Elizabeth Atherton


"Elizabeth Atherton sings with consummate intelligence as the Governess"

Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph

"Atherton’s voice is now not just a lush instrument but a superbly communicative one"

Richard Morrison, The Times

"Startling, inventive and compelling, soprano Elizabeth Atherton inhabits the role of Eurydice with an assuredness that suggests a deep understanding of the part"

Lynne Walker, The Independent

"Elizabeth Atherton’s soprano, both wonderfully volatile and stylish, grows in intensity until in her Per pietà, she is suffering the torments of Hell."

Hilary Finch, The Times

"Elizabeth Atherton's Micaela is enchanting: radiant top notes, touching acting, clear diction."

Richard Morrison, The Times

"Elizabeth Atherton’s Countess is radiantly sung, especially her gorgeously poised Porgi amor."

The Times

"Elizabeth Atherton’s pure-voiced and pleading Micaela is a delight."

Richard Morrison, The Times (Feb 2013)

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“Startling, inventive and compelling” (The Independent), Elizabeth Atherton is equally at home on the opera stage or the concert platform. Her versatility as a musician and as an actress means that she has sung roles ranging from Monteverdi, Handel and Mozart through to Verdi, Bizet and Britten, and she had the roles of Eurydice in Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s opera The Corridor and Medea The Cure created for her to considerable critical acclaim.

Having won several prestigious prizes including the Maggie Teyte Prize, Elizabeth’s debut was as Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream for English Touring Opera. She subsequently became an Associate Artist at Welsh National Opera for three years, performing roles including Mozart’s Countess and Pamina, and has since gone on to become a regular performer at Opera North enjoying much success with roles including Mozart’s Fiordiligi and Britten’s Governess.

In concert, Elizabeth has worked with such eminent conductors as Sir Richard Hickox, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Antonio Pappano, Sir Neville Mariner, Pierre Boulez, Carlo Rizzi, Harry Christophers and Thierry Fischer. She appears frequently with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and other highlights include performances with the BBC Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, Orchestre de Paris, Hong Kong Philharmonic, The Sixteen and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Recent and upcoming engagements include Thomas Adès’ new opera The Exterminating Angel at the ROH, concerts with BBC NOW under Pascal Rophé, LPO under Vladimir Jurowski, RSNO under Laurence Cummings, St Paul Chamber Orchestra under Paul McCreesh, Handel’s Saul with Harry Christophers and the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, song recitals with Roger Vignoles, a recording of Stravinsky Cantata with the SCO, a reprise of the roles of Eurydice and Medea for the Holland Festival, and her debut as Leonore Fidelio for Longborough Festival Opera.

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

Handel’s Saul

Handel & Haydn Society, Boston Symphony Hall (May 2015)

For the three other principal roles, Christophers wisely returned to the same singers featured on his recording: ... Elizabeth Atherton as a limpid Merab ... It would be hard to picture a more satisfying conclusion to these seasons of bicentennial programming.

Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe

Five principal soloists without a weak link or a dull moment. ... Evenly competent, or more properly, brilliant, describes the soloists, chorus, and orchestra. ... Elizabeth Atherton sang a very expressive Merab.

David Schulenberg, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Anderson’s Shir Hashirim and Dutilleux’s Les Temps l’horloge

BBC National Orchestra of Wales (January 2016)

[Julian Anderson’s Shir Hashirim’s] balancing of the solo soprano’s expansively lyrical outpouring with the brilliant orchestral writing was always finely judged and the dramatic tension of the final part of the work delivered with much flair by Elizabeth Atherton. ... The serious yet witty playing with the passing of time and ultimately a philosophical depth [in Dutilleux’s Le Temps l’horloge] were realised with much sensitivity by Rophé and BBCNOW, with Atherton again excelling. ... Here and in the Anderson, we were treated to highly accomplished singing.

Rian Evans, The Guardian ****

These are model compositions, matched here by some wonderful singing by Elizabeth Atherton.

