Carolyn Sampson


"Sampson has plenty of swashbuckling drive, complete with punchy accents and crisp diction."

Myron Silberstein, Fanfare

"Her voice was, as always, a model of beauty combined with style…"

Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard

"Sampson’s light bright timbre touches the heart…"

Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

"The highlight of Carolyn Sampson’s singing was in the fifth movement, where here razor-sharp tuning and brilliantly introduced vibrato was masterful."

Bernard Hughes, The Arts Desk

"Sung with luminous perfection and beautiful diction by Carolyn Sampson."

Keith Bruce, Herald Scotland

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Equally at home on the concert and opera stages, Carolyn Sampson has enjoyed notable successes in the UK as well as throughout Europe and the US.

This season marks an incredible achievement for Carolyn as she celebrates her recording legacy with the release of her 100th album as a featured solo artist. Over the last twenty-five years of her career, she has sung with countless world-class musicians and these recordings serve as testament to both her versatility as an artist and wide variety of repertoire.

Live performance highlights of the season include her debut at Berlin Staatsoper singing Créuse in a new Peter Sellers production of Charpentier’s Medée conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, Mahler Symphony no 8 (soprano 1) with NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester under Semyon Bychkov, Bach Passions with the Netherlands and Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orckest and concerts with the Česká Filharmonie, Budapesti Fesztiválzenekar, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Sir Simon Rattle. She presents recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Queen’s Hall Edinburgh and at the Muziekgebouw as part of the Grote Zangers series.

Having begun her career in the early music world she has forged long-standing relationships with many renowned groups focusing on historically informed practice yielding special performances and recordings, in particular with Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki (Matthaus Passion and C minor mass both winning Gramophone Awards), the Freiburger Barockorchester, The Sixteen, Gabrieli Consort (King Arthur, recording of the year for BBC Music Magazine Awards), the Kings Consort and Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century.

Carolyn also cherishes her relationships with some of the world’s finest symphony orchestras. She has been a regular guest with the Concertgebouworkest, Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest, Gürzenich Orchester Köln, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the BBC Scottish and BBC Philharmonic as well as the Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and Minnesota Symphony to name a few. Recent works include Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder with Residentie Orkest and Jun Maerkl, Mahler 4 with her debut with the Barcelona Obertura under Ludovic Merlot and Dutilleux’s Correspondances, all now forming part of her core repertoire.

Carolyn has had the pleasure of working with inspiring conductors such as Harry Bicket, Ivor Bolton, Riccardo Chailly, Jonathan Cohen, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Trevor Pinnock, Donald Runnicles, Masaaki Suzuki and Osmo Vänskä. She is a regular at international festivals such as the BBC Proms, Aldeburgh, Schleswig Holstein and Dresdner Musikfestspiele.

In the US Carolyn has featured as soloist with the Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, and San Francisco Symphonies, the Orchestra of St Luke’s, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra with whom she has recorded both Mahler 4 and Mahler 8 (Soprano 1 and 3) with Osmo Vänskä as part of their Mahler collection with BIS records and has made regular guest appearances at the Mostly Mozart Festival. In October 2013 she made her Carnegie Hall recital debut to a sold-out audience in the Weill Recital Hall, and has given recitals at the Lincoln Center, New York, and San Francisco Performances.

On the opera stage her roles have included the title role in Semele and Pamina in The Magic Flute for English National Opera, various roles in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen for Glyndebourne Festival Opera (released on DVD) and Anne Truelove The Rake’s Progress and Mélisande Pelléas et Mélisande in Sir David McVicar’s productions for Scottish Opera. In the 21/22 season she sang Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare at the Palau in Barcelona. Internationally she has appeared at Opéra de Paris, Opéra de Lille, Opéra de Montpellier and Opéra National du Rhin. She also sang the title role in Lully’s Psyché for the Boston Early Music Festival, which was released on CD and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy in 2008.

A consummate recitalist, Carolyn Sampson appears regularly at the Wigmore Hall where she was a “featured artist” in the 14/15 season. She has given recitals at the Oxford International Song Festival, Leeds Lieder, Saintes and Aldeburgh Festivals as well as at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Barcelona, Freiburg, Oper Frankfurt, Pierre Boulez Saal Berlin, Vienna Konzerthaus, and a recital tour of Japan.

