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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Acclaimed for her musical interpretation, presence and “warmly distinctive tone” (The Telegraph), Helen Charlston is quickly cementing herself as a key performer in the next generation of British singers. Helen won first prize in the 2018 Handel Singing Competition and was a finalist in the Hurn Court Opera Competition, and the Grange Festival International Singing Competition. She was a ‘Rising Star’ of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment 2017-2019 and a 2018 City Music Foundation Artist. In 2021, she joined Le Jardin des Voix academy with Les Arts Florissants, and the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme, and also became winner of the Ferrier Loveday Song Prize in 2021 Kathleen Ferrier Awards.

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.

Recent and upcoming concert highlights include Handel’s Messiah with BBC NOW and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Bach’s Weihnachtoratorium with Casa da Musica, Judas Maccabaeus with the RIAS Kammerchor, 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.

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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

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

​ Bach St John Passion, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Battersea Arts Centre (March 2021)

Helen Charlston took the most tragic aria of the piece Es ist Vollbracht (It is Finished) at a daringly slow pace, but thanks to her thrilling intense tone and expressive moulding of the line it paid off.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph*****

CD: Eccles Semele (Juno), Academy of Ancient Music

AAM012 (January 2021)

Richard Burkhard and Helen Charlston mine some divine comic scenes as the king of the gods and his jealous wife Juno.

Richard Fairman, Financial Times****

Semele’s implacable rival Juno should steal the show whenever she appears. From her imperious opening entry to her rollicking final aria of triumph, her tone dripping with venomous glee, Helen Charlston does not miss a trick.

Gramophone

Some of the best moments fall to jealous, scheming Juno, whose scenes spring to life more readily than some of the others; the role is dispatched here with brilliant imperiousness by Helen Charlston.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian*****

…but it’s Helen Charlston’s Juno who gets both her man and the laurels by the end – deliciously ferocious in her musical vengeance.

Alexandra Coghlan, Limelight****​​

Dark-timbred mezzo Helen Charlston’s Juno flares magnificently, unafraid to sound ugly when furious.

BBC Music Magazine (Recording of the month)

Helen Charlston is impressive as Juno: her commanding ‘Somnus, arise’ and jaunty duet with Somnus, ‘Away let us haste’ are real highlights.

Colin Clarke, Rhinegold

There are few calls for vocal display… ‘Above measure is the pleasure’, being a rare exception that allows the excellent Helen Charlston a brief opportunity to show her mettle in this regard… richly formidable Juno.

Opera Magazine

Bach Christmas Oratorio, Gabrieli Consort & Players, St John’s Smith Square

December 2020

The mezzo Helen Charlston’s Virgin was sober in her joy – the dark beauty of her tone balanced by purity of line.

Alexandra Coghlan, iNews****

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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