Christopher Ainslie

Countertenor

"…counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie was movingly eloquent…"

The Birmingham Post

"He holds the audience spellbound both by the expressiveness of his tone and the musicality of his interpretation. A talent to watch…"

Opera Magazine

"…His account of "Dawn, still darkness" from Jonathan Dove's "Flight" was as near to perfection as anything I have heard in the Wigmore Hall…"

Musical Pointers

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Christopher Ainslie started his singing career as a chorister in Cape Town, his home city. In 2005 he moved to London to study at the Royal College of Music, where he graduated with distinction.

Ainslie has rapidly established himself as a leading interpreter of the countertenor repertoire, and is also active in exploring repertoire not usually associated with the voice-type.  He has appeared twice at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Innocent 4 The Minotaur and the title role in Artaxerxes), at Glyndebourne (Ottone L’incoronazione di Poppea and Eustazio Rinaldo), Opéra de Lyon (Voice of Apollo Death in Venice), Drottningholm (Ottone Poppea), Göttingen Handel Festival (the title role in Tamerlano), Opera North (Oberon A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Voice of Apollo Death in Venice, and Ottone Poppea), and Central City Opera (the title role in Amadigi).  Other roles include the title role in Poro, and Alessandro Tolomeo at the London Handel Festival, Medoro Orlando with Independent Opera, Arsace Partenope at the Les Azuriales Festival, the title role in Rinaldo in Latvia, and Unulfo Rodelinda, The Messenger Thebans, and Helicon in the UK premiere of Glanert’s Caligula for English National Opera.

Equally at home on the oratorio and recital stages, Ainslie’s recent performances include a recital at Wigmore Hall, Bach’s Magnificat and Handel’s Amadigi with the Retrospect Ensemble at Wigmore Hall, a recital with players from The English Concert, Handel’s Messiah (London Handel Festival, Detroit Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra), Bach’s Weihnachts-Oratorium (Moscow Conservatory), Blow’s Venus & Adonis (Les Arts Florissants and B’Rock), Purcell’s Ode to St Cecilia and Handel’s Te Deum in D (B’Rock), the title role in Handel’s Solomon (London Handel Festival), Belshazzar (Dresden), Saul (St John’s, Smith Square), Judas Maccabeus (Vilnius), Jephtha, Theodora and Samson (Cape Town), Bach’s Matthäus-Passion (London Handel Festival), Bach’s Johannes-Passion (Cadogan Hall) and Vivaldi’s Gloria (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra).

Ainslie’s recordings include the title role in Arne’s Artaxerxes, and Zephyrus in Mozart’s Apollo et Hyacinthus, both with Linn Records and Classical Opera.

Studying with Mark Tucker, Ainslie is an exponent of the bel canto style rather than English choral tradition, and his expressive, colourful and dramatic singing continually attracts critical acclaim.  In 2011 Ainslie won the Gianni Bergamo Countertenor Competition in Switzerland; in 2008 he was the first countertenor to win the Richard Tauber Competition at Wigmore Hall, and in 2007 he was awarded the Michael Oliver Prize in the London Handel Festival Singing Competition.

Recent engagements include Orfeo Orfeo ed Euridice for Opéra de Lyon and for Opéra National de Lorraine, Ottone Agrippina for the Göttingen Handel Festival, David Saul for Glyndebourne, Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as well as Oregon Bach Festival, where he also sang Bach’s Magnificat and the world premiere of James MacMillan’s A European Requiem; Messiah with the Ulster Orchestra and with the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, and Carmina Burana with the Choir and Orchestra of Radio France.

This season includes Unulfo Rodelinda for the Teatro Real in Madrid with Ivor Bolton, Athamas Semele at Garsington with Jonathan Cohen, the title role Joseph And His Brethren at the London Handel Festival, and Mass in B minor at Carnegie Hall and Messiah with the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington D.C..

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

MacMillan A European Requiem (world premiere)

Oregon Bach Festival (July 2016)

Countertenor Christopher Ainslie sang the florid lines of the “Kyrie eleison” section with clarity and confidence. The soloists [Christopher Ainslie and Morgan Smith] brought refined artistry to their “In paradisum” duet...

Terry McQuilkin, The Register-Guard

Bach Mass in B minor

Oregon Bach Festival (June 2016)

The final aria, a haunting Agnus Dei (sung beautifully last night by countertenor Christopher Ainslie) fades into the gentle swelling and transcendent peace of the closing Dona Nobis.