Carolyn has developed a partnership with the pianist Joseph Middleton over recent years. Her debut song recital disc with Joseph, 'Fleurs', was released early in 2015 featuring songs by composers from Purcell to Britten, and was nominated in the solo vocal category of the Gramophone Awards. Since then, they have gone on to release several further recordings for the BIS label.

Alongside her longstanding relationship with the BIS label, she has released multi award-winning discs for Decca, Harmonia Mundi, and Hyperion, receiving accolades including the Choc de l'Année Classica!, Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice, BBC Music Magazine’s “Record of the Month”, an ECHO Award, and a Diapason D’or. Her recording with Ex Cathedra for Hyperion, 'A French Baroque Diva' won the recital award in the 2015 Gramophone Awards. Carolyn was also nominated for Artist of the Year in the 2017 Gramophone Awards, and her recording of Mozart’s Mass in C minor and Exsultate Jubilate with Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan won the Choral Award. Their subsequent recording together of Bach St Matthew Passion also won the Choral Award in the 2020 Gramophone Awards. The past seasons have seen the release of many acclaimed recordings, notably Carolyn’s first solo orchestra CD, Canteloube 'Chants d'Auvergne' with Tapiola Sinfonietta and Pascal Rophé and the acclaimed album Trennung: Songs of Separation with Kristian Bezuidenhout, both under the BIS label.

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

Stabat Mater, Pergolesi

Les Violons du Roy, Quebec and Montreal, November 2022

Carolyn Sampson est vraiment une chanteuse que nous aimons voir ici. […] il semble que rien ne peut lui arriver, et tout est implacablement juste, bien placé, bien exprimé et de bon goût. On lui doit le grand moment de la soirée, le « Vidit suum » du Stabat Mater de Pergolèse, où, sur « dum emisit spiritum », elle semble elle-même rendre son dernier souffle, notamment à la reprise.

Carolyn Sampson really is a singer that we like here. [...] it seems that nothing can fluster her, and that everything is impeccable, well placed, well expressed and in good taste. To her we owe the greatest moment of the evening, the "Vidit suum" from Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, on "dum emisit spiritum" she seemed herself to take her final breaths, notably in the reprise.

Christophe Huss

Handel's Jephtha (Iphis)

Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, October 2022

The fabulous voices of soprano Carolyn Sampson and countertenor Time Mead ensnare each other in a variety of embellishments in the grand duet of Act I.

Markus Dippold, Stuttgarter Zeitung

Carolyn Sampson and Tim Mead fill this scene with bravura and an artful sparkle.

Dietholf Zerweck, Luswigsburger Kreiszeitung

Hugo Wolf: Italienisches Liederbuch, BIS Records

August 2022

Both Clayton and Sampson – the latter capable of a vast range of utterance, from the humorously teasing to the tender and even scornful, from pure-toned to full-throated – bring out the enormous range of feeling captured in these miniature masterpieces.


‘Carolyn Sampson sings the final song cataloguing all of her other lovers with cruel abandon, positively shouting the line ‘And ten in Castiglione!’. Alas for the suitor so often overwhelmed by his feelings for the woman!’

Christopher Cook, BBC Music Magazine

'Sampson ['s] voice is bright and pellucid, and her intelligence always shines through.'

Hugo Shirley, Gramophone Magazine

This performance excites me the most of any I've heard. As soon as Sampson begins the album with 'Auch Kleine Dinge Konnen uns Entzucken' you hear a young-sounding woman delighted by the small things of life. In each song she sings she demonstrates attention to the small details of nuance: a shrewish characterization in 'Wer Rief Dich Denn?' coquettishness in 'Du Denkst Mit Einem Fadchen Mich Zu Fangen' indignation at disapproval of her by the mother of a beau in 'Man Sagt Mir, Deine Mutter Woll es Nicht.'