Stephen Walsh, The Arts Desk *****

With the exceptional playing of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under conductor, Pascal Rophé, together with the lovely musical intelligence of soprano, Elizabeth Atherton, the work glowed with a vigour belying the advanced years of its composer. Not a note is wasted in Le temps l’horloge (2006-9), nor a vocal inflection or colour ill-judged. ... [In Shir Hashrim], Atherton and musicians were luminous in conveying this seductive score, with its lush colouration and trailing vocal melismas. Now shimmering from within a lake of rippling reflections, now a comet with a fiery, harmonic tail, the soprano was by turns semi-engulfed by and ringing clearly above Anderson’s rich, surging textures. The effect was both magical and strongly rigorous...

Steph Power, Wales Arts Review

Soprano Elizabeth Atherton joined the proceedings on two occasions, beginning with Julian Anderson’s setting of words from the Biblical Song of Songs, Shir Hashirim. ... The opening was particularly sumptuous: dreamy, heady, ecstatic, an intoxicating atmosphere that persisted even when things dissolved into a more gestural melée. Atherton’s fittingly sweet voice ... her melismas floating high above the orchestra, Anderson coating them in shifting shades of colour. ... Articulating lines of Tardieu, Desnos and Baudelaire, Elizabeth Atherton’s voice was the constant in material that struck an impressive balance between clarity and obfuscation, mischievously slipping just out of reach. Following a high point in the brief third movement – dark and unsettlingly complex, yet utterly gorgeous – Dutilleux introduced a new assertiveness into the soprano writing, Atherton signing off both the cycle and the evening with an amusing brusque outburst, melody finally breaking down entirely at Baudelaire’s adjuration to the world: “Get drunk!”

Simon Cummings, bachtrack

[Elizabeth Atherton's] French diction was excellent.

Paul Corfield Godfrey, Seen and Heard International

Birtwistle’s The Cure & The Corridor Double Bill

Aldeburgh Festival, Linbury Theatre (June 2015)

It’s Eurydice, however, who grabs the attention. In Atherton’s mesmerising portrayal she is a sardonic, even embittered woman…

Richard Morrison, The Times

Atherton seemed to have the perfect luminous instrument for Birtwistle’s expressionistic lines.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

Elizabeth Atherton’s singing finds a glinting radiance in both pieces.

Richard Fairman, The Financial Times

Elizabeth Atherton is both a wonderfully realistic Euridice and a fine Medea.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

All praise… to the superb… Elizabeth Atherton (Eurydice and Medea).

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

Each piece, taken from Ovid, has two singers, the equally superb tenor Mark Padmore and soprano Elizabeth Atherton.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

Each scena could stand alone, but each benefits from the other, and from the shared thread of commanding performances. The soprano Elizabeth Atherton sings her roles with abandon: knowing and sarcastic as Woman; distant and lonely as Eurydice; a Kundry and a Salome compressed in a cauldron of erotic enchantment as Medea.

David Allen, The New York Times

Moses und Aron

Welsh National Opera (June 2014)

The supporting roles (and few of them have much scope to emerge as individuals) were well sung and sharply characterised; Elizabeth Atherton’s sportswear-clad Young Maiden stood out.

Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post ****

The Yellow Wallpaper

BBCNOW (October 2013)

Elizabeth Atherton delivered a performance of instrumental clarity and perfect articulation.

Rian Evans, The Guardian ****

Brahm’s German Requiem

Royal Northern Sinfonia (September 2013)

Under Thomas Zehetmair’s conducting, orchestra, chorus and two excellent soloists – bass-baritone Matthew Brook and soprano Elizabeth Atherton – did full justice to a work which betrays a winning lightness of touch.

David Whetstone, The Journal

Gloria / Ballad of the Heroes

Oxford Bach Choir (December 2012)

The soprano Elizabeth Atherton deserves special praise for the gravitas she brought to Psalm 130, Ballad of Heroes and especially to the Poulenc.