Rachael Carnes, Eugene Weekly

Many of the solos were taken by a fine countertenor, Christopher Ainslie.

Marilyn Farwell, The Register-Guard

Handel Messiah

National Symphony Orchestra DC

It was also a fine crop of soloists. [...] I found [Christopher Ainslie's] work here especially fine — in particular the way he threw in idiomatic ornaments at will, taking a liberty with the written music that would have been expected in Handel’s day but is generally performed in a more careful, obedient manner now.

Anne Midgette, Washington Post

... the birth of Jesus, brought to dramatic life by countertenor Christopher Ainslie. Of all the voices, his voice is the most memorable, in part because, in a production that minimalized spectacle, his attention to the details of comportment captivates the audience. His “O thou that tellest good tidings of Zion” lets the crowd know that they are in for an evening of jubilation.

Robert Michael Oliver, DC Metro Theater Arts

Bach Magnificat

Oregon Bach Festival (July 2016)

The soloists, too, proved excellent. ... Countertenor Christopher Ainslie sang with forthright purity.

Terry McQuilkin, The Register-Guard

Mass in B minor

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (May 2016)

... the countertenor Christopher Ainslie, who has a fine high sound...

Anne Midgette, Washington Post

Handel Saul (David)

Glyndebourne, Lewes (October 2015)

Christopher Ainslie’s David, silver-voiced, serene and inscrutable.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

From Ainslie’s suppleness of tone to…the panting, unguarded Glyndebourne chorus, it’s a triumph.

Anna Picard, The Times

While acting the part of Saul’s young, ambitious and ultimately successful rival David with keen perception, South African countertenor Christopher Ainslie brings outstanding tonal beauty to his singing.

George Hall, The Stage

As the young warrior David, Christopher Ainslie was a compelling presence – a still cenre of elegance and grace – and his principal arias were taken with great musicianship.

Roger Parker, Opera

Christopher Ainslie is the new David, an accomplished and handsome countertenor whose appeal to all three of Saul's children is self-explanatory.

Mark Valencia, whatsonstage.com

Confidence was also on show in the David of Christopher Ainslie…he silenced an array of ‘impressive’ audience coughers with a beautifully phrased ‘O Lord, whose Mercies Numberless.'

Melanie Eskenazi, musicomh.com

Handel Agrippina (Ottone)

International Handel Festival, Göttingen (May 2015)

As well as having the opera’s most poignant arias, Christopher Ainslie as Ottone gets to spend a lot of time shirtless. Quite when anybody who clearly spends so many hours in fitness studios has time for vocal practice is a mystery, but Ainslie has clearly not neglected the latter.

Shirley Apthorp, Financial Times

Christopher Ainslie was the third excellent countertenor, familiar to me from his various fine performances at English National Opera. He made Ottone, Poppea’s true love, the straight man of the piece and comparatively simpatico.

Tom Sutcliffe, Opera Now

Christopher Ainslie as her lover Ottone convinces with highly expressive singing.

Jonas Rohde, Göttinger Tageblatt

Christopher Ainslie as Ottone, however, exuded the most impressive countertenor lustre – clear, powerful, and with a magnificently warm timbre.

Hessische Niedersächsische Allgemeine

Asides from his ability to empathise using his voice, Christopher Ainslie shows off his sex appeal – whether he is dressed in flattering luxury garments or completely topless.

Neue Musikzeitung

Gluck Orfeo ed Euridice (Orfeo)

Opéra national de Lorraine, Nancy (April 2016)

Meaty and powerful in the initial expression of loss, the countertenor also displayed a softness during the intimate moments, such as his emotional plea to the Furies, which was of a crystalline delicacy.

Laurent Bergnach, Anaclase – la musique au jour le jour

The role of Orpheus falls to Christopher Ainslie. ... He convinces with his youthful ardour and his eloquence, and touches with his lament.

Michel Thomé, Res Musica

Countertenor Christopher Ainslie gives his Orpheus (a role originally for a castrato) vibrant youth, a clear timbre, a soaring treble register, low notes without fault, beautiful diction and great conviction.

Caroline Alexander, WebThéâtre

André Tchaikowsky The Merchant of Venice

Bregenz Festival on DVD

Eröd and Ainslie are heartbreaking and unforgettable.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

... thanks not least to Christopher Ainslie’s expertly detailed, at times genuinely moving portrayal.

