Héloïse Werner

Composer, Soprano

"the vivacious soprano voice of Héloïse Werner pounces on individual notes and words with a tiger’s tenacity and a kitten’s glee"

Geoff Brown, ★★★★ The Times

"Heloise Werner, a brilliant and acrobatic vocalist"

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

"Héloïse Werner should be a name on the lips of any musical adventurer. This young soprano-composer – and cellist too – is a one-off, who can transform a tiny fragment of song into a mesmerising drama."

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

"The young London-based French soprano... is quickly becoming a latter-day Cathy Berberian or Meredith Monk."

Richard Morrison, The Times

Héloïse’s debut album ‘Phrases’ is out now on Delphian Records: Sunday Times 10 Best Classical Records of 2022, Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice (“extraordinary range, tone and vocal abilities (…) composer of subtle imagination”), Presto Classical Editor’s Choice (“absolute tour de force”), BBC Music Magazine Choral/Song Choice (*****), Classical album of the week in The Times (****) and described by Apple Music as “a staggering debut from an imaginative and original voice”. Her second album ‘Close-Ups’ in June 2024 on Delphian Records, generously supported by PRS Foundation.

Recipient of the Michael Cuddigan Trust Award 2018 and Linda Hirst Contemporary Vocal Prize 2017, French-born and London-based soprano and composer Héloïse Werner was one of the four shortlisted nominees in the Young Artist category of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards 2017 and one of BBC Radio 3’s 31 under 31 Young Stars 2020. From the 2023/24 season, she joins London’s Wigmore Hall as an Associate Artist. She will hold the position for five seasons and appear at the hall at least once a year during the period. She begins this journey on 2 March 2024 in a concert with mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, harpist Anne Denholm and pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen.

As a soprano, Héloïse has recently made her debut with the London Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, CBSO, Nash Ensemble, The Grange Festival, and sang the role of Madame DuVal in Sarah Angliss’ new opera Giant opening the Aldeburgh Festival 2023.

As a composer, Héloïse has written for the CBSO, Aurora Orchestra, Clare Choir Cambridge, Maîtrise de Radio France, London Handel Festival, violist Lawrence Power, bassoonist Amy Harman, violinist Hae-Sun Kang (Festival Présences), pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen (Lucerne Festival), CoMA (CoMA Festival), The Gesualdo Six, The Bach Choir, mezzo-soprano Marielou Jacquard, pianist Kunal Lahiry and mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, amongst others. A selected list of her works is available here.

In 2019, Héloïse performed her solo opera The Other Side of the Sea at Kings Place as part of their Venus Unwrapped series (“you can’t help but be dazzled by it” **** The Times). Written in collaboration with poet Octavia Bright, director Emily Burns and visual artist Jessie Rodger, the opera explores language and identity. It was first premiered in London & Aldeburgh in 2018, with generous support from The Michael Cuddigan Trust, and developed in 2017 during a Snape Maltings residency under the mentorship of Zoë Martlew. In 2016, Héloïse starred in Jonathan Woolgar’s acclaimed one-woman opera Scenes from the End at London’s Tristan Bates Theatre, following on from successful runs at the Camden and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals.

Héloïse is also soprano and co-director for contemporary quartet The Hermes Experiment (soprano, clarinet, harp and double bass). They won the RPS Young Artist Award 2021 and the Royal Over-Seas League Mixed Ensemble Competition 2019. Capitalising on their deliberately idiosyncratic combination of instruments, the ensemble regularly commissions new works (over 60 to date), as well as creating their own innovative arrangements and venturing into live free improvisation. They have released two albums, both on Delphian Records, to critical acclaim – HERE WE ARE (Presto Classical Recording of the Year, Gramophone Editor’s Choice, The Guardian’s 10 Best Contemporary Albums of 2020) and SONG (Gramophone Editor’s Choice).

Héloïse was born in Paris and was a member of the ‘Maîtrise de Radio France’ for six years. At the same time, she studied the cello at the Conservatoire Maurice Ravel with Valérie Aimard. She then read music at Clare College, Cambridge, where she was a choral scholar. At Cambridge, she studied composition with Giles Swayne and won the 2011 Clare College Carol Competition. In 2009, she was awarded the ‘Creation Prize’ from the Conservatoire Maurice Ravel for her songs for piano and voice, which she performed as part of her cello final diploma. She completed her vocal studies with Alison Wells and coach Anna Tilbrook on the MMus course at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance as a Linda Pilgrim Charitable Trust Scholar and a Help Musicians UK Postgraduate Award holder.