Simon Collings, Oxford Times

Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony

BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Van Steen (November 2012)

...but it was Elizabeth Atherton who made her songs come alive, finding colours and tone to match the words' emotional tenor. In the penultimate poem, where the orchestration is at its most spare and telling, she found both ‘intimacy and anguish'.

Rian Evans, The Guardian

On This Island with Malcolm Martineau

Onyx Records (December 2011)

The soprano Elizabeth Atherton also struck up a wonderful rapport with her audience in Britten’s On this Island. Atherton’s voice is now not just a lush instrument but a superbly communicative one: she caught exactly the subtle moods – bittersweet, ironic or heartfelt – of Auden’s words and Britten’s early unfettered lyricism.

Richard Morrison, The Times

Elizabeth Atherton was lustrous and dramatic in On this Island.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

Elizabeth Atherton gives a musically alert and intelligent interpretation of another early work, the enchantingly fresh and youthful On this Island

Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph

Allan Clayton and Elizabeth Atherton give superb accounts of the declamatory Michelangelo Sonnets and the settings of Auden's On This Island respectively

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

the bright soprano of Elizabeth Atherton sings out the ‘florid music’ of Britten’s Auden settings in On this Island…Britten’s 15-year-old response to Dans les bois, irresistibly sung by Atherton.

BBC Music Magazine ****

Elizabeth Atherton’s Opera Repertoire


The Corridor (Eurydice)


Carmen (Micaela)


Rape of Lucretia (Female Chorus)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (Helena)
Turn of the Screw (Governess)


L’Opera Seria (La Stonatrilla)


Iphigénie en Tauride(Iphigénie)


Alcina (Alcina)
Amadigi (Melissa)
Saul (Merab)


Savitri (Savitri)


Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria (Minerva)


Idomeneo (Ilia)
Marriage of Figaro (La Contessa)
Magic Flute (Pamina)
Don Giovanni (Donna Elvira)
Così fan Tutte (Fiordiligi)


Fairy Queen(Caroline)


L’heure Espagnole (Conception)


Moses und Aron (Young Maiden)


Riders to the Sea (Cathleen)
Riders to the Sea (Nora)


Don Carlos (Thibault)


Dreigroschenoper (Polly)

Elizabeth Atherton’s Concert Repertoire

BACH Magnificat (1st and 2nd sopranos)
St. John passion
St. Matthew passion
B minor mass (2nd soprano)
Christmas oratorio, parts I-III
Cantata numbers 1, 11, 38, 51, 63, 140, 146, 202, 208
BEETHOVEN "Choral" Symphony no.9
Mass in C
BERG Sieben frühe Lieder
Der Wein
BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été
BOULEZ Le soleil des eaux
BRAHMS Requiem
BRITTEN Les illuminations
Spring Symphony
DEBUSSY Trois ballades de François Villon
Le Martyre de San Sebastian
ELGAR Coronation ode, op.44
The Spirit of England
FAURÉ Requiem
Messe basse
GOUNOD Messe solonelle St. Cecile
HANDEL Messiah
Let the bright seraphim
Silete venti
German arias
HASSE Te deum
HAYDN The creation
The seasons
Nelson mass
Missa cellensis
St. Nicholas mass
HOLT The Yellow Wallpaper
JENKINS The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace
KNUSSEN Ocean de Terre
KODALY Missa brevis
LISZT Via crucis
Missa choralis
MAHLER Symphony no. 2
Symphony no. 4
Hear my prayer
MESSIAEN La mort du nombre
MOZART Requiem
Ch'io mi scordi di te, K.505
Vado, ma dove?, K.583
Exsultate jubilate
Coronation mass
Sparrow mass
Mass in C minor
Missa brevis in D
Missa brevis in F
Laudate dominum
PERGOLESI Magnificat
Mass in G
SCHUBERT Mass in E flat
Mass in G
Mass in B flat
SPEARE The angels
STRAUSS Vier Letzte Lieder
Les noces
TIPPETT A child of our time
A vision of Saint Augustine
VARESE Offrandes
"Antarctic" Symphony
Mass in G minor
Serenade to Music
Dona Nobis Pacem
VERDI Requiem
Four Sacred Pieces
VIVALDI Gloria (1st and 2nd sopranos)
Nulla in mundo pax sincera
WIEGOLD Perfume of the desert
ZEMLINSKY Lyric Symphony