Max Loppert, Opera

Handel Messiah, Calgary Philharmonic

Jack Singer Concert Hall (December 2014)

Counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie has a strong, clear voice…sure in his technique and clearly delivery of the words.

Kenneth Delong, Calgary Herald

Monteverdi The Coronation of Poppea (Ottone)

Opera North, Grand Theatre Leeds (October 2014)

There are no surtitles, so everything hinges on the singers’ diction, which was on the whole good. Counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie, as Poppea’s rejected lover Ottone, was outstanding in this respect.

Anthony Arblaster, Opera Now

Ainslie’s sweet, supple counter-tenor.

Anna Picard, The Spectator

Christopher Ainslie, whose acting skills as Ottone are considerable.

Richard Wilcocks, bachtrack.com

Ottone is nicely played by Christopher Ainslie…he’s another brilliant physical performer.

Graham Rickson, theartsdesk.com

Christopher Ainslie as Ottone blends smoothly in [his] recitatives.

Geoffrey Mogridge, Opera Britannia

Christopher Ainslie as Ottone is a fine countertenor.

John Leeman, seenandheardinternational.com

Theseus / Messenger (Thebans), English National Opera

London Coliseum (May 2014)

Christopher Ainslie was spellbinding in his narration – a Messenger who made you really listen to the message – and his countertenor seems to be growing in its powers of projection.

John Allison, Opera

Christopher Ainslie’s otherworldly, gilded Theseus/Messenger mastered his difficult but effective vocal lines, in which word stresses did not always fall on the strong beat but sounded all the more natural for it.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

…strong individual performances from …Christopher Ainslie (Theseus) and Julia Sporsén (Antigone) fleshed out the drama of the production by Pierre Audi.

George Hall, Opera Now

Christopher Ainslie as Messenger/Theseus is admirable.

Evening Standard

Countertenor Christopher Ainslie was on great otherworldly form as Theseus.

Peter Reed, classicalsource.com

There’s strong support from Christopher Ainslie.

Simon Thomas, whatsonstage.com

Handel Rodelinda (Unulfo)

English National Opera, London Coliseum (February 2014)

Ultimately, however, the evening belongs to its two countertenors, Davies and Ainslie, the former infinitely noble and moving, the latter darker toned yet fabulously agile. They've rarely been bettered in their respective roles, and are both, quite simply, breathtaking.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

Christopher Ainslie rises splendidly to the challenges posed by the subsidiary roles.

Rupert Christansen, The Telegraph

Christopher Ainslie, as Unolfo, profiles a promising countertenor.

Andrew Clark, Financial Times

As the hapless adviser, Unulfo, Christopher Ainslie offers a more occluded but still beautiful version of the countertenor voice.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

Christopher Ainslie contributes fine solos.

Barry Millington, Evening Standard

Christopher Ainslie was an Unulfo who blossomed as the evening wore on, coming into his own during his Act 2 aria on the treadmills.

Erica Jeal, Opera

South African countertenor Christopher Ainslie spectacularly took the role of Unulfo, one of two main countertenor roles.

Colin Clarke, seenandheardinternational.com

Christopher Ainslie’s singing was certainly melodious and captured the deferential, ingenuous character of the role.

Curtis Rogers, classicalsource.com

Countertenors Iestyn Davis and Christopher Ainslie complement each other's vocal timbre while displaying top-notch acting chops.

Mark Valencia, whatsonstage.com

Ainslie turned in some excellently expressive singing.

Robert Hugill, Planethugill.com

Bach St Matthew Passion, Royal Northern Sinfonia / Zehetmair

The Sage Gateshead (April 2014)

Christopher Ainslie’s tight, focused tone acquired pleasing plangency for a sublime Erbarme Dich.

Alfred Hicking, The Guardian

Christopher Ainslie was a delight to listen to. His “Ach mein Jesu” was steeped in agony, with big pauses and then gorgeous shape in the very long held notes. “Buß und Reu” went with a gentle lilt, his tone soothing against the bitter teardrops of the flute. The hauntingly beautiful “Erbarme dich” was sung with simplicity and a beautiful shaping of the lines.

Jane Shuttleworth, bachtrack.com

Countertenor Christopher Ainslie invested Buss und Reu with an aching beauty.

Gavin Engelbrecht, The Northern Echo

Britten Death in Venice (Voice of Apollo), Opera North

Grand Theatre, Leeds (October 2013)

There's a beautiful, eroticised Apollo from Christopher Ainslie.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

The bare-chested, sweet-voiced Apollo of Christopher Ainslie.