R. Moore, American Record Guide

The Heath Quartet: Berg, Webern and Schoenberg, Signum Records

(SIGCD712 / July 2022)

The quartet is joined by Carolyn Sampson for the last two movements, and what a contribution she makes: her crystal-clear soprano complements the string sound quite beautifully, though where required there’s also a thrilling weight to the sound which I’d never heard this singer summon before…

Katherine Cooper, Presto Music

La soprano intervé en el tercer moviment cantant «Litanei» (‘Lletania’), de Stefan George, un moviment molt difícil d’una gran dificultat interpretativa que Sampson resol amb una esplèndida elegància. En el quart i últim moviment, netament atonal, la soprano anglesa transmet amb gran distinció la poesia tremendament dolorosa de George: «I feel […] darkness».

Translation: The soprano intervenes in the third movement singing "Litanei" ('Litany'), by Stefan George, a very difficult movement of great interpretative difficulty that Sampson solves with splendid elegance. In the fourth and last movement, purely atonal, the English soprano conveys with great distinction George's tremendously painful poetry: “I feel the air of another planet / the friendly faces that were turned toward me / but lately, now are fading into darkness “.

Joseph Bosch, Sonograma

Sampson’s warm lyricism is ideal both in the slow movement where Schoenberg’s grief at the tragic events unfolding around him finds its deepest expression.

Misha Donat, BBC Music Magazine

“Here, and again in the finale, Carolyn Sampson stays just the right side of a no-holds-barred operatic style”

Arnold Wittal, Gramophone

"in the Schoenberg, a deeply lyrical Sampson capture[s] the extraordinary intensity"

Dan Cairns, The Times, Best Albums of 2022

"Carolyn Sampson is also admirable here, her diction, musical intelligence, phrasing and tonal variation are exceptional, as is this recording."

Robert Matthew-Walker, Musical Opinion

Trennung : Songs of Separation

BIS records, Carolyn Sampson and Kristian Bezuidenhout

Everything about this recording declares perfection ... Sampson's decades of experience and total ease with vocal ornamentation provide one unexpected delight after the other ... Sampson and Bezuidenhout grace us with [an] authentic version, in which ornamentation speaks as strongly as rallentando. It's marvelous, as is Sampson's delightful little fizz of vibrato at the end of appropriate phrases in other songs. Trennung's capper, Haydn's solo cantata "Arianna a Naxos," rivals the best.

Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile

Carolyn Sampson is een begenadigd verteller die nooit verveelt en alles met een uniek mooie stemkleur en perfecte dictie overbrengt, daarbij gesteund door Kristian Bezuidenhout, een musicus met dezelfde grote klasse.

Translation: Carolyn Sampson is a gifted storyteller who never gets bored and conveys everything with a uniquely beautiful voice colour and perfect diction, supported by Kristian Bezuidenhout, a musician of the same great class.

Sylvia Broeckaert, Klara

“[Carolyn Sampson] presents every song as being delivered by a well-drawn protagonist, and emerges as a master storyteller in one of her most emotionally direct performances on disk.”

David Patrick Stearrs, Gramophone

“Carolyn Sampson enthrallingly unfold the tale of shipwrecked love”

“The phrases of Lied der Trennung are tenderly ornamented and sung with deep pathos by Sampson”

“Sampson’s beguiling, luminous voice, with immaculate German and elegant delivery, is perfectly matched by Bezuidenhout’s endlessly inventive imagination."

Natasha Loges, BBC Music Magazine *****

“Given the musicians involved, it should come as no surprise to learn that ‘Trennung’ is an immaculately crafted and beautifully performed album. […] Sampson’s signature brightness of timbre in her higher register, coupling/contrasting with her ability to introduce earthier flavours of stress or sensuality, especially slightly lower down the scale.”

– Art Muse London

HANDEL Messiah

Orchestra of St Luke's, Carnegie Hall & Bernard Labadie (April 2022)

Joshua Blue, a tenor stepping in for the ill Andrew Staples, had a consistent brightness — much like his fellow soloist, the soprano Carolyn Sampson, who after warming up bounded through runs with skilful control and enunciation.

Joshua Barone, New York Times

HANDEL Messiah

Handel & Haydn Society, Boston & Harry Christophers (November 2021)

Soprano Carolyn Sampson cast an angelic vocal presence in her featured moments. She managed the quick vocal turns of “Rejoice greatly” with dexterity, her smooth tone bringing soft repose in the middle section. “I know that my redeemer liveth” was just as affecting, her warm, glowing voice conveying a sense of self-assuredness in the text’s statement of faith.

Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review

Carolyn Sampson delivered perfectly supported and well-projected vocalisms over a wide dynamic range, angelic and consoling and prophetic by turns.

Lee Eiseman, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne, BIS Records

with Tapoila Sinfonietta & Pascal Rophé, released Oct 2021

…few can match Sampson’s overall sense of exuberant joy in these wonderful songs […] Her characterisation is superb, elated in ‘Lo calhe’ (The Quail), playfully coquettish in ‘Tchut, tchut’ (Shush, shush), yet unaffectedly tender in ‘Brezairola’ (Lullaby).

Michael Beek, BBC Music Magazine

Chanteuse rompue à tous les genres musicaux et à l’aise du baroque aux répertoires du XXe siècle, l’Anglaise Carolyn Sampson séduit par la plastique superbe de son timbre et sa musicalité naturelle. Elle incarne, sans surjouer ces chansons traditionnelles si magnifiquement harmonisées et orchestrées par Canteloube.

Translation: A singer familiar with all musical genres and at ease from baroque to 20th century repertoires, the Englishwoman Carolyn Sampson seduces with the superb plasticity of her tone and her natural musicality. She embodies, without overplaying these traditional songs so magnificently harmonized and orchestrated by Canteloube.

Pierre-Jean Tribot, Crescendo Magazine

Carolyn Sampson […] aborde ce répertoire avec une évidente sincérité, beaucoup de probité, un respect fidèle des indications, un timbre lumineux et une maîtrise impeccable des grandes lignes mélodiques que Canteloube recueillit sur le terrain avant de les sertir dans une instrumentation virtuose.

Translation: Carolyn Sampson […] approaches this repertoire with obvious sincerity, a lot of probity, a faithful respect for indications, a luminous timbre and an impeccable mastery of the main melodic lines that Canteloube collected in the field before setting them in a virtuoso instrumentation.

Charles Sigle, Forum Opera

Carolyn Sampson is on terrific form. Her diction is excellent and the sheer sound of her voice gave me consistent pleasure. Set 1 opens the disc in winning fashion. In ‘La pastoura als camps’ (The Shepherdess in the Fields) she gaily relates the story, singing characterfully but with a pleasing lightness of touch. […] Equally persuasive is her account of ‘La delaissado’ (The Deserted One). […] Ms Sampson captures the melancholy of the music perfectly. This is one of the outstanding performances in the programme.

Carolyn Sampson is a delightful and highly engaging soloist. She sings the slow, lyrical songs beautifully, investing words and music with great feeling. She’s just as successful in the quick, witty numbers; in these you can tell that she’s singing with a smile on her face. Her diction is admirably clear and though I’m no expert in the pronunciation of the Auvergnois dialect, what I heard corresponded with what I expected to hear as I followed the texts in the booklet. Ms Sampson’s partnership with Pascal Rophé and the Tapiola Sinfonietta is a conspicuous success.

John Quinn, Music Web International

Sampson’s soprano is bright and coquettish, […]. There is plenty of character and expression to her singing, notably in the Trois Bourrées […]. Sampson gets her tongue around the notoriously difficult-to-learn Auvergne dialect, derived from Occitan, nimbly.

Mark Pullinger, Gramophone

"La proposition « cinq étoiles » de Carolyn Sampson et Pascal Rophé nous sort de clichés sans complaisance, pour une offre musicale sublime en tout point. […] Sous la fraicheur du timbre de Carolyn Sampson, ses origines populaires deviennent de véritables envolées lyriques de grande qualité dans Lo fiolairé (La fileuse), et d’une élégance indéniable dans Quan z’eyro petitoune (Lorsque j’étais petite). C’est forte d’une dextérité solide et d’une diction parfaite face à la langue auvergnate que la soprano magnifie Lou coucut (Le coucou), Carolyn Sampson diffusant grâce à une sincérité évidente et une sensibilité réjouissante, les inflexions lyriques de cette langue régionale au sein d’un sens du discours parfaitement maîtrisé, presque théâtral dans Oï ayaï (Oh ! Ah !) ou Tè, l’co, tè ! (Va, l’chien, va !)."