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

Freya Waley-Cohen and Manchester Collective: Spell Book

Barbican / February 2024

Yet the power of the presentation was unmistakable... all three singers together in the final Spell for the Witch’s Hammer, steadily building intensity over John Adams-like pulsings from the ensemble.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Direction was clear and exciting in ‘spell for joy’ with soprano Héloïse Werner inhabiting the text with a vocal tone that reflected the score and text's complexity.

Hattie Butterworth, Opera Now

Knight's Dream, Oxford International Song Festival

Holywell Music Room / October 2023

The Werner premiere was captivating. Heine’s words tell of an old, stumbling knight who dreams of dancing every night with his beloved and of his empty despair when he wakes. Werner’s accompaniment tingled in the dark of the knight’s gloomy lodgings, Kynoch creeping through the delicate filigree of the spare accompaniment, feeling his way along the score, sometimes rapping on the piano case to conjure the knock on the door that would herald the knight’s lover. 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”.

Stephen Pritchard, The Guardian *****

...Héloïse Werner’s Knights Dream was doubly audacious — first by daring to set Heinrich Heine in a programme entirely consisting of Heine settings by distinguished composers (Schumann’s Dichterliebe followed straight after the premiere), and second by incorporating new expressive means into the time-honoured voice-and-piano format of the lieder form.

So Heine’s text was mingled, or sung simultaneously, with Hal Draper’s English translation, or spoken rather than sung — not just by Charlston but, more startlingly, by Kynoch as well. Werner’s music also included lots of percussive, disembodied consonants and ethereal music-box tinkles high up on the piano, as well as Kynoch’s eerie knocking on the instrument’s wood casing. All of which perfectly captured the irony, as well as the spookiness, of Heine’s text, in which the poet self-mockingly imagines himself visited by a fantastical lover only for the vision to disappear abruptly (rather like Coleridge’s in Kubla Khan), leaving him alone and despondent in his “gloomy poet’s attic”.

Richard Morrison, The Times ****

History of the Present, Royal Opera House

Across the UK / Various Dates

Werner improvises a response, her face revealing pain, her voice a flutter of birdsong, a growl mimicking the spinning rotors of a helicopter.

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

The film opens with a shot of Werner, wearing headphones: ‘Can I have it a bit louder, a bit louder, still.’ She’s concentrating on a prompt we cannot hear. ‘AH, AH, AH, AH, AH,’ she begins, releasing pops of air from the back of her throat before she speeds them up, their pitch rising and falling discontinuously. Her head is filmed at mid-range and as she makes these sounds it bobs up and down, following the utterances. Then: ‘Fsssssssssss, fssssssssss,’ she spits, longer sounds, from between teeth and bottom lip. Are these machine sounds? Spraying metal? Chopping air? Is Werner performing the army machine, or the person listening beneath?

Isobel Harbison, London Review of Books

The opera singer, Heloise Werner, is improvising archival sounds, such as a helicopter and a Saracen; we invited her to use her voice in a challenging and unconventional way. It makes you really listen.

Writer Maria Fusco, The Irish News

The film also features improvisations by opera singer Héloïse Werner that recall Laurie Anderson and Meredith Monk and are based on archival recordings of sounds such as the buzz of the helicopters that constantly hovered over the city...

Juliet Jacques, Frieze Magazine

Giant, Aldeburgh Festival

Britten Studio, Snape Maltings / June 2023

Byrne’s fans include a grieving widow (Héloïse Werner) and a nurse figure (Melanie Pappenheim). Both sopranos are experts in contemporary music and their voices move deftly around the most punishing of lines. They also act like a Greek chorus, commenting on the action in airy duets.

Amanda Holloway, The Stage

Aurora Orchestra: 'for mira' Commission

Queen Elizabeth Hall / March 2023

“Héloïse Werner’s For Mira (…) is a direct, touching act of remembrance” ★★★★★

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

“...Héloise Werner’s for mira, a delicate, sensuous tribute to the late Mira Calix (…) Meditative, generous (…) It spoke to, for and about us all.”

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

In The Realms Of Sorrow, London Handel Festival

Stone Nest / February 2023

Led by harpsichordist Laurence Cummings, the one-to-a-part orchestra was all grit, and even the more lyrical lines were extravagantly shaped. [Héloïse] Werner’s musical “dissolves” at the start and end of each cantata were breathtaking: unfamiliar harmonies spooled out of a Handelian cadence; the double bass became a percussion instrument amid guttural squawks from the oboes.