Geoff Brown, The Times

Countertenor Christopher Ainslie was a bare-chested Voice of Apollo and brings a warmth and purity of timbre to the role.

Geoffrey Mogride, Opera Britannia

Countertenor Christopher Ainslie is powerful and crystal-clear as the god of artistic control and independent thinking, dominating the stage too briefly.

Richard Wilcocks, bachtrack.com

Christopher Ainslie’s clear-voiced counter-tenor Apollo.

Ron Simpson, whatsonsatge.com

Christopher Ainslie is engaging as Voice of Apollo.

Martin Dreyer, The York Press

Andre Tchaikovsky The Merchant of Venice (Antonio)

Bregenz Festival (July 2013)

…the excellent cast – including Christopher Ainslie’s Merchant… - helped make this a restitution to remember

John Allison, The Daily Telegraph

The worthy Antonio, the only one without a "family" is scored for a countertenor. Christopher Ainslie was absolutely perfect in this role.

Der neue Merker, Wien

Much applause of course must also go to the sweet-voiced countertenor Christopher Ainslie (Antonio).

Wiener Zeitung

Christopher Ainslie brings the appropriate colour as Antonio.

Vorarlberger Nachrichten, Schwarzach

Christopher Ainslie performs the fragile figure of Antonio very convincingly.

Oberösterreichische Nachrichten, Linz

Cavalli’s Eliogabalo, Gotham Chamber Opera

The Box, New York, March 2013

…a terrific cast, headed by the impressive, sexy countertenor Christopher Ainslie. Now on his way to becoming a rock star of Baroque opera, Mr. Ainslie excels as the cross-dressing emperor and carries himself like Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s pop idol character in Velvet Goldmine.

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

Christopher Ainslie sang stylishly and committed completely and hilariously to the vileness of the title character.

Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

Christopher Ainslie nailed Eliogabalo’s lean and sociopathic look.

James Jorden, The New York Post

Helicon, Glanert’s Caligula, English National Opera, The Coliseum

May 2012

The cast is consistently superb ... the way Ainslie conveys a sense of servile evil beneath immense surface charm is unforgettable.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

The cast excels, too, in the huge demands placed upon them - notably ... Christopher Ainslie in his immaculately sung performance of Caligula’s slave, Helicon.

George Hall, The Stage

... a star cameo part for countertenor Christopher Ainslie as his slave, Helicon.

Hugh Canning, The Australian

... contrasted nicely with the purer voice of counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie, who was superbly cast as the creepy, pathetic but dangerous Helicon, Caligula’s right-hand man. His nervous interactions with Caligula, as he tries to explain to the emperor the possible logistical problems of capturing the moon for him, provided genuine edge-of-the-seat material.

Dominic Wells, Opera Britannica

Christopher Ainslie was perhaps the star of the show, his countertenor Helicon, Caligula’s slave, making one keen to hear him in Britten and other florid roles, ancient and modern.

Mark Berry, Seen and Heard

Bach Magnificat and cantata ‘Unser Mund sei voll Lachens’ BWV 110, Retrospect Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

December 2011

Among the solo singing, the alto of Christopher Ainslie was notably textured and expressive.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

the audience was treated to some fine solo singing, noticeably from countertenor Christopher Ainslie...the singers shone in their solo passages...Christopher Ainslie again turning heads with his crisp and supple delivery

John-Pierre Joyce, Music OMH

Artaxerxes (Artaxerxes), Arne/Page

CD/SACD Linn Records

Christopher Ainslie is outstanding in the title role.

Stephen Pettitt The Sunday Times, 9th January 2011

This recording features stunning performances from some of Britain’s top young Baroque singers, including the remarkable countertenor Christopher Ainslie in the title role.

BBC Radio Scotland ‘Disc of the Month’

some of the best singing comes from Christopher Ainslie in the title-role. In Act 1, Artaxerxes has a lovely solo, “Fair Semira”, which reveals how unforced is his vocalism.[...]the drop on ‘oppress’d’ is managed seamlessly by Ainslie. Ainslie, the only South African countertenor of my experience, is also agile enough in more ornate music

John T. Hughes, International Record Review

Christopher Ainslie is a dignified Artaxerxes

Chris O'Reilly, prestoclassical.co.uk

here [Artaxerxes] is presented complete and to a consistently high standard. The very fine cast enters with spirit into the text’s convoluted scenario of love and betrayal in ancient Persia and delivering the notes with assurance