"The "five stars" proposal of Carolyn Sampson and Pascal Rophé takes us out of clichés without complacency, for a sublime musical offer in every way. […] Under the freshness of Carolyn Sampson's timbre, her popular origins become true lyrical flights of high quality in Lo fiolairé (The Spinner), and of undeniable elegance in Quan z'eyro petitoune (When I was little). It is with a solid dexterity and a perfect diction in the face of the Auvergne language that the soprano magnifies Lou coucut (The cuckoo), Carolyn Sampson diffusing thanks to an obvious sincerity and a joyful sensitivity, the lyrical inflections of this regional language within a perfectly mastered, almost theatrical sense of discourse in Oï ayaï (Oh! Ah!) or Tè, l'co, tè! (Go, the dog, go!)."

Charlotte Saulneron, Res Musica

Sampson is known mostly as a Baroque specialist, and her creamy voice suits these songs well…

James Manheim, All Music

Pergolesi's Stabat Mater & Stravinsky's Pulcinella

BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall (August 2021)

…we were rewarded with some remarkably beautiful singing: […] Sampson and Mead have great reserves of sweetness in their voices and the ability to make long notes bloom as they progress.

David Karlin, bachtrack

Her voice was, as always, a model of beauty combined with style…

…possibly the most beautiful moments came in Sampson’s ‘Sancta mater’, her slurs astonishingly accurate.

Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard

Recital with Roderick Williams & Joe Middleton

Leeds Lieder (June 2021)

Soprano Carolyn Sampson and baritone Roderick Williams intelligently and humorously challenged perceptions (perhaps by people of a certain age) that it’s not possible for music written for one gender, to be performed by another. It is, and they did. Brilliantly.

Colin Petch, Northern Soul

It was a cleverly devised, beautifully polished programme.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

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But I like to Sing

Carolyn Sampson 100th Disc as featured solo artist - BIS records, to be released around March 2023


Scenes from Schumann’s Lieder (with Joseph Middleton)

Released April 2021, BIS Records

"Amid formidable recorded competition, Sampson is close to the top of the Frauenliebe pantheon…" - Richard Patrick Stearns, Gramophone - The Week's Essential New Albums

Lieder by Robert and Clara Schumann*, together with a selection of extracts from letters, read by Carolyn Sampson or an actor


A Soprano's Schubertiade (with Joseph Middleton)

“It’s a sign when you have to finish listening a complete disc of single songs because each one makes you long for the next. And because the singing is so wonderful, even the most celebrated pieces seem so much more beautiful than you remembered them. The British soprano Carolyn Sampson – crystal-clear timbre, each syllable audible – has made a name with recital discs that are more than a compilation of songs. A Soprano’s Schubertiade too is such an intelligent album. […] It doesn’t take more than piano and voice to tell everything. Schubert knew that and this is stressed with a golden pen on Sampson’s first Schubert album.” - Micha Spel, NRC Handelsblad [translated from the Dutch]


SCHUBERT Lieder: Elysium (with Joseph Middleton)

Following the success of the release of A Soprano’s Schubertiade, the duo will release their second Schubert disc in November 2022.


Trennung: Songs of Separation (with Kristian Bezuidenhout)

“Carolyn Sampson enthrallingly unfolds the tale of shipwrecked love … The phrases of Lied der Trennung are tenderly ornamented and sung with deep pathos by Sampson … Sampson’s beguiling, luminous voice, with immaculate German and elegant delivery, is perfectly matched by Bezuidenhout’s endlessly inventive imagination” – BBC Music Magazine


Reason in Madness (with Joseph Middleton)

“[…] a brilliantly assembled exploration of how female madness has fascinated male poets and composers. Their programme takes in responses to Shakespeare, Goethe and others by composers including Strauss, Schumann, Brahms, Koechlin, Wolf and Duparc, all performed with Sampson’s wonted freshness of tone, superb control and subtle sensuality, with Middleton offering vibrant support.” - Erica Jeal, The Guardian


Sounds and Sweet Airs: Shakespeare in Song

Recorded for BIS records, due for release in August 2023

Carolyn Sampson – Soprano
Roderick Williams – Baritone
Joseph Middleton – Piano


Fleurs (with Joseph Middleton)

BIS Records, released March 2015