Flora Willson, The Guardian

It was part of the inspired musical innovation of the evening that the cantatas were interspersed with musical passages by Héloïse Werner, introducing a whispering atonality that subtly heightened the sense of subversion and tortured emotion. This helped the cantatas flow into one another to create a plaintive meditation on disappointed love; once Il delirio amoroso had finished we were plunged straight into Armida abbandonata HWV 105, which kicked off unforgettably with the lyrics “Ungrateful bastard – How dare you…”

Throughout, Cummings – the festival director – kept a tight rein on the evening’s stampede of emotions with his elegant direction from the harpsichord. There was much to savour in the musicians’ individual performances, not least Jonas Nordberg’s lively theorbo accompaniment and Rosie Moon’s vigorous bass, which at one point doubled up as a drum.

Rachael Halliburton, The Arts Desk

CBSO: Sounds New 'crossings' Commission

Symphony Hall Birmingham / January 2023

"But the two most memorable pieces of all were very strikingly different... Héloïse Werner’s enchanting Crossings, one of four pieces in the concert that involved a singer, in this case Werner herself, whose wordless phrases were echoed and transformed by the orchestra and vice versa, in ways that were both utterly logical and regularly surprising."

Andrew Clements, The Guardian****

"Héloïse Werner was the soprano soloist in her own piece, Crossings, scored for modest-sized forces of double woodwind and brass, timpani and strings. A sustained air of expectancy and anticipation permeated this refined and poised work in which vocal patterns and gestures influenced the orchestra’s material and vice versa in a series of intersecting and crisscrossing lines. Héloïse Werner is a charismatic stage presence and her new piece seemed to develop naturally out of her spontaneous-sounding, wordless utterances. Shrewd, mercurial and impulsive, Crossings delighted with its quirky flights of fancy."

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion

CD reviews: Phrases

Delphian / June 2022

It is hard not to be in awe of Héloïse Werner: a soprano of extraordinary range, tone and vocal abilities, possessing a seemingly inexhaustible expressive range

Guy Richards, Gramophone (Editor’s Choice)

The French soprano and composer's debut disc is an engrossing exploration of the range of the human voice, which Werner pushes to its limits and beyond on works by herself and those of fellow visionaries such as Josephine Stephenson, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Nico Muhly. With crucial contributions from Amy Harman, Lawrence Power, Calum Huggan, Colin Alexander, Laura Snowden and Daniel Shao (bassoon, violin and viola, percussion, cello, guitar and flute), she joyfully negotiates the rapids of spoken word and coloratura on her and Zoe Martlew's Syncopate and the serpentine beauty of Muhly's Benedicite Recitation. Her readings of four of Georges Aperghis's 1978 Recitations and Elaine Mitchener's whetdreem typify a satisfyingly hair-raising voyage to wilder shores.

The Times **** (Classical album of the week )

Werner’s voice flirts between natural directness and operatic expression, endlessly flexible, theatrical or intimate, whether in Josephine Stephenson’s lovely ‘Comme l’espoir/you might all disappear’, accompanied by Laura Snowden’s expressive guitar, or the more academic rigours of Georges Aperghis’s solo Récitacions, of which Werner performs four here, with an ear for word, play and humour.

Sarah Urwin Jones, BBC Music Magazine *****

Werner's high-energy (...) is so startling that you might need a breather before carrying on - but there's real heart and soul alongside the avant-garde pyrotechnics throughout this recital of new works, particularly in Werner's deeply personal Confessional and Nico Muhly's radiant Benedicite Recitation for voice and flute.

Katherine Cooper, Presto Music (Editor’s Choice)

Phrases (Delphian), displays her versatility as a singer and composer, but as musical catalyst too. … Werner’s four songs (including Syncopate, with Zoë Martlew), from vocal acrobatics to verbal confession, and Récitations by the Greek experimental composer Georges Aperghis complete this distinctive album.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

Through all these inventive and expressive works, Héloïse Werner shows an undeniable talent for theatre and poetry, and lets us hear a virtuoso and versatile voice, with a rich and touching tone. All the elements for a very successful first solo album!

À travers toutes ces œuvres aussi inventives qu'expressives, Héloïse Werner montre un talent incontestable pour le théâtre et la poésie, et nous fait entendre une voix virtuose et versatile, au timbre riche et touchant. Tous les éléments pour un premier album solo très réussi !

Marie Humbert, ComposHer

Werner performs these works with the utmost integrity; there is not a hint of trickery about them. Full review

Colin Clarke, The classical explorer

Héloïse Werner's 'Phrases' Album Launch

Wigmore Hall / 4th June 2022

"A programme without a single dud piece and Héloïse Werner – a performer of stellar talent – supported by a galaxy of young stars"

Read Full Review

Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard International

CD review: The Hermes Experiment / Song

Delphian / January 2022

Werner’s unselfconscious, flexible voice is at ease throughout the stylistic range, albeit retaining a distinctively instrumental quality.

Natasha Loges, BBC Magazine

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