Elizabeth Atherton’s Recital Repertoire


Life story




A garland for Marjory Fleming


Sieben frühe Lieder


Oh, lurcher-loving collier
Eyes look into the well


Les nuits d’été


I hate music


The shadow side of Joy Finzi


Various songs


Les Illuminations
On this Island
The Salley Gardens
Little Sir William
The trees they grow so high
The ash grove
Oliver Cromwell
Folksong arrangements, volume 2: France


Prelude (for sop. & trumpet)


Le temps des lilas


Cinq Poëmes de Baudelaire
Fêtes Galantes (1st collection)
Deux Romances
Trois ballades de François Villon
First four Ariettes Oubliees
Le son du cor s’afflige
L’échelonnement des haies


To the queen of my heart
Love's philosophy
Indian love song


Five Am’rous Sighs


Weep you no more sad fountains


The cuckoo
It was a lover
Take O take those lips away
Come away, Death
Crabbed age and youth


La vie anterieure
Le manoir de Rosemonde
L'invitation au voyage

De Falla

Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas


Le papillon et la fleur
La rose
Notre amour
Après un rêve
Au bord de l'eau
Chanson d'amour
En prière
Au cimetière




The mermaid's song
She never told her love
Piercing eyes
A pastoral song


Philomel (for sop., rec., cello & pno)


Various songs


Her song
The Salley Gardens
An aside
The soldier’s return
The trellis
Beckon to me to come
A thanksgiving


Wherever We May Be


The rose is shaken in the wind (for sop. & recorder)


Various songs


Im Rhein, im schönen Strome
Die Lorelei
Kennst du das Land


Sun, moon and stars


Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?
Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
Lob des hohen Verstands


An Chloe
Das Veilchen
Als Luise die Briefe
Der Zauberer
Komm, liebe Zither


Se tu m'ami


Deux Poemes de Louis Aragon
La grenouillère
Les chemins de l'amour


Vocalise (for sop., cello & piano)


Music for a while
I attempt from love’s sickness
The blessed virgin's expostulation
Sweeter than roses
Now sleeps the crimson petal
Fair house of joy
Love’s philosophy


A dream
Spring waters


Cinq Poèmes Populaires Grecques


My boy Jack


Duets: La regata Veneziana
La pesca




Sento nel core
Four Songs, Opus 2


An Sylvia
An den Frühling
Im Frühling
Hymne an die Jungfrau
Nacht und Träume
Der Einsame
Die junge Nonne
Des Mädchens Klage


Frauenliebe und –leben
Er ist’s
Dein Angesicht
Kennst du das Land
Mit Myrthen und Rosen
Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden


Day is dune
To autumn (for sop. & recorder)


Vier Letzte Lieder
Die Zeitlose
Alphorn (for sop., horn & piano)
Die Nacht
Drei Liebeslieder


None but the lonely heart
Can it be day?


A Song for the Lord Mayor's Table
Anon. in Love
Through gilded trellises
Old Sir Faulk


Cradle song
It was a lover and his lass


Eight Early Songs


Stolz (Die sieben Todsünden


My bed is like a boat


Auch kleine Dinge
Mir ward gesagt
Wer rief dich denn?
Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen
Du denkst mit einem Fädchen
Mein Liebster ist so klein
Mein Liebster singt am Haus
Du sagst mir, dass ich keine Fürstin sein
Wohl kenn’ ich Eueren Stand
Ich hab’ in Penna
Heiss mich nicht reden

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