George Hall, BBC Music Magazine

such vocal treasures as Christopher Ainslie (Artaxerxes)', 'classy, crystal clear recording

Kenneth Walton, The Scotsman

Christopher Ainslie as Artaxerxes woos with honeyed tone

Richard Lawrence, Classic FM

now [Artaxerxes] appears on this stylish, beautifully produced recording', 'countertenor Christopher Ainslie gives a muscular performance in the title role

Geoffrey Alton, Opera Now

Amadigi (Handel’s Amadigi di Gaula), Central City Opera

July 2011

Ainslie was brilliant in the title role, singing with a clear tone and mellifluous heft. Looking every bit the hero as well, his two fine duets with Oriana and Melissa respectively brought a splendid melding of tones. He was wonderfully expressive also, for example, with the two recorders that graced his long cavatina in Act II as he addressed the Fountain of True Love.

Richard B. Beams, Opera con Brio

[Christopher Ainslie] brings dramatic weight to the title role and skilfully and expressively handles its complex vocal demands

Kyle MacMillan, Denver Post

Christopher Ainslee made a highly impressive US debut in the title role…He showed complete stylistic and technical mastery…a properly weighted sense of delivering Handelian recit – a key strength of Ainslee

David Shengold, Opera

Ottone (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Glyndebourne

October 2010

Christopher Ainslie is a compelling Ottone.

Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Christopher Ainslie’s portrayal of Ottone was stunning, his lean, even countertenor seemingly having gained in power and nobility.

Peter Reed, Opera Magazine

Tamerlano (Tamerlano), International Handel –Festspiele Göttingen

May 2010

Singing and acting honours went to Christopher Ainslie, the young South African countertenor in the title role… Ainslie’s Tamerlano was a youthful yet malevolent presence rather than an obvious tyrant. He has one of the better voices of its kind, rich, evenly produced and well projected with no covering; his ‘Dammi pace’ was both musical and menacing without being grotesque

Sandra Bowdler, Opera Magazine

In the title role, alto countertenor Christopher Ainslie displayed fiendish agility and acted with vicious intensity throughout.

Carlo Vitali, Misicalamerica.com

The Alto Christopher Ainslie sings his part with a steely timbre and, particularly in his rage aria, fantastically confident coloratura

Werner Fritsch, HNA.de

Christopher Ainslie exudes charisma and has an excellent technique

Joachim Lange, Kultiversum

In the title role of the Mongolian ruler, Christopher Ainslie is not only an incredibly virtuosic alto with a beautiful voice, but also a performer with many facets. His transformation from friendly ruler who forgives his enemies to jealous and unpredictable tyrant is totally believable.

Michael Schäfer, Göttinger Tageblatt

Christopher Ainslie's light alto is capable of considerable menace as Tamerlano. Rarely has the word 'Amigo' been sung with such a chill, and his trills and runs ooze threats. His slender body belies the character's strength, illustrated not least by arm-wrestling his ally Andronico.

Catriona Graham, The Opera Critic

Christopher Ainslie’s Opera Repertoire

Birtwistle The Minotaur (4th Innocent)
Britten Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon)
Death in Venice (Voice of Apollo)
Dove Flight (Refugee)
Handel Tamerlano (title role)
Poro (title role)
Amadigi (title role)
Rinaldo (Goffredo, Eustazio)
Partenope (Arsace)
Orlando (Medoro)
Tolomeo (Alessandro)
Serse (Arsamene)
Monteverdi L’incoronazione di Poppea (Ottone)
Mozart Apollo & Hyacinthus (Apollo)
Mitridate (Farnace)
Arne Artaxerxes (title role)
Purcell Dido & Aeneas (the Spirit)

Christopher Ainslie’s Concert Repertoire

Bach Solo alto cantatas (BWV 170, 35)
Matthäus-Passion
Johannes-Passion
Weihnachts-Oratorium
Oster-Oratorium
B Minor Mass
Alto arias in numerous cantatas
Magnificat
Bernstein Chichester Psalms
Blow Venus & Adonis (Cupid)
Handel Solomon (title role)
Theodora (Didymus)
Jephtha (Hamor)
Messiah
Judas Maccabeaus
Saul (David)
Belshazzar (Cyrus)
Purcell Ode to St Cecilia
Come, Ye Sons of Art
Vivaldi Gloria (alto & 2nd soprano)
Stabat Mater
Nisi Dominus

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