Helen Charlston


"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 was recently a 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. In 2023 she won a Gramophone Award for Best Concept Album, and collected the Vocal award at the BBC Music Magazine Awards, both for her second Delphian album: Battle Cry: the only recording that year to win at both ceremonies.

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).

In the 2022/23 Season she made her debut at Versailles Royal Opera singing Dido in Purcell Dido & Aeneas, and at Grange Festival singing Sorceress/Spirit in the same opera. This season she will cover the title role in Charpentier Médée at Opéra national de Paris, and next season will make her debut at Gran Teatre del Liceu as Sesto in Giulio Cesare.

On the concert platform in 2023/24, Helen premieres a new song cycle written for her as a companion piece to Schumann Dichterliebe by Héloïse Werner at the Oxford International Song Festival and Wigmore Hall, reunites with Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Richard Egarr to perform Bach B minor mass, tours Bach's St John Passion with Les Arts Florissants in Asia, records Britten Phaedra live in concert with BBC Philharmonic,sings Handel's Messiah with the Warsaw Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Britten Sinfonia and Huddersfield Choral Society, Bach Cantatas with Dunedin Consort, and Monteverdi's Vespers in Geneva with Ensemble I Gemelli.

An artistic advisor for York Early Music festival, Helen will feature in a 3-day residency at the 2024 festival, performing a wide range of programmes with music by Dowland and Couperin, to Schumann and Mendelssohn, and a set of new commissions for her and lutenist Toby Carr by Ben Rowarth and Anna Semple.

Last season Helen sang Mendelssohn Elijah at BBC Proms with Scottish Chamber  Orchestra / Maxim Emelyanychev, Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus with the RIAS Kammerchor at the Berlin Philharmonie with Justin Doyle, Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen with BBC Philharmonic, Irene in Handel Theodora with the Philharmonia Baroque in San Francisco and Mahler Symphony No. 3 with Kensington Symphony Orchestra. She toured two semi-staged productions with Les Arts Florissants/William Christie singing Dido Purcell Dido and Aeneas, and Rosmira Handel Partenope across France and Canada.

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 has been streamed by over 1 million people worldwide.

In addition to Helen’s two recital albums on the Delphian label, she has recorded with BIS, Signum and Hyperion, and on the Academy of Ancient Music’s own label in Dussek Messe Solemnelle which won a Gramophone Award in 2021, and Eccles’ Semele in the role of Juno, also 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.

Glories of English Song, Wimbledon International Music Festival

(November 2023)

Charlston’s voice is truly exceptional. It is both lithe and multifaceted rather than opulent, which makes it ideal for the song repertory. The way she can modulate between emotional contrasts within a phrase, drawing on a variety of tonal colours in response to the text, is little short of miraculous… She conjured the sense of nature’s beauty within a dreamscape in a pair of Hardy settings by Gerald Finzi.

Barry Millington, The Standard****

A Poet’s Love with Sholto Kynoch, Oxford International Song Festival

(October 2023)

Charlston has a superbly clear timbre, exemplary intonation and diction, and an admirable way of bringing out the core emotions of these Heine settings, whether the intense sadness of Fanny Mendelssohn’s Schwanenlied or the rage and bitterness of so many Dichterliebe songs, where Kynoch supplied notable strokes of disruptive accentuation.

Richard Morrison, The Times****

Charlston sang Werner’s haunting, lyrical vocal line exquisitely, alert to every nuance of the text, including spoken interjections in English, amusingly turning on its head the line “Yet never a word would be spoken”.

Her radiant expressiveness reached its peak in Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Op 48, Heine’s romantic journey through bliss and disillusion towards apparent resignation and resolution. With supremely sensitive playing from Kynoch, Charlston made us struggle with her over all these emotional hurdles in a superb performance, both exhausting and elating.

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer*****

Bach B minor mass, Scottish Chamber Orchestra,

Usher Hall Edinburgh (October 2023)

But the real surprise, and extraordinary revelation of the evening, was the mezzo-soprano voice of Helen Charlston, heard in "Qui sedes a dextra" and latterly in the gorgeous Agnus Dei. This is a voice of mysterious depths, and luscious texture, produced seemingly without effort, sounding at times close to a counter-tenor but without the latter’s sense of artificiality. It seems like a contradiction to say that a voice that is so unusual should also be quite sublime, but it is true… The soulful Agnus Dei leaves you wanting more, especially with Charlston singing…

Christopher Lambton, The Arts Desk

With a luxury line-up of five top-notch vocal soloists… this was always going to be a Bach B minor mass to remember… The lusciously liquid tones of mezzo Helen Charlston provided an ideal vehicle for the deliberate tread of the thoughtful penultimate ‘Angus Dei’.

David Kettle, The Scotsman*****

CD: Purcell Dido & Aeneas, La Nuova Música

Pentatone PTC5187032 (September 2023)

…with mezzo Helen Charlston (a recent Dido for Les Arts Florissants) a luxurious First Witch

Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone

CD: The Honor of William Byrd with Chelys Consort of Viols

BIS2663 (August 2023)

[Charlston] can give life to a line like few others; her diction is marvellous, and marvellously varied; everything flows with incomparable beauty.


