Helen Charlston

Mezzo-soprano

"As a poised Lucinda, Helen Charlston’s distinctive mezzo stood out."

Rebecca Franks, The Times

"The highlight is Helen Charlston’s mesmerising delivery of ‘Leget Euch’."

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, Gramophone

"Helen Charlston used her glinting tone to demonstrate the remarkable expressiveness of Telemann’s recitatives."

John Allison, The Telegraph

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Helen Charlston is a current BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist (2021-23), and finalist of the 2021 Kathleen Ferrier Awards for which she was a recipient of the Ferrier Loveday Song Prize. Described as “surely one of the most exciting voices in the new generation of British singers” (Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone 2022), Helen was a ‘Rising Star’ of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment 2017-2019, and was selected for Le Jardin des Voix academy with Les Arts Florissants in 2021. Helen’s other accolades include the first prize in the 2018 Handel Singing Competition and finalist in the Grange Festival International Singing Competition. In July 2022 Helen was announced as one of Classic FM’s Rising Stars (30 under 30).

This season, Helen sings the title role in Dido & Aeneas with William Christie in Versailles, and Sorceress/Spirit in the same piece at The Grange Festival, Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the role of Irene Theodora with the Philharmonia Baroque in San Francisco, both with Richard Egarr, Handel’s Messiah with the Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment in Copenhagen, and Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus with the RIAS Kammerchor at the Berlin Philharmonie with Justin Doyle.

In 2020, Helen premiered The Isolation Songbook with Michael Craddock and Alexander Soares, which is a set of 15 newly commissioned songs and duets written during lockdown as a musical response to the changing world in which we found ourselves. In 2022, Delphian Records released her second album, Battle Cry: She Speaks with Toby Carr, which received high praise from British press including Editor’s choice in Gramophone.

Recent concert highlights include Helen’s debuts at the BBC Proms in Dido and Aeneas with La Nuova Musica, with the LPO under Adam Fischer (Mozart’s Requiem), and her debut recital at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam which was broadcast live on Dutch radio. Further performances include Handel’s Messiah with BBC NOW and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, a European tour of Handel’s Partenope under William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, Bach’s Weihnachtoratorium with Casa da Musica, Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Paul McCreesh, Bach’s St Matthew Passion on a tour in The Netherlands, Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, a worldwide tour of Handel’s Messiah with the Seattle Symphony, the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and solo recitals at Wigmore Hall, Leeds Lieder, Cheltenham Festival, York Early Music Festival, London Handel Festival, Händel-festspiele Halle, and Korčula Baroque Festival.

Operatic roles include Rosmira Partenope, First Witch Dido and Aeneas, Messaggera & Prosperpina L’Orfeo, Olga Eugene Onegin, Florence Pike Albert Herring, Ino Semele, Sara Tobias and the Angel and Dinah Trouble in Tahiti. Helen created the role of Dido in the premiere of a new chamber opera based on Virgil’s writings about Dido: Dido is Dead, by young composer Rhiannon Randle, and premiered the role of Anna in the opera Blue Electric by Tom Smail.

In addition to Helen’s two recital albums on the Delphian label, she has recorded with, Signum and Hyperion, and on the Academy of Ancient Music’s own label in John Eccles’ Semele in the role of Juno, which was shortlisted for a Gramophone Award.

Helen’s regular collaborators include Toby Carr, Sholto Kynoch, Joe Middleton, Kunal Lahiry and Roman Rabinovich.

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

Handel Messiah, Dunedin Consort, St Mary's Cathedral Glasgow

(December 2022)

The alto has some of the best arias and Helen Charlston was sensational in her heartfelt interpretations, her mezzo warm and burnished in the lower register opening out thrillingly, every word crystal clear and I loved the ornamental flourish in “But who shall abide”. Her mood changed in “He was despised”, meltingly sorrowful, turning to anger in all the shame and spitting. Charlston is a singer to watch.

David Smythe, Bachtrack*****

Handel Theodora (Irene), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

(October 2022)

The evening’s great surprise, though, was the magnificent local debut of British mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston as Irene. Charlston’s vocal tone boasts an astonishingly beautiful weight and heft, which she deploys with irresistible urgency throughout both tender and bravura passages. May she return soon, and often.

Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle

Battle Cry, Recital at Oxford Lieder Festival

Sheldonian Theatre (October 2022)

It’s a programme that is both intelligent and insightful, forging creative connections between the past and present. In the Sheldonian, it was delivered with consummate poise… Her platform manner and presence are assured, and engaging, and she sang the entire programme confidently off-score, communicating with a beguiling directness. Her diction was superb in all three languages heard here, and she demonstrated throughout a discernment in linking text to colour and weight. Her mezzo is full and creamy… and the evenness of her phrasing was complemented by variety of colour, often changing rapidly in response to the text.

