"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
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.
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, the role of Irene Theodora with the Philharmonia Baroque in San Francisco, 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.
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.
Recent 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. In 2019/20, Helen made debuts with the Academy of Ancient Music, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra.
Operatic roles include her BBC Proms debut as First Witch Dido and Aeneas, and 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.
Often heard on BBC Radio 3 in live concert relays, Helen features on recordings of Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Trinity College Choir, and Bach’s Actus Tragicus & Himmelskönig sei willkommen with Amici Voices and Amici Baroque Players, both available from Hyperion. The “mesmerising delivery” of her aria in BWV 182 on the Amici Voices CD was singled out by Gramophone Magazine as the highlight of the recording. She recorded John Eccles’ Semele in the role of Juno with the Cambridge Handel Opera Company and the Academy of Ancient Music, which won BBC Music Magazine’s Recording of the Month, and was shortlisted for a Gramophone Award.
Helen began singing as chorister and head chorister of the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir. She then studied music at Trinity College, Cambridge where she held a choral scholarship for four years and was a scholar on the Pembroke College Lieder Scheme, led by Joseph Middleton.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Handel Theodora (Irene), Northern Aldborough Festival
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*****)
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
…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
…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
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.
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.
Bach Christmas Oratorio, Gabrieli Consort & Players, St John’s Smith Square
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
Albert Herring (Florence Pike)
Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah)
Tobias and the Angel (Sara)
Ballo delle ingrate (Venere)
Dido and Aeneas (First Witch)
Dido is Dead (Dido) premiere
Eugene Onegin (Olga)
Blue Electric (Anna) premiere
Helen Charlston Baroque Recital Material
Songs with Viol Consort:
Solo Cantatas (continuo only):
Bess of Bedlam
Ihr Völker Hort
Helen Charlston Song/Lieder Repertoire
Sieben frühe Lieder
Charm of Lullabies
Sea Pictures (with orchestra and piano)
Arianna a Naxos
Frauenliebe und -leben (Op. 42)
Die gute Nacht, die ich sage dir
Again as before alond
Helen Charlston Oratorio Repertoire
B Minor Mass
Symphony No. 9
Membra jesu nostri
Feel the Spirit
Missa para o Santissimo Natal
A Child of our Time
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