Whether or not these vocal works were meant to be sung by male singers is debateable, but Helen Charlston’s rich, deep timbre make such distinctions irrelevant. Supple, controlled and vibrato free, she is sympathetically supported by a combination of treble, tenor and bass viols, which come into their own in Byrd’s complex but rhythmically appealing Fantasias.

John-Pierre Joyce, BBC Music Magazine****

Played by the Chelys Consort and flawlessly sung by the mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, the whole thing is beautifully done.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian

Purcell Dido & Aeneas (Sorceress), The Grange Festival

(June 2023)

Meanwhile, aided by a gang of sinister witches determined to bring destruction to Dido and her city, Helen Charleston’s Sorceress infused menace into her mezzo

George Hall, Opera Now

As the Sorceress, Helen Charlston – striding the stage in black leather and boots – is terrifically imperious and wicked.

Claire Seymour, Opera Today

Helen Charlston's performance as the Sorceress was truly remarkable. Without a silly voice in sight and looking a million dollars in leather dress and heels, she commanded the stage from her first entrance - this was pure Cruella de Vil with an added sense of glee. Kirsty Hopkins and Katy Hill made gleeful, hyperactive witches, eager minions for Charlston's Sorceress to command. Charlston played the Spirit too, the Sorceress in disguise rather than a pseudo-mythic figure.

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

Mendelssohn Elijah, BBC Proms, Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Royal Albert Hall (July 2023)

The excellent mezzo Helen Charlston

Richard Morrison, The Times****

The star of the show, however, was the mezzo, Helen Charlston. The concentrated syrup of her voice made for an Angel full of tender compassion, and ‘Though they are by him redeemed’ was overflowing with sweet yearning; for her Jezebel, though, she found heft in her chest voice and a steely edge to the top of her range, giving us the consummate ‘evil queen’.

Barry Creasy, MusicOMH

…the soloists were beyond compare… the silvery grace of mezzo Helen Charlston

Michael Church, The Scotsman*****

Helen Charlston brought great beauty of tone and sense of line to her moments as the Angel, creating a significant effect in a small moment. Her aria 'Woe unto them' was plangently expressive and very moving, whilst as the Queen, Charlston was highly trenchant and implacable.

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

Handel Messiah, Irish Baroque Orchestra

Wigmore Hall (April 2023)

If the infinite depths sounded by Helen Charlston, most distinctive of contraltos, were the most moving thing in an astonishing evening… it seems only fair that the contralto, especially given Charlston’s star quality, gets the last number in Part Three (“If God be for us”)

David Nice, The Arts Desk*****

Helen Charlston sang the alto solos with a lovely straight tone and nice directness. 'O thou that tellest' combined seriousness of purpose with a nice rhythmic bounce, whilst 'He shall feed his flock' had a telling sense of understatement. 'He was despised' had a sense of movement to it, with shape to the accompaniment and Charlston's remarkably intimate delivery. Throughout her performance, you sensed the commitment to the words, which came over right through her final solo 'If God be for us.

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

Purcell Dido & Aeneas (Title role), Les Arts Florissants

l'Opera Royal de Versailles (March 2023)

The standout vocal performance came from Helen Charlston, delivering her first Dido. She was ever engaged with text and music despite forced semi-immobility and projected a clear emotional arc towards the final Lament.

Colin Clarke, Opera Now****

Purcell Dido & Aeneas (Title role), Les Arts Florissants

Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne (February 2023)

Lyricism and restraint: key words for a great Dido in the making. Helen Charlston 's warm timbre with copper reflections, the modest dignity of her interpretation, her absence of any simpering give way to the most beautiful musical moments of the evening.

Loïc Chahine, Diapason

Helen Charlston Opera Repertoire


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


Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah)


Tobias and the Angel (Sara)


Semele (Juno)


Semele (Ino)
Venceslao (Lucinda)


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


Dido and Aeneas (First Witch)

Rhiannon Randle

Dido is Dead (Dido) premiere


Eugene Onegin (Olga)

Tom Smail

Blue Electric (Anna) premiere

Helen Charlston Baroque Recital Material


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)


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


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


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


Il Romeo
L’eraclito Amoroso


Ihr Völker Hort

Helen Charlston Song/Lieder Repertoire


Sieben frühe Lieder
Vier Gesänge (Op. 2)


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


Charm of Lullabies
Various folksong settings


Sea Pictures (with orchestra and piano)


Arianna a Naxos


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


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


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)


Symphony No. 9


Membra jesu nostri




Stabat Mater


Dixit Dominus
Israel in Egypt
Nisi Dominus


Nelson Mass
Stabat Mater
St Nicholas Mass


Lobgesang (Symphony No. 2)


Coronation Mass
Solemn Vespers
Vesperae solennes de Dominica


Stabat Mater


Feel the Spirit


Missa para o Santissimo Natal


Les Noces


A Child of our Time



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