Claire Seymour, Opera Today

Handel Theodora (Irene), Northern Aldborough Festival

(June 2022)

Helen Charlston’s Irene was a moving portrayal… Irene is a role strongly associated with the much missed Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, but Helen Charlston took up the challenge and made it her own. Her tone is a shade harder than that of her predecessor, but she made effective use of this to portray a zealous companion. Both ‘As with rosy steps’ and ‘Lord, to Thee each night and day’ held the audience spellbound.

Melanie Eskenazi, MusicOMH*****

CD: Battle Cry: She Speaks with Toby Carr

Delphian DCD34283 (May 2022)

These characters come alive in Charlston’s flexible mezzo, surely one of the most exciting voices in the new generation of British singers… You get the strong sense from this superb recording that they’re only just getting started

Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone

Charlston’s distinctive, expressive lower register, and the clarity of every word, contribute to an outstanding disc.

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

Mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston and theorbist Toby Carr focus on the close relationship between voice and theorbo in their recital, scaling down several works to create the intimacy of a duet. Charlston’s mezzo is dark and full-bodied as a good claret, and she offers highly expressive readings of the texts, plumbing their depths with cut-glass diction and a glorious range of colours and timbres.

Kate Bolton-Porciatti, BBC Music Magazine (Song Choice, Performance****, Recording*****)

This album by the gloriously expressive, vocally utterly secure and dramatically aware mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, in duo with Toby Carr’s theorbo, has to be seen already as a clear contender for vocal album of the year. Something very special indeed is going on here. The very best comes right at the end. Purcell’s “Evening Hymn” is sung as slow, as low, as dark, as warmly and as touchingly as you could ever wish to hear it. Listen to the diction and the understanding given to every single vocal syllable, the delicious pacing and the wonderful cumulative effect. And the last word of the song? Helen Charlston says: "The closing Hallelujah could be heard in so many different ways, but mainly it’s trying to find an answer to all of the questions that we’ve asked throughout the recording.

Sebastian Scotney, The Arts Desk

Charlston’s voice is distinctively bright edged and clear, her words so finely projected and ‘felt’ that the booklet texts are hardly necessary to follow the drama of each item. She also has a rich lower register, and this combination of brightness and an enviably wide range makes a perfect match with the theorbo

Europadisc

Charlston’s emotive mezzo is heroic throughout, lustrous and arresting.

Ken Walton, The Scotsman

Bach Christmas Oratorio, Solomon’s Knot

Wigmore Hall (December 2021)

Alto Helen Charlston (pictured below), another last minute call-up, was quite the substitute, her silvery sound and sensitive dynamic range accompanied like a second voice by violinist (and leader) Kinga Ujszászi.

Bernard Hughes, The Arts Desk

Handel La resurrezione (Mary Cleophas), London Handel Festival

St Martin in the Fields (April 2022)

Mezzo Helen Charleston brought both strength and serious focus to Cleophas, with unerringly accurate gales of coloratura in ‘Naufragando va per l’onda’

Robert Thickness, Opera Now*****

CD: An Elizabethan Christmas, Fretwork, SIGCD680

(December 2021)

…topped out by the creamy and calorific voice of Helen Charlston, a true Alto with a hint of countertenor colouring… Charlston curling her tongue around the words as if her voice were itself a viol… This is the Christmas disc I’ll be asking Santa for a hard copy of this December.

Andrew Mellor, Gramophone

The songs are beautifully delivered by the mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, who sings with firm yet confiding tone and lends the same sense of potentially endless expansion to her lines as do the viol players.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian****

Court composer William Byrd provides most of the vocal works here, mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston’s warm, expressive voice the perfect match for a quintet of viols. The moments where she’s joined by additional singers are sublime

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk

Byrd's consort songs are masterpieces and it is very nice to hear some of them being sung so well as here by Helen Charlston, a young singer whom I have heard in several recordings recently and whom I rate highly.

Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International

But of course, the musical responses inspired by this period of piety are far from downbeat or dour, as a new collaboration between Fretwork and mezzo Helen Charlston illustrates… Interspersed between the solo vocal numbers, in which Charlston’s unfussy voice contrasts pleasingly with the viols’ sonority and all the performers audibly relish the subtle syncopation of Byrd’s style

David Smith, Presto Music

I do though tip my hat to the guest mezzo Helen Charlston who is clearly a singer with a future and whose contributions add greatly to the programme

Steven Whitehead, Cross Rhythms

Handel Partenope (Rosmira), Les Arts Florissants, Thiré & Lucerne

(August 2021)

…the versatile British mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston as his golden-toned lover, the spurned but dignified Rosmira.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer*****

Exceptional projection and beautiful temperament in the contralto Helen Charlston whose homogeneous timbre and a striking depth bring a beautiful authority to the perilous "Un'altra volta ancor".

Philippe Ramin, Bachtrack*****

Helen Charlston has a superb, solidly seated contralto voice. The role of Rosmira / Eurimène seems to be tailor-made for her, as her expressions are appropriate to the character.

