Christopher Ainslie is represented by Rayfield Allied worldwide.

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Christopher Ainslie

Countertenor

  • …counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie was movingly eloquent…
    The Birmingham Post
  • …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
  • He holds the audience spellbound both by the expressiveness of his tone and the musicality of his interpretation. A talent to watch…
    Opera Magazine
  • 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 Eustazio Rinaldo), Opera de Lyon (Voice of Apollo Death in Venice), Drottningholm (Ottone Poppea), Göttingen Handel Festival (the title role in Tamerlano) 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 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.

    Engagements this season and beyond include performances of Messiah with the Bournemouth and St Louis Symphony Orchestras, the title role in Cavalli’s Eliogablo with Gotham Chamber Orchestra, Oberon A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Voice of Apollo Death in Venice for Opera North, Antonio The Merchant of Venice for Bregenzer Festspiele, a return to Wigmore Hall in a concert with Classical Opera, and performances of music by Handel and Scarlatti with Les Arts Florissants.

    • 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)

      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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
  • Photos

    • Photographer credit: Denis Jouglet
      Photographer credit: Denis Jouglet
    • Photographer credit: Denis Jouglet
      Photographer credit: Denis Jouglet
    • Photographer credit: Denis Jouglet
      Photographer credit: Denis Jouglet