularly include pieces such as Beethoven Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis, Berlioz L’Enfance du Christ, Brahms’ Requiem, Elgar Dream of Gerontius, Haydn Die Schöpfung and Die Jahreszeiten, Mendelssohn Elijah, Tippett A Child of Our Time and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast.
Matthew has enjoyed long collaborations with conductors including Sir Andrew Davis, Harry Bicket, Bernhard Labadie, Christophe Rousset, John Nelson, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, John Butt, Harry Christophers, Paul McCreesh and the late Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Roger Norrington and Richard Hickox. He has also recently collaborated with Richard Tognetti, Sir Mark Elder, Emmanuelle Haïm, Laurence Equilbey, Maxim Emelyanchev, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and Christian Curnyn.
On the opera stage Matthew has performed roles at Staatstheater Stuttgart, Opera Comique, Göttingen International Handel Festival, The Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg and at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He assumed the roles of Don Alfonso and Bartolo under Sir John Elliott Gardiner as part of a big European tour including at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Salle Pleyel, Paris, Teatro Real, Madrid and Giuseppe Verdi Opera House, Pisa. Some of Matthew’s other roles have included Polyphemus Acis and Galatea, Aeneas Dido and Aeneas, Papageno Die Zauberflöte, Figaro Le nozze di Figaro, Leporello Don Giovanni, Kouno Der Freischütz, Garibaldo Rodelinda, Ned Keene Peter Grimes, Vicar Albert Herring, Noye Noye’s Fludde, John Bunyan and Lord Hategood in Vaughan Williams’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Melchior in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, Jupiter in Rameau’s Castor et Pollux, Starek and Mayor Jenufa, Antenor and Calkas in Walton’s Troilus and Cressida, Zuniga Carmen, Argenio Imeneo and Seneca in L’incoronazione di Poppea. More recently Il Re di Scozia Ariodante with the Staatstheater Stuttgart, Argante Rinaldo with Ópera de Oviedo, and Claudio Agrippina at Teatro de la Maestranza.
Matthew has an extensive discography having recorded for EMI/Virgin, Chandos, Hyperion, Naxos, Linn and Delphian. His most recent recording Bach: Ich habe genug with the Dunedin Consort for the Linn label won the choral award in the 2022 BBC Music Magazine Awards.
Recent highlights include the role of Aeneas in the world premiere of Errollyn Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost co-commissioned by the Dunedin Consort with the Barbican Centre, Edinburgh International Festival, Buxton International Festival and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, a return to the BBC Proms for Bach’s B minor Mass with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Messiahs with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, English Chamber Orchestra and Music of the Baroque Chicago, Haydn’s The Creation with both the AAM and Handel and Haydn Society Boston and Bach’s St Matthew Passion with Orchestra of St Luke’s at Carnegie Hall and with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.
This season, Matthew sings the role of Il Re di Scozia in a new Robert Carsen production of Ariodante at Opéra national de Paris under Harry Bicket, Bach Cantatas in a return to Les Violons du Roy in Quebec, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Orchestre National de Lyon, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with Coro e Orquestra Gulbenkian, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Royal Philharmonic.
With an extraordinary versatility and vocal range seldom found, Allison Cook’s recent seasons have seen a number of important debuts including Teatro alla Scala, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Wiener Festwochen, Teatro Colón Buenos Aires, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie and Teatr Wielki as well as the expansion of her original mezzo repertoire to include roles such as Salome, Marie in Wozzeck, Kundry in Parsifal, Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle, Schoenberg’s Erwartung, the Duchess of Argyll in Adès’s Powder Her Face, Miss Jessel in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Venus In Tannhauser and the title role in Kaija Saariaho’s Emilie.
Allison’s recent operatic engagements include her role debut as Kundry conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, Foreign Princess in Rusalka in Staatsoper Stuttgart with Oksana Lyniv and Cornellias Meister,a return to the role of Miss Jessel wih Ivan Fisher in Budapest and Teatro Olympico, her role and house debut as Salome in ENO’s new production by Adena Jacobs and conducted by Martyn Brabbins, a return to Gran Teatre Liceu in the title role in Casablanca’s world premier L’Enigma de Lea, a return to Teatro alla Scala in Francesconi’s iconic Quartett ,Venus in Tannhauser conducted by Patrick Hahn, Judith in Bartock’s Bluebeard’s Castle in a new production in Lisbon and Lyon, Lavina in the world premier of Errolyn Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost , her return to ROH Covent Garden in her reprise of the role of The Red Queen in the first staged production of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Underground ROH, Covent Garden and a reprise of her roles in Joe-Hill Gibbons’ production of Turnage’s Greek at BAM, NY, Allison also recently made her Enescu Festival debut in a concert version of Bluebeard’s Castle joined forces with the Gävle Symphony Orchestra for Saariaho’s Emilie ,reprised her role of Woman in Schoenberg’s Erwartung in a new production conducted by Alejo Perez in Antwerp and performed the Bolcom Cabaret Songs with Wayne Marshall with Orquestra Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon.
Looking ahead Allison will make her house debut in Zurich in a new production of Stock-Ramati’s America, conducted by Gabriel Feltz and directed by Sebastian Baumgarten, return to Bergen Opera for Rusalka with Àlex Ollé and Eivind Gullberg Jensen and return also to La Monnaie for Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw.
A former member of Les Jeunes Voix du Rhin at the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg and the Centre Formation Lyrique at Opéra National du Paris , Allison’s European profile has been build on performances including Der Komponist (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Strasbourg, world premier of Peter Eotvos’s Le Balcon in Aix en Provence, Amsterdam and Toulouse, roles of Kate Julian (Owen Wingrave) Blossom (Turnage’s Anna Nicole) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Der Trommler (Der Kaiser Von Atlantis) with Opéra National de Lorraine and at Le Cité de la Musique in Paris and both Carmen and Orlosky for GTO Glyndebourne.
She has worked with some of the world’s most influential conductors and directors including Sir Andrew Davies, Sir Tony Pappano, Pablo Heras-Casado, Susanna Mälkki, Christopher Eschenbach, Mariusz Trelinski, Jay Scheib, Alex Ollé,Valentina Carrasco,Peter Eotvos, Louis Langrée, Richard Jones, Keith Warner, Marc Minkowski… She also continues to be heard on the concert platform in a diverse repertoire from Purcell to Schoenberg, notably last season making her Berlin Philharmonic debut in concert with Mark Padmore and Ryan Wigglesworth as well as in recital at La Monnaie, Bruxelles with the pianist Alfredo Abbati.
Photograph by Robert Wolanski