Victoria Okada, Vivace Cantabile*****

Isolation Songbook, Delphian DCD34253

(March 2021)

For her debut album, Helen Charlston invited composers to ‘bear witness’ to the period of isolation. With a programme that is wide-reaching and runs the gamut of human emotion, this is a powerful momento for us all.

Freya Parr, BBC Music Magazine****

…a recital that’s hard to resist, at once fresh and profoundly familiar… Also striking is Stephen Bick’s Milton setting ‘On his Blindness’, its elegiac, Tallis-infused lyricism a showcase for the stern beauty of Charlston’s mezzo and her legato phrasing.

Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone

Witty and touching in equal measure, this personal but deeply relatable lockdown project from a young husband-and-wife-to-be stemmed from Owain Park’s appropriately bitter-sweet setting of a poem which Charlston wrote for her fiancé to mark what would have been their wedding-day last year. Other highlights include Joshua Borin’s darkly funny Nature is Returning (sung with savage brilliance by Charlston)

Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical

Helen Charlston Opera Repertoire

Britten

Albert Herring (Florence Pike)
Rape of Lucretia (Bianca)

Bernstein

Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah)

Dove

Tobias and the Angel (Sara)

Eccles

Semele (Juno)

Handel

Semele (Ino)
Venceslao (Lucinda)

Monteverdi

Ballo delle ingrate (Venere)
Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria (Penelope)
L’Orfeo (Messaggera / Proserpina)

Purcell

Dido and Aeneas (First Witch)

Rhiannon Randle

Dido is Dead (Dido) premiere

Tchaikovsky

Eugene Onegin (Olga)

Tom Smail

Blue Electric (Anna) premiere

Helen Charlston Baroque Recital Material

Byrd

Songs with Viol Consort:
Come to me grief forever
Lulla Lullaby
O God that guides the cheerful Sun Out of the Orient Crystal Skies
Thou, poet’s friend
With Lillies White
Wretched Albinius
Ye Sacred Muses (Tallis is dead)

Handel

Solo Cantatas (continuo only):
Ho Fuggito Amor
Nel Dolce Tempo
Stanco di pui soffrire

Solo Cantata (with obbligato instrument):
Mi Palpitar il Cor

Duet Cantatas:
Fronda Leggiera
Sono liete fortunato
Tanti Strali al sen mi schocchi
+ Various operatic arias

Monteverdi

Lamento d’Arianna
Lettera Amoroso
Si dolce tormento
Voglio di vita uscir

Purcell

Bess of Bedlam
Dido’s Lament
Fly Swift Ye Hours
I love and I must
If Music be the Food of Love
O Solitude
What a sad fate

Strozzi

Il Romeo
L’eraclito Amoroso

Telemann

Ihr Völker Hort

Helen Charlston Song/Lieder Repertoire

Berg

Sieben frühe Lieder
Vier Gesänge (Op. 2)

Brahms

Various, including:
An eine Äolsharfe
Die Mainnacht
Feldeinsamkeit
Im Garten am Seegestade
O kühler Wald
Ständchen
Von ewiger Liebe

Britten

Charm of Lullabies
Various folksong settings

Elgar

Sea Pictures (with orchestra and piano)

Haydn

Arianna a Naxos

Schubert

Various, including
Das Fischermadchen
Der Doppelgänger
Der Fischer
Des Fischers Liebesgluck
Die Forelle
Erlafsee
Fischerweise
Lachen und Weinen
Liebhaber in allen gestalten
Meeres Stille
Nacht und Träume
Romanze

Schumann

Frauenliebe und -leben (Op. 42)
Gedichte von Maria Stuart (op. 135)

Clara Schumann

Die gute Nacht, die ich sage dir
Die Stille Lotusblume
Liebst du um Schonheit

Tchaikovsky

Again as before alond
Lullaby in the Storm
My genius, my angel, my friend
None by the Lonely Heart Serenade

Helen Charlston Oratorio Repertoire

J.S. Bach

B Minor Mass
Cantatas: BWV 4, 34, 40, 41, 43, 52, 54, 64, 82, 106, 109, 133, 134, 161, 170, 182
Christmas Oratorio (English and German)
Easter Oratorio
Magnificat in D
Mass in A major
Matthew Passion
St John Passion (English and German)

Beethoven

Symphony No. 9

Buxtehude

Membra jesu nostri

Durufle

Requiem

Dvorak

Stabat Mater

Handel

Dixit Dominus
Israel in Egypt
Jephtha
Messiah
Nisi Dominus
Theodora

Haydn

Harmoniemesse
Nelson Mass
Paukenmesse
Stabat Mater
St Nicholas Mass

Mendelssohn

Elijah
Lobgesang (Symphony No. 2)

Mozart

Coronation Mass
Requiem
Solemn Vespers
Vesperae solennes de Dominica

Pergolesi

Stabat Mater

Rutter

Feel the Spirit

Scarlatti

Missa para o Santissimo Natal

Stravinsky

Cantata
Les Noces
Mass

Tippett

A Child of our Time

Vivaldi

Gloria

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